Glad For the Groundhog

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George Liset


Here in New Hampshire we have settled into a relatively mild winter. This week we have had what the locals call a “False Spring.”

 A couple of days of fifty and sixty degree weather has me shedding my winter coat and heading for the river to fight the crowd. The spring-like weather had produced a “Hatch” of fly fishers on the river.

Most were breaking in their new Christmas fly rods and reels. I had a new reel and line I was anxious to test out.

    The hope of an early spring was too much for many of these fly fishers. The glazed look in their eyes and their feverish casting said it all. Visions of trout were dancing in their heads. Being a seasoned New Englander, I have been fooled before and enough to not fall for it again. Plus, I had it on good authority that we were going to have an early spring. But the fly fishers didn’t want to hear it.

They kept casting and walking away from me. They have been fooled too many times.

    Don’t shoot the messenger, blame it on the groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow and we are in for an early spring.  According to the “Inner Circle” who keep records of Phil’s predictions, he has a one hundred percent accuracy rating. I’m thinking Phil should be the new Climate Czar. Phil’s more likable and they throw a great fiesta every February second, and who doesn’t like a great fiesta.

    The possibilities are endless. We could all head to Punxsutawney with our fly rods, celebrate Groundhog Day, and then hit all those limestone creeks that Pennsylvania is famous for.  The local theater could have a showing of “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray. Maybe Bill would show up for a guest appearance. I’d love to fly fish with Bill. You might not catch many fish, but you will have a great time. I’d love to hear that story about the time he looped for the Dalai Lama.

    The idea of an early spring is a little much for some fly fishers. After all, New England weather is rather unpredictable. Getting in and out of your neoprene waders can be an adventure, not to mention all the layering you have to do to stay warm. The forty degree water doesn’t help. Winter fishing is an art unto itself. The first time I went winter fly fishing, I was fairly new to the sport. I thought you did the same thing you did when it was seventy degrees out. That thought lasted about five minutes after I got on the water.

    After my line froze during the first cast and I had to get in the truck after every cast to thaw things out, I realized that I might need a different strategy. Waiting until the temperature gets above freezing seems only logical. I also started nymphing rather than throwing streamers, at least until it got warmer. I could spend more time on the water than in the truck.

    While I was fishing, I began to look back on some of my past experiences with groundhogs. When I worked as a wrangler, we would have to keep an eye out for them so they wouldn’t make burrows in the pasture. We didn’t want any of the horses to get broken ankles. But nothing calls a groundhog faster than a vegetable garden or a pumpkin patch. At least one has gone straight and made something of himself. So all my warm gear is hanging by the back door for another six weeks, unless Phil changes his mind.

 George Liset of Dover is an award-winning outdoor writer and avid fly fisherman who shares insights of his time on the water exploring New Hampshire streams and rivers as well of those around New England. George is a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois, and the University of New Hampshire. His column Writing on the Fly has been honored by the New England Press Association and the New Hampshire Press Association.

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