FIRST FISH OF THE SEASON

Like so many others these days, I awake each morning plagued by a feeling of dread. Over the last few weeks, the weather here in the northwest corner of our state has matched the mood of the country. The temperature has vacillated between the mid thirties and high forties. On occasion, it had slipped into the low fifties, but only when accompanied by a cold rain.

This morning, our dogs follow me onto the back porch of our home. As I take a first sip from my mug of tea, that uneasy feeling slowly dissipates. Finnegan, the younger of our two black Labs, leaps down the steps. He chases Winslow Homer, who is three years his senior, down to the gate that leads to a small pond tucked into the woodlot that is part of the twelve acres where we live. I tell myself I should adopt the youthful dog’s philosophy—Why walk when you can run?

Daffs

The sky above us is as soft as a baby’s blue blanket. Sprinkled here and there, daffodils join with forsythia, doing there best to bring a bit of relief to the otherwise drab landscape. Under the leafless branches of maples and oaks, the little periwinkle flowers of creeping myrtle join in the conspiracy.

In the corner of our house, by the side door, is an aluminum tube that holds the fly rod I recently purchased from Jim Becker, the bamboo rod maker from the State of Maine. He constructed the seven-feet, nine-inch- long elegant cane for use on larger water than that found in Bonnie Brook, but on this first warm day of spring, I can’t help but call upon it to keep me company on the little stream.

Rod Case

Worry returns on the short drive from our home—worry over my health and the health of my family, worry over whether my business will survive, worry over the state of our fragmented and leaderless country.

After buckling my hip waders to the loops on my jeans, I slip the rod from its tube. Last season’s leaves crunch under my boots as I tramp through an abandoned apple orchard. Pecking for worms in the damp earth, a pair of robins raises their heads in my direction while a phoebe calls from the side of the wooden bridge that spans the stream.

As I approach the brook, the sound of the current is strong from recent rain. The brambles along either bank remain bare except for the barberry bushes that are beginning to leaf out. Coltsfoot flowering between the stones of a shoal provides a flash of color.

I sit on the trunk of a fallen tree. The sun is strong enough to warm the back of my neck, and I decide to roll up the sleeves of my flannel shirt. A black stonefly, its wings all a flutter, drops onto a dark slick of water along the opposite bank. The insect is immediately lost when a trout rises to engulf it.

Anticipating the appearance of these aquatic insects, I carry with me a single box of flies. Although unable to convince a fish to rise in a run beyond the fallen tree, my first cast below a tiny plunge pool brings a five-inch brook trout to the surface.

The first fish of each new season is always special, and taking a knee, I hold the little trout in my damp palm for a moment longer than usual.

Version 2

Over the next two hours, nine fish rise to my fly—six brook trout and three rainbows. None are longer than seven inches, each more beautiful as any I’ve seen or at least that is how I feel after being away from the stream for nearly four months.

Walking back to my truck, I realize that for at least a short time my only concern was avoiding the prickly thorns of wild roses and the low-hanging branches of hardwood trees.

 

4 Responses to “FIRST FISH OF THE SEASON”

  1. Rich Staneski Says:

    Bob,

    Ah spring! Even with our trying, and yes “leaderless” times, it quickens the heart. And you were rewarded with the lovely trout that you pictured. It was good to see you in Lancaster. That small brook in Cresco awaits…

    Thanks for another tasty morsel.
    Stay healthy,

    Rich

  2. Neil Sunday Says:

    Great read Bob! Thanks for the small recess today. Of course I’m on my way fishing right now, so all is good. Stay well.

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