The Genesee River near Shongo, New York was flowing weakly and with water almost too warm for trout survival. I found a stretch of river cool enough for an evening of fly fishing and began hooking and releasing hatchery trout.
Earlier I’d been reading about the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete (ca. 3000-1450 B.C.) and reflecting on my visit to Knossos, Crete many years ago. Nicolas Platon’s Crete (Archaeologia Mundi) is a fascinating account of Minoan life and arts, and it was good to reread the scientific accounts of Europe’s first true civilization and of how the peaceful coexistence of its kingships (in which women contributed greatly to the arts and daily life) led eventually to the classic era of ancient Greece.
I approached the tail end of a long deep pool and saw the subtle rise of a large trout. Surprised at my composure, I positioned myself for a cast where only the fly and leader would alight on the water just above the trout. Again, to my surprise, I made a decent cast and quickly had a heavy trout on the line. The fish was a head-shaking brown that battled me and won, breaking off the tippet and fly. Another surprise: no curses here, just another fine link to the realm of natural energies.
John K., an art restorer from Maine, had sent me his copy of the Minoan book and underscored the following sentences: The fear of death was almost obliterated by the ubiquitous joy of living. The whole of life was pervaded by an ardent faith in the goddess, Nature, the source of all creation and harmony. He also inscribed the title page with his own take on Western culture: “Would that the present world could go back to a time when war was unheard of, and women were held in high esteem.” His sentiment could easily have been my own when I decided to visit the ancient isle in 1982.
Wild roses scented the air occasionally along the river banks and helped efface concerns about the rampant growth of Japanese knotweed growing there as well. Marion A.’s dry fly pattern, an Egg-sac Rusty Spinner, was the only fly I needed till quitting time at dark. I caught a dozen trout– leaping rainbows and stodgy browns, several of which surpassed the 15-inches mark.
Another book I’ve been enjoying of late is Ed Van Put’s Trout Fishing in the Catskills, an excellent, pioneering portrait of American angling history, and a gift from a good friend, Don T., who once lived in my neck of the woods but now claims the West Branch Ausable as a home river. Ah, the Catskills… As a kid, I spent 10 years living in eastern New York with a backyard view of those mountains, so the Catskills were like a seminal monument imprinted on my wandering mind and angling brain.
The great trout rivers– the East and West Branches of the Delaware, the Beaverkill, the Willowemoc, the Schoharie, the Esopus, and the Neversink, among others, have held a high esteem in the hearts and minds of fisherfolk throughout the past two centuries, and I too have been drawn deeply to their magic over the years.
I can’t quite get enough of them, despite their distance from home. I know some of the streams fairly well, but others, like the Neversink and its smaller neighbors, continue to invite me for a first-time visit. June is a great time for dry fly fishing in the East, for humming along to Gershwin’s “Summertime” and reflecting on the gentle art of casting over pools and riffles. I will get there but, for now, I’m here, and that’s what matters.
The sun was setting on another visit to the Genesee. The large Potamanthid, a yellow mayfly, hatched from riffles near the parking lot, but it was too dark to bother changing flies. I stuck with the Rusty Spinner that remained just visible on the water– for myself and one last brown trout of the day.