I pulled into Red Quill after dark. When I stepped out of the car I stretch my hands to the sky arching my back and almost immediately a great horned owl hooted, greeting me to camp. The stars were bright, but not piercing the way they are in winter, and the air was laced with the smell of melted snow and spring. Even though I was tired adrenaline coursed through my limbs and the Great Horned Owl kept me company as I assembled my fly rod on the porch before bed.
A little after 5 am, as soon as it was light, I walked to the Rangeley River with my rod in hand. I wasn’t sure if it would be crowded or not and wanted to get a good spot at my favorite pool. I discovered it was not crowded— in fact it was completely empty— perhaps because it was 33 degrees, or perhaps because the river was really still too high and swift for good fishing. My line bristled with ice crystals as I stripped it in, but I was happy to be on the river again watching the morning light creep around the bend and illuminate the mist rising off the dark riffles of the river. I cast, getting the kinks out of my arm. My body became still and I became part of the landscape, melting into the space between the river and the shore as my line looped back and forth in the air. Fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It is about being outside, being still, and being present for the magic of the mist rising off the water, sharing the river’s edge with a moose, and feeling your line loop through the air overhead.
(By mid-morning the small ice-crystals on my line had melted and by mid-afternoon it was a balmy 70 degrees. For all you fishermen the Magalloway and the Rapid River are good right now and green caddis flies have brought me luck.)
Ready for spring fishing
As I drove up route 16 to camp my eyes focused on the back of the truck in front of me. I had been following it for a while but I hadn’t actually looked at it. Fishing stickers were plastered to the back window. That’s when it hit me. Fishing season had begun. How had I forgotten? Perhaps because I still have my skis in my car and the snow in Rangeley is still thigh-high in the woods. Just when I realized I was following a fisherman, I also realized I was coming up to one of my favorite places to spring fish: the Magalloway River in Wilsons Mills.
I drove over the bridge and peered down the river at the pale evening light reflecting off the water. There were four fishermen chest high in the water and another one climbing over the snow bank to get into the freezing river. The truck in front of me put its blinker on and turned in. I cursed myself for not remembering it was spring and to put my rod in the car. But then again, it looked mighty cold in that water.
Instead of fishing, I hiked/waded through the snow behind Red Quill to Moose Pond and built a snowman. When I came back to camp I built a roaring fire in the woodstove and pulled out all my fly boxes and started organizing and getting ready for fishing season. With my flies spread out on the table before me I started thinking that the water might not be too cold for fishing…I dreamt of trout sucking down my flies. Even though the snow is still high, spring is in the air, and fishing season has begun. It’s time to keep the fly rod next to my skis in the car.
Things have started to warm up in Rangeley. It was perfect spring skiing this past weekend. The sun was shinning and the temperatures were in the low 40’s, which felt heavenly compared to the -6 it was last month! The birds have started coming back too. I walked onto the sunny porch and stopped in its warmth, enjoying the sun streaming through the windows. It made me realize I haven’t felt warm on the porch in a while. It has been a place to put snowy boots and skis, grocery bags, and suitcases, before rushing in to stand by the wood stove. But this time I stopped and enjoyed the trapped heat and sunshine. It reminded me that summer is coming and days of leaning my fly rod against the porch after dusk to sit in the swinging chair to drink a beer and listen to the loons is not far off. It’s not quite time— there is still some great spring skiing to be had, but I am starting to dig through my closet for my waders and beef up my fly box for the spring hatch.
The bright red and orange sunset over the pond lured me out to the road and down to the frozen water. I headed through the snow to the pond and delighted in the quietness of the evening. Snowshoe Hare tracks crisscrossed with mine, and I inspected deer tracks that followed the edge of the pond. I followed a set of wandering fox tracks along the pond, and then leaned against a tree with my legs outstretched over the snow absorbing the quietness and melted into the landscape. I inhaled the smell of spring mixed with the lingering cold of winter. We are in the magical sweet spot of warm days, birds returning, and snow to play in. It doesn’t last long—just about the length of Sugaring Season, and it’s just as sweet.