So it is said, however the month of March comes in, it will go out exactly the opposite. In like a lion, as in bad weather, means one should expect a gentle, lamb-like, exit to the month. And the start of March seemed very much lion-like on the eve of my 56th birthday this year. I planned to trek south to Lancaster, PA to attend The Fly Fishing Show as well as visit Cabelas and the TCO fly shop in nearby Reading.
I was on a mission to look at some switch rods. Several of the rods and brands I was interested in were either at the show or at one of the retailers nearby. And the one I had the most interest in, a JP Ross Trib switch rod, might be on hand at the Tailwater Lodge booth at the show. Tom Fernandez kindly said he’d try to have some available though he himself wouldn’t be at the show.
So I woke up early Sunday morning and with coffee at my side, looked bleary-eyed at weather.com. I had every intention of leaving at 6 am so I could get a full day of browsing and shopping in, but the weather forecast was pretty shady for starting off in the dark. It was snowing heavily already, and the forecast was for more of the same for the next few hours. I figured I’d wait for light and then hit the road.
I left around 8 am and drove down Grippen Hill without too much of a problem even though the roads were not plowed. I passed a guy coming up the steepest section – his Corolla was at a slipping crawl. That was the first moment of many where I began to question my judgement.
Being an early Sunday, the likelihood of plowing activity was not good but I thought, optimistically, the highways should be clear. I was soon on Route 17 West and found the highway in pretty poor shape. The slow lane was clear with tracks – the fast lane was completely snow-covered. But I continued on despite it all…
I made Lancaster by noon. A fine and historic town I must say. Everywhere it seemed there was brick, colonial architecture, narrow roads, plaques speaking to history…
After parking, I walked to the convention center through pelting sleet and snow. I walked carefully, then decided to take a covered walk that was two steps down from the sidewalk. Wrong move – feet up in the air – followed by back, elbow, and stone stairs all colliding at once. Oh, I got up fast enough, like a pro boxer unexpectedly knocked down by an underdog. I brushed myself off and headed into the convention center entrance wondering if anyone saw me.
The convention was nice. I’ve been told the Somerset version of The Fly Fishing Show is better, but this was a first visit for me so I was impressed with what I saw. I walked around to get the lay of the land. I saw Bob Clouser, Joe Humphreys, Lefty Kreh, and George Daniel. I stopped at some of the fly tying booths, gawked at all of the fly rods and reels. I breathed it all in and thought of spring fly fishing.
The casting seminars were great. I was particularly intrigued with the casting demonstration of Joe Humphreys. He MC’d every cast, threw in puns and jokes, and made it a lot of fun to watch. It was all about simplicity and just watching him made it all seem so easy.
Fly tyer Safet Nikocevic was on hand. He ties some beautiful Caddis nymphs that I had read about in a fly fishing magazine. So was Mike Hogue of Badge Creek Fly Tying – a great local fly tyer, fly fisherman, and retailer.
As I walked around I finally spied the Tailwater Lodge booth. Two nice ladies were at the booth, but I saw no fly rods. I was expecting a rod rack and possibly some other gear but the exhibit was only about the lodge.
After a few laps of the exhibits, I thought I’d better at least ask about whether the rods had made it down to Lancaster. I approached the booth and before even opening my mouth to inquire, I was immediately greeted with, “Oh we have two rods for you…”. I assembled both rods, gave them a wiggle, and admired their beautiful fit and finish.
It’s not a first for me, being a JP Ross fly rod owner. I purchased a Beaver Meadow 7 foot 4 weight 2 piece years ago and was utterly impressed. I soon put the rod to good use on the creeks and small streams of the Southern Tier.
I also purchased a workhorse of an 8 weight that has done double duty for smallmouth bass and steelhead.
This switch rod is designed primarily for trib fishing for browns, rainbows, steelhead and salmon. I plan on putting it to work on the Salmon River this spring for hungry dropback steelhead.
After going over the rods thoroughly, I knew I couldn’t walk away. They felt too good in my hand. The Salmon River called to me and I decided to bring the 8 weight home.
I spent a little more time at the show but decided I best leave by 3 pm. I was advised by Mike Hogue that the bad weather was not letting up. So with rod tube, fly tying supplies and other miscellaneous tackle in hand, I set out for a long drive home. A 3 hour drive gradually lengthened to 6 hours – 6 steering wheel death-gripping hours, with my side still hurting like hell. Cars littered the side of the highway – snow plows came out in force. Darkness overtook the light. I drove on, just wanting to get home.
I finally got to the base of Grippen Hill, and after looking up a steep climb, the road deep with virgin snow, decided that March had indeed roared in like the King of the Beasts. After a long bitterly cold winter, it seemed like spring was ages away, not a mere 21 days. At least tradition promised a lamb on the other side.