The clouds opened up on a hill overlooking Phillips Lake, sheets of rain pelted my car as I headed toward a patch of open water and my own personal opening day of fishing season.
Granted, I was a few days late — the official April 1 opener fell on Easter — but I had been reluctant to trade a sumptuous ham dinner with family for a few hours spent freezing my toes off in Grand Lake Stream’s Dam Pool.
Thus, I waited for a day when I had an available two-hour window free, and at my boss’s urging, headed east from Bangor late Wednesday afternoon … and drove into a torrential downpour.
That’s the way fishing is, of course: Some days, the weather is beautiful, and the fishing is horrible. Or vice versa. And you never really know what’s going to happen unless you actually get out the door and wet a line.
And honestly, this personal opening day wasn’t really about catching fish. Instead, I went into the outing with modest goals. I wanted to be able to say that I fished. I wanted to rig up my fly rod and limber up the casting muscles.
Simply put, I wanted to return to a familiar place, stare out at the water, and enjoy being outdoors again after a long, cold winter. As if on cue, when I turned off busy Route 1A and made my final approach to my destination, the rain simply ceased, leaving me no excuse but to fish for a bit.
My special spot for this day isn’t really a fishing hotspot, though the bobbers and rubber worms that dangle from nearby utility wires provide evidence that wild-casting youths sometimes stop by to spend some time.
More importantly, it’s a spot where a small stream flows into a large lake, and come this time of year, the stream starts winning that epic battle between winter and spring, and the ice begins to recede.
At this time of year, open water is in short supply. And I was determined to take a few ceremonial first casts into that lake, whether the fish showed up to participate in my hijinks or not.
This is a place that holds special memories for me, regardless of the season.
As a kid heading toward the family camp, this glimpse of Green Lake was our first sight of water en route to Beech Hill Pond. In later years, I ice fished here, and launched my boat at the landing and went for afternoon trolling trips, targeting landlocked salmon and togue.
In fact, the biggest togue I ever (almost) caught came from this lake, and I still kick myself over the mistakes I made while failing to land it.
Some years, on opening day, I’ve come here with live bait, or worms and a bobber, or lures, and have casted into the gentle flow where the brook joins the lake. I’ve hoped for the best, expected the worst, and been content to spend a half-hour or so just watching the water and breathing the fresh air.
That’s the way it was on Wednesday, too.
I tied on a smelty-looking streamer fly, cast it into the frigid water, and watched as my fly line slowly drifted farther from shore. Signs of a rough winter were everywhere: The detritus that had been washed in off the lake gathered next to the bridge. A hodgepodge of branches, leaves, pine needles, boards — and even a swim float — lay in the shallow water near my casting position.
At some point in the next few weeks, the smelts will run into this brook, and the landlocked salmon will follow, setting up shop in the cove I’m targeting.
At some point. But not today.
A friend who lives on the lake says he can tell when those smelts are present: He looks for the ducks and loons to congregate in the cove. They, too, like to feed on the fish.
On Wednesday, there were no ducks. No loons. No fish.
But there were first casts to make, and plans to make.
Among those: Return. Soon.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke