There is one week remaining in March, and the weather seems content to proceed in a springtime vein. I am anxious for that first sight of a good trout rising, making preparations so that everything is ready to allow for finding that wonderful fish as soon as possible. Rivers are rising on this rainy morning, and there is a good chance that additional showers through the rest of the week will have most of them higher than ideal for wade fishing come opening day. As if keeping an ancient Catskill promise, the forecast for the first of April is one of the coldest days in an otherwise favorable ten day outlook.
I followed through with my plan to get the drift boat ready for action yesterday, choosing to relax and forego a third straight day of searching for trout not yet ready to play my game. I dismantled my “garage” and put that to rest for the fishing season, hooked the trailer up and tested the lights, replacing a bad running light, and giving the tires a visual check. I even finished cutting my bamboo rod holder and put the first two coats of spar varnish on that and my anchor box. I haven’t carried cane in the boat the past two seasons, not wanting to risk damage to a cherished rod. The rod holder will cushion the bamboo blank and keep the tip down out of the way, so my old 9 foot Granger can get some time on the river.
Dennis Menscer wrapped a new guide and gave that old rod a varnish dip for me, something I had planned to do myself back in 2015. That project was derailed by my adventures with death and health care late that March, and I just never got back to it. Thanks to Dennis, that 9050 is ready to go as my boat rod. He also cut and gave me a nice section from a flamed culm of bamboo which I split, sanded and varnished to make the rod holder and a tool holder for my fly tying desk.
Rainy days are great for fly tying and other fishing chores. I tied some dark olives and Quill Gordons this morning and tossed them in a pill bottle with yesterdays Palmered Ravenstones, giving me a fresh dozen early season dries to try to tease up that first riser.
I guess the boat bag may get my attention next. This time of year I want an insulated Thermoball jacket, a rain jacket, fleece gloves, spare ballcap and a wool watch cap in there at a minimum. Later in the season, once I hope we are all safe enough that my friends can join me, I’ll include a second spare rain jacket in case the visitor forgets his own, and maybe a fleece vest. The early floats will all be solo floats as they were last year. You simply cannot social distance in a drift boat, and I have never believed that 6-foot standard was sufficient anyway.
I have to take a look at the boat box flies I tied last spring, just to refresh my memory as to what I put in there. I know it started with various patterns and sizes of olives, Blue Quills, Gordons and Hendricksons, but I could have added and subtracted some patterns as the spring progressed. I have been mainly a spring float tripper, using the boat when the rivers were too high for the wade fishing I prefer. Our rivers have a funny way of dropping all at once and staying low, and I do not enjoy jockeying all over the river trying to keep it floating while avoiding interfering with too many other boats and waders.
My rods and reels are all in good shape and ready to go. The boat will get the aforementioned Granger and my Thomas & Thomas LPS. That 9′ five weight has been my primary drift boat rod for twenty years. It has a lot of flex, feel and touch for great fly presentations, along with enough power to handle the winds out in open water, and the extra distance fishing from the boat requires. I’ll change to fresh leaders when I chose the rod to start fishing, or simply rebuild the business end according to the flies and conditions.
By this point there really aren’t too many chores remaining. It has been a long winter and, fishing through most of the year I tend to keep my gear in shape. The last item won’t be tended to until I’m ready to drive to the ramp: filling the lanyard box. I’ve worn one of those simple lanyards ever since the first time I dropped my boat in the river. The clips hold the essentials you need throughout the day: nippers, tippet, fly floatant and a tiny plastic fly box with two or three each of the patterns I most expect to be fishing. Some days I never have to open another fly box.
Boat flies tend to be a little different for me than wading flies. CDC dominates many of my hatch matching boxes, but I don’t fish them as often from the drift boat. A float day generally involves long downstream casts, and stripping a CDC dry back thirty or forty feet cast after cast tends to saturate them. The CDC duns I do tie for the boat are winged heavier than my normal flies, because sometimes the best trout simply insist upon that movement. Most of my boat flies are hackled patterns, with parachutes and my posters dominating. The higher casting position and long distances can make flies more difficult to see in some light conditions, thus these patterns have high visibility wings of Antron or Trigger Point Fibers. Those wings don’t soak up water when stripped in for another cast either.
I can still hear the raindrops on my metal roof, filling the groundwater, refreshing the springs and bringing life to the rivers. Amen.