It’s snowing out. I just looked outside and watched those big puffy flakes fall slowly upon my truck. My vice is empty, as each fly box row has been meticulously lined, organized, and sized to fit their desired spot. My bag sits lonely upon its hook, patiently waiting for me to sling it over my shoulder. Beside my bag my waders are becoming dust covered, slowly running out of things to talk with about to its neighbor, my net.
In Alberta, the majority of our rivers close on October 31st. Albertans wait in agony for the first thaw of spring and April 1st to roll around. On April 1st, a slight few of our rivers open back up, allowing those chomping at the bit to get out and trudge along muddy streams. However, the real prize is circled among our calendars, June 16th. This day signifies all Alberta rivers to be awoken from their slumber, sending fishermen clamoring to their banks. A free for all begins that day, with anglers alike lining the almost certainly high runoff filled waters. Though we know the fishing might not be great, we go nonetheless. We pack our bags the night before, wake up at 4 am, and hit the waters in hopes to see how the fish have fared. But until the circle in my calendar becomes an X, I am a shell of a man, held up only by the dreams of next season.
Sure, I could fish the certain rivers that stay open year round or drive to a neighboring province, I mean, I often do, but it’s just not the same. Winter’s icy grip roots deep, and the thought of clearing ice from the eyelets sends shivers down my spine. However, those dreams of warm sunshine upon my shoulders keep me centered. Each night I fall asleep to a lullaby of thoughts around next years adventures. Where will I go, what will it be like, and when should I leave? These questions are asked and answered repeatedly each night as my eyelids become heavy, and if you’re anything like me, you do the same.
I imagine April 1st, snow still on the ground. The water has not been contaminated by the color of field run off. The blues and greens shine through as I wait patiently for the sun to rise along the eastern horizon. The night before I checked and rechecked my bag and fly boxes, to be sure there would be nothing amiss. As I sit quietly in my truck, dogs eager to escape, I pray that no other anglers round the bend, waiting to jump at the pools below. In my mind, I make my way towards my favorite hole, hoping that voracious cutthroat await. I imagine my florescent orange indicator floating seamlessly along the surface, only to be viciously pulled below.
My mind drifts forward in time to June 16th, opening day. I sit along the bank of my favorite stream. I feel the warmth of the summer air around me, as bugs begin to hatch along the canyon wall. I tie on the sweater fly, you know the one, it’s about the size of your forearm. I attach this monstrosity to that atrociously thick mono filament. Out of my bag comes almost comical split shot, so big that it dwarfs the stones beneath my feet. I almost need bigger hemostats to apply these boulders to my line. In one ungraceful heave, the line I had pulled out that lay around me zings out, only to be yanked back by the force of it running out of yardage. My gargantuan fly smashes the water, in the most chaotic and unappealing fashion. It’s decent is made quick by the weight of the split shot, allowing me to retrieve quickly and without care. I wait with baited breath for the line to tighten between pulls, and my mind moves forward in time.
It’s almost August now, and my mustache is in full flight. I must have triple checked everything on the “camping list” I had made. Gas, check, gear, check, coolers check, trailer, check, looks like everything is in order. Looking out the window I watch the rolling hills slowly get bigger, as the terrain becomes more mountainous. We pass familiar landmarks along the way, only adding to my excitement. After what seems like forever, we carefully back the trailer into place and celebrate our arrival the only way we know how, with a cold one. Gear unloaded, we look upon our campsite and take in what the next ten days will entail. The hidden path takes us down upon the confluence of two rivers, and the deep pool below greets us with a familiar smile. We skip beyond the juiciest water, knowing that ahead lay where the giants slumber. I watch nervously as my first drift flows above those giants, holding my breath that they have arrived on time. The indicator disappears and I pull up hard on cork. My reel screams and I awake. It’s 6:45 am and still snowing out, but I am smiling.