Friday, April 2, 2010
Remembering Days Past - Opening Day
If you are under 30 years old you will not remember this. If you are 40 years old you may have heard the stories. If you are over 50 years old then you just may have been part of a ritual that has long since disappeared and it is a benefit to you that it is gone. I'm talking about OPENING DAY OF FISHING IN MASSACHUSETTS!!!
It's February 28, any year before 1978, and as the sun sets on the last of the ice fishermen, the fishing season ENDS. Trout, perch, bass, horned pout, it doesn't matter. It's over!! And it will not resume until the third Saturday in April. Most of us fly fishers will not cry too much. It's WINTER, the streams and rivers have been chocked with snow and ice for months and our thoughts are somewhere else, not to be ignited with January fly fishing shows (they didn't exist back then) or internet forums (they didn't exist back then) or by a mailbox stuffed with fly fishing magazines (only Flyfisherman Magazine). We were ok, content to slumber the dark months away UNTIL that first WARM DAY in February!! Then it happens! It's a genetic predisposition. The days seemed warmer then they actually were, the streams, buried in late Winter snow and ice, actually begin to seem FISHABLE!! We begin to start sorting through fly rods and reels and lines and start tying flies, flies, flies!! And we then do the hardest thing - we check the calendar and count the days - to OPENING DAY!! It's two months away!!
It's the worst time of the year. Lunches are spent with brown bag trips to ANY tackle shop that has ANY fly fishing gear. We may actually go to a TU meeting for a quick fix and to be among the suffering. We devour Orvis catalogs and fill out orders for everything that we will never use. We make phone calls (no internet, remember) to buddies about stream conditions, hot flies, where they will stock and everything else. And then, just when all hope seems lost and that we will be victim to an early death or a transfer to Alabama, IT'S THE NIGHT BEFORE FISHING!
THE NIGHT BEFORE FISHING was a special time. It was handled in two different ways. The first way was to have a full nights sleep, wake at 5:30am, leisurely load the car with gear, meet your buddy at some fisherman's breakfast in some church basement and then hit the river around 8:00 am. These people do not deserve to fish, period! There is only one way to approach Opening Day and that is the SECOND WAY!! The second way resembled the Normandy Invasion. All gear was vehicle stored by 7:oo pm the night before against an inventory check off list! Lunch (peanut butter sandwich) was pre made and ready! Coffee makers with timers didn't exist back then. Instant coffee had to do. Breakfast was a hard boiled egg and a leftover donut. The alarm was set for 3:30am and you did not oversleep because you have been lying there half awake for hours like a loaded trigger. You ARE to be on the river at 5:am.
There were two weather conditions that you could count on for Opening Day. The first condition was that four or five days before the blessed event the temperatures would hit the 60's and the rivers would BE GREAT CONDITION! The second condition was that a front would roll through fortyeight hours before with two inches of rain (and snow) and the rivers would be blown out. 4:00am would find a cold rain or if you were lucky a cold drizzle. It didn't matter. It was Opening Day! A third condition was that you would be up to your shins in snow that had refused to melt.
You drove like a madman through the predawn darkness knowing that every set of headlights that you saw was driven by a madman with the same intentions: to get to the river before anyone else. You flew down the country roads with a silent prayer - please let me the first to get to the head of my favorite pool on my favorite river to cast my favorite fly to release the demons that have tortured me for two months.
You are met with bundled warriors, packed shoulder to shoulder, slinging crawlers, mepps spinners, daredevils (yes, it's true), shiners and the occasional fly. Some of these warriors will be taking that one extra step that will put them over their waders. Some of these warriors will be 1/3 of the way to a brutal hangover. Your line will be tangled up with the above warrior's contraptions on many occasions BUT it will all seem to fall into a cosmic order when you feel the HIT.! Some shop worn rainbow will come to your net while a dozen flings by the unlucky are made to where you had just cast. All will seem worthwhile, some how.
Massachusetts put and end to this cruelty except for places like Quabbin and Wachusett. Those folk carry on the tradition under far less trying conditions. They can have it.
Posted by Millers River Flyfisher at 5:44 PM