Glass is half empty and half full

Sometimes in the outdoors you need to decide if your glass is half full or half empty. The heavy rains the end of last week definitely had me thinking my glass was half empty thanks to muddy, unfishable water.

Over the years I have traditionally spent quite a few hours wading in my favorite streams fly fishing for trout once we flip the calendars to May. The past three years I have been in Florida during the start of May and waited until I returned to make my first cast of the season.

Upon returning from the Sunshine State last Monday, I decided it was time to finally load the Jeep and try to catch my first trout of 2014 with my Sage rod and reel. But when I checked the weather forecast, I knew my window to fish was very small.

My first chance to fish was Thursday evening. I figured I would try to beat the heavy rains and thunder storms that were predicted to begin around 8 p.m.Unfortunately, the rains came a little early. I spent the first part of the evening sitting in my Jeep.

Once the rain started to slow down, I took a descent hike into my favorite spot on the Penns Creek. After arriving I sat on a downed tree, took a drink and tied on my fly. I waited patiently for the first sight of a trout sipping a fly off the surface of the stream.

But instead of tossing a fly at my first raising trout of the year, the rain once again started to fill the air. I decided to make a few casts so I felt like I actually spent some time fly fishing. About three casts into my season, the thunder arrived and the sky became black.

I figured that was a good sign that I should head toward my vehicle. By the time I returned to the parking area, I was drenched and feeling like I should have stayed at home. To make the night a little better, I stopped at a custard stand on the way home.

I knew the rain was going to be severe and would make fly fishing the next week or two nearly impossible. When I woke up Friday morning it was worse than I expected. On my drive to the office I passed a few large creeks that spilled out over their banks and onto nearby roads, parking lots and fields.

That discovery officially cancelled my plans to go camping and fish Pine Creek over the weekend. After jumping on my laptop, I saw the water gauge I check for Pine was up nearly seven feet and rising from the previous night.

Needless to say, at that point I knew the early portion of my fly fishing season was a bust. Most years I put my gear away by the middle of June. By that time water temperatures are warm enough that battles with a fish could end up killing it due to stress levels. Since I do not kill the ones I catch, I do not feel it is very good practice to catch a trout that may die even if it is released.

But as I look upon the situation at hand, I can see there are many reasons to think my cup could be indeed half-full. The biggest bright side to the rain is that my fly fishing season should be extended. Rains and the resulting high waters allow for longer fishing into the summer. The water stays deeper and colder, both helpful for ethical catch-and-release.

A few years ago the same conditions occurred and I had some of my best days on the water in June. I am hoping history may repeat itself.

Besides fly fishing for trout, the high water also will provide more opportunities to enjoy other activities on the rivers and streams. Kayaking was the first activity that started to get my perspective switched on the cup scenario.

Over the years I have kayaked in Alaska, Maine and many parts in between. But my favorite places to kayak in the spring and summer are Penns Creek and Pine Creek through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Without high water, some of my favorite stretches are hard to float without getting out at certain spots.

I believe there should be ample water to get the boats out the next few weeks because of the latest storms. There is nothing wrong with trading in my fly rod for a paddle in my opinion.

My other favorite summer activity combines a fishing rod and a kayak. Very few things can be as fun (and usually productive) as floating down a river or creek in a kayak and tossing top water lures at smallmouth bass. When the water is high enough for an efficient float in the summer, I jump at the chance to battle what is pound-for-pound the best fighting fish in the Keystone State.

It appears I should not be as bitter about the rain situation. Despite not landing my normal quota of trout on dry flies, I should still have the opportunity to enjoy our local waterways.

While it is sometimes easy to get frustrated when things do not go according to plan, there is always a Plan B, depending on how your cup is filled.


Zach Knepp writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.