Part Fourty-four

Randy Fratzke

Early Spring Observations

By Randy Fratzke

Few people have the opportunity to live within 100 feet of their favorite fishing spot, as I do. I have the opportunity to watch the changes in the river with the seasons. To watch the migrations of the birds and water fowl. To watch the hatches of the insects and the feeding habits of the fish that dine on them. I feel very lucky, although the only luck to it was finding this place to start with, the rest has been a great deal of work to bring a fishing shack, originally started in 1938 and added on to by who knows how many former owners, up to year 'round living conditions. But, none the less, I still feel the work has been very rewarding.

It's now mid March, the snow, once again, is nearly gone. The Bald Eagles, which left the area when the river froze over, have returned. They sit in the big old trees that line the far shore, majestic and patient, watching the water below them. Then suddenly swoop down from their perch and grasp a fish from the water and land on the sand bar to dine, the crows move in squawking for a share of the kill, but also keeping their respectful distance. Most of the time the fish is a carp or sucker, once in a while a small bass or walleye. Once the eagle has taken his share he rises back to his perch and leaves the fish to the crows to fight over.

The Kingfishers are also starting to get here from their southern winter homes. The sit much lower to the water, usually only about six to eight feet above the surface along the shady shoreline, silently watching below. Then, like a stone, they drop off the branch, head first into the water and come back up with a small fish in their bill. Then deftly flip it into the air and swallow it head first. Quite the acrobats.

The ducks and geese are also in migration. The Canadian Geese flocks have nearly darkened the sky and deafened the ears at times. Mallards, Wood Ducks, Teals, Buffleheads, Grebes, and Pintails are all common sights this time of year, along with an occasional lost Cormorant. We've also enjoyed the rare visit of a pair of Osprey and hope they stick around. They're a truly spectacular bird, and in the past, have pointed out schools of larger bait fish to us, which in turn, points out game fish.

The first hatching of Blue Winged Olives is taking place right now. It's started out pretty slow, but it will increase as the temperature does. Small, blue gray wings, about a size 16 to 18 sputtering on the water as they shuck their casings, then quickly trying to find a grass stem or stick over hanging the water to dry their wings before a hungry crappie or blue gill grab them from the surface. The crayfish are starting to move around under the water now as are the stoneflies. Soon others will begin hatching and starting the cycle for next year.

I love the spring here. The dramatic changes from the cold gray winter skies, stark white snow covered ground, frozen streams, and howling winds to the bright clear blue spring skies, the grass beginning to turn a light green through the lingering snow drifts, and the fish, starting to surface feed, making their telltale rings of ripples in the water.

It's fishing time in the midwest again. Time to line the reels, check the leaders, tie on the tippets. Time to check the fly boxes and pack the fishing vest. Time to limber up the 'ol casting arm and check out the rods. It's spring, time to start fishing again! ~ Randy Fratzke

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