“March!” One of those curious words capable of conjuring multiple images, memories and meanings in the brain.
When I first heard it from my mom, it wasn’t associated with a pleasant experience of any kind, had a certain kind of ultimatum ring to it and was usually followed by “Mister!”
Later, it fit in someplace between saunter and slog to describe the laborious hike or climbing approach we were in for.
As a kid, it would also conjure up the anticipation of iris blooming in the yard and the first days when a coat wasn’t needed at the bus stop. We could stay out a little later, explore or adventure an extra hour or so.
Then came the intro to skiing and fly fishing as a teen and the meaning expanded further. In Fort Collins, I learned to pack more and different gear into the car to take advantage of the opportunities that might present.
Ski days were longer and warmer, but I would often leave early to get on the river on the way home. That was a very pleasant era and the memory has made it more so.
These days, March at 8,000 feet can seem pretty confusing to the uninitiated. Often a time of erratic weather, the heaviest snows of the year and spirit draining wind, it always feels like winter marches on up here. But dig down a layer or two and things are beginning to happen.
A synonym for march would be trudge, which Webster claims is “to walk with a purpose.”
For the angler, this purpose is planning and savoring the anticipation of all that is coming in the new season.
While I’ve been out fishing all winter and enjoying the masochistic nature of the pursuit, I like it even more when the spring gear comes out of storage and gets prepped. There are new fly patterns to try out being placed in boxes that haven’t seen the light of day in months. Lines to check and leaders replace.
The fussy rituals of preparation make for running mental movies of not just could be, but what is going on in the natural world where purpose is also unfolding.
This year, the snow pack is at or above average for most of the state, good news for all and a sigh of relief for the various clans who thrive on the waters. While our drainage is still lagging, there will be plenty of water moving around, courtesy of the Front Range cities. The trout may not know it, but it looks like a good year ahead.
As the sun creeps north, melting lower level snow will help add to the river levels little by little.
This prompts the migration of aquatic life into the new habitat. What were microscopic insects a month ago are now growing large enough to be a welcome food source.
This burst of forage will compel the trout to disperse out of the winter pools and claim feeding territory for the months ahead.
While the majority of their food is still best imitated with nymphs well below the surface, it’s only a matter of a couple of weeks before adult blue wing olive mayflies will appear on the lower river above Cañon City, causing the fish to look up for their meals. This event will begin to move upstream for the next month and a half.
Over the past decade, the proliferation and emergence of these delicate and apparently tasty bugs have become one of our most anticipated events, with fly fishers from all over the west descending on the Arkansas River, floating and wading in search of the hatch.
Among the natural insects will be floating imitations concealing the hooks and line we hope will connect us with them. With a swirl of water and sizzle of line off the water, every daydream we had is realized and reaffirmed for the days ahead.
If those paragraphs have caused the pulse to quicken, then you’re an angler and the short days of a long winter can begin to be replaced by the March toward spring.
I look forward to seeing you out on the water soon. I’ll be the one with the crazy 60-pound Lab puppy pulling me around.
Andrews is head guide for ArkAnglers fly fishing guide service and an internationally recognized artist.
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