The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Late night long drives or red-eyes equaling a thousand or so miles on the road, a few more thousand in the air, more still on the oars of my drift boat, and finally, even more zooming around the remote flats of northern Mexico in a panga, and now, I find myself at a keyboard desperately trying to relive drastically different places, fisheries, and a few moments that I don't want to forget.
As much as I love swinging a fly for steelhead, or the sound of a tarpon's gill plates grinding and chattering as it explodes out of the water, or watching a permit tip up to eat a crab (a first for me, more to come on that in a later post), I'd have to say that I feel most at home on a trout stream. And after the past couple of weeks, all of the great fishing with friends that I spent both close to home and far away, I was craving what got me started fly fishing in the first place: trout.
It's hard to say that we had much of a winter by typical Ohio standards. Despite the relative lack of snow and cold temperatures, November through March had their typical "lack of color." It's not something that you notice right away - and usually the "greyness" and darkness of a northeast Ohio winter are something I look forward to, as it coincides with some of my most cherished time on the water of the year. Still, after four long months, even the hardiest of fishermen begins to feel the wear of the cold, wind, and general dreariness.
When I stepped off the bank into a piece of water that is slowly becoming one of my favorites, something was distinctly different. As I walked down to the first run I wanted to fish, it struck me. The grey was gone, and despite the rain and overcast sky, the green and the woods and technicolor river bottom meant that spring had returned.
The fishing reflected that as well. The trout were more aggressive than they had been just a few short weeks ago, and the way that they chased with reckless abandon was their way of saying that the warm weather had them pretty excited too. Animals, fish or otherwise, are usually fairly poor at hiding their feelings. Another familiar face echoed that tone.
Although I only saw a handful of Hendricksons, their presence for many trout fishermen represents the true start of spring, and the beginning of a coveted series of hatches that can make up some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. Even though the trout weren't ready for them yet, just seeing a few of them dodging raindrops was enough, in my mind, to start spring on the stream.
With the tributaries approaching flood stage and the region in the midst of a record March heat wave, I got the crazy notion tonight to take an impromptu trip over to my old stomping grounds to look for some early players in the warmwater department.
That little taste of nostalgia took me back to simpler times and made me realize that after all these years, not much has changed. Even back then I enjoyed sittin' around throwin' lines and knockin' back cold ones [Squeez-It's?] with the boys...
Putting my clients onto trophy fish...
And of course, practicing proper catch and release has always been high priority.
I learned at an early age how to strike a pose. Enter the patented "Fish Heisman"...
I've long touted the benefits of camouflage when stalking finicky trout...
And finally the Fast Jimmy signature move: Using the camera to add 3 lbs. and 8 inches to every catch.
By all accounts it's been a different weather year around here. As an angler you've got to try to to adapt, so we've been deviating a bit from the usual routine lately. On Monday that included a fruitless but fun float down Willy Wonka's Chocolate River. We did manage to put a few nice fish in the bag on a neighboring river before setting sail, but seeing as Brett is on a tarpon flat somewhere in Mexico right about now it's going to be a little while before you see the photo evidence.
With a week of forecasted temps in the 70's it's tough to say what the rest of March will hold, but I'm guessing there'll be a lot of "firsts" for the angler. I know a lot of us are already turning a sights away from steelhead and looking forward to spring trout and warmwater action.