The Caddis Hour

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.

a caddis fly hatchery…

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.

first hatchery brown of the morning, but who’s counting?

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.

Chester2, showing off, with the featured caddis (dry)…

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).

always listening to the birds, hoping we don’t hear a silent spring, a silent fall…

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.

heading upstream on the Genny…

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…

before the quick release…

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.

pale rainbow chased & caught the soft-hackle fly…

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.

wild browns are rare on the main-stem Genesee…

sycamore leaf delight….

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to The Caddis Hour

  1. Brent says:

    My only comfort has been knowing that, eventually, the earth will heal itself from the damage we’ve inflicted. But it will be a bittersweet recovery: one that we won’t be around to see and one that, when it occurs, won’t be the natural world in any form recognizable to us. And knowing this only makes our personal caddis hours more precious…

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Here’s to the caddis hour, whatever form it takes, and to the freedom of discovery (have I remembered that correctly?!) because these little delights need to be savoured while we still have them. The bigger picture is very disturbing, and yes, the planet will heal in some form or other, but it won’t look as it should or ought to.
    Set against all that, your smaller pictures are quite lovely, especially the sycamore. Glad you’re enjoying it out there. Thanks, Walt!

  3. Anonymous says:

    “….a state of mind.” How much this entry of yours can relate to or connect to so much more – is what I derive from this one.
    Great fishing excursion, great pictures that has become what I expect to see when I read a blog entry from you. What makes them all great? If the fishing is ‘off’, there is so much more to contemplate when fishing.
    The leaf picture seems to sum it up for me. I see all the inter-connectivity. All the veins at the tips of the leaf that work their way done, collecting from their respective ‘branches’ till it meets another ‘branch’ of the river…. no …. of the leaf – till one watershed , no…. till one branch of the leaf meets another that finally reaches the sea… NO…. I mean stem.
    Inter-connectivity of organisms, of rivers, of ecosystems, of issues either political or environmental, of people,… of leaves.
    The problem is so complex that there is no simple solution. However, everyone should all strive toward a solution as a part of our daily lives. This country where I reside (USA), the former statement has not be ingrained into our society – the opposite has – to extract and use up our resources.
    Thus the natural world will suffer, and its starting to show how it’s suffering (regarding your mentioning of the birds).
    It will truly be a sad day if the birds are significantly diminished (unintentionally) from this world.

    • UB (Marion), Thank you for this! I’m pleased that the lead photo caught your attention and that you understand what can go through the human head & heart in a moment like that– an autumn leaf floating slowly by you on a river top, a sense of all things being interconnected like the veins to stem, the small streams to the larger watershed, our personal connections to a damaged environment, etc., all of which can seem so complex yet so simple… Yup, there’s always more to fishing than the simple (or not so simple) act of catching fish. And that’s what makes it such a hoot. Thanks again, and have a pleasant autumn season.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    “A wild economy”… I like that phrase. In fact, I think it would be a great book title…

    • Bob, Sometimes I think you’re one step ahead of me in this game… Specifically, I’ve been ruminating on a possible title, for a chapter maybe, or something more… Again, thanks for your help!

  5. loydtruss says:

    I often find myself thinking of what this country and other parts of the globe will resemble in the coming years when my grandchildren are grown. True we won’t be around to see the damage climate change will have on this planet. It will be future generations that will suffer the consequence of the world’s inaction’s of those in power now. Let’s hope that it’s not too late to turn things around!

    Caddis and Soft Hackles are two of my favorites to fish for rising trout. Glad Chester made a connection—thanks for sharing

  6. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks for this stirring meditation.

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