Spring Multiple Choice Exam

Describe a typical spring day

By Rob Breeding

Here’s your quiz.

Describe a typical spring day.

A — It’s warm enough for shorts and sandals, sans socks.

B — A front just moved through and left behind a blizzard.

C — Socked in and rainy, but it will clear in a couple days.

D — All of the above.

Any student worth a diploma knows “all of the above” is almost always right. I’ve written hundreds of tests and that answer has never been wrong. I remind my students of this during exam prep, yet a handful still manage to get it wrong.

I sympathize. I was that kind of student, too.

Besides being the strategically astute selection, “all of the above” is the correct choice because … spring. Weather diversity is this season’s hallmark. Snow is fairly common, and despite the occasional dry spell, spring rain provides a fair share of the annual precipitation in the arid West.

It’s raining right now. That’s good news in the big picture, a boost to winter snowpack. But the small picture is a different matter. I had plans to fish this afternoon.

I like fishing, a lot, but not so much that I’m game for standing in an all-day soak, not catching anything. I’ve heard rumors of great fishing in the midst of a downpour, but for now that remains a vicarious pleasure.

I once spent an unpleasant afternoon fly fishing for steelhead in Malibu Creek — yes that Malibu — and I didn’t catch a thing. It wasn’t really a fishing trip. Malibu Creek is a decent-sized stream that historically supported steelhead trout until the 1920s, when a dam was constructed three miles upstream from the Pacific.

Our goal that day was to catch a few trout so they could be examined to determine if they were ocean-going relics, rather than leftover hatchery stockers. We fly fished for about an hour, then the rain came and the creek muddied up. Fortunately, a dude fishing spinners near the base of the dam caught three or four pan-sized trout (successful rain fishing is possible, despite my dismal record) and donated the heads for research.

A chemical analysis of a trout’s otolith, or inner ear bone, can reveal a life history that included forays into the ocean. It turned out there were steelhead in Malibu, and farther south, all the way to the Mexican border. That makes sense since the trout of the Pacific Coast, including the native cutthroat and redbands of Montana, as well as introduced rainbows, all evolved from a primitive cutthroat in Mexico that migrated north following the retreating ice of the late Pleistocene.

But today at least, the correct answer is C, though I’m holding out hope for better fishing weather tomorrow. If the rain doesn’t muddy things up, the clear and calm following a storm can be a great time to throw surface poppers at farm pond bass. That’s what I intend to do once the weather clears.

Spring is a great season, despite its multiple personalities. It is the end of winter, for Pete’s sake. Even the hardest of hardcore powder hounds applaud spring’s arrival. The weather can be snowy or muddy and most generally fickle, but be ready for unseasonably warm days foreshadowing summer’s imminent arrival.

The key to spring is to seize the day. If it’s nice out, go fishing, regardless of any big weekend angling plans. It might be snowing when the weekend arrives.

So I went, yesterday, and caught a bass that may be the 3-pound queen of the small lake I frequent, on my first cast. Later, I moved a few smaller largemouth and one bluegill big enough to think it could handle the 3-inch worm I was fishing.

That memory is keeping me going a day later, as a small lake forms in the yard while a spring rain refuses to relent.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.