March 26, 2021
In the annual cycle of fly fishing, the months of February and March are my favorite… and my least favorite. They are my favorite because I can live in a world of anticipation, while all the neurons in my brain can fire away, in speculation, number crunching, gear research, and all the “blue lining” my brain can handle. After all, that’s part of what makes this sport so special. Even when you’re not actively fishing, you can still be fully emerged in the process of “upping your game” or finding that new important piece of information thats been evading you and keeping you from “the big one.”
Ive wondered sometimes, if that mentality comes from the fact that I’ve only been fly fishing a little over a decade, and maybe my fresh level of excitement will eventually wear off. After all, some days I feel like Im picking up my fly rod and strapping up my waders for the very first time.
To that point: There are certain “fishy” characters that I’ll run into on the river, that are well into their 70s and 80s; seasoned veterans of fishing culture. These are the kind of guys that would scratch their head at the term “fishing culture” because to them it’s not a culture, it’s just life.
These are also the fishermen that have caught enough fish for their lifetime and probably for mine and yours too. Every once in a while I’ll run into one of them on a river and we’ll both be there early in the season; a few weeks out from a known run that we like to fish. Fishing will be slow, but we are there out of anticipation of what we know is about to happen, or at least could happen with enough luck. This leads us to a conversation, if for nothing other than the fact that the fish are sulking, and we start talking about all the elements that have to come together before the fishing picks up, at which point, we won’t be standing around on the river banks talking, we’ll be hiking at a fast pace, hoping that other fisherman (the one that we were happily comparing notes with the day or weeks before) hasn’t beat us to the river and is camped out in our favorite run. If he has, we’ll acknowledge that he earned it by getting up earlier than we did and we politely hope he catches the big one.
The take home here is that, if those veteran fisherman are still living each day in the adolescent anticipation of the upcoming season, there’s definitely NO hope for me.
As you can probably tell by now, the anticipation gets us bad. If you’re not in this group of crazed anglers, you’re not the kind of fisherman that other fishermen worry about.
Either way, February and March in the U.P. are months where we can’t usually do much in the way of fly fishing. Unless you live up on lake Superior or lake Michigan, most trout streams are closed and frozen. Even if you can find a river that’s legal to fish, water temps hug the mid 30s most days. So, with the given predicament, most folks that test positive for cabin fever, either binge YouTube videos, await the release of the fly fishing film tour, study maps for potential new fishing spots, or resort to filling up their boxes with either their favorite, or easiest tied fly patterns.
I think the subject of fly tying deserves some thought here, especially in the context of February and March in the U.P. I would suggest that most do it simply because they can’t be out on a river, and it serves as a supplement to the activity. After all, if you’re a fair weather fly tier like most, it takes you more materials and time, just to get your skills back after 10 months of fishing and not tying. I know this from my own experience. That being said, it does serve a purpose, every thread wrap you make can count toward landing the fish of your dreams, or so you tell yourself. The unwelcome reality, is that the flies we tie, are more likely to wind up as an early Christmas decoration in a tag elder.
In my professional opinion, it’s a lot better way to pass the time than other things like finishing all those home projects your wife is so faithful to remind you of. I was brought up being told that we can count on only 2 things in this world: death and taxes, then I got married and found out there are 4 things: death, taxes, and the faithfulness of my queen to remind me of said projects.
The negative side of this pre-spring, season is that, if you’re like me, you subject yourself, your gear, and your vehicle to repetitious beatings. Each day, the weather is just a degree or two warmer than the previous one, with just a little less snow and a little bit clearer water. This calls us to take a drive, take a water temp, wet a line, and violate the Geneva convention. The result is unnecessary wear and tear on gear, gas we could have saved by staying home and tying flies while avoiding home projects, the beatings our vehicles take on roads that are best left alone until they completely thaw and settle, not to mention the moments of borderline hypothermia from standing in 33 degree water for hours.
Like it or not, this is the result of a basic case of cabin fever. These are the times that you city folk should be happy that there aren’t good setons of water within driving distance of your house. If there were, any shutdowns, or mitigation attempts that we’ve seen from other sicknesses, wouldn’t hold a candle to the intervention it would take to keep us away from the water and the unforeseen fallout that would ensue.
-God help us all… and may he also help our spouses.
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