Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alone on Opening Day

It’s 6:50 a.m. on opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania.  The temperatures, which started below freezing, are rising with each moment.   The sun peeks over the horizon, trying to scare off the morning haze.  

A few hundred yards away, pickup trucks stream into a crowded lot as scores of men in waders hurry about, preparing to partake in their opening day traditions. 

Yet, here I am standing up to my knees in the crystal-clear waters of one of the most renowned trout fisheries in the east, the Little Lehigh.  And I have the whole stretch of water to myself.  There isn’t a soul around.

Fire on the water:  Sunlight hits the mist on the Little Lehigh

It’s a little trick I learned a few years ago, rather by accident.  This stretch of the Little Lehigh, known for big wild trout, is fly fish, catch and release only.   It’s also open year round.  And crowded throughout the year, as well.  But on “opening day,” the local fishermen opt to fish on the water that’s been closed all winter, the stretch above the bridge by the parking lot -- ironically leaving the best fishing around untouched.

It works perfect for me.    

Any other day of the year, this hole would have three fisherman here at sunrise, and more with each hour that passes.  Yet today, I have it all to myself -- just me, the sun and the fish.

When you're alone on a river, like anytime its just you and nature, things happen, remarkable moments no one else would believe: A giant blue heron whoops past flapping its massive wings, a fish leaps chasing a hatching fly, and the morning sun sets the mist afire with a blaze.

I know this water pretty well.  It’s about ten minutes from my in-laws house in Allentown.   And every trip we make to visit, I spend mornings plying the Little Lehigh, trying to fool its notoriously stingy fish.   But I have rarely had it all to myself.

It stays mine alone for a few hours, as I float near-microscopic midges through the deep hole, pulling out a small Brown and a bigger Rainbow, and promptly putting them back.  When another fisherman finally wanders in and sets up shop across the stream from me, it’s almost time for me to go; time to get back to my wife and kids, who are almost certainly readying for lunch at my in-laws.

So I leave the hole and all its fish to the other fisherman.   Alone.   I sure hope he appreciates it.

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