Defy the Groundhog

I have a love-hate relationship with Punxsutawney Phil.

On the one hand, he’s cute and furry, and all that. And I feel pretty sorry for him when he gets handled by all those folks in top hats under the blaze of camera lights. If had to go through that spectacle, I’d feel like going back home and taking a long nap myself, whether I really saw my shadow or not.

But six weeks?! C’mon Phil! There’s fishing to be done! Let’s get on with spring already.

Judging by what fell from the sky yesterday, however, I think Phil might be right. Still, I’ve decided to defy the groundhog, and make my own breaks. I’m going to find my fishing, warm weather or not, and I hope you do too.

Of course, the lucky anglers who live in southern climates are already a step ahead of me. They know that the fishing season is already heating up in a big way. For example, The Bassmaster Classic is traditionally held in February, with good reason. Tricking large bass when they are in the “pre-spawn” mode and lurking toward shallow warm water offers some of the best technical challenges (and largest rewards, literally) to be had in the entire year. This year’s Bassmaster Classic will be held on the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, February 24-26. It’s one thing to follow the action, but even better to learn some tricks along the way and apply them to your bass water, so follow the action if you can.

The trout anglers just have to find some moving river water. Often times, I have found that the early season, when the fish are waking up, offers some pretty good fly fishing action. And by bundling up and being tough, you are often rewarded by having the river to yourself.

Many times, I have found myself on a river in winter, when the quarter-sized snowflakes start falling and I worry about getting home, when suddenly, a hatch of baetis mayflies happens, and the river “boils” with feeding trout.

Of course, there’s always ice fishing. But be careful as the weather warms.

And those of you in Florida, chasing snook, and sea trout, redfish, bonefish, and permit, well, you might have to wait just a bit for the big tarpon to show up. But I don’t feel sorry for you at all.

Lucky groundhogs.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.