The end of winter. Spring is within view. I can smell it. This time of year is tough on me more than the winter itself. Because I’m impatient. I want the snow to be gone. I want the ice to melt off the lakes. I want the waters to drop from the melts, to lose that chocolate milk flow and to warm up just enough for the fishing to turn on, for bugs to make their presence known. I didn’t fish hardly at all over the winter. I hear Freddy Mercury belting it out… I want it all, and I want it now.
I use up a Friday, a day off from work, not to fish, but to work. To work on a camper project that should’ve never happened. The idea behind it was simple, I needed a trailer to haul kayaks. Mine fit on the roof of the Subaru just fine, but when I take the boys out this year they’ll each have their own and so a trailer was logical. It should’ve been simple. I bought a little utility trailer from a fishing buddy and should’ve just built a couple t-bars on it for the kayaks. But then I got to thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice, if I was going to be pulling a trailer anyway, if we could sleep in it too? To get out of the bad weather when it happened. Last year we’d packed up the tent on a trip before midnight when a big storm was rolling our way and if we’d had a camper we could’ve stayed. So now I’d been building a box with windows and a door over the winter on the trailer. One that will also have a rack on the roof. For the kayaks. Because it’s a kayak trailer you know. I could’ve made this simple and quick. I should’ve made it simple and quick. Instead, I’ve picked a warm, late winter day to pull it out into the driveway to work on it in the sun. Instead of fishing. I’m my own worst enemy.
On Saturday I can’t take it anymore. It’s still sunny, but it’s no longer in the fifties. Now it’s in the thirties. The water is still colored up and running high from the snow melt, but I rig up the 4wt and then sit on the church pew on the front porch and pull on my waders anyway. I drive twenty minutes south. It’s the same creek that’s running high and brown out behind the house, but it’s twenty minutes upstream. I’m hoping it’s upstream far enough for the conditions to be a little better. A little less brown at least. When I get there, it is. A little less brown. But it’s still brown. You’ll have that this time of year. We know it won’t be good, but we go anyway. It’s that impatience I was talking about.
I search a spot downstream from where I parked for a shed antlers. I saw a huge buck there during the hunting season while I was fishing it, and I’ve been waiting for the snow to be gone, just picturing finding those sheds up in that little feeder creek where it was hiding. I follow the feeder, scanning the ground, finding lots of small trees rubbed bare of their bark. I follow it and the clear deer trail along it, until I run into a posted sign. I turn back. I scan the ground and the surroundings on the way back down again, looking even harder. I never find them. It was nice to hope anyway.
I half heartedly drift a large black nymph pattern through all the slack waters I can find. In my mind I see it drifting, bouncing downstream, it’s black silhouette against the light brown water with the sun beating down on it as if it was a warm sunny day. It’s not a warm day of course, but if I couldn’t feel the cold on my face and hands then the appearance alone could have me fooled.
Upstream, on my way back to the car I spot another fly fisherman and I stand and watch for a few minutes. He’s standing in the current dredging a run I covered pretty well probably thirty minutes earlier. I was fairly sure I saw a fish in the stained current as I crossed to look for the antler sheds so I’m watching and hoping to see his line go tight and a bend in his rod, but it’s looks pretty much the same as when I fished it. Nothing is happening as far as the fishing goes. There’s obviously hope and imagination at play here, but that’s about it. Sometimes on a sunny day at the end of the winter that’s all you need. It’s all you’re going to get anyway, so you tell yourself it’s all you need. And the sun does feel good on your face.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks. Both are available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book, and signed copies are available for purchase right here on jprossflyrods.com. He’s currently working on his third book titled Not All trout Are Geniuses, due to be out sometime in late 2021…maybe.
Be sure to check out the latest JP Ross Fly Rod Model, the Peacemaker! A 10’6” 4wt that’s been tested on everything from native brook trout in the Adirondacks to smallmouth and largemouth bass on streamers and poppers, to winter steelhead in western NY! It could very well be your next favorite fly rod. Spring is just about here!