The first week of April is usually the start of good blue-winged olive hatches on the Provo River. This little tailwater supports an unholy number of angler hours, and I swear most of them are squeezed into the short window when the water is still low, the bugs are hatching, but the weather isn’t good enough for the recreational tubers to float. Once the rubber hatch starts, the river gets too crowded for my liking. Plus, the high country starts to thaw by then, and I’d rather spend my time fishing next to a horse trail instead of a state highway.
This year wasn’t any different. I fished the Provo a few times in late March, hoping as I do every year that I’ll luck into an early blue-wing hatch. I saw the occasional big mayfly, but not enough to bring trout to the surface.
Fishing the blue-wing hatch on the Provo feels like flipping the reset switch in my little corner of the Rockies. It’s the unofficial transition from winter to spring. It’s the start of a brand-new season of hatches, of long, full days of fishing, instead of the truncated hours of daylight foisted upon us during the year’s coldest months.
For the past four and a half years, the blue-wing hatch has signaled the end of another semester at college, and the start of a summer free from those commitments. I made my way to college after a few years of bumming a room in my grandma’s basement and fishing as far as my 97 Chevy half-ton pickup and meager bank account could take me. As much fun as that was, I knew I eventually wanted a house and a truck with a working transmission. If I kept bouncing from job to job while I fished my way through any and all trout water I could find, I had a vague fear of where I’d be at 40.
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That fear was born from all the lonely nights I spent pulled off the highway sleeping in my truck because I couldn’t afford the $40 for a run-down motel. If I can’t afford this stuff, I thought, I’ll be living in a van down by the river in no time. With my luck, the river won’t even have any trout.
After a few come-to-Jesus talks with my dad, I reluctantly went back to school. I paid for half my degree out of pocket, a cost which I measured in my own exchange rate of tuition-to-fly-rods. For what I spent on school, I could’ve bought 30 brand-new, top-tier rods. Or 10 really snazzy bamboo rods. Or five original Garrisons.
Soon – because it takes six-to-eight weeks for the bureaucrats to run out of clever ways to charge me even more money – I’ll have a piece of paper on my wall. A piece of paper I could make and print myself at FedEx for ten bucks, which is probably more than it cost my university to print my diploma.
It’s not all bad, though. I’m lucky to have almost no student loan debt. I got married last August to the most wonderful girl in the world. My mother-in-law – despite what she’ll say in public – can’t stop bragging about me in private settings. Along the way, I’ve had to get creative with when and where I fish.
Instead of weeklong excursions to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Colorado, I’ve had to find places to fish between classes, or after class and before work. More recently, I’ve found water to slip off to in the middle of family get-togethers with my wife’s relatives. Her relatives are great – though I’m not sure they’d say the same of me – but I didn’t grow up with much of an extended family. It’s an adjustment to suddenly have consistent Sunday dinners, monthly game nights, and birthday parties to attend.
For a guy who’s lived most of his life marching to the beat of my own drum, I reckon easing into this new lifestyle is better than jumping in the deep end.
That college is in the rearview mirror, a few career options are on the table, and the blue-wings are hatching is serendipity that’s not lost on me.
For years, I’ve waited for the fish to start over, to start their season of growth and development.
This year, I’m not just an observer of that change. I’m actively participating in the process. A scary proposition, but one that not even us sentient, supposedly civilized and sophisticated humans, can escape forever.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer and guide from Utah. He runs the Utah Fly Fishing Company, is the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a columnist for Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Instagram/Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.