Everyone knows that March 21 is the official first day of spring and high time to start thinking about the seasons’ trout fishing, but in many cases it’s helpful to have a more tangible measure to really recognize the changing of the season — in my case it’s when the last bit of snow has finally disappeared from our yard. I always know precisely when this is because, Izzy, our faithful black lab who was born in the winter and who underwent her formative house-training months under the distinct impression that snow was the only proper place to do one’s business, has finally run out of options and always undergoes a brief crisis of conscience. A few weeks ago when I let her out, she trotted around the yard for some time before finally giving up in futility, resigning herself to the utter barbarity of soiling god’s green earth directly. Ah, spring at last.
Here in New England suffering through long snowy winters is both a test of patience and a matter of pride, and so we yankees can usually be forgiven if we generally feel a little smug about spring, as though we alone are the ones who, through our patient suffering, have really earned it.
The conversations in our family always seem to hinge upon fishing no matter what time of year, but they take on a special urgency in the spring. Junior and I have been talking a lot about our plans for the upcoming year – which places we want to try and get to, which places we’ll unfortunately have to pass up, and of course the places that we want to get to but probably won’t. It’s usually a pretty full list any way you slice it.
It gets easier to pick fishing spots when you’ve been fishing for as long as I have. You know a handful of places where you can make reasonably good predictions – when the fishing will be good, what the hatches will look like, and who is likely to be there — and you’ve get a few more out-of-the-way places where the fishing is a little riskier but where the rewards can be pretty good too if you hit it right. Over the years I’ve found that I tend to mix these in the same proportion: hitting some of the spots I know well, but when it gets a little too crowded or — dare I say it — predictable, venturing off to some backwoods creek where I know I’ll spend as much time admiring the beauty of the place or the general solitude as much as I will the actual fishing itself.
I generally don’t get the trout bug with the same intensity that I do for salmon fishing, but it usually comes in some form. When the snow starts to disappear, and when we get a few days that just have that spring feel — that’s when I usually find myself poking through the trout fly boxes, scouting a few of the local streams just to see how they’re shaping up, and making phone calls to put some firm plans in place.
Massachusetts is generally not known for it’s trout fishing, and while it’s true that you won’t find the trophy rivers that you will in some other parts of the country, the fishing here can actually be pretty good if you know where to look. Of course the fact that it’s close works both for and against it: for, in the sense that it’s convenient, but against in the sense that it often seems a lot less sexy than rivers in far away places. That’s a well-documented conundrum for almost any fisherman.
I’ve always thought that the lead up to the first day of fishing feels a little like the first day of school. There are no freshly sharpened pencils of course, but plenty of good english hooks, along with fly boxes that have been dutifully replenished, lines that have been cleaned and spooled, reels that have been oiled, and rods that are making their way out of the closet for a brief pre-season inspection. Fresh tippet has arrived in the mail and last year’s leftovers have finally been discarded for good. Izzy, who cut her teeth as a fishing dog last fall on a salmon trip, seems to be dimly aware that all of this activity means that something is afoot, even if she isn’t sure what exactly.
At any rate, I’m feeling relatively optimistic this year and I hope wherever you’re reading this from, that you’re also enjoying getting ready for the season (or better yet, it’s underway already). One of the great benefits of a seasonal sport, it seems to me, is the enthusiasm that comes with knowing that you’ve made it through a long winter and can look forward to a few months of rivers and trout.