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After many years of observation and notation, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, everything seems to happen at once. Proof enough is that while we’ve all been waiting for winter to end spring has crept up behind us and pounced like a cat, landing smack in the middle of April.
A week ago I sat on my deck in the evenings on sunny afternoons that were still fraught with bitter winds. Snow was still too deep for comfortable walking and mud was everywhere. There was nothing I could do about the fallen branches, frozen piles of wind-swept leaves and gobs of dirty snow that still clung to the shadowy corners of the yard.
And then . . . suddenly I’m looking at seed catalogs, peat pots and potting soil; raking needs to be done and stones moved by winter storms need to be reset in the walls and gardens they surround. There’s touching up of trim and weather-facing doors to do and reseeding where shovels, snow blowers and plows dug into the 10 feet of snow we battled with all winter.
All of this counts as “yard work” for me, which creates a quandary because in the next few weeks Maine’s trout fishing and turkey hunting will be at its peak. By mid-May bass and salmon fishing will be as good as it gets in the Northeast. Breathes there an outdoorsman who’d prefer to have a rake or shovel in his hand instead of a lightweight fly rod or ultra-light spinning tackle? Not in my house!
Truth be told, I have done next to nothing since deer season ended in December other than carry firewood and shovel snow. Now suddenly there’s more to do than one can reasonably accomplish in a day. I know that it will all get done eventually, but I feel fortunate that I can postpone spring cleaning in favor of spring fishing. Fortunately, I am sole owner, proprietor, and CEO of my own household so my carefully considered decisions are binding and final. This means, of course, that I can go fishing instead of doing battle with the leaves that are still being scattered around the yard by cold April breezes. Plenty of time for that stuff!
Interestingly enough, the fact that the entire state was covered with ice and snow just a week ago made little impression on the native brook trout population. Though the water is still a tad high, fast and cold the trout are sluggishly receptive to a well-presented wet fly or garden worm, and all of my favorite early-season deep holes have produced at least one fish apiece in the last week or so.
I would like to say that I fish remote, secluded deep holes where few anglers ever tread, which I do come May and early June, but right now I take the easy route and fish where bridge and culvert crossings provide the most convenient action. These pools are naturally warmer and easier to approach than anywhere else on a given stream. Concrete abutments and metal culverts raise the water temperature just enough to make a difference to hungry brook trout, which “turn on” when those temperatures are in the 55 to 60 degree range. Some fishermen take the time to measure the temperature of the water using special fisherman’s thermometers, but I just make few casts and see what the fish tell me. I’ve come to learn over the past half-century or so that fishing science is not quite as perfect as mathematics – there is room for error and the trout aren’t giving away all of their secrets. I’ve caught them in colder (and warmer) temperatures than “the science” has indicated, and even if the trout are wrong I side with them anyway. If a trout feels the urge to bite when (“experts” say) water conditions are unfavorable who am I to argue? Over the years I have had great luck on fish and game during days that forecasters said would not be productive. In fact, increasing numbers of hunters are beginning to ignore claims that white-tailed deer are inactive during the full moon, which had been a staple myth believed by deer hunters for decades. Trout are not deer, of course, but the same theories apply – or not!
So, my advice is (and always has been) that if there’s a choice between responsible yard work and a chance to go fishing . . . well, anyone reading this column over the last 25 years can figure that one out. Those who understand addiction know how it feels to be deprived of that which is craved, and it’s a battle that cannot be won. To assuage even the slightest twinge of guilt, remorse or regret I plan my fishing trips for early morning or late afternoon. This gives me time to accomplish a few goals around the house while still feeding my need to be doing things that are much more fulfilling. Why it feels better to be cold, wet, muddy and bug-bitten is beyond me, but I know that when I give in to my temptations I am much more likely to do a better job with the rake and wheelbarrow. When I can’t do what I want to do I’m distracted all day and in the end I go anyway whether the chores are finished or not. Some things in life are simply too important to neglect.
At this stage in life I’m not a big fan of internal struggle, mostly because I know things will balance out in the end. I find it easier to just grab the rod and high-water boots when I get the urge and let the day play out as it may. Dodging chores and the other ills of real life hasn’t killed me yet and if it does . . . well, at least I had the sense to check out with a fishing rod in my hand!
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