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Spring Fishing – Get It While You Can

02/21/08 – Well March is right around the corner and I, for one, welcome March. Not just because it brings one of my favorite holidays – St. Patrick’s Day – but also because it often brings some good fishing before the river here gets blown out by the spring melt. Fortunately the Kennebec River from Madison down is open year round and so some of us get to take advantage of that quick to close window between the deep cold of winter and the melt of spring. That is if we have our gear and flies ready.

Some years it never happens – that window never opens – most usually those years are the ones with a warm winter and more rain than snow. Those years the river stays high all winter and the spring melt takes the river from high to higher. This winter has been cold enough to give the feeder lakes a chance to drop in level and so now we’ve got to look for the kind of spring the Maple Sugar guys look for.

We need some nice warm days the kind of days that draw you out into the sunshine and then we need the cool, cold even, nights that drive you back inside. The task of making it a good Maple Sugar spring we must leave up to Mother Nature.

Our task is to be ready if the days warm so that we can take to the water; ready for what will be the first fish of the year for most of us. Each fall, late fall, my gear gets a going over and is cleaned, lubed and missing items get replaced. Well most missing items get replaced so I’ll be ready for any wintertime “January Thaw” days that come along but I don’t replace my flies. At least not in one fell swoop. I let fly selection and replacement drag out through the winter. That gives me time to read up on new patterns and techniques and to review my fly boxes culling out the flies types I didn’t use to make room for some new flies that peak my interest.

One of those flies is the John Barr’s Meat Whistle. But with the selection of this fly as one I want to use comes a nagging feeling that the fly is a bit removed from, well, fly-fishing. If you’re not familiar with the Meat Whistle it’s a crawdad imitation and it’s tied with a cone-head. Now I fish cone-head Muddlers and Woolly Buggers and have gotten past the “this is a weighted fly” mindset but the Meat Whistle takes it one step further it’s tied on a Jig Hook.

When Maine changed the law allowing weighted flies I had a hard time adjusting to that. No weight was part of the challenge of fly-fishing. But without a doubt adding beads and later cone heads caught me more fish. And I could live with beads and cones because the flies were often standard patterns tied on standard fly hooks and the bead or cone was just an added part.

Besides I’m well aware that real metal tinsel, used in the days before mylar, added weight to a fly. But now, John Barr is asking me to take it a step further and use a JIG hook – he comes right out and says it – Gamakatsu 90-degree 1/0 Jig Hook. Oh what is the fly fishing world coming to?

That March window opens and closes quickly and I want to be as effective as I can be and I know the fish are lethargic and generally bottom hugging. The Meat Whistle is designed for just that kind of fishing and Shawmut is after all Artificial Lures Only water not Fly Fishing Only water so it’s OK isn’t it?

I mean to say I will be using a 7-weight fly rod and I will be casting not chucking my fly – so it’s fly-fishing – not my father’s fly-fishing perhaps but under today’s definition it fits. Yep, March is coming, I want to catch fish, it’s legal and I usually fish alone so no one will know. I’m going to tie the flies myself and the water is ALO. Yep, it’ll be OK I just won’t take any to Grand Lake Stream in May. Well maybe one just in case.

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