Bug’s Life

Yesterday I met a fellow brooklyner on the water, Eric, and together we fished the East Branch of the Croton for most of the day. Eric caught a handsome brown, a double-hander after going “ninja-style” in some tight corners. Later we found many small browns and rainbows in the riffles. It was a great day full of new people and other surprises. I spied a gorgeous mink hunting along the waters edge. In fact, I’ve written before about how many wild animals I’ve seen on the river during my fly fishing trips, but I’ve neglected to mention the bug life.

Eric’s East Branch Brown

Maybe its a life cycle thing, you know, the maturing fly angler first falls in love with the fish, then the stream, then the other wildlife, and then the bugs. Last night I was standing in the tailout of a beautiful long pool, with anglers every twenty feet or so casting micro-nymphs and emergers when the river came to life with a full-on Sulphur hatch. These beautiful pale yellow mayflies could easily be mistaken for fairies. The browns were lined up along the current seams chowing down. Other trout, rainbows I think, were rising, leaping out of the air to catch nymphs as they rose to the surface of the river and began to hatch into their adult stage.

I also noticed several larger mayflies, bicolor brown and cream with grey wings. Isonychia, the elusive and amazing “slate drake” or “mahogany dun” were popping off. Maybe a couple weeks early, the slates were vastly outnumbered by the sulphurs. Either way it was magical to stand in the middle of the swarm. There was no moon, but the mayflies actually seemed to glow. I guess I have taken for granted the bug life that makes my fishing all possible. Another thing came to mind, how lucky I was to even seen such varied insects. Mayflies are very fragile and their ecosystem require steady flows, and they won’t tolerate pollution. The Croton watershed, being the source of NYC’s water, is well-protected thanks to Riverkeeper, TU, caring locals, and yes, even the DEP. Would that every water was so blessed with guardians.

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