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Smoke clears, rain falls, rainbows rise

Judy Van Put
Posted 6/13/23

Last week we experienced an unprecedented phenomenon when clouds of smoke from wildfires in Canada billowed across the Eastern Seaboard, from Vermont down to South Carolina, polluting the atmosphere …

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Smoke clears, rain falls, rainbows rise


Last week we experienced an unprecedented phenomenon when clouds of smoke from wildfires in Canada billowed across the Eastern Seaboard, from Vermont down to South Carolina, polluting the atmosphere with a yellow smoky haze filled with dangerous particulates that forced residents, especially the very young, elderly and those whose health is compromised by respiratory issues, to stay indoors. Airline flights were delayed, after-school outdoor activities and Major League sports games were cancelled, and the New York City skyline seemed to vanish, veiled in smoke.

Thankfully the smoke is subsiding, and skies are overcast from rain clouds that have added some moisture to our parched ground and Catskill streams. We are anticipating a few days of rain that has been forecast for this week, as river levels are still very low at this writing. On Sunday afternoon, June 11, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at just 120 cubic feet per second, which is less than half the median average of 266 cfs on this date based on 109 years of keeping records. The minimum flow on June 11 was in 1959 when just 89 cubic feet per second trickled past the gauging station. Fortunately, the unseasonably cool evenings and mornings have kept water temperatures favorable, in the 60s.

We saw a few remaining March Browns in the air over the Beaverkill this weekend, along with their smaller counterparts, Gray Foxes. Blue-Winged Olives, various caddis flies and Sulphurs are also around and bringing up the trout from time to time.

Evening fishing has been productive, especially during the spinner falls. Our friend Sandra had a great time fishing the Beaverkill with her husband last weekend on a “gorgeous night” at around 7:15 pm on during a spinner fall, using an 8-ft. 4-wt. rod and a Rusty Spinner. Fishing was productive and they landed some nice trout, catching brown and rainbows; the largest was Sandra’s big, beautifully colored rainbow pictured below.

Rainbow trout in the Beaverkill are becoming more and more common as years go by; traditionally the Beaverkill was known as a brown trout stream, but it was back around 1980 when I received a phone call from a friend who was fishing the “No-Kill” Catch and Release area on the lower Beaverkill on a seasonable St. Patrick’s Day and reported that he had caught and released seven fish, but the remarkable thing about his catch was that of the seven, all were rainbow trout – not a brown was among them! 

Through the years we have seen and caught more and more rainbows in the Beaverkill. Rainbow trout were stocked in the lower Beaverkill in the early 1880s, and then disappeared - but were found a few years later, having become established ‘residents’ in the Delaware River. Rainbows have not been stocked in the lower Beaverkill by the State of New York (nor are they on the current stocking list for 2023) but they have, through the years, migrated back up from the Delaware to spawn.

No doubt that many of the rainbows caught today in the Beaverkill are wild fish. They are fun to catch and can put on quite an exciting display of jumps while on the end of your line!

The Rusty Spinner, which proved to be successful in catching a number of trout last weekend, is a dry fly that imitates a mayfly in the last stages of its life, the spinner stage, as we covered a couple of weeks ago – when the adult mayfly completes its life cycle by transforming into a more slender fly with clear wings, and travels in an up-and-down motion while reproducing, after which the females deposit their eggs, then fall, with their beautiful clear wings splayed out on the surface of the water. 

Regardless of the color of the mayfly in its adult or dun stage, a number of species will appear ‘rusty-colored’ after undergoing their metamorphosis to the spinner stage, thus the name and color of the spinner fly. 

According to an article written online by Rusty Dunn, of the Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited, these types of spinner flies have been tied by fly-fishers since the Middle Ages! Many have been credited for tying the first ‘official’ Rusty Spinner, but Dunn relates a great and colorful story crediting George E.M. Skues, an Englishman, who, while traveling by train along the River Itchen, discovered a Blue-Winged Olive spinner that had landed on his window. 

Skues took out his portable fly-tying kit and began to choose materials from the kit to tie up an imitation. According to Dunn’s story, he placed a hook into his vise and proceeded to attach a blend of seal’s fur to match the reddish-brown color of the spinner fly, tying the dubbing on with orange thread “which glows faintly through the dubbing and gives a fiery translucence much like that of his traveling companion.” Skues names and documents the fly as the “Rusty Spinner” in his book The Way of a Trout With a Fly, first published in 1921. And the fly is obviously still popular today and is a good choice to use during a spinner fall.


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