Light at the End of the Tunnel

While far from bearing significant characteristics of real spring, the arrival of March brings a sense or release from the suppression of deep winter on the Henry’s Fork.

With daylight stretching toward twelve hours, which exceeds a December or January day by at least twenty-five percent, early March also signals a substantial reduction of days when the river is stiffened with ice and the temperature is simply too cold to consider much other than staying indoors and restocking fly boxes.

A real winter is not something to be dreaded, and I accept its length as a condition of living more than a mile above sea level. However, when freezing temperatures arrive in late September and persist through the final months of autumn, a craving for relief can be difficult to avoid. With snow accumulating from that early point forward and adding to an extended sense of confinement, the arrival of March marks a mental turning point for an older man who does not leave.

With the process of seasonal change measured in trivial increments of increased daylight, temperature, and rate of snow melt just prior to the Vernal Equinox, the official beginning of spring is merely a date on the calendar but its meaning carries influence in converting the mind to a vastly more positive state.

While the typically generous precipitation of March is as likely to come in the form of snowfall as rain, there is something uplifting in knowing that the most severe characteristics of winter now fade into the past.

Along the river Whitetail deer become revitalized from a primary diet of aquatic vegetation as snow recedes from the water’s edge revealing a much more diverse and convenient food source. It is the time as well when the earliest flocks of migrant waterfowl begin to replace a large population of departing Trumpeter Swans that survive the winter on the Henry’s Fork.

Other signs of encouragement are the first Baetis mayflies of the year that will join midges in enticing trout to the surface on warmer days. More than anything, it is the revival of the dry fly that acts as a gateway to the reward of surviving another Henry’s Fork winter. This is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel that in 2020 has been especially long.