April’s Charms

“I’m looking for the April thunderstorms that wash away the drab colors of the winter time; I’m looking for the spring to break wide open; to hear the phoebe and the robin and the meadowlark; to see and smell the violets and the blossoms on the apple trees; to watch the swallows sweeping low across the satin surface of the stream: to wait for ripples of the rising trout, as evening falls and nymphs emerge and all the world is sweet with scent and song and gentle colors.” Dana Storrs Lamb, “Woodsmoke And Watercress”

How easy to sit and dream of April in the Catskills! I have hunkered upon the riverbank, catching sleet in the folds of my jacket as I pulled hood and collar higher to protect my neck, ever watching the bubbling riffle below for the telltale bob of sooty wings. I have braced myself against the pull of strong currents, reaching that my fly might fall just inches closer to the bubble below that rock, hoping that it speaks more of life than of current; waited until the cold made my legs feel like the stones themselves before forcing them to bend, to move and retreat from the rush of water that threatened my footing. I have warmed myself in the glow of evening sunlight and cast a fly to subtle rings where spinners met their ends. April is everything, the birth of a season with all of the trimmings!

Hunting riverbanks with polished cane, the fly boxes brimming with winter’s creativity, the latest answer for trout too cautious to come to the angler’s call. I relish even those early days, when experience knows the answer the heart resists; not yet…

Nothing quite so lights up the senses as that first glimpse of movement, of life at the surface of the cold, sparkling waters. My eyes search for proof, a mayfly drifting by point blank, the bulge and wink amid all the frenzy of the current that says rise. When at last my senses are rewarded, when the mission becomes one of casting rather than walking, the surge in my heart is bliss. The cast feels different somehow, though I have made them by the millions the muscles and joints don’t respond with the same smoothness, but the line unfurls, the fly alights… and the season begins at last. Those muscles remember as the line grows taught, the cane arches boldly and the ancient reel speaks.

Endless days spent searching, and at last the flies come. Chances are the first engagement is brief, enough to see them clearly, to know they are real and alive, but no more. The hours dwindle in vain searching – there must be a rise! It may be another day, perhaps a few before the search is fully rewarded. The spirits toy with April weather!

Eighty-six days until my steps quicken upon the riverbank, and my hand squeezes the cork with purpose. It is 19 degrees at dawn here in Crooked Eddy.


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