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The gift of opening day

March 26, 2014

If you’re a trout fisher, you don’t have to be reminded that Opening Day is close at hand. Oddly, New York waters open on April 1, as they have for more than a century, but Pennsylvania doesn’t open until 8 a.m. on April 12, the second Saturday.

Most of us realize that early conditions are usually less than optimal, but that’s really not the point. Red Smith insightfully observed, “To celebrate Opening Day on the Beaverkill is a little like observing Christmas in Bethlehem.” The gift we give ourselves is just to be there, welcoming the new season by greeting old friends, seeing familiar faces along the stream and visiting the fly shops. In other words, just to be there, participating.

One splendid way to kick off the 2014 Trout Season would be to get out to the Willowemoc River between Livingston Manor and Roscoe at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (CFFCM) on April 5. The traditional “First Cast” will be made at 9:30 a.m. by fly fishing legend Joan Wulff and other celebrities. This year’s theme is “Women and Children First.” If the weather is chilly or inhospitable, you can always walk over to the center and get some complimentary hot soup from Agnes Van Put, 97 years young. Agnes not only hosts at CFFCM but also serves up her homemade, opening day soup and a hatch (batch) of cookies right out of the oven. There’s hot coffee too.

Early season fishing does have possibilities. Every year some angler catches a fine fish on Opening Day. Sure, the cold water diminishes the trout’s feeding habits, but they do eat. “Deep and slow” are always in order early in the year. You can’t fish a nymph or woolly bugger too slow or too deep. Some masters are able to fish a nymph, perhaps with a tiny shot affixed above, on just a plain leader—no indicator. Somehow they intuit or sense a strike and lift. A few are very good at this; it’s a Zen thing. For me, a tiny piece of yarn or other indicator such as the small balloon “Thingamabobber” is a wonderful help. If your indicator does anything but drift smoothly along, LIFT your rod tip, for it’s apt to be a strike. The only guarantee is that you will catch more fish with your fly in or on the water, not at home in its cozy fly box. And yes, the waters will warm, the hatches will come in their usual progression and local fishing will fulfill its reputation as being the best east of the Mississippi.