March came in like a lamb and if last week’s forecasts were correct, it’ll leave like a lamb. The lion hiding behind that lamb occasionally emerged a bit and emitted a mild roar, but overall, those roars were those of an irritable bobcat, not a lion.
However March goes out, I look forward to something better when April comes.
While winter usually isn’t through with us in April, we’ll start with nearly 13 hours of daylight and with days lengthening at the rate of three minutes per day, we’ll be well over 14 hours by the end of the month. That solar energy translates to some warm days, along with some cold weather, of course. Hopefully we’ll get April showers and mountain snow to put more moisture on the land.
April is when I get serious about fishing, flyfishing, that is. With the longer days and some warming of waters, aquatic insects get more active and that gets fish more active.
A favorite bug in April is the blue wing olive, or baetis, if you like your bugs with a Latin name. Whatever the language, they’re a small mayfly, or actually a whole group of mayflies, depending on where in the country you may be.
Even though they’re a small bug, they will get trout feeding, either on the surface or under the surface, as the insects work their way to the water’s surface to become, in their last day or two of life, an adult flying insect.
Another popular bug is the skwala, a good-sized stonefly, about one inch long, though small by salmonfly standards. Like other stoneflies, these bugs spend most of their lives underwater, and then at the end of their lives will crawl out of the water, climb on some shoreline vegetation and then crawl out of their exoskeleton to emerge as an adult flying insect.
Skwalas aren’t as big or flashy as the salmonflies we see in June. In fact they’re downright inconspicuous. I once had a streamside chat with Al Lefor, who used to own the flyshop at Divide, who called them “the invisible hatch.”
Skwalas are common to rivers in the northwest, from California to Oregon and Washington, and, of course, Montana. The Bitterroot River is famous for the early season skwala hatch, but Rock Creek and the Big Hole rivers also have good skwala hatches.
For whatever it’s worth, I like fishing the lower Madison River in April and several times I’ve lucked into some high temperatures in mid-April that triggered an early look at the famed Mother’s Day caddis hatch.
I fondly remember a day when the weather changed every few minutes as clouds moved through, dropping some intermittent rain, and mayflies would start emerging. Then the clouds moved on and the sun would come back out again. When the sun was shining, the caddisflies were active and I’d get action on a caddis imitation. I kept changing flies as the hatches changed, but I had continuous action for several hours.
The first day of April is, of course, famous for something other than fishing, though there is a connection where it all comes together and that’s April Fools’ Day.
It’s a day often filled with pranks and tricks. Occasionally, serious newspapers will run a humorous story that is totally made up. Advertisers sometimes run funny fake ads.
In France, a person that has been pranked, or made out to be a fool, might be referred to as a poisson d’avril, or April fish, a fish that’s easily caught.
My favorite prank goes back a few years. April 1 fell on a Sunday, and my wife and I were leaving the house to go to church, I said to my wife, “Your slip is showing.” She had this momentary look of panic on her face, then relaxed when I said, “April fool!”
In fact, she hasn’t worn a dress in years, much preferring slacks, and was wearing pants that day. Despite that, she didn’t think this was funny, for some reason. Poisson d’avril!
Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.