The Early Spring Myth

An April riverscape? It soon will be.

The poetry of tradition, I guess that may be the best way to view New York’s final Opening Day of trout season. It seems clear that we have earned the trifecta: snow, wind and high water. March was indeed promising, and though I tried my best to remain skeptical, a few afternoons sitting on my porch with a Cold Snap and the grill working it’s magic managed to win me over to the idea of an actual early spring in the Catskills. My Opening Day legacy will remain in tact.

The expectations for the first week of April have cooled considerably for those of us who have watched the forecasts, and the promise of rising trout seems further away. I will still find a way to enjoy my time. Conditions should be good for a solo float down the ever rising West Branch. Cannonsville is spilling.

I repaired a cut in the fly line on my drift boat rig yesterday, my venerable Thomas & Thomas LPS five weight stands ready now. I nearly lost that fine old rod last season when a boisterous current pulled me beneath a low hanging tree. I glanced in time to realize that the tip was higher than the lowest branches, but the oars demanded both of my hands; there was nothing I could do. Thankfully the tip snapped back from its sudden altercation with the tree branch, none the worse for wear. That rod landed a number of outsize brown trout after surviving that hazard.

To a number of younger fly fishers, that is the kind of thing they shrug off, figuring that they will be better off when the rod company’s warranty replaces their broken older model with a brand new shiny model of the day. Perhaps it is the bailiwick of the older angler to build a relationship with our tackle, to view it as something more than a disposable tool. That T&T is not cherished vintage bamboo, it is graphite, a rod too many would view as outdated, a twenty year old relic from before the current fast, faster and fastest action trend. It is an old friend.

It was the first full day of my inaugural Delaware river float trip with guide Pat Schuler when I found that the reel seat of my brand new Orvis 5 weight was sliding around on the rod butt, a victim of improperly cured epoxy. Pat suggested I look in his tackle room and pick out one of the rods there for the day’s fishing. There were several fine rods there, but the blue Thomas & Thomas tube caught my eye. I had always coveted the marque, sadly out of my price range, so I took the opportunity to fish one; a nine foot five weight three piece LPS. I didn’t put that rod down for the balance of the trip. At home I contacted the company to express my admiration and was pleased to find that they offered a writer’s program that enabled me to purchase that same model rod for a price I could manage. That LPS has been my drift boat rod of choice ever since.

Fishing from a boat is a different style of fly fishing, one that challenges the typical wading angler. Casting to rising trout involves long downstream casts, often accompanied by a lot of line mending. Delaware River wild trout demand perfect presentations, and fishing on that wide river usually means you are going to have to make those presentations in the wind. I found the LPS had the perfect balance of power and finesse to handle those new challenges; it suited me, and it still does.

Those trips with Patrick were the highlights of my fishing season for a long run of years. We made some great memories, and I acquired a confidence in that long blue rod, and a great respect for the man who showed me so much of the glory of the Delaware.

The sporting tradition is like that. We develop a relationship with not only the fine companions with whom we share woods and waters, but with the implements through which we pursue our sport. I still treasure the big, heavy, bull barreled .22 caliber target rifle my Dad taught me to shoot with. At ten years old it seemed as big as I was, but that old gun could shoot. My late father had owned that rifle since he was a teenager, and I took it along on my last squirrel hunt, sitting in the woods that October afternoon remembering our times together. Snugging the heavy stock into my shoulder I could feel his hand there, steadying my aim.

Talismans: they are artifacts that hold some of the magic of our greatest life experiences and allow us to relive the energy of those moments. As we journey through life, some of us build a store of talismans. We keep them close to our hearts to keep the people, the places and the moments they represent close.

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