The tiny white rental house was perfectly isolated, set back across the railroad tracks on the far side of a field. No TV. No Internet. No cell service. One of my favorite pools on New York’s Delaware River flanked the backyard. It was 65 degrees and sunny when I arrived that afternoon, and it took no time to hook a fat brown on a dry fly 10 steps from the door. Then everything changed.
The problem with April in the Northeast is that it can never decide if it wants to be spring or winter, and by 10 p.m., my idyllic little fishing cabin became a house of horror. The frigid wind shook every beam and window. The whoosh of every gust roared around the outside walls. The pings and clangs of the ancient pipes and radiators echoed around me. My fishing partner, Jim Fee, wouldn’t arrive until well after midnight, so I just curled up in bed, winced at every creek and shudder, and hoped that structural failure or a visit from some local psycho wouldn’t quash tomorrow’s streamer mission.
Fee, it turned out, was just as spooked driving the dirt road over those tracks during the wee hours of the morning as I was trying to sleep inside. We had a good laugh about it over coffee but couldn’t decide what was funnier: our wimpiness, or the fact that it was snowing and I didn’t bring heavy socks. The weatherman had predicted a cold front all right, just not this cold. We both wondered if our friend and guide Joe Demalderis would call the whole thing off, but ever the optimist, quitting never crossed his mind. When we launched his drift boat an hour later, I already couldn’t feel my hands, and I’d yet to strip in a single foot of wet fly line.
April has always been one of my favorite months to cast big streamers to trout, maybe because I’m a bit of a gambler. The fish have been living pressure-free all winter, but they’re also just waking up for the season. Throwing meat flies is a roll of the dice, but when it’s good, every fish in the river is in the mood for meatloaf.
Demalderis told us that the river browns had been smacking the big stuff in the warm days prior, but the bite hadn’t exactly been on fire. Now, as he rowed against 30-mph gusts that cut through my fleece like a sickle, I couldn’t imagine the fire would be lit at all, let alone raging. By 11 a.m., the best thing going was that the snow had stopped, the wind let up…