This is spring. This is the beginning of something.
Work’s busy but I sneak out early, speeding down 195, shoving a granola bar into my mouth while narrowly avoiding speed traps and potential ten car pileups. At the state forest, I pull down an unmarked dirt road, overgrown even in the dead landscape of early Spring. Tires crunch over barely thawed forest floor.
The kettle pond gleams barely visible through the pines; deep greens and blues and shimmering flashes from the golden hour sun. Work clothes bunch up underneath waders. It’s cold and getting colder, but not cold enough to waste the time pulling on any extra layers.
The sun hangs lazily above the pines in that early spring glow and the midges do too. Cold spring air burns the nostrils and the near-freezing water pushes up against my waders and hugs my legs.
I cast into the seemingly empty water for an hour without a hit, changing flies every ten minutes or so, but I don’t mind the lack of action in the slightest. I tie on a big dry just for fun and a big rainbow crushes it as soon as it lands. She runs for a few seconds but turns tail and heads straight for me right into my waiting net. She turns on her side and her palette looks identical to the shades of pinks, oranges and blues making silhouettes of the pines.
Who knew a fish that spent it’s whole life in a tank and dumped into a pond could make me so happy. I hold her in the net for longer than I normal would. She complains silently, opening and closing her mouth and I eventually lower the net. She swims away.
This is spring. This is fishing for trout in the kettle ponds as the ground just barely begins to thaw.
When it’s past the point of total darkness, when I can’t see the fly whizzing by my head and my legs feel heavy and soaked with water, I pack up and leave the forest. The big pines blur against the now-night sky.
The restaurant is bustling with the wine-drunk whispers of week-night dates and after-work drinks. My wife works the front desk by herself. She asks how I did but before I can answer a couple of gray-hairs pushes past and asks for a table by the window. She nods and smiles and takes two menus in her hands.
“Right this way.”
I sit at the bar and nod to the bartender whose name I don’t remember. I feel bad because he’s a great guy; the type who will erase a beer off your tab if you just chat with him a little bit.
He brings me a beer and I’m convinced it’s the best beer I’ve ever tasted. Baseball is on with the volume turned low. Adam Wainwright is pitching against the Brewers. It’s the third game of the season and I put some heat on the Cards.
The bartender and I talk about the game in the romantic way you have to talk about baseball in early April. He leaves and I sit alone and embrace the semi-silence. The cadence of the play-by-play drones softly in almost the exact same rhythm of the fly cast that won’t leave my head.
Gelany comes up behind me and rests her head on my shoulder and I tell her about the rainbow I caught, how it ate the most ridiculous dry fly and ran right into my net. She tells me about the old couple who said they didn’t get oyster crackers while the empty packages sat on the table under the menu. She’s laughing while she tells it. The bartender says I should have brought the trout in for the chef so he could have cooked it up.
The game goes into the fourth and Wainwright has a no hitter through four-and-a-third-but-“oh-would-you-look-at-that-ball-way-back-and-outta-here-one-nothing-Brewers.” I finish my second beer and I get the ten minute warning. I order another one. Twenty minutes later she’s still cleaning menus.
It’s 9:36 pm. I have work in the morning but I don’ t care. My hands still smell like pond water and trout. I plan my next trip to the kettle pond silently to myself, hoping I have enough flies on my dashboard and scattered across my desk and enough spools of usable 5x to give the rainbows hell again after work. I remember I still have that big Royal Coachman tied on the end of my tippet.
With that, It’s decided. I’d fish again tomorrow in spite of the sorry state of my flies and tippet and my slowly waning connection to everything in the world that isn’t fishing.
My head is just the right amount of numb and the beer still tastes like the best goddamn beer I’ve ever drank. I have a fishing trip all planned out for the following day.
“Pressure system moving in,” I tell the bartender. “Could get the trout eating. Maybe we’ll get a hatch.” And as I say it I’m just smiling to myself like a fucking lunatic. But he seems excited and I suddenly remember his name. “You should really try it, Keith. Trout fishing, I mean.”
This is spring. This is the beginning.