By Nick Simonson

What was planned out to be a two week course in fly tying, jig making and lure crafting was extended into a month-long lesson in how to dodge the weather and cope with an unpredictable spring that postponed class sessions and cancelled fishing days altogether. But my class of seven students took it all in stride (perhaps even better than their instructor) leading up to this weekend, the first above freezing in four weeks, where highs in the seventies caused the last of April's three snows melt away overnight. But that would end up being part of the problem and the start of our final lesson in the course.
On Saturday morning, my class and I set out after trout in the rising waters of the local stream. From the semi-clear flow of the night before and the frequent strikes of rambunctious browns to the turbid chocolate milk flows and scattered fish the following morning, I knew we had our challenges ahead of us.
Thankfully, Kaden, the youngest in the class showed up early along with his grandmother, and I set them at a place on the shore near where I had seen some rising fish in the riffles behind a large boulder. As I was organizing the rods and equipment for the rest of the class, he came back up the bank, beaming. In his right hand was the ultralight trout rod and in his left, tethered by a stretch of four-pound test and the silver spinner he had crafted the week before in class, was a red-trimmed brown trout. I was happy he met with success so soon off the bat and that we had a fish despite the conditions.

youth fishing group

the only brown trout to come to hand on the youth fishing group's on-stream day​

As the other participants arrived for the morning's event the water began to rise. Jumping nearly two feet in our three hours on the river, the water conditions began to make our angling difficult as stream flows rose to their highest of the year and the water began to look like cappuccino. Another student managed to hook a nice trout, but in the fast water it was able to make its escape before he could get his hands on it. In between, when the fish weren't biting, I was able to pass along some fly rod basics and make the most of our time on the flow. I would be able to convey more of my teachings unimpeded on the following day as well.
Sunday afternoon came like Saturday left, with sun and seventies bringing everyone out to fish. My students lined the shoreline of a local farm pond where I had never gone without catching at least a dozen bluegills and crappies. The water, still cold from the recent melt, was clear and much deeper than I had left it at the end of a drought-addled summer. The recent runoff and recharge from the underground aquifer had filled it over its previous levels and well above its normal banks, but the fish didn't come up with the rising water.
One angler managed a small perch, but for the most part we enjoyed the warm and relatively calm conditions as I helped the students with their casting skills and on-the-water tips for both the fly rod and slip-float techniques. And while I always take it personally when I can't put my class on fish, I know that sometimes that is part of the game, and a real possibility with all angling. I explained to the group as to why I thought the fishing had been tough, and suggested we come back when things picked up later in the spring or early summer, while making the most of the time we had.
In the outdoors, the best laid plans sometimes don't come together. We have to adjust and improvise to find success, or just make a slow situation into a learning experience while celebrating a single fish here and there. And that's what we did. After three weeks of fly tying, jig making and spinner crafting an anxious group of anglers met with an anti-climactic finale, but learned that our time is what we make of it; even if it's just enjoying the first nice weekend of spring during a slow bite…in our outdoors.