On his way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 BC, Caesar visited with a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." Julius Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators.
It is now the last day of March and I'm glad that it's over, but is it?? We are looking at yet another rain/snow/winter mix of some sort. The Roman Senate here is being played by Mother Nature herself, with rain, snow, cold temps, ice, then warm temps, wind, fast stream flows, & etc. being all co-conspirators. It seems that everyone of my fishing pals have been scratching their heads of late. It's been a very rough winter/spring transition, indeed. One day you see Olives coming off of a calm Pennsy spring creek on a warmish day, but they aren't looking up. Then, of course, the unofficial "spring" or "better fishing is yet to come" bug seems to be the Stonefly.
As exciting as it is to see these living fossils taking flight, we're just not seeing these trout take them subsurface. All this food and no takers. Seems to be a midge game, but sometimes, that's not even the ticket. Just a frustrating month on the streams and I haven't gotten deep into the weather portion of it all.
For all the complaining we tend to do, as fishermen, we tend to forget that this wacky weather & rough conditions are necessary. Lest we forget how miserable last year was with the brutal summer which lasted deep into the fall with no rain. It, totally, messed with the trout and thus gave us a lack luster fall, unless you went and chased Steelhead up on the Salmon River. Plus, having been out as much as you could between January and now, we're better positioned to have really great days out on the water by the time the fair weather fishermen & 4 season openers (NY State, Early PA, NJ, & the rest of PA) hit us all. All of this epic winter, epic freeze, epic thaw, epic frustration should be worth it all soon. Sure, it would have been nice to have had a more productive winter/spring, but sometimes it just goes that way. It can make for a great story come the end of the year.
The 1st trout I got this year, fittingly, adorns this site. A great story, thus far. It really hasn't been bad, just not what most have been expecting for this time of year.
I am seeing many mutual friends picking up the phone and getting together to fish more, which is cool. Fishing, is for the most part a solitary thing, I know, but I've always liked getting a few friends out on the stream or meeting out at a spot just to get the line wet for a few hours. Trips like this are good intell on spots you may have overlooked.
Also, this year, I have been slowly getting my old tenor sax player out on the water more. Erik Schroeder has been to a few fly fishing shows and I have been showing him how to twist up a few simple patterns. So, I had to get him out on the stream and did so this past weekend. It all started as any other sort of near all day fishing excursion would start.
At least, I think, every good day out should start this way. Even if it is way to early to fish at 6:30am, I do believe, if you have the time, you take time out and start your day at a place like Gronsky's Milk House in High Bridge, NJ and sit for breakfast. This may just stem from all I have heard from old timers on down about their "opening day" experiences with the really early morning starts at the breakfast table. Other than the day out with uncles, dads, & grandpas, it seems the biggest memory was always the breakfast, itself.
Since, I'm still a newb, at 5 or so years with a fly rod in hand, I can say I come from zero fishing tradition. So, to hear the stories throughout the years, I have kind of taken that and applied it to my own experience. Why not treat every fishing day with the excitement of "opening day"?? Why is just reserved for one day?? You, sadly, tend to hear, in some folks, that this pretty much died off as a childhood memory. As a result, I guess a Uncle Hooli "tradition" is pretty much going to involve really early starts for breakfast and at the end the day, it will be capped off with a few barley pops.
So for Erik's innaugural day out on the stream, we started as such at Gronsky's and proceeded to the stream. The flows were high, but not totally unfishable. I was Erik's guide for the most part. It was pretty cool to put down the rod and try and get someone up to speed by teaching someone what I've been taught by, ironically, the 1st three pictured above. Ideally, it would've been great to have Erik on a fish on the 1st go, but with the flows and temps the way they were, it would be more beneficial to at least get him into the wheelhouse and get the cast placement right, the drift right (or close), to get him to set the hook on any indicator movement. The meat & potatoes of winter/spring fly fishing. The rest will fall into place as spring moves along and the more he joins us for breakfast, beers, and streamside wisdom. Fortunately enough, Erik, was a captive audience to one John Heaney.
It was good timing as the build up of frustration was building in Erik and myself. A new look and new perspective from someone more experienced than I was needed. Without really getting into it because it deserve it's own post John Heaney, as many will tell you around these parts, is very passionate about his trout, their environment, fly fishing, and sharing his stories & knowledge about the streams of the area to a friendly ear. I really enjoy running into Heaney on the streams. It's always a huge treat to see a bear of man get near giddy talking about these trout. I swear, he knows them on a 1st name basis. To watch him work a pool is also fun and a clinic, at the same time.
So I knew we were in good hands when we went back downstream to where I started Erik off. It's a piece of water that is called the "Holy Water", which is a Heaney story that I may have to pry out of him for the blog. Many potentially bad days on that stream were salvaged just by getting a drift or two in the Holy Water. We were in for a treat watching Heaney give us a lesson on how to fish the Holy Water. There were questions on whether or that section was even stocked at all and when Heaney proclaimed, "there's no way they stocked this" when from the bottom of the Holy Water surfaced a nice sized wild brown trout.
The natural reaction here is to shake your head and just laugh. I knew it would happen. If there are trout in a particular run, Heaney will flush 'em out. Of course, there's a lesson involved here. Mr. Heaney just exposed to me what I may have done wrong in that run, as he pulled out 4 total in a matter of a few minutes from that swift water. With that brief lesson Erik was newly inspired to hit the water again.
At the end of the day, we came back to the van and I apologized that I couldn't get him in to trout, but Erik didn't seem to mind that. I think those few moments on the stream with someone like John Heaney made the world of difference. Erik will be on the stream again, very soon.