No matter what the weather is, when April first comes around, I’ve got to go cast a line somewhere. It’s really nothing about the opening of trout season, and more about the real beginning of spring. If I wanted to catch a trout I’d just go to the stretch of river that runs along beside the fish hatchery and cast something, anything, feel the tug of a dumb and confused animal that’s only been in the river for a day or two, and then go home. But that’s just not what it’s about.
This year all the local streams and rivers were blown out, thanks to Mother Nature’s April Fool’s joke of melting away the three feet of snow she strategically dumped on us in less than twenty-four hours only two weeks earlier. So it made it pretty easy for me to make the decision. The only water that was even hardly fishable would be the stretch by the hatchery, and you weren’t going to catch me within casting distance, yelling distance, or even viewing distance of it, so I pointed the Jeep north. Why? Because other than John who I’d be meeting up there, I wasn’t going to see another person all day most likely.
Where it was wet and brown around home, by the time I made the edge of the Adirondack Park, it was like rewinding the year back a month to full on winter. The lakes and ponds were still covered in ice, the ground covered in a layer of white. The only green was the tall pines and the metal roofs of occasional camps. I’d told John earlier in the week that the conditions were probably going to be crappy. Cold and lots of snow, not easy. He came back with the answer confirming why I was fishing with him in the first place. If the fishing conditions are going to be crappy, I’d rather get skunked in a beautiful place where we won’t see anyone instead of on the side of a blown out river, shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other fisherman for stocked fish.
I’ve explored and fished the heck out of the stream we met at, it’s one I know pretty well actually. Possibly the stream I know the best on my favorites list. I have to imagine every angler has a top ten list, a greatest hits compilation of fishing spots, and this one I guess would be at the top of mine. But I’d never seen it all covered in winter. It was a feeling something like déjà vu, but not quite. I felt like I’d been there before, which obviously I had, but everything looks different buried under a foot of snow. The rocks we normally stand on and make our first casts from were sealed in a solid couple feet of hard as concrete shelf ice, making the stream a little narrower. It was like fishing new waters in an old spot. Which, I guess is kind of what an old Greek philosopher named Heraclitus meant when he said No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
The water was running high but clear, and I thought it was wonderful to be able to see the boulders jutting up from the dark tannin stained current, considering in the creek back home you couldn’t see half an inch. It was like old friends waving hello from the same park bench you always see them on. We didn’t catch anything, but like I said, that’s not what opening day is about. But John did feel two tugs at the end of his drift fishing a nymph in the tail out of the water crashing down the small falls. I can’t seem to set the hook, was followed by an inspection of the fly and the discovery that there was no hook, only a nymph pattern tied on a shank. After he tied on a new one, it was easy to believe that the fish didn’t want anything but the hook less version, and we moved on.
It was just good to finally be on my favorite stream again, and to see it in such a different way was almost refreshing. In the end on the drive home I thought about it in my head, wondering how I could put it into words that would get the true feelings across.
I think it was like dating a gorgeous girl for a long time, she’s always dressed up, hair done up, makeup, her clothes just right, her perfume, the whole package. That’s the stream in full on summer. All the different shades of green from the pines to the hard woods, the red berries in the scrub brush, the delicate ferns covering the forest floor except for the moss covered fallen tree trunks. The smell of the evergreens on a breeze. Then one early morning after a long time you finally get to see her without any of that stuff. Her hair all a mess, no makeup, just her. That’s like the stream in the winter. The snow covers the forest floor, there aren’t any leaves, and the shelf ice covers the banks you’ve spent so much time moving along, stirring up the sediments that billow in the beams of sunlight that pierce through the trees were they can. All you get to see is the stream itself for what it really is, no distractions. And the best part it, after all that time, when you finally get to see her for what she really is, you realize she’s still beautiful, that she’s the one for you.