Just a week ago, the afternoon temperature was in the twenties. Snow fell in the morning and early afternoon. It felt like January 12th on March 12th. Yesterday was a beautiful day, topping out at 77 degrees in a beautiful bluebird afternoon. Nearly every neighbor was out in their yard, either completing the spring clean up or planning for it. It felt like the middle of May. A five-month swing in seven days. 

Little Black Stoneflies are often the first non-midge insects to hatch on eastern streams.

March is known for madness, both in weather and basketball. Anything can happen: a Cinderella story comes true for a small college basketball team or the first blue-winged olive hatch can pop up when least expected. After a cold winter being stuck inside, the first warm spring days can feel like the last day of school in middle school. And not just people are excited about the change in seasons; robins arrive, daffodils begin to bloom, and rabbits and chipmunks scurry around my yard. 

Soon the bare trees will be covered in green leaves. A spent stonefly floats among the reflections.

Yard work feels like a respite from household chores in March, unlike in August where I cram in any yard work early in the day to avoid the heat of the afternoon. Spring sports and yard work can eat into time on the river, but when I get a chance to fish, it seems like every other angler has the same idea. Parking lots near fishing spots get full and crowds develop on the river. The pent up energy of many anglers can turn into increased traffic and frustration. The winter solitude is gone, replaced by the chance to cast to a rising fish with four of your peers within your view. 

Many stocking programs ramp up in February and March with opening days scheduled in April. More trout are available to catch in more streams for the next few months as a result. Going through the records of my fishing over the last few years, I surprisingly discovered that March was near the bottom of my fish catching months. Part of that can be attributed to attending four fly fishing shows on days I may have been fishing. But the numbers were even inflated because of two prolific days of catching stockers at a nearby stream in 2020. Removing those two days or making them closer to my normal catch rates and March becomes my least productive fishing month of the year. That is madness.

Wild brown trout

I can rationalize that widely fluctuating temperatures can interrupt feeding cycles of trout, or the introduction of stocked fish changes the feeding patterns of wild fish, or there is increased fishing and predation pressure, and those reasons combine to lower my catch rates. There is likely truth in all those arguments. I may never know why I catch fewer fish in March than I do in December, January, February, or July. Maybe I’m impacted by breaking out of winter into the hustle of spring. Maybe it’s just the madness.  

Keep mending…

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