Rite of spring
The “Rite of Spring” is a ballet by Stravinsky, but on the Port Jervis train, the rite of spring refers to opening day of trout season here in New York. Much like the original performance of the ballet in Paris, there are near riots near the popular fishing holes of the streams in the Upper Delaware Valley. Early bird fishermen plan for weeks for this day, hoping to bag a large hold-over trout still lurking about in one of the deeper holes of the stream. Unlike Stravinsky’s ballet, whose riots were over political factions vowing to disrupt the proceedings before a note was played, the modern-day riots will be of men and women dressed in neoprene, stumbling down a stream bank in the dark, racing to be one of the first at their spot. More often than not they will find that someone has beaten them to it. There must be a reason opening day is on April first, because many a “fool” will be about the streams’ edge this day. I must admit to being a “fool” myself on many an opening day.
The groups on the early train home usually congregate in the last car, and there is no shortage of opinions or disagreements. When it comes to fishing, everyone is more than happy to share their knowledge—except the location of their favorite spot. Some of the best “advice” comes from those who are readers of fishing magazines rather than those who actually practice the sport. Naturally, there are many raised eyebrows from the doers over the advice of the readers; it makes for fun conversation at best. The readers are up to date with all the latest technical gear and the science of fishing. The doers, however, just have a knack for getting it done. The doers will warm a grub used for bait in their mouth where a reader will use a plastic grub.
Spring this year has come in with a cold wind, and there is still snow on the ground; it is still too cold for the streams to be stocked. Many a fishing line will be frozen with ice come opening day. My buddy Joe on the train is a combo of a reader and a doer. Fishing with him is a fun time, because even though he may have no idea what he is doing, he always catches fish. He also doesn’t eat fish, so it’s strictly catch-and-release for him, which gives me a second chance. He has already spent the last few weeks telling me his plan for opening day, and I admire his attention to detail. He has spent a small fortune on all the top gear he has read about and has so much gear he needed a second tackle box to store it. His wife is ready to pack him up and send him to the garage, but he has a pleasant disposition, so he may be able to talk his way out of the doghouse.
Part of our train ride runs alongside the Ramapo River, and there are many faces looking out the window of the train dreaming of the time they will spend at their favorite pastime. The water looks so calm and peaceful, and indeed it is a nice way to spend an afternoon. When I get a chance, I like to remind those of my fellow passengers who are fisherman of the paradox of the sport. I remind them it’s called fishing and not catching; even a fish wouldn’t get in trouble if it didn’t open its mouth. So, to all the fishermen, I wish you “tight lines,” and enjoy our rite of spring.
[Keep your eyes open for The River Reporter’s FISH magazine, to be inserted in next week’s newspaper.]