Spring Tributaries

One mid-April day a long time ago I went to one of my favorite trout streams to fish. From the look of things I figured that the run-off was over and done with, and that meant the Quill Gordons and Hendricksons would be hatching. When I arrived I found a blown out, coffee-colored river, with water raging high up against the banks.

If it were a little slower I would have fished the banks. River fish like to get out of the fast currents and will move to the slower water near shore. But the flows today were too much, and so I drove to an old country store where I bought a cup of coffee and a cinnamon doughnut.

I drove over a bridge and looked up river at the feeder stream. During the summer and fall, the tributary was bony, and only a very few fish held in some of the deep pools. Anytime between May Day and Labor Day the flows were slow, and the temperatures were warm, too warm for trout. But now it looked like a perfect little trout stream. I smiled and kept driving.

About a mile down the road it hit me; the tributary looked like a perfect little trout stream. I locked up the brakes, spun my truck around, and raced back up. The tributary ran past the Grange Hall that was in need of a coat of paint, and there was a parking lot that adjoined the water. I walked down to the feeder stream and saw bugs coming off, Quill Gordons and Hendricksons, too. There were fish rising, lots of ‘em, too.

I went back to my truck, chugged my coffee, and rigged up. The water was about 15 degrees warmer than the main stem which meant that I could hit the hatches here now, and come back in a few weeks to hit them on the main stem. The water clarity was good, and a lot of the fish from the river had moved up here to feed. Over the next few hours I had one of the best fishing days of the season.

In a month or two I’ll start poking around the feeder streams to look for rising trout. Some of you may already be doing that now. This year’s snow pack was pretty light throughout most of the country so early season water flows should be good. If it rains a lot and April showers promise to bring May flowers, don’t pass over the tributaries. They’re a way to get out and fish when all else seems lost.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.