Hoards of people were clogging the stream banks. A dozen people crammed around every four foot deep hole a stocked trout could be swimming in. Before the sun even showed the top of its head over the horizon, cans of beer were already being discarded into the bushes. Gobs of brightly colored powerbait floated downstream, completely ignored by the hundreds of trout that eyed it from below. Poachers snuck more than their days limit, packing their stringers full of any trout they caught or snagged. Camp sites were illegally established and improperly cleaned up leaving mounds of trash and smoldering ashes around their foundations. The trees were adorned with opening day ornaments from the errant casters. The fish huddled together in pods whose numbers rapidly diminished, and they knew that even if they survived the day, they still would not live past the warmer water temperatures only two months away.
Every year it's the same scenario and after my first opening day last year, I didn't think I would attempt it again. Yet, there I was at seven in the morning, an hour before the opening bell rang, sitting stream side at my claimed spot. I chose the furthest point between the two parking areas in hopes that the other anglers would be too obese and too lazy to walk the half mile to find a fishing hole. And it also had the advantage of being one of my lucky spots on the stream. For the first forty-five minutes I was alone, but more and more anglers showed up until five of us would be casting into the same twenty square foot area. The second eight AM came, our lures and bait and line and sinkers were thrown into the water at the unsuspecting fish. I hooked the first fish out of the five anglers in only a few minutes after the season began on an inline spinner. Being net-less, I fumbled with the fish with my hands in the forty something degree water until the trout found a way off my hook.
I generally am happy with the first fish of the day. The first fish means I am doing something correctly and I am almost guaranteed more fish if I replicate the conditions. This feeling feels cheapened on opening day; at least for it does for me. I knew these trout were put here and would eat nearly anything put in their view. I knew where they were, what they wanted, and how to get them to commit. It was catching fish in a nearly non-metaphorical barrel. The Walmart version of trout. But, I like Walmart, and I like fish, and I have little shame left from the time my mother and sisters dragged a thirteen year old me along to go bra shopping. For them, not me. So, I continued casting into the bargain bin hoping there was an amazing deal hidden at the bottom everyone else had overlooked and I continued to ignore the pins and needles in my hands. Soon, that feeling was overwhelmed by, and probably a contributing factor to, my lightheadedness. I deemed it a bad idea to have vertigo while standing knee deep in a stream so I chose to go home and shove my frozen hands into my armpits for a painful fifteen minutes.
After the dethawing, I tied a few new flies, checked that the air temperature had risen fifteen degrees, and headed back stream side to test the new ties. I waded back to my spot just in time to see all the other anglers leaving with full stringers. This left my back cast clear and the entire hole to drift through without worries of tangling someone else's line. I found my casting rhythm pretty quickly and worked the hole until I saw a flash of silver and felt my fly stop. I set the hook only to find the line snapped just above my knot. Well, at least I knew the flies worked. I tied on a new rabbit, metal, and lead amalgam and ensured my line wouldn't snap this time. I had a few casts into the water and a few more short strikes until I finally hooked into my first trout on the fly rod. This time I didn't feel so debased when I landed the fish. Instead, I liked this feeling. Tricking a trout on my own fly that I created only an hour ago added a lot more excitement to the catch. I put my fish on my stringer, smiled, and waded back home to cross the first challenge off the list... and to make dinner.
|Not my fish, but I assure you it looked just like this.|