Waders are essentially high priced buckets. It is quite amazing when an expensive piece of space age fabric, designed to keep one warm and comfortable, is instantly transformed into a simple and cheap bucket. What once was a barrier between you and cold water can quickly become a vessel that contains gallons of cold water that soaks and chills your underwear and pools in the legs. It often happens in the shock of a second, a missed step, and a sigh of cold aggravation.
Other than that, I’m often thankful for my waders as they offer me a little protection as I wander through lush and thriving forests of poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettles. I guess it’s a trade off.
Fishing around these parts can be frustrating, the small streams are often blown out early in the season and the springs rain can make a normally wade-able pool of water a screaming torrent that can carry fallen trees the width and breath of small Volkswagens, and assembling them in snags that can reach 40’ across and 10’ high. The positive side of this is that the structure is always changing and the fish adapt to it, so the stream that you fish last week can be completely different when you step into it 7 days later.
The water has been gin clear lately and one has to be stealthy to be successful, and the smallmouth bass have been responding to a delicate bank presentation of purple wooly buggers and dyed yellow mallard soft hackles skittered across the bottom. We tend to fish any available structure including the large and expansive root balls of the stately sycamores that dot our banks. Hybrid patterns of soft hackles (size 10-14) that mimic natural shad (with a hot spot) seem to do the best for me lately. I usually carry a couple flies that mimic the venerable crawdad but those patterns don’t often see success in our spring outings—the hottest days of summer and low pools over free stone river beds provide the best days of the crawfish patterns.
The freshwater crawdad (Order Decapoda) is a natural and plentiful source of diet for the fish in the small streams and creeks of our home state and our idyllic little streams boasts of one of the richer freshwater faunas in North America with 54 species. The one we see the most is the Cambarus Batchi – Bluegrass Crayfish. The population seems to be down this year or perhaps they’re still burrowing—we haven’t seen many in the streams/creeks so far although we have seen the remnants left behind by the ultimate flying fisherman, our gray and blue herons.
Herons, by the way, are the most patient sight fishers I’ve ever seen and ironically look like a fly fisherman in the way they stand quietly dignified in the middle of a stream or on a bank. Their natural camouflage allows them to look like ungainly sticks at a distance but the swoosh of their wings and quick diving motion will often surprise even the expectant observer.
The dogwoods have started to bring their soft focus white and pink to the world and our Kentucky redbuds are a starkly purple contrast to the woods’ numerous shades of spring greens; summer is coming, I can feel the change but the mornings and evenings are still cool enough to warrant another layer but It won’t be long before the option to wet wade is here for us but until then I will wear my buckets.