Or I should say arriving back here. The day before yesterday Red Winged Black Birds showed up at my brother’s feeder in Winslow. The Red Winged Black Bird you see sitting in the tree is the only one that returned to my brother’s bird feeder yesterday morning but the morning before they were there in great numbers. Unlike Robins, Red Winged Black Birds really do fly south for the winter – way south – like Mexico. So I consider their return a true sign of spring.
Another brother who rides the trains between Waterville and Madison paper mill reported yesterday counting over 175 Canada Geese resting between the tracks and the river. Yep the birdies is here 🙂
And so spring fishing in upon us. I’m a cautious man when it comes to spring wading. Hypothermia is just a dunking away. Mostly I wear hip-boots because I know if I wear waders I’ll succumb to the temptation to wade and with hip-boots wading is mostly out of the question. I wear hippers because walking over winter snow is OK while you’re on top of the crust but when you drop through into the deep snow it’s nice to have something waterproof between you, the snow and whatever is at the bottom of the hole you step in. There was running water at the bottom of the hole in the picture above.
Waders also let me cheat a little bit and wade shallows to get a little bit better position – you know how that goes. Rubber soles on my boots have also become a spring gear item for me. No ice forming underfoot like you always get wading with felts. And you might notice I’ve got jeans on but they are fleece lined jeans for warmth even if I do get them wet.
A lanyard is another spring item for me. I just don’t need fly floatant and all those extras I carry when the hatches are on. So I take my lanyard with a couple of tippet spools, nippers, forceps and a small fly box and head for the water. I used to just stuff all that stuff into my pockets but the lanyard keeps it all handy.
This time of year I swing a lot of streamers. Or perhaps I should say I sort of dead-drift streamers, then let them swing when I can’t mend any longer and I have to let them swing. The rod you see laying on top of the ice is my weapon of choice this time of year. It’s a 14′ Spey Rod and it lets me reach out beyond the shelf ice, gives me great line control and easily roll casts 55 to 65′ of fly line plus leader. That roll casting ability and line control saves me a lot of frozen guides as I can work a lot of water without stripping when the air temperature are such that stripping line in means iced up eyes.
I like to work edges and seams this time of year – just because fish are cold doesn’t mean they don’t stick with their old habits of working the edges of fast water and slower water. Dragging a streamer along the leading edge of shelf ice had brought me a lot of fish. I think they like having that layer of ice over their heads. Of course a week makes a lot of difference an you can see in the flipping picture that the leading edge of shelf ice might not be there a week later.
My flies of choice this time of year are either bright streamers like the Mickey Finn or baitfish smelty looking things like the Gray Ghosts or my new favorite the Claret Dabbler (of course I can’t recommend the Claret Dabbler very strongly – I just started tying it and haven’t gotten a fish with one yet). Even when there aren’t any Smelt around the Gray Ghost gets me a lot of hookups.
Layers are another good thing this time of year. I’ve gone fishing the last three weekends and I’ve hit snow, sleet, rain, wind, calm and sunshine all in the same day. Layers that open easy for quick adjustments to conditions are the way to go. I put a link to a film clip behind this underlined text and if you’ve got a minute to watch it just click on this text and it should start the movie. In the video clip I pan from one side of the river to the other and the weather takes in all the conditions I just listed – all going on at the same time. And if you play it – yes – those white spots flying across the screen are a mix of snow and sleet. The only thing I didn’t see that day was hail.
So indeed Spring Has Sprung – The Grass is Riz – I Wonder Where the Flowers Is seems appropriate for a way to start and end this Thursday Review. Which, by the way is the last Thursday Review until next winter.
April 1st I’ll start the Friday Updates giving weekly river conditions again. And no April 1st isn’t a Friday but I start them on the first anyway and then do them each Friday After that. Look for the first one Wednesday the 1st.
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