Sports

Matthew Dickerson: Signs of trout abound

I took my dog for a short walk this afternoon. As I circled back through the woods into my yard from the opposite side, a small patch of vibrant yellow drew my attention. The first two dandelions of the spring had popped up and were on full display. Directly above them, the intermingled branches of a pair of red maple trees created their own display of color with their rust-red blossom buds, making up in sheer numbers of blossoms for what they lacked in brightness.
The colors of that part of our yard were particularly attention-grabbing because most everything else is brown. Mud season is upon us.
Except mud season isn’t particularly muddy this year, because the start of spring this year has been so dry. One of the best 10-week stretches of cross-country ski conditions in memory came to a swift end with the sudden onslaught of spring weather. Likewise, the sugaring season came in the front door, and before we were even aware we had visitors it turned around and left — except, unlike the cross-country ski season, it did so without several weeks of perfect conditions.
Bird feeder season has also come to an end with the waking of black bears. Just a few dregs of scattered seed remain from our final feeding. But the lack of fresh food hasn’t prevented several new species from appearing in our yard over the past week or two. Throughout the winter (as we actively fed them), we had regular visits from chickadees, tufted titmice, rose-breasted nuthatches, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, goldfinches, and house finches, along with one shy and skittish blue jay and a pair of red belly woodpeckers (which are new to the area and took me a day or two to identify). Over the past week, however, those 10 species have been joined by several others. I’m still waiting to hear my first wood thrush of the year, but juncos, mourning doves, and phoebes have all made an appearance in our yard. We were also visited by wild turkeys, saw our first turkey vultures of the year soaring low over the barn, and heard our first migrating Canada geese.
These are, of course, the first signs of trout.
Or, to be specific, they are the first signs of Vermont’s trout season, which opens this weekend. And while opening weekend isn’t necessarily a very productive time to actually catch fish, it’s a very important time to go fishing. This has perhaps never been more important than after a year of pandemic. Cabin fever is always a great motivator to get out fishing even when fishing conditions are terrible. This year, cabin fever may be magnified a hundredfold.
I also expect it to be a better-than-average year for actually catching fish, for the same reason that mud season isn’t very muddy, sugaring season was short, cross-country ski season ended so suddenly, and the risk of brush fires is high. The warm dry weather and lack of snow means that river levels have been unusually low for early April, and water temperatures also warmer than usual. Rivers will be more readily wadable (though caution is always recommended when wading or boating). Getting flies, lures and bait to where the fish are will also be easier. And as water temperatures work their way up toward 50 in the earlier parts of the season, trout will grow more active.
Fishing licenses (which are required to fish in the state if you are 15 years of age or older), along with regulations and stocking updates are available at vtfishandwildlife.com. Although I don’t need to look at the website to know that on opening weekend I plan to hit some little stream up in the national forest where I’ll cast little flies for little brook trout.

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