It’s been a funny old spring for an angler on the Arkansas. The usual rules of engagement haven’t been observed. What, you may enquire, are the usual rules? Well, they’re the ones where around the beginning of April the weather starts to warm consistently. River levels remain low and constant. The increased sunlight warms the water and the riverbed itself. Once the water temperature reaches around 54 degrees, millions of little bugs called caddis flies hatch. These caddis are feasted on by fish and fowl, and indirectly by fishermen, who descend on the river in equally impressive numbers to catch the fish that are catching the caddis.
But this time around, someone rewrote the script. The weather patterns have been all over the place – one day warm and in the 70s, the next snowy and 30. The river level has been rising steadily, making it harder for the suns rays to do their thing. Consequently, over the past month, scarcely a caddis had been seen. Which begs the question – where are the little buggers?
I’ve been on the river most days this past month, and have seen one day when there were caddis hatching in decent numbers, and fish feeding on them. Here we go, I thought, even proudly posting on Facebook that the hatch was underway. Since then, barely a thing. The odd caddis skittering about in the wind, the odd fish munching on one. In years gone by, they have hatched in incredible numbers, millions rising from the surface of the river like snow flakes in reverse. There is little you can do in such situations but pull the boat over to the side of the river and marvel at nature’s bounty and intricacy.
All this is not to say that the fishing, per se, has been lousy. Quite the contrary. The odd day excepted, the fishing has been consistently good. If your aim was to catch a fish on a dry fly, however, you may be disappointed. Which is your problem, and yours alone. Its a reminder that ultimately, each day we take what the river gives us.
But I still would like to know: what has happened to the caddis? Are they going to hatch later? Were last years males all firing blanks? Have they been taken up in some kind of heavenly insect rapture? Even the swallows seem to be in on the act. Usually, this time of the year, their nests under bridges are teaming with life and new hatchlings. So far, they have been strangely empty, as if they know something we don’t.
So from now on, when people ask me what’s going on, after this spring, I’m just going to shrug. Don’t ask me, I’m only a human.