Other obligations prevented my attendance out West for the opening day of trout season, so out Beau and I went the next day.
The April fools joke on us was that further dumps of snow made looking for open water and signs of spring even more difficult that it had been on the first day of spring a week earlier.
Now there was a drift a metre and a half deep in front of the gate to one of our favourite places for spring ice-out fishing.
When I peeked over it, there were many more like snow piles as far as I could see up the trail to that great spring hole. There was a day when I would have shovelled, winched and swore our way in there, in the faint hope of finding the ice going out, but those days are long gone.
The way into the Stump Ranch looked even worse than it was a week ago, the worst it has been at this time of year in a decade.
It will be at least two weeks until I can get in there and retrieve the snowed-in spinning outfit I need to fish the only spot I know we could fish today; in two weeks that brief ice-out opportunity will be gone with the melting, breaking off and drifting away of the shore ice under which brown trout like to shelter from sudden ice-out sunshine.
So I backed out of there and we went looking for the one constant we can always rely upon at this time of year: that my friend and fellow stump rancher Ken Short will be up and about from Calgary to see what’s what.
It is a sacred trust for us to get out there and deliver to Ken his tithe on my winter fly tying of a vial of Short Black Boogers and Despickables, fly designs of mine for which Ken and the many fine brown trout he catches each season have an inordinate fondness.
The flies are small return for Ken’s many kindnesses, not the least of which are the earliest and most reliable fishing reports to pass on to readers that I get from anyone.
A vehicle had slewed its way in to Ken’s place, so we put her in 4WD, low range, and followed, barely.
We arrived at a snow wallow near the house where someone had a long and hard time turning around and getting out of there.
Later we learned it had been Ken and there had been the April fool joke on him of having to change a tire in that snow-mess.
We had our own sweet time getting turned around, so sweet that a time or three I had a slight twinge of regret at having sworn off winches, shovels, ropes and other assurances that you will be led on until you get stuck.
But we got turned around and followed whoever out of there. If it had indeed been Ken Short, I had a good idea where I would find his rig, at least.
Sure enough, there it was, several miles farther upstream on the North Raven River than I — and Ken — would have expected. About this time last year my friend Dwayne Schafers and I had noticed Ken’s rig parked way downstream near where we were going fishing.
We all had a great day down there. But this year the little river remained stolid ice from the bottom of the so-called Bucks for Wildlife water on down to the mouth.
A first this year: I had to use my 10-power Leicas to spot not only the “game” of the sole blooming bush of pussy willows along the creek, but also a safe route through the maze of clumped muskeg and rotting snow piles so I could get in there and clip Herself’s tithe and tribute of an Easter bouquet from my annual too-soon spring trips.
A day or two later Ken called with the first anglers’ report of the new season.
He had gone upstream from where he had been parked and reported very hard slogging through the snow. (I did it once, years ago, with snowshoes strapped to my waders, a youthful excess I have never repeated.)
The fishing was very slow. There were lots of fish — both brown and brook trout — but they were so spooky that when Ken saw them they were already fleeing.
The bright spring sunshine, intensified by the glare off all that snow was probably a factor.
Up where field runoff was putting some cloud in the water, Ken managed to take his only two trout of what he calls a very tough day: one on a nymph and a 56 cm brown on the Short Black Booger.
The way things are going and looking, Ken predicts we are in for either a very long, or a very short season, depending on your outlook and the June monsoons, just like the last three seasons have been.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.