Its mid-April and the last rise you saw was in September, before a long winter took hold and never wanted to let go. After that long, your brain sort of forgets what a rise looks like even though you’ve seen a million of them over the years. When you see the first one of the season, its almost like your eyes are playing tricks on you. Usually, you just hear it, then search frantically in the phantom sound’s direction for the fading rings of the rise. More often than not, the sound was just a glob of water bursting up from under a bobbing log.
There are geese honking downstream, a swan spit-trumpeting somewhere upstream and redwing blackbirds singing from all directions. Its feels good to be wearing short sleeves and hunting rising fish again. You scan for bugs on the water and then in the sky, and then the water and then the sky, and then the water and then the sky. Maybe its still a little too early in the season? You’re about to lose hope and then a Hendrickson spinner sprints through the air and the river regains your attention. And then there are two, and three, and so forth and that was a rise! Holy shit, that was definitely a rise!
As tempting as it is to cast, you shouldn’t; it’s bad luck to cast to the first rising fish you see of the year. Act like you’ve been there before. Dry fly fishing is tantric, enjoy the process. Or don’t and just wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am a cast out there and see if you can remember how a drag free drift is supposed to work. If the fish eats you’re doing it right. If it stops rising and never calls you back, you need to spend more time on that reach cast. No, don’t beat the water to a froth with fly or tippet changes. Just use 5X and a parachute adams and get a good drag free drift. If it looks like food, they have to eat it.
Its dark by nine. You wade back to your car, strip your boots and waders off and toss them into a heap in the trunk. There’s some good blues playing on the local public radio station and you’re driving home with the windows down, left arm hanging out the window in the warm breeze. There are spring peepers going in the marshes you pass on the way. You’re off the water, but this is all part of what you love about being a fisherman.