Roger Phillips: Spring fishing means rolling with the punches

Saturday morning, I met the folks from Idaho Fish and Game for the first trip of the year for the Free Fishing Trailer. It travels to ponds throughout the Treasure Valley and is filled with free loaner fishing gear. It’s fun to see folks using it, even on a chilly, wet Saturday morning. You can read more about the trailer and its spring schedule in the April 23 Idaho Outdoors.

What impressed me on Saturday was how many families with young kids, and other young anglers, were braving the weather for a chance to catch trout. To be 100-percent honest, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed in that weather to catch a stocked trout out of a pond, so it was humbling to see folks excited about catching fish, even unglamorous, cookie-cutter rainbows. It’s a matter of perspective, and I felt mine renewed by their excitement to go fishing.

That afternoon, I grabbed my fly rod and walked to a local pond and fished for bass. It was gray and cool, but the rain had relented, for a little while, anyway. Fishing was slow, but a few fish were working, and I tried in vain to entice them to my fly.

Then the skies opened up, and the rain wrapped a wet blanket on my fishing, but I kept casting. Either I was focused on fishing, or I realized that I was going to get wet fishing or walking home, so I might as well fish. As drops of cold water trickled off my hat and down my neck, my line went tight, and I instinctively reared back. The rod made an arcing letter C, and I felt something heavy and angry at the end of my line. It was a stout bass, and it rocketed to the surface and gave one of those classic “oh, no you didn’t” head shakes.

It disappeared back into the green depth and my line did wild figure eights before the fish charged back toward the surface. I stripped in line and dropped the rod tip in anticipation of it jumping for the second time. Its head cleared the water and gave another mad shake, and my line went slack. I stood disappointed, but smiling.

“Darn, I would have liked to get a better look at that one,” I said to myself.

I fished a little longer to see if I could go for round two, but had no luck and walked home dripping wet.

Sunday was a text-book, bluebird day and a good one for fishing. I hit the ponds again and landed a few fish. It was fun, but almost more relaxing than exciting. It lacked the raw, elemental battle I had on Saturday when it felt like the fish and a rain storm were tag teaming against me.

Reports trickled in after the weekend of lots of folks out fishing and catching some really nice fish, but it’s spring in a nutshell. Mother Nature and the fish conspire to make you work, and there are no guarantees, but there are some nice surprises if you’re willing to put up with some unpredictable weather.

The fish are there, and they’re willing to scrap. The only thing missing is you.