Sunday, March 28, 2010

Opening Day Arrives Early

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

A pool in a stream down the road from me often gives up one or two good-size trout on opening day. For many years, that much-anticipated date was April 1. It would have been this year, too, but for a special proclamation by the governor on April 25, declaring open-water fishing season officially open.

For a month previous, my attention was riveted upon a large pool in the stream a few miles down the road from me. Passing by there nearly every day, I practically drooled at the superb water conditions. These were not too high and not too low, but just right. “If only they would open the season on the first of March, rather than April,” I told myself.

In truth, our April opener has everything to do with tradition and absolutely nothing to do with resource management. This line of thinking comes directly from fisheries biologists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the agency that makes such decisions.

So then, why April, rather than March or in fact, any time after January 1? Tradition. That’s what they tell me, year after year. People enjoy preparing for opening day and look forward to it as to an official holiday. I never found their line of reasoning satisfactory. But other than petitioning for an earlier opening date, there remains little for the layperson to do.

In fact, I mark April 1 on my calendar and start counting the days to fishing season, beginning sometime in late March. And like a child the night before some big event, I’m usually too wound up with anticipation to sleep well. Toss, turn, check the clock for how many hours remain before the alarm rings. Then, when it finally does, I spring from bed in the pre-dawn darkness, dress, put on a pre-made pot of coffee and get ready to go out and try the waters.

Then came April 25. The proclamation came in the morning, but owing to an ultra-slow, Internet connection and the habit of GWI of holding messages in a queue before sending them out, I didn’t get the news until 2:30.

By 3:00, I was the proud possessor of a 15-inch brook trout and also, a rainbow trout of nearly the same size. This was a gift, an unanticipated boon. I reveled in my good fortune and thanked the government, the first time I had a kind thought for that entity in many years.

Later, it occurred to me that my opening-day preparations were of little value at this point. The thing had come and gone. And now, the rest of the year remained. I had planned a big day along with a friend. We had our schedule all planned, including the restaurant where we would stop for breakfast. We even knew what we would order. My pal wanted a double serving of corned beef hash, two eggs, over easy and two slices of raisin bread. I planned upon one serving of hash, eggs the same, coffee and no bread.

So that’s how much planning, waiting, thinking and hoping went into our opening day. We got together, my buddy and I, on the next day and went to our spots. It wasn’t the same, though. The magic was gone. We had fun, caught trout and so on, but it was anti-climactic. Something was missing and there was nothing we could do to re-capture it.

Is there a lesson to take from this? Perhaps it is that the value we place on a thing depends upon how much it costs us. If we don’t work for something, don’t look forward to it and don’t expend a certain amount of emotional capital on it, then we probably won’t appreciate it as much.

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