Spinners, the Final Stage

“Spinners” form the fourth and final stage in the life cycle of a mayfly. The aquatic insect lives through egg, nymph, adult (dun), and spinner stages. The adult typically rises from the stream as nature says, “It’s time to mate.”

Genesee, the stage is set…

The back of the newly hatched adult splits open and the spinner form emerges, frail and ghostly, to collect on nearby vegetation till it swarms above the water. Spinners have opaque or transparent wings that splay on the surface of a stream or stick together once the females have deposited their eggs. This final act in the life cycle can provide a food source for the trout, as well as an exciting opportunity for the fly fisher.

Jim K. works the Kettle…

Marion A.’s “Super Spinners” came to me as a gift, a medicine to lift the spirit of an old spinner-tier from the existential gloom of worldly matters and, let me tell you, it was good, a medicine that worked according to script.

Good stuff… A-Flex-Arod comes to bat!

I marveled at the Hendrickson and March Brown spinner imitations in sizes 10 and 12. The doc explained how the March Brown spinner was constructed: “The two colors in the body are achieved by using a dubbing loop and dubbing each thread with the different color… then twisting and winding on the hook shanks.” The effect is neater than the spinners of my own construction.

A March Brown spinner…

I’m reminded of  Marion’s “Two Old Spinsters” designation– two pursuers of fishes who could be defined by the Cortland Line Company in 1962:  “… A FISHERMAN is a composite. He has the appetite of a bluegill, the digestion of a shark, the energy of a muskellunge, the curiosity of a native brook trout, the lungs of a farmer bawling out a trespasser, the imagination of a lure manufacturer, the irresponsibility of frayed tippet, the usefulness of a backlash on a dark night, the glamour of a hellgrammite and the staying power of a relative…”

I was anxious for an evening on the Genesee, looking for a spinner fall, perhaps a swarm of March Brown breeders that would have the trout looking up and tasting frail meat on the surface.

As it was, I saw few insects on this bright, cool evening, but I did okay. The catbirds mewed behind me in the bushes. Sparrows flew across wide riffles, scarfing up occasional caddis flies or Blue-winged Olives as they hatched. And brown trout rose to Marion’s “Super Spinner” dry.

Egg sac ready to deposit…

sweet medicine…

I thought about the two pandemics of our day– coronavirus and stupidity (techunionnews.xyz), believing that all good people would do well to heed Bertrand Russell’s thoughts on graceful aging… Russell, the philosopher, advises everyone to…Widen your interests gradually and make them more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.

The wife’s river pose…

Genesee hatchery ‘bow…

In other words, be like the river on which the mayfly settles when its life is done. Be like a river that is small, at first, a river that’s contained yet passionate in its rock-bound flow. A river soon to widen and to slow down as the banks recede, as it merges quietly with the sea. A river transformed. Like a medicine, perhaps, a gift to be acknowledged as one character is exchanged for something more.

Genesee brown took the doctor’s medicine– w/ different side effects…

Golden ragwort stars the Kettle banks…

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 Spinners, the Final Stage

  1. Peter says:

    Another great post, thank you.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Wise words and good medicine here, Walt! These words and images are much appreciated, especially with the fine dose of good humour flowing through it all. There’s a danger of addiction here…

  3. UB says:

    Really nice blog! On one hand I wish I was a better writer, on the other hand I’m not sure I want to work so hard! But you can truly see your skill, with words and with a fly rod. Glad the medicine had some effect. UB

  4. Jet Eliot says:

    absolutely lovely, Walt.

  5. Brent says:

    Your wrap-up to this post brought me to a mini epiphany, of sorts. How had I never considered the commonalities between a river’s life cycle (small and boisterous, then brash and risk-embracing, then finally, gradually more sedate and…broader?) and the changes we go through as aging humans? Perhaps that’s just another thing that draws us back to, and fascinates us with, bodies of running water.

    • Yes, the flow– where we come from & eventually return to. Originally life on earth came from the sea and, as I view it, that’s where it all heads back to. “Wings Over Water” tries to note that River as a metaphor of life itself. There’s a reason that the flow of water is attractive in itself, and I’m glad you sensed it.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Reading this put me in mind of a famous line from THAT book – “I am haunted by waters.” As usual, well done, Walter.

    • Yeah THAT’S a great one, for sure. Back in ’92 I published a book called Uplands Haunted by the Sea, and I’m sure that a lot of us older fisher folk continue to be guided by the “h” word… Thank you, Bob.

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