Over the last two years, heavy and record-setting rainfalls have washed away numerous fishing days, both on our home waters near Baltimore and in the trout streams of western Maryland. I am a regular reader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s online river data; gage readings from the National Water Information System are just as important as a weather forecast when you’re trying to find the right time to fish in the 21st Century, especially in the aftermath of storms. Given what happened Thursday afternoon — here’s The Sun’s story: Trapped vehicles, downed power lines reported after storms move through region — I am grateful for the three hours of fishing we managed to have on Thursday morning, before that shocking deluge. I gave a fly fishing lesson on the Gunpowder River, and the conditions could not have been better: Partly cloudy, with moments of full sunlight, warm but not too humid, with that familiar cool air over the river and the mist that accompanies it, water clear and cold, the flows just right, sulfurs and caddis hatching, brown trout rising. I even managed to get my student on a small brown with a size 16 sulfur dun imitation. And, just as important as catching a fish was seeing one rise to a natural in the bubble line — and getting the student to recognize what was happening in the water. She also had the thrill of seeing a larger brown come up, look her drifting fly over and refuse it.
Shortly after we took a break at a picnic table above the river bank, a boy in a swimsuit came along with a fly rod and, without stopping to notice the moderate sulfur hatch underway, he started plunking a nymph into the same long pool we had just fished. He didn’t take time to observe, and missed an opportunity to fish with a dry fly. (Of course, being in a bathing suit, he didn’t appear to be prepared for that eventuality.)
While my student worked on her cast, I took a look around — at the mist, the lush trees along the river (sycamores, black walnut, locust and gum) and I realized, again, that I am happy just to be there, whether I hook a fish or not. (When I give a lesson to a novice, I do not fish.) I enjoy watching the bubble lines for mayflies and rising trout. The time you spend on a healthy river like that, in such perfect conditions, are truly precious, heaven-on-Earth moments. And, given what the climate scientists tell us about future weather patterns, and what we experienced Thursday afternoon, we have to savor those moments all the more, and more than ever.