I can nearly taste the sweetness of springtime in the air. The warmest days of the young season have come and gone this week, and river temperatures have flirted with that magic number. The open waters are still far too high to wade, and I can’t get the boat in the river just yet for an early scouting mission; and so, I wait.
There is finally some hope for normalcy, as a great weight has been lifted with the first prick of a needle. Still more than a month to go before reaching that plateau of safety, but my spirits are higher than I can remember. Life seems to have possibilities again!
It is harder to fight the urge to get out there, to participate in all the rest of the angling lifestyle that has been suspended for more than a year. There is a sale I had hoped to attend this weekend, and I nearly made the trip, before judgement overcame exuberance. This is a critical time, and keeping apart is at once more vital and more difficult than ever, for the urge to join is so fresh and strong.
The spring weather seems determined to continue, though perhaps poetically, New York’s last Opening Day expects a high in the thirties with snow showers. More rain is coming tomorrow, so there may not be a wadable river anyway. I was going to go out for this last one, take a bamboo rod and see if I couldn’t find a rising trout; take my last chance to participate in the tradition. I figured I could find a quiet spot on the Beaverkill, perhaps even that one riser to cast to, but the classic river has spent several days flowing more than 3,000 cfs this week.
Waiting, literally quivering with anticipation, for such a simple thing: a little ring upon the surface of the river! I keep hoping that these signs, the ones so easy to read, tell the truth: this will be an early spring, with the waiting measured in days rather than weeks. Though in the back of my mind reason works to trump my senses.
Part of the lure and lore of fly fishing is the thought process, the acquisition and sharing of knowledge, and each angler’s own development of theories as to the timing of hatches, and the reasons trout take a particular fly. As to hatches, I have always embraced the logic in the degree days theory, that each species of aquatic insect requires a certain number of days at a certain minimum temperature to mature. It seems reasonable, and the truth I have witnessed on the rivers supports the concept. In actual fact I believe that Nature’s math is more complex, that the truth lies in some complex formula of calories, water chemistry, genetics and ambient sunlight; though the result is that sustained periods of colder than normal weather and water result in seasonally later hatches of our friend Ephemerella subvaria and brethren. It has been a long, cold winter. Might a day or two of 50 degree water in March be too little, too late to bring last spring’s nymphs to early maturity? I will worry about that until I actually see those slate gray wings upon the surface and the rush of anticipation explodes in my breast!
Oh how I long to sit and converse with angling friends new and old, to sip a wee dram and share our theories and experiences. We could talk for hours on fly patterns alone! Admiring a fine old cane rod, sharing our individual choices for just the right reel to snug into its seat, laughing at the foibles that have claimed as many great trout as our nets – these are the moments of friendship, we brothers of the angle enjoy nearly as much as time on the water itself.
Is one long dead maker’s rod truly superior to the fine, polished one made a month ago? The discussions are endless, for there is never a definitive answer. The cachet of ancient, historic, groundbreaking craft meets the science of improved precision, modern adhesives and computer refined tapers. Each path allows he who wields the result to touch the magic, that is certain. Those long among the brotherhood cherish our tackle.
I love the soft patina of time and reverent use on my handmade Hardy from 1929, yet I thrill too at the brilliant design, computer controlled machining and careful hand assembly of my new Trutta Perfetta from deep in the Ukraine. Both let me touch the magic. Old and new: new flies designed with inspiration taken from the old ones, ancient braided silk lines and new plastic ones computer designed to mimic their performance. There is much we could talk about after a year away from friendly gatherings.
Waiting… pondering the riddles that Nature slowly reveals, thinking of friends and times shared on bright water. Rods are polished, reels oiled, and once in awhile the urge drives us outside to the lawn with a favorite rod: let’s see how it feels with this new longer tapered line.
Early spring or simply a prolonged flirtation? If sunlight brings an early greening to the river banks, will she also bring an early hatch and a rise of trout? I can’t wait to see!