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Spring signs fill the air, waterways.

Byline: Mark Blazis

COLUMN: Outdoors

Bumblebee queens are flying. These gentle and highly beneficial natives mated late last summer and successfully withstood the winter. As the sole survivors of last year's small colonies, most numbering less than 300, they are singly emerging and, without help, will soon be laying fertile eggs, developing a whole new colony from scratch.

As green vanquishes gray, phoebes, flickers, white-throated sparrows and song sparrows are singing passionately, while downy woodpeckers telegraph their Morse code love notes on any resonant wood they can drum. Male goldfinches, drab green last winter, are nearly all yellow now, matching our daffodils. Painted turtles are sunning and broad-winged hawks will soon return to feast on emerging snakes. Red maple buds are decorating swamps, and blue-eyed grasses dot our fields. My bird dog, who yesterday flushed a snipe in a flooded meadow, is collecting ticks like a magnet again, and I've already swatted my first mosquito. As our rivers subside, the tide of spring is rising.

Stream stockings done

The long-awaited first stocking of local streams finally took place this week. They included the Ware River in Barre, Hardwick, and Ware; Quinapoxet River, Holden; East Branch of the Swift River, Petersham; Stillwater River, Princeton and Sterling; Quinebaug River, Sturbridge. Stocking also continued in still waters including South Pond, Brookfield; Mossy Pond, Clinton; Bartlett and Fort ponds, Lancaster; Whalom Lake, Lunenburg; Carbuncle Pond, Oxford; Big Alum Pond, Sturbridge, and Singletary Lake, Sutton.

At Wachusett Reservoir, B&A Tackle reports flooded conditions but good fish. Blake Waller and Howie Turcotte caught smallmouth bass weighing 4 pounds, 15 ounces and 4 pounds, 13 ounces, respectively. Ed Manning landed a 4-pound, 6-ounce largemouth, and Joe Maple took a 3-pound, 7-ounce laker.

Fly fishermen get ready

It's time now for the fly fisherman to get out his waders, graphite or bamboo fly rod, olive and black wooley buggers, weighted hare's ear nymphs, streamers, emergers of all sizes - I carry them down to size No. 24 - and even some dry flies for the first hatches.

Caddis flies are hatching now. I always have some size 16 or 18 Adams or dark elk hair caddis in my fly box to mimic them. It's rewarding to recognize and then precisely match the hatch on which trout are selectively feeding - especially if you've previously tied the fly yourself.

The emergence of mayflies depends on water warming into the magical 50s. In a few special, fast waters, we could have our first Epeorus pleuralis or Quill Gordon action (size 12-14) when water temperatures reach 50 degrees a few days in a row. Don't look for them in polluted or silted waters. They're barometers of pristine conditions. If Quill Gordons are hatching, you know you're fishing a beautiful, cold running trout stream.

Slow, muddy, low-elevation coastal streams, of which we have several in eastern Mass., will first inspire rising trout when water temperatures reach 55 degrees. Then, the reddish-brown Leptophlebia cupida nymphs emerge. They're best imitated by size 12-14 black quills. Look for them on the West and Parker rivers.

Red quills and Hendricksons (sizes 14-16) that imitate Ephemerella subvarias should soon after provide the best dry fly fishing of the season, all in the comfort and convenience of early afternoon, especially between 2 and 4 p.m. The cooler the air temperatures, the longer the emerging duns seem to float before flying off. Their lives are tenuous, nourishing fish eagerly feeding from below and birds flying overhead.

Again, we need water temperatures in the mid-50s and higher. Males and females of this species differ markedly both in color and size, so it's sometimes helpful to have each imitation in your fly box. The late Art Flick invented the Red Quill to imitate the smaller male, and Roy Steenrod invented the slightly larger Hendrickson to imitate the slightly larger, egg-filled female. They may be the most esteemed dry flies in America, considering this hatch is our most prolific.

Mark Blazis can be reached by e-mail at markblazis@charter.net.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 9, 2010
Words:667
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