One rainy afternoon I was surfing around and I came on a New York Times editorial written in March 1988, a few decades ago, by Patricia Leigh Brown. The editorial entitled "The Anglers' Rites of Spring" was published for the April 1 New York trout opener.
She wrote about the water, the places, the legends like Flick, Wulff, and Hewitt, and the traditions. There were a lot of private clubs, the Brooklyn Flyfishers, and the DeBruce Club, to mention a few, which all had their opening day celebrations, as well as the individuals who had their own ceremonies. Over time this grew and blossomed into the Opening Day Ritual.
This reading brought on a wave of nostalgia for my old home water. I had recollections of the spring days on the Beaverkill, the small pools on the Neversink, and the wide runs and riffles on the Delaware. The visits to Dette's Fly Shop for flies and updates and the relaxing drink or two at Keener's Pool at the Antrim Lodge, the main rendezvous during the Golden Age of Catskill Fly Fishing.
When I visited last, the Dette Fly Shop was still there, but the Antrim Lodge was a burned-out derelict. No more reunions or stories. The water is still there, grand as ever.
Since then, my fishing has moved westward, the draw of the water is as strong, the fishing is better, and the landscape is spectacular. Where else can you spend the day fishing in alpine lakes, then on the way home drop a mile in altitude and fish a high desert stream? Where else can you get golden, brookie, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat in one day?
This is the palette for the new angling recollections, but the real substance of the memories are the people who make up the angling landscape. The friendly competitions, the teamwork for the projects, the support for the good works, the gathering places, the fishouts, and, the social aspects of a very friendly group of people. I think this passage from "Fishless Days Angling Nights" by Sparse Grey Hackle when he talks about the "Golden Age" sums it up, "And what a goodly company was there, the choicest spirits of the angling age, the finest sportsmen, the best fishermen, the liveliest wits, the best-storied minds, the kindest and most helpful, too, as we novices quickly learned, and, of course, the best teachers."
No need for nostalgia, yet. But in another 10 years, reminisces of The Rosaschi, Crater, Pyramid, China Springs, and the Fishouts will sit in my memory beside the Catskill waters.
The rituals are not the same, there's no "opening day" to be celebrated at the end of a long, cold, snowy winter, no pent-up anticipation. We're lucky here; we can always bundle up and find a stream to fish. So the nostalgia will be different, strong and clear, but not of the same intensity of the fishing of a young man with his boyhood friends. It will be like the difference between the excitement of the first nice day in spring and the quiet pleasures of a warm sunny day in late October.