When I was in elementary school I wrote many sentences using vocabulary words, as my kids still do today, and I’m sure almost everyone else has as well.  Of all those sentences I wrote, I can only remember one.  Robins are the harbinger of spring.  I think I had some help from my mom to come up with that one.  Every year as the daffodils and cherry trees bloom I always look for that robin.  I saw my first robin on Monday of this week and that sentence ran through my mind, repeating the memory as I have every year since I wrote that sentence.  

The change of the seasons has always been something I looked forward to, particularly the bright green and beautiful flowers of spring and the changing leaves and crisp air of fall.  But since I’ve become a fly fisherman, I’m learning of another anticipated event as winter turns to spring, opening day of fishing.  I think it’s particularly eagerly anticipated in Pennsylvania, but the streams can draw quite a crowd in Maryland as well.  

Spring blooms

Opening day of baseball and the start of other spring sports also corresponds with the same time of the year, and unfortunately those activities are delayed this year.  I especially feel for those seniors in high school and college who may miss their last seasons of their sports with their teams due to the virus.  

This year we are experiencing the social distancing and mandates for no crowds due to COVID-19.  That changed the dynamic a bit.  But as a fisherman who has not yet really fished on an opening day, I decided I wanted to participate in a responsible way this year.  Now, I didn’t wake up at 4:30 to hit the stream right at 5:30, but I did fish both yesterday and today.  I wasn’t largely successful in catching lots of fish or overrun by crowds of fishermen and women.  But I did catch a few fish and I had a bit more company on the rivers than I am used to.  

There was a combination of fly fishermen, spin fishermen, and bait fishermen.  Everyone seemed to be cordial to each other, and I was offered up the “Any luck?” by virtually everyone I walked by.  There were lots of Dads with their children.  Some were with younger kids, a mix of boys and girls.  Some were with older teenage sons, and I saw one Mom who was fishing with her daughter.  That was good to see.  

Little Gunpowder Falls with a crowded parking area on opening weekend of fishing.

I brought my daughter and son with me today, and they were excited to go and enjoyed the day, even though the weather was chilly with a cold mist or drizzle for most of the day.  We went to a variety of spots, trying to find an area where the water wasn’t running heavy or dirty.  We finally found a good spot along a smaller stream.  We ended up catching a few fish and I was able to try and help them learn to fly fish with another incremental and hopefully not overbearing teaching moment.  I also could fish a little bit on my own.  

Patapsco River

As I stood on the streambank and watched my daughter and son cast flies into the stream, that sentence I wrote in elementary school came back to me.  I thought of how with this dangerous time when people are sick and fearful and uncertain, that the seasons continue to change, that there is rebirth and new life, and that life continues even when things feel bleak.  Different things I hope for popped into my head: I hope and pray that my friends and family who are doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers remain healthy and can help as many people as possible, I hope and pray that all my family, especially those with at-risk conditions stay healthy, and that we can all find a way to keep our wits about us during these stressful and isolating times.  I also hope that my children continue to love the outdoors and seek to conserve and protect our environment.  I hope that they enjoy fly fishing and that I can spend time fishing with them in the future.  I realized that as I like to see my first robin of the year, maybe I can also celebrate opening day with my children in the future.  

My son releasing a fall fish.

These hopes help me face the uncertainty of life. I hope everyone sees their robin and notices the signs of life and nature always continuing to find a way to keep moving forward.  

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