Yesterday I saw my first blue wing olives of the year. There were only a couple of flies and the fish that were up ignored the tiny sailboats and kept eating midges. Still, there is something about that first mayfly that signals a change. I never really think too much about the changing seasons. At some point in the middle of October I look at the yellow leaves on the cottonwood trees and realize winter is bearing down again. Everything else just sort of fades together. There is winter, and there is the fishing season when you guides don’t ice up. Those first mayflies signal a change from the former to the latter.
I still fish in winter, though not with the same expectations or ambition that I have in the summer. I usually spend or month or so completely away from the water. This seems to provide the proverbial recharging of batteries. At some point in February I find myself daydreaming about the big sky and bright cutthroats eating foam grasshopper imitations. It is then that I pull out my fishing log—which holds the raw data and some observations from the last five years’ worth of trips—and tentatively plan out the year. Most of those plans change, but there is something nice about penciling in a trip to fish the July evening caddis on the Madison while watching the snowfall on a February evening.
This year has been crazy enough that I haven’t planned much of anything yet. Except for a trip to the Mizzou (get ready for us, Headhunters) in April, the calendar is empty. Maybe I should switch it up, fly by the seat of my pants a bit more this year, go where the wind might take me. Maybe not. Getting those trips on the calendar means they can’t as easily be turned into weekends cleaning gutters or building a fence. Yeah, I think I need to plan.
Either way, this is an excellent time of year. Even though I haven’t felt it too much yet, the thaw is starting. Rainbows are moving to spawning redds, trickles of snow melt are dripping their way down rock formations. The first great hatches of the year are getting ready to pop. Blue wings, skwalas, then mother’s day caddis, march browns, salmon flies, golden stones, drakes in all their varieties, summer caddis, pale morning duns, flavs, callibaetis, tricos, and on and on until we hit blue wings again next fall. It is enough to get downright excited about.
My daughter is devouring the Harry Potter novels right now. She is a voracious reader and she is knocking these things out with a speed that I am a little bewildered by. She is reading the fourth novel of seven. So I pointed out that she was almost half way done, and that when she finished the book in her hand, she would be more than half way done. This realization caused her to sort of yelp and sigh. She didn’t want to be halfway done. I think she believes she could happily read Harry Potter books for the rest of her life. But she doesn’t want to slow down either. She is hooked.
For the fly angler, slowing down is a different kind of choice. A fishing season moves on at the same pace each year—it is up to us how often we venture out into the water to experience it. Right now I feel like I have a whole series of books in front of me, waiting to be read. Who knows what will happen this year? I don’t know and I don’t really want to. The only sure bet is that at some point, somewhere in the West, something on a trout stream will shock me with an unexpected plot twist. I can’t wait.