Anything Fly Fishing


3 Mins read

I’ve heard some folks say that the Covid years have been like being in a Stephen King movie. With illness, economic distress, catastrophic fires and storms, political upheaval, a terrible European war, admittedly, it has been like living in a horror film. And not to trivialize any of these dreadful adversities, but even the fishing world has not escaped the wrath. From the crash of steelhead populations on the West Coast to the serious decline of striped bass on the East Coast, these two iconic species serve as the proverbial canaries indicating something amiss in the broader scheme of our fishery ecosystems as well. Although my usual method of dealing with the calamities of life is to just go fishing, these days it is more to gain perspective in an effort to put all of these occurrences into focus while slipping into a meditative state of bliss that being on the water takes me.

I always look forward to kicking off another fishing season with the hickory shad run on our local waters in late March and April. It used to be trout that tickled my springtime fantasies, but now I seem to be addicted to chasing non-trout species during my waning years. However, true to form with all the other insane events happening these days, the up and down weather patterns and varied water conditions this spring impacted the predictability of the run. And after an evening of casting shad flies on a local stream not only went fishless, a slip on a rock left my foot swollen and me incapacitated for the next ten days.

When I finally got back at it, a trip to my favorite place on the Susquehanna River was met with disappointment. The DNR had closed the trail this year due to the death of several Black Vultures that inhabit the area. Like merchants of doom out of a King novel, these deathly looking creatures usually sit atop anglers’ vehicles chewing on anything their beaks can rip into, but this year many had fallen victim to avian flu. So to prevent the spread of the disease, the area was shut down. Last year the same area was closed because of flooding, and the year before because of Covid. It left me wondering if normal will ever be normal again.

Not to be deterred, the next evening I took the kayak to another tributary where the shad run had kicked in while I was out of commission, but now it was in its last stages. After paddling about two hundred feet up the creek, though, I noticed wetness starting to encompass my feet along with a sinking feeling that my vessel had sprung a leak. Although I was up the creek, but with a paddle, I had to figure out how to get back down it. And though the kayak took in much water, I made it to the landing safely without sinking. Of course, my fishing was done for the evening.

A few days later it was perfect conditions to get out again. Calm, cloudy, drizzling with an incoming tide, but this time I set my expectations low based on how the season had been going so far. Paddling out from the put in, I first helped a young angler get his gear untangled from a branch in the water. Then I picked up some floating garbage. Though it is said that virtue is its own reward, I secretly hoped my deeds would score a few points with the fishing gods as well. Upon getting to my favorite section of the creek, to my amazement, fish were breaking surface everywhere. It was magical! Then, within a few casts, I landed the biggest stripper I have ever hooked that far up stream along with several smaller ones and a few tidal largemouth. Finally, it seemed that life snapped back into focus. I even considered maybe this one event would reset reality. Heading back down stream I stopped to talk to a bank angler as he was landing a nice largemouth, and as I did, my dangling Clouser minnow strangely took off toward the middle of the pool.

As surprised by the weight of the fish as by the haphazard hook-up, I was even more taken back when the creature came into view. Mysteriously introduced into the Chesapeake region from somewhere in Asia, the northern snakehead has been steadily expanding its range, and there next to my kayak swam an eight-pounder. When I finally hoisted it out of the water with the use of my pliers gripping its lip, its oddly shaped body looked snaky and its mouthful of teeth were scary. In fact, I surmised, even Stephen King could not have concocted a more frightening looking creature. But to be honest, catching a snakehead was on my bucket list – even if it was just dumb luck.

As the evening came to a close in the gloom of a steady rain, I was pleased that my day ended on a high note for a change. And though I hoped the snakehead wasn’t an omen of bad things to come, it sure did inspire an amen to the fishing gods beyond.

Jerry has written four highly acclaimed books including Fly fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead and Holy Water. You can find Jerry’s books on Rivers and Feathers “Books” page.


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