Who said Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor? On the heels of unseasonably frigid weather just a few days ago, she played her annual April Fool's joke on opening day trout anglers by whisking in 60-degree temperatures. The hole card she played, however, was that the stream water temperatures were more February-like and water levels were so high any bait or lure lowered into the current was swept by hungry trout so fast that the fish probably thought they was hallucinating.
Did I mention the wind? Gusts were so strong that unless anglers added a quarter pound of sinkers, the wind might blow the line and bait right out of the water. I'd hazard a guess that it also raised havoc with anglers trying to fish the smaller, brush-lined brook trout streams where the technique often involves merely swinging and then dropping the bait into openings over the water.
There was a time when I was young and foolish (well, maybe young and more energetic) that nothing could keep me off the trout streams on opening day. Probably the Postal Service could have used me then, because neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor gloom could keep me from my appointed destination with the trout. Did the trout care? Most years, they certainly didn't seem to fully appreciate the sacrifice I was making to meet them, ungrateful creatures that they are.
Often, consolation-wise, it was easier to open a package of Mrs. Paul's frozen fish sticks than to clean a bunch of slippery trout for supper ... not that I had to worry that often about that. You can't clean fish you don't have. Now, I'm not belittling those who braved the elements Tuesday, and I congratulate them on their dedication and tenacity. But I also wonder how many had fish sticks for supper Tuesday night?
The real beauty of opening day is it's like being able to mentally, if temporarily, shove winter aside and allow springtime to enter, even briefly. Regardless of how winter-like conditions might be, opening day of trout season is akin to seeing the first robin or red-wing blackbird of the new year – it means that winter is almost over.
Realistically though, the very best trout fishing – or should I say ætrout catchingæ -- will arrive later, probably late April and May. I'm reminded of years ago when my late-April task as a young angler was to catch enough live shiners to use as bait for when the May 1 pike, walleye and pickerel season opened. Using a small piece of worm for bait, I usually caught as many brook trout as I did shiners then. And the strange part was I most always had the streams all to myself. Where had all those opening day trouters I saw a few weeks ago disappeared to? Oh well, why look a gift trout in the mouth.