A few days ago I was petting one of my English setters and I pulled a big clump of hair from her side. She’s not sick or anything, but it’s just that time of year when winter coats are shed in favor of spring attire. I decided I’d take her for a run through the woods to get her a little exercise and to leave some of her shedding hair in the sweetbriar tangles. We headed over towards a herring run where there is usually a small covey of quail.
On our way we passed a number of robins that had returned from the south. The birds were pulling earthworms out of the ground, and I made a mental note to pass that fact along to my kids. The ground was soft enough for their return, and that would mean that some of the shallow ponds would warm up and flip, which would make the bass and panfish come out of hibernation.
My dog and I continued walking along the estuary, and when I looked down I saw a few herring. Because they are a favorite food of the striped bass, herring are known as “Striper Candy.” Herring are anadromous fish which is a fancy way of saying that they are among the few species that can go live in both salt water and fresh water. Herring and their relatives, the alewife, make their way back to these saltwater rivers that have freshwater at their origin, usually a pond. Their cousins the shad, both the American and the Hickory, will come soon, too.
Spring is a wonderful time of year, and it will be even better in a few weeks when the shadbush blooms. I planted a bush in our yard a long time ago. When the shadbush comes into blossom the striped bass and the shad are in the rivers in good numbers. I’ll listen to the weather forecasts and the chatter on the docks, and that’s one way to know that spring is here and the fish are in. But I like to look at the visual signs that signify rebirth, and when the shadbush bloom I’ll head for the water. Right around then a choir of peepers will peep, and spring will have sprung. I absolutely cannot wait.
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com