The work whistle blew and a few minutes later I was on a bike, riding in the surprisingly cold wind that felt more like winter than spring. I did my best to ignore it and focus on what the calendar says: spring. I knew the air temperature was about 38°F, but was hoping the few days of bright sun might warm up some water enough to get some local fish going.
I stopped by the pond closest to my house, and once again the only activity was frogs. I kept on riding.
As the freezing cold wind blew, I wondered why I decided to wear a wool sweater and a vest that doesn’t zip. The frigid air felt like it was blowing directly on my skin.
Then I got to the pond, which at one time seemed to be full of fish. I hadn’t pulled a fish out of there in months.
I checked some of the regular spots and didn’t notice any activity, anything to suggest fish might want to eat a fly or a lure. I considered heading back home, but instead I assembled my fly rod and tied on two flies- one of my freshly-tied march brown wet flies, and a big black nymph on the bottom. My first fish of the year came on a two-fly rig, and I’m intrigued by giving the fish two choices.

a bunch of march browns

I fished for a bit with no success, but I watched the water carefully for any clues. It was a fairly windy day (like it usually is) and the sun was alternating between shining brightly and being hidden by clouds.
During one of the times the sun wasn’t hidden by clouds, I noticed something in a small strip of sunlight on the water: there was something happening on the surface. From 50 feet away it looked like little raindrops, but when I looked at the rest of the pond I realized it wasn’t raining even a little bit. Could this be a hatch!? I’d read about insects selectively hatching only when the sun hit their particular stretch. Was this happening right now?
Even if it wasn’t a hatch, at least there was some activity. I thought I saw some fish-like movements right at the surface. I quickly moved myself into a better casting position and cast my flies right into the surface activity. From my new vantage point I was convinced there were bugs swimming around the surface, but they were so small I couldn’t see any in the air.
My second cast connected with a fish! So there were still fish in this pond!

The bluegill hit my #12 impression of a march brown, which is my new favorite fly. I wondered what it was about the fly combination that convinced the fish to strike. Was it the extra depth due to the heavy nymph at the bottom of my rig? Was it the light color of the march brown fly? Were they attracted to the black fuzzy nymph but decided on the smaller and more realistic march brown?
I thought of these things as I released the fish. My next cast resulted in a giant mess of fishing line, which I quickly cut and replaced with a new strand of mono and retied the march brown. I noticed the heavily dubbed and hackled fly sank very slowly, mostly floating at the very top of the water. That was exactly the action I wanted for this fly- it seems bluegills are always focused at the top, but not always interested in something floating above the water. A small fly in the surface film might be a consistent bluegill producer.
Although my own march brown wasn’t the best specimen of that particular fly pattern, I thoroughly enjoyed fishing with such an old fly pattern. If it worked in 1639, it should work in 2013. Especially if nobody else uses those ancient patterns. There’s a reason those old flies are still around.
I fished for another 20-30 minutes, but couldn’t connect with the fish I suspected were there. By the time I left I wondered if it was indeed the combination of the two flies that was successful, as the single fly alone failed to find another fish.
But as I rode home in the ice-cold wind, the sun setting, I was happy.

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