Opening Day of trout season isn’t what it used to be, at least not for me.
It used to be that April 1 was the day pent-up trout anglers would charge to the water and stay there all day, whether the fishing was good or lousy. If it was a weekday, they took a vacation day if they could, or a sick day if they had to. I remember when I was younger, driving up Route 28 in the Catskills near Ashokan Reservoir at 1 a.m. and seeing pickup trucks in the pull-offs. As of one minute after midnight, it was trout season.
The pull-offs will probably be occupied before dawn again this year, and lots of people will go fishing on their local waters. Kayaderosseras Creek in Saratoga County will get plenty of visitors.
But that’s the thing: The Kayaderosseras is open all winter. You don’t have to wait until April 1. You can fish it March 31 or Feb. 5 or any other day you want. It might be frozen from bank to bank, but if there happens to be open water, you are legally free to fish it.
When I first got into fishing 20 some years ago, there weren’t any year-round streams near me in the mid-Hudson Valley, or at least none I was aware of. My world was smaller then, and it didn’t occur to me to travel down to the Croton River watershed in Putnam County or over the mountains to the year-round parts of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc or up to the Kayaderosseras or the West Canada Creek or the Battenkill River or any of the other streams with year-round sections. I just waited impatiently for April 1, went fishing when it finally arrived and grumbled about how lousy the fishing was.
These days, I fish for trout all winter, and April 1 is just another chilly day with slow fishing. But while it’s no longer the day when I can finally go fishing, it still has plenty of emotional significance. It’s the symbolic beginning of another trout season, and it announces the really wonderful fishing that will be happening in a few more weeks. Yes, you can fish all winter, but nymphing for sluggish trout in February can’t hold a candle to casting dry flies to rising trout during the Green Drake hatch in June. Some things you still must wait for, no matter what the regulations booklet says.
If I can’t get out on April 1, I’ll fish somewhere as close to that date as I can, in tribute to the opening of the season. I’ll probably fish nymphs, most likely a dark brown Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, size 14, or maybe a Prince, size 12, or maybe both. There’ll be split shot involved, and a lot more flicking and lobbing than casting, but I’m confident I’ll pick up a fish or two.
And I suppose if it’s after April Fool’s day, I’ll fish someplace that’s not open all year, just for the sake of doing something I couldn’t do all winter.
It’s good to be able to get some fresh air on a nice winter’s day and fool around at your local trout stream for a few hours, but there’s probably a philosophical truth hidden in the ritual of waiting all winter to fish.
I once had a friend who lived about three driveways down from one of the bridges where Route 313 crosses the Battenkill in Vermont. “Man, if I lived here, I would fish every single day,” I told him, green with envy.
He gave me this smile that I suspect he gave his kids and said, “Would you want it to be Christmas every day?”
The correct reply would have been, “If I could fish on Christmas, yes,” but I didn’t think of it in time.