The Caddis Hour is not so much about fishing as it is a state of mind. I visited a stretch of Genesee River that I probably hadn’t waded in a decade. It was mid-morning. River pools, low and thirsty, were dimpled by rising trout. A thousand caddis flew above the autumn flow, a ragged flight of tiny wings, more orderly than chaotic (so says this state of mind). An old excitement, young and fresh when it occurs, filled my preparation as I laced up wading shoes and found an artificial fly to match the hatch.
I started fishing, more with the idea of counting my blessings than the hope of counting trout. I was glad when an occasional riser struck the small brown caddis, but was happier that the cool autumn morning found me still alert. In addition to several hatchery trout, I caught a small wild brown– unusual in this stretch of water where stream-bred trout are rarities.
So, I counted 10 years since my last appearance here (or was it only five?). The years all blend together in the freedom of discovery (aka the dismemberment of memory). I listened to the scratchy call notes of a blue-gray gnatcatcher in the knotweed jungle. I was startled by a pileated woodpecker chortling from the woods, as if in recompense for the dead one of its kind witnessed on the roadside just an hour earlier.
Politically and spiritually, our nation looked torn apart, democracy imperiled. Environmentally, I perceived a full-blown crisis. We’ve all heard about the rising seas and spiking storm events. New studies have revealed that wild bird populations of North America have decreased by 30 percent (some 2.9 billion birds) since 1970 (with similar results in Europe).
I was deeply saddened by these scientific surveys but not surprised, considering that the world’s human population since 1970 has increased from 3.7 billion people to about 7.7 billion souls today. We could still move about freely in the countryside but its air felt heavy at times like this.
I counted my blessings (family, health, and friends) and hoped for at least a few more years of pleasant nature rambling. More importantly, when the fishing was slow (as in the last half of the Caddis Hour), I could see beyond the river pool, beyond the farthest bend of who I was…
I could grasp at a floating sycamore leaf, pluck it from the river and dream of a healthier planet in years to come. Realistically, I might see that nature would survive, in some form or another, but its beauty and diversity of life would be diminishing, blown about like smoke above the Amazon.
Here, the trout no longer wanted caddis flies on the surface, but a soft-hackle Partridge & Orange connected just below. A rainbow charged the hook and found a big surprise– negative for the fish but positive for me. All in all, an equilibrium was established through the hour and the day. A state of mind was recreated, a wild economy that keeps me going and returns a trout to its abode.