An early spring’s failure

Early March, with sunshine and warming rivers, brought hope once again for an early spring. That dream seems dashed at the moment, much as last year’s similar promise evaporated.

I was fretting over the freezing rain bands passing through the western Catskills this morning, as I had an early appointment to get my boat trailer inspected. Here in Crooked Eddy the temperature hovered just above freezing, so I headed out early to allow for a slow, careful drive on Route 17.

I found no icy patches, not even on the various bridges spanning the wide East Branch Delaware, and the boat is back home and mostly ready for another fishing season. Reservoirs are spilling, and with half an inch of rain pretty well guaranteed for tonight, that will certainly continue. The thermometer reads forty degrees, but the dampness makes the air downright bone chilling. Looking forward to the last week of March, Monday’s high temperature is forecast to be 28 degrees!

Early spring is often an ill-fated dream here in the mountains, and in truth it can cause as many problems as it solves. I guess it has been a little over a decade since we had a true early spring, with lots of warmth and hatches popping weeks before their normal arrival. Back in Chambersburg, I recall consistent daytime temperatures in the seventies in March. I remember it well.

I was having some issues with my truck and had an early appointment to get things straightened out. “We’ll have you out of here in half an hour” they had told me, but things didn’t go that way. I was unhappy, even a little angry, as I had expected to head straight for a distant limestoner to catch a morning hatch of blue-winged olives on my day off. Those hopes were dashed by the time they finished with my truck, without fixing the problem.

I drove over to the Falling Spring instead. I wasn’t expecting much, as the stream was already into its decline at that time, and I clearly recall walking along on this beautiful sunlit day and grumbling to myself that the fishing on the Spring was no longer worth my effort. Moments later I cast a Shenk Sculpin to a brown trout better than two feet long and ended up landing my largest brownie ever on the tiny limestone spring creek I had called home for many years.

I guess the Red Gods were offended with my poor attitude, for the rest of that early spring proved disappointing. Catskill hatches were a month early, but they were also quite sporadic, and strung out over several weeks. There were no concentrated emergences of any of our usual mayflies, at least not when I was anywhere near the rivers, so the dry fly fishing was poor.

When I am feeling the chill and wishing for a rising trout this time of year, I remember that season and the dues Nature extracted from anglers for the early start to the season. That sobering thought helps me pull up my collar and busy myself with the little day to day chores of preparation for the fishing season.

I may just get my drift boat rod out of its tube today and polish it up; check the old fly line to see if it has another season in it. The tackle bag has been sitting here beside my tying bench for a week now, and all of the late season fly boxes have been replaced with the appropriate early season boxes.

April will show up in another week and everything will be ready to go here, except the mayflies and the trout. The anticipation will build once a few sunny days start the water temperatures climbing again, and there’s no doubt I will find myself drifting down the river before its time. Hey, there is always a chance some over eager trout will rise and slap an early stonefly or something, right?

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