The first day of any season is often celebrated. A new outfit, backpack, and hair cut prepared us for the first day of school. Parades and bright uniforms are part of little league opening day, as adults, beers, hot dogs, and wings were part of opening day to watch a Major League season opener. Many anglers celebrate the opening day of fishing each year with their friends and family and have specific traditions they repeat each year. 

Beaver Creek

Many fly fishing only and put and take stream reaches are open for fishing all year long, however the delayed harvest reaches are generally closed for most of the month of March. I’ve made the mistake in the past of traveling to a delayed harvest reach before the opening and have realized my error quickly and left for open water. For those who fish in a closed section of stream you are at risk of receiving a large fine ($250+) from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police. The Department of Natural Resources sets the closure period to allow the stocked fish to adjust to their new surroundings and distribute through the stream. It also creates a fair system, where anglers are publicly informed of a date and time when all stocked streams will have a population of trout and anglers can plan ahead to fish. The opening day of fishing becomes a celebration of rods, reels, flies instead of outfits and baseball.    

Even at the early hour, families will gather with multiple generations of anglers fishing together along the banks. Other solitary or small groups of anglers will also make their way to streams across the region and do their best to catch some trout. Some will take their limit home for a meal and others catch and release. The groups will be gathered in proximity to pods of the fish, passing along stories and tips and good-natured ribbing. 

Aquatic Grasses are plentiful in Spring Creeks like Beaver Creek

In Maryland, trout fishing season began at 5:30 am this past Saturday. At that time, I was still asleep. My dog, Finley, normally wakes me up around 6 to be let outside. He’s quite an effective alarm clock. It was a damp, cool, rainy morning which encouraged me to make some coffee and prolong my time in the warm house. I was excited to fish, but also had some hesitation of fishing in a crowd. Coffee and a nice breakfast were hard to skip on this cold morning.

Walking Finley before I left, a new plan entered my thoughts. For the first time this year, I was observing Spring. Daffodils were blooming in each yard, under the morning mist. Crimson buds were sprouting from the branches of every red bud and red maple, white and pink flowers bloomed on the magnolia and dogwood trees, and birds, even in the rain, chirped, whistled, and verberated their calls. The moisture in the air added depth and brightness to the newly greening grass and plants. The signs of new growth and a new growing season reminded me of my goals for the year. 

The new growth in the riparian forest has a beautiful green hue.

I intended to fish somewhere in the Gunpowder River drainage as has become my custom. Setting my goals for the year, I challenged myself to fish in new locations to learn and diversify my knowledge and abilities. Traveling west to Frederick and Washington counties was appealing as not too far away, but new and less traveled. While I have fished at Beaver Creek previously, I had never caught a fish there. I am also fond of the Beaver Creek Fly Shop, and I could stop there after fishing.   

After the drive along I-70, I exited the highway and crossed a small bridge, and the fly shop came into view. A food truck sat out front of the shop, along with a representative from a nearby brewery. The parking lot was full and people were standing on the porch talking and smiling. A celebration! A chalk board noted three speakers at the fly shop, with presentations at 10, 11, and 12. Not quite fishing in solitude. But the energy created a similar feeling in me to the sight of the green grass and bright flowers. 

Navigating through the waist high green briar and knee-high grasses, I made my way to the stream. With the overnight rain, I thought the stream may be high and off-color. Following the advice of a friend in Trout Unlimited, Darin Crew, I wanted to try to use a sculpin streamer. Casting along the undercut banks and against the imbricated stone boulders, I was able to induce strikes from three fish, but unable to hook any of them. I worked my way downstream and then switched to a nymph rig. Doubt was entering my mind and I realized the possibility of staying skunked on this stream remained. 

In my first run with the nymph rig, I hooked a fish. The skunk would be gone, until I lost the fish just as I was about to net it. I took a deep breath and kept moving and kept a positive mindset. I approached a deep pool downstream of a pedestrian bridge. There had to be fish in there. On my third drift the line paused, and I set the hook. I felt the tug. A jump and a few moments later, I brought a 10-inch rainbow to the net. The skunk was officially gone. 

I caught two more brown trout that were strong and beautiful. The bright yellow, red, and brown colors of the trout matched the bright purple of the grape hyacinth and bright greens of the riparian corridor. I left the stream with a smile and a calmness. Catching the fish and removing the skunk released some pressure and put me in a great mood to celebrate opening day. The staff and atmosphere at the fly shop rounded out the experience and adventure. It’d be fun to experience more days like opening day

Grape Hyacinth

Keep mending…   

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