Anglers who rejoiced when the thermometer reached record-breaking levels in late March must have been in shock on April Fool’s Day, the first day of the fishing season in western Nova Scotia.
In the early morning hours of April 1, the thermometer plummeted at least 30 degrees (on the Fahrenheit scale) and a storm front moved in. By first light, it was cold, dank, drizzly and apparently unfit for fishing. I knew from experience, however, that unless another ice storm knocked us for a loop, somebody would be out fishing somewhere on opening day.
To prove to myself that I was right, and to get a few quotable insights from hardy early season anglers, I donned woollies and waterfowl coat and drove into the country. The route I took along Brooklyn Street runs parallel to the Cornwallis River for several miles. The Cornwallis is favoured by early season anglers and usually someone fishes it on opening day. Sure enough, just above tidewater I spotted a lone angler gearing up beside his vehicle.
“The water isn’t good but I thought I’d give ‘er a try anyway,” the angler said. He had been fishing upstream near the Lovett Road bridge, a spring hotspot, but he hadn’t caught anything. I could see he was anxious to get to the river – “my favourite pool is here” he said – so I wished him good luck and waved him on. “I’m trying worms,” he replied to my last question.
The angler told me there were fishermen at Lovett Road bridge and as I drove that way, I looked the river over. The Cornwallis was lower than average for early April. Meadows recently flooded were clear and there were stretches where the river was almost within its banks. While this heralded the possibility of an early fishing spring, I knew from experience that it didn’t mean diddly. April is notorious for sneaky snowstorms and heavy rains; often the month has snowfalls, rain and cold spells as nasty as the worst winter months.
At the Lovett Road bridge anglers were scattered up and down the riverbank. Below the bridge, four anglers hovered near a canvas lean-to. Using worms, they had caught several brown trout – plump and in excellent condition – in the 12 to 14-inch range. Another angler had two trout of roughly the same size and that was it. Eight anglers had taken five trout and they had been on the river since dawn. Not a good start to the fishing season but it was typical for opening day.
In the afternoon I scouted the upper reaches of the Cornwallis and found a solitary angler who had nothing to show after dunking worms for six hours. North of the Cornwallis, in brook trout country, nobody was fishing. While free of ice, the county brooks I looked at were the colour of rusty nails; like the Cornwallis, water levels in the brooks were generally lower than usual.
Overall, it was a poor – but typical – start of the fishing season. Frankly, the season opens too early. The mid-month opening of the season in the eastern end of the province is a bit more sensible but in an average year, it usually isn’t fit to fish through April.
Someone always asks me why so many anglers fish in April even when the water is poor, the weather wintry, and the chances of catching trout almost zero. I have a stock reply. “Open the trout season in January and someone would go out and fish.”