Spring in the west is confusingly fantastic and terrible at the same time. All the rivers run wild and the fishing seems to be going downhill with the melting snow. Just when the chocolate water has pretty much ruined things, and staying at home to write about it is all that’s left to do the lakes thaw out. I’m not going to lie, runoff sucks, but ice off kind of makes up for it.
Because while the fish that get to hide in the fast, dirty, water get a break from me, the trout cruising in high mountain lakes no longer have a two foot thick buffer between them and my flies. Now imagine being locked in a jail cell for six to eight months and the only food offered was the occasional half tube of saltines or off brand Ritz crackers. When you’re finally released I imagine the first thing you’ll look for is a decent meal. Fish are like anybody else, saltines get old after like five, let alone five hundred.
This is why ice off is so magical; I consider trout to typically be picky yet opportunistic feeders, but in the early weeks of summer they become hunters that chase food down with reckless abandon. They’ve got six months, if that, to stock up for another long cold winter. I guess it’s just a long winter for them, I imagine they’re pretty used to the cold.
Spring also brings warm weather, which is great for lots of reasons, except the people. The barren solitude of winter swaps places with a crowd of people. Camping is exponentially more popular out west than in Missouri. Apparently 90%
humidity is a bit of a turn off for camping. College kids fresh from finals week fill the roads heading wherever they can afford with an overnight bag, more beer than water, and no plan. I’ve never seen so many Volkswagen vans straight from the sixties loaded with philosophy majors and starving artists. Everybody’s on the move. Go here, hike this trail, take this turn, 100 miles an hour because life’s short.
They aren’t wrong.
Most of the time I’m no different, but fishing forces me slow down and enjoy things. If I don’t I won’t catch anything. Fly fishing looks fast paced on the outside; casting, stripping, and hopping boulder to boulder in search of the next rise isn’t exactly the same as sitting back with a cold one while the minnow and bobber drift slowly on the chop. But, the subtle nuances of fly fishing like reading water, mending, or fly selection are slow, deliberate, and most importantly relaxing.
That’s the only nice thing about breaking off on a fish deep in the woods of some mountain, I have to take a deep breath, sit down, and tie on. It just so happens I look around a little when I do.
It’s times like that when things are really put in perspective; runoff sucks, but not being in the mountains would suck a lot more.