Early Season Angling
The thought of early season angling has changed immensely
since I began fishing. Fishing, except for ice fishing which
never really made much since to me, was a warm weather
sport, and you had to wait for opening day if you wanted to
fish. In the North Country trout season opened in April or in
some cases early May, and it was a date highly anticipated
by the faithful who had been tying flies all winter and looking
wistfully at tackle catalogues. For many it was an annual ritual
that involved more socializing than actual angling. Opening day
was Christmas, your birthday, and winning the lottery all rolled
into one day.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Today most fisheries are open the entire year. Some may have
tackle and possession restrictions during the winter months, but
the dedicated angler can usually find someplace where he can
legally wet a line even during the darkest months of winter. However,
for many anglers the coming of spring marks the beginning of their
angling year, and if you are among that group the time has come for
you to finally vent your pent-up frustrations and get your waders wet.
Early season angling has much in common with shooting craps
or Russian roulette. You pay your money and take your chance,
but there are some things that the angler can do to help narrow
First, adjust your expectations to bring them in line with reality.
Water conditions are unlikely to be ideal for angling. Too high,
too cold, or still frozen are some of the conditions that the early
season angler may encounter. Fish are likely to be lethargic due
to low water temperatures and successful anglers will need to
adjust their technique accordingly. Hatches, if they occur at all,
will be limited to the warmest part of the day, and they may be
sporadic and limited in both duration and scope. Even a fairly
strong hatch may fail to bring fish to the surface restricting the
angler to using nymphs and other subsurface imitations.
The second key to tilting the odds in your favor is planning. As
in most aspects of life, planning is essential to success but it plays
an inordinately important role during the early part of the season.
Unless you live very near to the place where you are planning to
fish it is imperative to find out about the current local conditions.
Don't presume conditions will be like they were in previous years,
or the reports you have read on the Internet are correct. A couple
phone calls to someone who lives there, a trusted fly shop or
local guide service might prove to be the best investment of time
and effort you could make.
Despite all the planning remember that spring is a time of transition
and the best of plans may suddenly be turned upside down by an
unpredictable change in conditions. I remember well an early season
fishing trip to Yellowstone National Park. The fishing season in the
Park opens the end of May, and this particular year we had been
experiencing a run of very nice weather with daytime temperatures
in the upper 50's with plenty of warm sunshine to cheer the spirits
after a long winter. The weather forecast was encouraging, but the
reality of what occurred was anything but encouraging.
We left home that morning bound for the Firehole River, which is
less than 100 miles from my doorstep in Montana. It was cool with
a slight north wind blowing when we drove through the north entrance
at Gardiner, but by the time we arrived at Fountain Flats the slight north
wind had turned into a gale and heavy snow was beginning to fall. Soon
the wind was blowing the snow sideways and the temperature was
dropping with equal vigor. We barely made it out the entrance at
West Yellowstone before they closed the road. This unpredicted
spring snow storm lasted for three days! So much for planning.
The beauty of early season angling is that, despite the unpredictable
nature of the conditions, the true value is not the fishing but the going.
The early season trips I remember most are those that somehow went
awry; three days of rain and snow on the Big Horn, 10 people sleeping
in a camp trailer made to sleep six on opening day on the Au Sable,
and several grown men standing around a smoldering fire trying to
dry their clothing after an unexpected bath in a very cold river. If
you approach early season angling from this angle it will always be a success. ~ The Chronicler
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