___________________________________March 27. 2006
First I don’t want you to think that this writing is about flyfishing some chalk stream in England. It’s not about a new, found, mountain lake out west or a secretive unexploited, uninhabited river somewhere in British Columbia that has native brook trout the size of watermelons. This has to do with the winter doldrums.
Fly Fishing on the Brain is more like a virus. I usually get this in March. This virus will last until the first day of trout season here in Pennsylvania, which is the first Saturday after April 11th. This year I got this virus real bad. The virus has infected me in February.
This is not to be confused with cabin fever. Cabin fever I can deal with by relieving the boredom by tying flies, going to a flyfishing shop or actually going fishing for a short time on a warmer weekend in the middle of winter. Watching a fly fishing program with a beer in hand and a plate of munchies can also calm down cabin fever. Fly fishing on the brain is completely different.
Let me explain.
Like I said before, Fly fishing on the Brain is more like a virus. It hangs with me constantly around March to trout season and like I said this year it all started in February. I constantly am thinking about flyfishing for trout during a hatch of some kind. I got most of my flies tied for the new season and can’t wait to try them out. Everything I do during this time, I am thinking about fishing, whether it’s at work or even going to the bathroom. I got to take a fishing magazine with me, a fly tying book or fly fishing catalog. I can’t get to sleep at night because I’m thinking about where I’ll fish the first day or wondering what the weather will be like so I can prepare to start at another creek than what I previous planned. For all you hunters of deer out there, this is like the way you feel the night before the first day of buck season or a trophy hunt somewhere. No matter how early you try to go to bed thoughts keep going through your mind about some big monster buck you hope to get a shot at. It just keeps going over and over in your mind until your brain gets exhausted enough to shut down and you finally fall asleep 2 hours later.
This virus doesn’t seam to go away. Sure I can go fishing for steelhead in the Lake Erie tributaries. Throwing gumball color egg patterns or some fluorescent shaded fly or streamer but what am I actually imitating? It’s just not the same thing as matching a blue wing olive hatch or a caddis hatch. Early nymph fishing with stoneflies eases the virus some, but doesn’t cure it any more than steelhead fishing. You might think, “Well tie flies!” no way, this is even worse while I got the virus. Every time I read a known Pennsylvania flyfishermen introducing a new or secrete pattern I got to tie some of them. This only adds delirium to the virus because this gives me one more thing to think about of where to use these new flies and will they work?? I don’t dare go into a sports store flyfishing department or fly shop during this time, at least not with my wallet or credit cards. Seeing new fly tying material, new fly tying pattern books or gripping a fine expensive, semi-weightless fly rod and I’ll start getting those virus symptoms.
First my hand will start to shake as I lift an expensive rod off the rack. I’ll start sweating at the palms as my hand feels the smooth cork grip. Glancing at the burled box elder wood insert will bring a cold shiver down my spine. Looking down the thin tapered shaft and at each wrap over the titanium guides along the beautiful coated finish. Feeling the lightness as I lift the rod. My brain will automatically sense the floor beneath my feet as if I’m in a stony brook stream. I might hallucinate, forget where I am and start to back cast. I’ll get dry mouth, as if in a desert, and picture in front of me an oasis with a pond big enough to hold trout and cast the rod somewhere down the aisle watching and feeling the flex at the tip of the rod. This is what I’m talking about, Fly Fishing on the Brain!
Just looking in a fly fishing catalog gets the virus symptoms to act up. I ordered a new 7’6” 4weight, 4piece fly rod this year. I haven’t got it yet but just looking in the catalog brings sweat to my brow, wondering if I ordered the right fly rod. Will I have to get used to the fly rod as to change my casting stroke? Will the cork handle have the right feel as my other rods do? Will I be able to quick cast side arm or a short overhead cast so I won’t get caught up during my back-cast on obstacles on the small creeks I’ll be using it for? Will it come apart while casting like my five-piece fly rod did and have to send it back to the manufacturer for a replacement? Looking in the catalog I’ll see maybe another rod I like or maybe should have bought instead, questioning my background check on the rod I ordered?
Every morning I awake to a brighter day outside. Through the window Spring is near, though the cold frigid morning air doesn’t want to give up the wintry feel. The robins are already chirping and scavenging around, just like the first week of trout season. It gets me tensed up sometimes knowing that the early trout season seems so close yet so much more time to wait for the first major May fly hatch.
Walking out in the morning on my way to work a cold wind slaps across my face like the early spring mornings of so many past spring fishing experiences. My van sits in the drive, warming up, begging me, “Let’s go fishing?” Once I’m out of the hustle and bustle of morning traffic I drop down the road, on my way to work, and as I cross the bridge overlooking the Clarion River the virus symptoms return. I recall last fall float tubing the river up in Cooksburg casting and catching trout and smallmouth on Humpy’s and Wulff patterns. My knees get weak as I daydream about float tubing until the guy behind me beeps his horn when my van slows because my foot is no longer on the gas pedal. A time lapse, it happens every time I see a body of water flowing between two forested banks.
A break in the weather last Sunday got me going to the closest flyfishing only stream for a couple of hours. Caught a bunch of trout with nymphs and a new cress bug pattern until I couldn’t feel my fingers any more and didn’t have enough strength or mobility in my fingers to tie yet another fly on the tippet. This calmed the virus down like a menthol throat lozenger soothes a sore throat for a short period of time. Long enough to have a beer at the local bar and smoke a stogie after a short successful day before going back home. Hanging my neoprene’s up to dry down in the basement and as I put my fishing gear bag on the table smelling the scent of fresh fish on my fishing net. Putting my rod case up against the wall next to my other rod’s in My Room. Seeing the in-season fish stocking copies on my bookshelf started the symptoms all over again. I wanted to pick them up and reread them like I have so many times since last Saturday. My fly tying desk begging me to sit down and tie flies to make sure I’m really ready for this season. Even looking at the date on my calendar gives me frantic goose bumps seeing the picture of a guy casting a rod in the middle of Kettle Creek.
I sit down and think of pleasant thoughts. Like the time my boys and I were up at Kettle Creek. It was a cool early morning in the second week of June. I dropped the boys off upstream so they can fish down to where they can catch up to me. I drove down the road and parked along side of the stream. I got my gear on and started down towards the stream when I saw something move up ahead to my left apiece. A lone deer was feeding in this early morn just beyond the skunk cabbage upon the forest floor. I noticed down along the stream fog was lifting slowly. I crept back to my van and got my 35mm camera. Put on the zoom lens and started back towards the stream. I got a few pictures of the deer pawing and eating. Then I decided to walk down to the creek. Setting the aperture and adjusting the focus I got a few good picture of the fog rising from the creek. Already I noticed dimples on the water and took some photos of trout sipping midges. I remember how content I was, relaxed, calm, no fly fishing on the Brain virus.
Daydreaming on my fly tying chair the last thing I remembered I was stooped on one knee casting a #16 blue quill tied to a 7x tapered leader to one of those quiet sipping trout…… Z-Z-Z-Z-z-z-z-z