costa rican rainbow trout
Backwater Fly Fishing

Opening Day of Trout Season Means More Than Just a Full Stringer

In the next month or so, millions of anglers will make their way to a favorite stream, creek, or lake.

Opening day of trout season is upon us, and for most anglers, this day signifies more than a limit of fish.

A rite of spring, a highly anticipated day on the outdoor calendar is the opening day of trout season. Both diehard and casual anglers look forward to pursuing the coldwater fish, as well as the memories that go along with the chase.

For some it is the first relief from months of cabin fever. Others enjoy the gradual transition of the seasons.

The forest floor begins to change from barren browns to lush hues of green. The songbirds have returned to serenade us, ushering in a re-birth of the forest around us. The sights and sounds of spring consume your senses, well before your first cast.

Fly fisherman catching brown trout in river

Some of us carry on lifetime traditions, returning to the same stretch of creek year after year. For as long as I can remember, myself and a group of friends have made the yearly pilgrimage to a 20-yard stretch of the Wissahickon Creek. We originally were accompanied by our fathers and uncles.

When we got older, we would ride our bicycles, then take our trucks. Now we look forward to bringing our own children, nieces, and nephews to sow the seeds of trout fishing appreciation in the next generation. Along the stream banks there are countless groups of anglers, some spanning three generations, sharing stories of opening day's gone by.

In Pennsylvania, you cannot make the first cast on opening day of trout season until 8:00 a.m. As we anxiously await, the minutes that tick by are filled with memories and laughs from previous years. The palomino trout that spit out multiple spinners. A discarded pair of compromised waders. Our group recalls these tales year after year.

We place side bets for first fish and most fish, which the same friend wins every year. We all go along with it, as tradition mandates we do.

Our laughter is interrupted by the occasional jumping trout that briefly breaks the water's surface, sending ripples in a perfect circle to the opposing banks. By now, we have all tied, and re-tied, "the lure" that will catch us that coveted first fish.

At 7:59 a.m. we all line up, waiting for that first bold angler to take the first cast. As the first in-line spinner churns the once still water, we all hastily cast to follow suit.

As I reel in each cast, I anticipate the first strike of the season. Once my rod tip bows, I set the hook, and the chase is on. While I remove the hook, I pause to admire the iridescent pink line that streaks across the side of a rainbow trout. Or, I count the few red spots amongst a sea of black ones on a brown trout. The natural beauty of the fish is valued more than its size.

While we will take some for the frying pan, the majority of trout are admired and released.   

By 10:00 a.m., we take our final casts and exit the creek. The responsibilities of adulthood have limited what once was an all-day affair. While we strip off our waders and secure all our lures, we reflect on the past few hours.

The laughs that we shared on the bank will stay with me throughout the day. For the last few hours, we had no bills, jobs, or worries. We were just a group of 10-year-old kids trying to catch trout, just like we have been for the last 20-plus years, on the opening day of trout season.