I always set the alarm. I didn’t need the alarm, but I still set it because it was tradition. I didn’t need to though, since I was always awake well before it actually went off. I’d sit in my bed, staring at the glowing face of the clock, counting down the seconds. I’d finally leap out of bed at the alarms call. I’d pull on the clothes I’d carefully set out the night before and stumble into my boots. I’d slip down the hallway and push open my parents bedroom door, crawling along to my fathers side of the bed and gently shake him awake. “Dad,” I’d whisper, “Dad it’s trout season.” He’d grunt and grumble and snarl something about coffee, but I never hear him because I’d already be outside loading the car. We’d spend the day fishing on the snow swollen trout streams around my parents’ house, never actually catching much but that wasn’t what it was about…it meant so much more.
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m a big fan of holidays. I plan my Halloween costume months in advance, fast for days before Thanksgiving, and I pretty much explode with Christmas joy about a day after that. Yet these festive times of year aren’t all that I celebrate. If I could add another it would be Opening Day Of Trout Season. Or as I like to call it “Oh Thank All That’s Holy It’s Not Winter Anymore Day!”
I prepare for weeks. Tying flies, cleaning my waders, casting in the backyard, driving along the rivers, planning my attack. It’s just like decorating the tree or picking out a turkey that will feed twelve. It’s the same thing I used to do as a kid–a tradition I like to keep alive–one I have to celebrate. So, no matter what state I’m currently residing in, no matter what my job is at the time, I always, always, always go fishing on Opening Day.
For me, fishing on Opening Day is so important because, like all of those cookies and pies we gorge ourselves on Christmas because “Hey it’s the holidays,” Opening Day is our first chance to go run around with a fly rod in our hands. If you’re like me, one of the biggest bitches about being a fly-fishing addict is the winter. During those long cold dark days of snow and ice, we dream of the river, the sunlight sparkling off the water, bugs flying up our noses, barking our shins on rocks, and holding wriggling trout in our hands.
We dream of all of it. It’s true while most Opening Day’s aren’t ideal conditions, usually the opposite in fact, it’s still our first chance to be out on the water doing what we love. It’s not about catching fish, it’s about celebrating making it through another long fishless winter and while still hanging on to your sanity.
I still remember those early days. The cool morning air, trudging through muddy patches of snow, casting into deep, slow, off-colored rivers, the seemingly fruitless hope rising in me with each cast–all of it shaped me into the angler that I am today. Those were the days that inspired me, got down deep into me. I still wake up before the alarm on days I’m going fishing. Still feel that big ball of excitement in my chest when I see the first rays of the sun coming over the horizon; when I hear running water in the distance. I still cast with hope…each and every time.
Those early opening day trips with my dad were important. They were the beginning of something, something profound. They were long nights staring at the clock and long days slipping and sliding along river bank. Fishing on Opening Day is a tradition that shaped me into the man I am today, and I’m forever grateful.