The moon tonight

There is perhaps 50 feet of open water between the shore and the rotting ice on Lake Phalen, or at least there was about 1 p.m. today and the wind and the sun was working on it pretty good.

Last year, Katie reported on April 20 seeing the “green haze” of new buds on the trees in the Mississippi River valley as she crossed the river on the I-35E bridge on her way home from work. For four years, such an observation was my tradition–I usually associate the first sighting around April 10–but my work and my commute changed in 2008 and she has assumed the duty. With this year’s abnormally early signs of spring, we’re curious when it will appear. Stay tuned.

Late yesterday afternoon, Gabe and I explored the flooded St. Croix around William O’ Brien State Park. There were rumors of roving schools of silver bass–not a usual target but a seasonal opportunity and enough to scratch an itch. We didn’t find the fish, but we heard two kinds of frogs in a wooded ephemeral pond–one kind, similar to spring peepers but I think slightly different, shut up as soon as we closed our car doors 20 yards away; another kind, which sounded like a bunch of clucking hens, kept going considerably longer, but went silent abruptly once we were within sight of their lair.

Pairs of Canada geese made all sorts of ruckus wherever we went. I saw a bluebird in a most atypical location, in flooded timber far from any field, and right near it were a downy woodpecker and the first red-winged blackbird of the year, silent yet. A bald eagle flew over us as we threw poppers from the earthen dam between Lake Alice and the St. Croix. The water was wide open and I was distracted by thoughts of canoeing.

The flooded St. Croix in March looking upstream from William O' Brien State Park



Fishing guide Andy Roth over at Gray Goat Fly Fishing posted a brief report about a trout fishing outing yesterday on a western Wisconsin river. He also has a photo of what is considered a good-sized trout in this neck of the woods. Fishing was slow all day, but he stuck around until dusk and was rewarded.

“The first few hours were slow with a fish touched here and there but the deep pools were not as active as I thought they might be. I changed flies 12 times, adjusted weight and depth every 5 casts and generally went about my normal business.”

I got out for the first time of the season on Wednesday and I too found the fish finicky. I had a 10-incher I have to believe had been stocked in the river not two weeks before take my first drift when I switched over to a dry, and another hit my bright pink hunk of strike indicator putty later on. The nymph trailing underneath went unmolested.

It was, as always, great to be back out there. Unbelievable weather, though you could sense that it will–or at least should–be a while yet before the trees burst forth and everything starts to get green. And, like Roth, I had a really nice conversation with some other anglers at the bridge as I got ready to fish.

After a lot of snowmelt last weekend and a bit of rain, and then a couple days of dry, sunny weather, the river was plenty clear for fishing, but had a beautiful blue-green tint to it that put it in sharp contrast with the drab landscape of mid-March. What was most noticeably absent was bird song. It is still the season of the solitary crow, the early pair of goose.

Bare branches, brown grass
Cold river cuts through the land
Dead deer in the weeds

Don’t get me wrong, it couldn’t have been more beautiful. With the sun shining down with real intensity, all the snow gone, the White Pines’ subtle but strong color scattered along the bluffs, and that beautiful river flowing every steady right through all of it, I was in heaven.

It would have been nice to catch a couple more fish, but it was a good reminder that the fish don’t bite on your schedule. I headed home with the sun still pretty high in the sky, and didn’t stick around through the twilight hours, like fishing guide Roth.

Geese honk and crows caw
What’s without is what’s within
River flows, fish swim


Middle March

asphalt and concrete
beaten by winter
broken and cracked
drive across wisconsin
on the first day of spring

trees without leaves
ground without grass
sweeping hills,
dormant dairy farms
and warm wind

ridges and gullies
corn fields and tree stands
woodlots and knolls
an old world anew
a season survived

snow in the shady places
the lady faces west
and up
her eyes and her lips
smothered in sun