Spring Can Be Cruel

Spring can be cruel. After a long winter of desperation our need to wander in the water can be foiled by her swollen clouds clinging to hillsides dispensing valley filling deluges. We complain about this bounty of water but if she shirks her role we'll be bitching come August. Always the trade offs.

Saturday night rain pounded on the skylight telegraphing the state of rivers come morning. Sure enough, the gage reported Sunday's river at twice normal size and it looked to be getting bigger. The Sunday sky, clear at dawn, by noon was spitting a preamble to the showers we'll see all week.

I'm six days off the operating table; a tune-up on a knee that's given me trouble for decades. It's one of those injuries that they want you walking on immediately after surgery and turning the exercise bike come evening. I've been doing my part and it seems to be healing quickly. It'll take weight and aside from some tenderness near the sutures and an annoying habit of bending in the wrong direction at the wrong times, I'm pretty happy with my progress.

While I’ve been plotting my return to the water, it took the prompting of a friend to spur me to reckless action. I didn't consult my doctor but I'm pretty sure wading in a boulder strewn tailwater is not what he would have ordered. Gregory and I have been trying to pencil in time on the water for a year and his email came at just the right moment.

The water we were to fish was new to me. It's one of those rivers I've had on my list but never found the right reason to visit. Gregory offered to show me some spots and that was all it took to start making plans for Sunday. 3ish. Up by the dam on Valley Road.

I arrived early and sat by the river contemplating the imponderables and enjoying the music of the stream. This neighborhood, solidly rural, is home to few farmers unless you include those who till the soil of the financial markets and weekend away from metropolis. I’m not sure if any of them gave a crap for this gem that wanders through their backyards.

I was two into a six-pack and almost done with a Padron ‘64 before I realized that Gregory was running late and I should probably make more productive use of the time. The waders went on easier than I expected and after two trips to the stream’s edge (I forgot my wading staff the first time) I was back in moving water long before I had a right to expect

I fished up the run with a nymph rig and back down swinging and stripping a streamer. It’s difficult to tell a river’s sweet spot when she’s running with more water than normal. The edges that I hoped the fish would be clinging to were devoid of life and the slots along the bubble line gave no hint of movement.

Back at the car a woman in the company of a yellow lab told me that the two track below the last bridge followed the river for a mile or two. With a clear planning snafu with Gregory, I swung my gimpy leg into the driver’s seat and drove beyond the pavement’s end.

The river was picture postcard perfect. Pockets tumbled through a narrow valley and yielded to juicy runs. Two of those runs were a reasonable stroll from the road. Working downstream swinging a streamer I hoped for some reward but was denied. While more water beckoned the dull ache in my knee and the gloomy, waning day told me I should be on the road.

I’m coming up on another milestone birthday. It’s not something I give much thought to, normally. But when the body begins to lose some of its vigor and the parts start failing, even if in a relatively minor way, the mind begins to tick off the years in the way a calendar has not previously done. It could be something to be resented, like the occasional excessive rains of the season, but perhaps it’s something to be embraced; it’s leading to something better, something that we’ll be thankful for soon though we may not see it now. That’s what I’m hoping for, though I may be wrong.

Steve Zakur writes at sippingemergers.com. He dead drifts purple Wooley Buggers in western Connecticut.