Thursday, April 17, 2014

Caddis and Common Sense: Fly fishing in the Polar Vortex

Caddis and Common Sense: Fly fishing in the Polar Vortex

Fly fishing in the Polar Vortex

The Polar Vortex has supposedly been around for a while, but I hadn't heard or read about it until recently. I'm not sure I understand what it is, except that it appears to be devouring spring like some insatiable beast. If the Vortex is the new name for winter, I think I want it changed back.  The word "vortex" sounds like a big black hole sucking everything in its path into it's bottomless gullet. It seems to be that things should be blowing in a different direction about now.

Even by Maine standards, this has been a long winter. Long, cold and -- well, I can't even go on. It's not that I don't generally talk about the weather; everyone in these parts talks incessantly about the weather.  In the dead of winter, there's not much else to talk about.

Royal River in Yarmouth, Maine in April
No, it's this weather. Here it is April 17 -- almost May, for crying out loud -- and the thermometer on the sunny side of the house just hit 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And the wind. There's a steady, angry wind blowing out of the northwest that has slapped us in the face since December, like a playground bully who waits for you to poke your head out of the doorway so he can smack you -- every time -- with a snowball. But unlike the bully, there's no one around to complain to about the wind and the cold.

So, I write. And complain to anyone who will listen, which at this point in the season, is a small sample of unsuspecting passers-by who happen to stumble into my space. One of them said to me the other day: "I just heard on TV that Summer will be here on a Wednesday this year. Better be around to enjoy it." I smiled, but just out of good manners.

We all have our warm-weather passions, be it golf, boating, biking or what have you. Mine is fly fishing. Now you might say that that isn't restricted to warm weather. And I do occasionally ice fish, though I'd often rather be doing something else, like reading the phone book. Fly fishing requires warmer weather, and moderate waters. Right now, we have nothing of the sort around these parts. I resort to what other fly fishermen do in these times: I tie flies. And this winter, I've tied with a vengeance. Good for me and my fishing buddies and clients. It keeps me sane, but I'd be happier watching the little critters get wet.

I visited the Royal River recently -- with my fly rod in hand -- and watched in horror as the once tame current below the falls rushed past me with the din and force of class 5 rapids. It was the first time I had actually held my fly rod since last fall. I felt as though I'd been punched in the chest.

What does this have to do with the weather? Plenty, as it turns out. The rushing water is a result of the enormous snow pack that is beginning to melt -- and will continue through spring -- which in turn is pushing rivers and streams to their flood stages. The significance of all of the snow and rushing water means a late start to the fishing season, because the rivers and streams (which fish and guide in) won't be fishable until early June. And it's all because of the weather. Or Polar Vortex.

I guess it's back to the fly tying table -- my anti-vortex.