Daylight was just over the next hill. At least the restaurant
would be warm, and the coffee hot. Three hours of driving through
slush and patches of black ice. Who said it was spring anyway?
Everything looks better after a tasty hot breakfast. We pulled off
the road into the parking lot of the small "mom and pop" eatery.
The traditional stop. No lights. No cars. My fishing partner
muttered something and walked up to the front door. The small
sign was tattered and barely readable.
"See you in the Spring," it read, "On vacation." Obviously they
didn't think it was spring yet!
We had passed a "'Get Food & Gas" stop twenty miles back.
No guarantee on the food quality, but there were cars and lights
on. No amount of complaining about the empty state of my
stomach would coerce my now ex-husband to head back there. Not
only was the weather too cold, and too wet for any resemblance of
a fly hatch, but now I was on starvation rations. Bummer!
Fifteen more miles to the dirt road turn-off to the stream. Now
the last of the half-cold coffee in the thermos was gone. We had
planned to refill it at the restaurant.
The turn-off appeared out of the gloom, and disappeared
behind us into the fog the instant we turned. The road was never in
great condition - even in the heat of summer. Winter had not been
easy on the north country. Ruts from years of back-woods-anglers
were cut into the mud not unlike the familiar game trails used by
deer one generation to the next.
Parking a few yards from the stream, I pulled on my gloves and
opened the door. As I stepped out a shiver ran down my neck. It
was bone chilling cold. We walked silently down to the water. My
buddy remarked, "Well at least it's in it's banks." Indeed it was, a
little fast, a bit discolored - but not flooding. Tea colored water is
common in upper Michigan where cedars thrive. Water draining out
of cedar swamps is at least honey-colored, sometimes a
maple-syrup tone. It smells like wet cedars. Lovely even if the cold
itself tingled inside my nostrils. Brits would probably call it
Nothing to do but rig the rod, pull my leaky waders on, and
attempt to fish. After all, it was OPENING DAY! No real trout
fisherman who could drag himself to the stream missed opening
day. Unheard of. Maybe I could keep to the shallow water and stay
dry. Yeah right. I headed upstream. There was a gentle bend
where a cedar deadfall almost crossed the stream. Trout hung out
near the bank just downstream from it. If I was careful I could
cast upstream, quartering the deadfall and drift my fly over the
shallows. But there was a problem with that approach. The dead
tree was still there, I could reach the proper place, but there were
no insects. Now what to do? I found a flat place to sit, took out my
fly box and stared at it. Winter had been productive. The fly box
was full of neatly tied flies.
All in rows, separated by size and color. A box a crayons was
only slightly less colorful. And probably just as useful in this
situation. For that matter worms would have done nicely. I can't
say for certain I would have used a worm right then, but maybe.
What was supposed to be hatching was a mayfly called a
Hendrickson. Like I said, it was too cold and too wet. Not many
insects manage to get off the water when it is pouring rain.
A big cedar provided shelter from the downpour while I
contemplated my dilemma. Tradition required that I fish. You just
don't go "fishing" on opening day and not fish. If there were to be
any bragging rights catching a fish would be helpful. I knew very
little about matching the hatch in those days. But somehow, a
bright red and silver streamer seemed out of place.
My buddy probably had nymphs, but that was just like fishing
worms. Eventually the rain slacked off, and the sun burned
through. Didn't warm up much, but I tied on some small brown
sort of fuzzy thing, worked some floatant paste into it and
squished to the edge of the stream. Several casts floating down
into the shallows below the cedar produced nothing. No rise, no
roll, nothing. Maybe the high water was keeping the trout down.
Glancing upstream around the bend I remembered a deep hole.
Might as well give it a try. Wet branches of the undergrowth
slapped against my waders. Sometimes the sound was nearly as
sharp as a rifle shot. So much for quietly sneaking up on the fish.
Reaching the spot, the bank was muddy and slippery. I nearly
lost my footing, but grabbed for a branch from a protruding bush.
Gaining firmer footing, I bent over to lessen my profile just in case
there were any fish, and was about to make my first cast when I
heard or felt someone close. Expecting it might be my cohort, I
turned and looked smack into the face of a big whitetail buck. His
ears were flared forward and his breath visible in smoke white
puffs. He stared at me and began stomping his front foot. A
cartoon pop-up deer. Except he had a big rack, wasn't backing off,
and I wasn't wanted here.
I don't know how I crossed the stream, especially since the
water was running pretty heavy, I don't remember how wet I got.
I do remember looking back after I was downstream and safely
out of range; that deer was still standing there watching me. Some
hours later my companion showed up, and shared his lunch with
me. Cold summer sausage, saltine crackers and canned tomato
juice. The lunch didn't help much, he hadn't caught anything, and
we headed back. That was the worse opening day of trout season
I ever had. Cold, wet, scared and hungry. Never had a hit, never
saw a fish. The funny part is I don't seem to remember the great,
successful opening days. There must have been some. Wonder
what makes memories anyway? ~ LadyFisher
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