April showers

Paul Smith
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April showers bring May flowers, at least I suppose, in some regions of the world. What about April snowstorms? What do April blizzards bring us?

I did a little research to investigate where this phrase originated and what exactly it means, other than the obvious literal interpretation. It stands to reason that spring rains must melt winter’s snow before flowers can bloom. In addition, I discovered the proverb’s deeper message, akin to quite popular quotes like, “every cloud has a silver lining” and “everything happens for a reason.” I guess that makes sense. We must suffer through a little cold rain, maybe even a day or two of fog, before we smell the sweet fragrance of spring flowers.

Now that’s settled, the question still remains: what bloody good might we find in an April snowstorm? I’ll get to it, but first a little history.

Actually, this whole April showers affair dates way back in the 17th century, to our ancestral homeland across the broad Atlantic. Throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, in early spring the jet stream starts to move northwards, allowing large depressions to bring strong winds and rain in from the Atlantic Ocean. In a few minutes the weather can change from bright sunshine and blue skies to cold sleet and rain. Sound familiar?

I think we are certainly justified in hanging onto this particularly old proverb from our European past. The first record I can find of the saying is from a poem written in 1610. We’ve been contemplating and whining about weather for a very long time, and we still can do nothing about it. Might as well go out and buy a good rain jacket.

Let’s get back to April snowstorms. I bet our forefathers didn’t see a whole lot of those back in jolly old England, or on the Emerald Isle either. One thing is for sure and certain: nobody ever, in the history of human civilization, moved to or settled in Newfoundland for the weather. That I’m sure we can all agree on — Irish Catholics, English Protestants or recent immigrants from wherever in the world and whatever persuasion. We live, play, work and raise our families here on this Rock for other reasons.

You know, now that I think on it, there is quite a bit of good in an April blizzard. We had close to 40 centimetres of wind-driven snow over the first two days of April and I didn’t have to go to work. Instead of teaching physics, I tied up some salmon flies and listened to classic rock.

For a while, I tuned into VOCM’s “Open Line” and listened to folks complain about the weather. Their words didn’t change much; the wind continued to howl. I could hardly see across the road.  

Around mid-morning the snow eased off a bit and I decided to get a head start on my plowing. It was predicted by Ryan Snoddon to continue snowing all day, but I figured it best to push out what I could to make life a little easier for both me and my ATV. I think it was the deepest snow I pushed all winter. White powder flew back over my blade, making multiple passes essential. Notwithstanding, I had it all cleared in just under an hour. Back I went to tying Bombers and Blue Charms.

“There’s lots of snow in them thar hills.” Actually it was gold that made that line famous, but it rings loud and true right now for snow. To the salmon angler, that’s the next best thing to gold.

Now, what has snow in April got to do with salmon fishing? Plenty, I say, and over the last few seasons we have suffered for lack of it. Snow on the hills means runoff, and that in turn means decent high water levels when salmon angling opens in June.

We’ve been suffering through low warm water now for several seasons. I’m optimistic that the blight of a late spring will kindly bless us with cool powerful flows in our mighty rivers, for example Pinware, Gander, Humber and Eagle. “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good” — another wise proverb espousing the philosophy of April showers and May flowers.

Before the end of March I stored my snowshoes up over the beams in my garage.  I figured that snowshoeing was done for this season. I should have known better. I fear I’m beginning to think like city managers in St. John’s.

Sure, we don’t get much snow after the middle of March in Newfoundland. Check the records one and all. April Fool’s Day had a surprise in store for both me and snow removal planners. Good thing I didn’t store my plow blade. Anyway, my racquets were called back into service. It was decided to have one last winter-style spring weekend at the cabin, another silver lining in an April snowstorm. Snowshoes were essential gear and fly-fishing put on hold.

Friday evening, Robert, Cameron and I set out on snowshoes for the five-kilometre hike to our cabin. We left the truck as darkness fell over the snow-covered land.

“Headlamps on low, guys.” I hate talking to folks who keep their headlamps on high beam; actually, high intensity is a more fitting term. The technology is different than that used in car headlights, but my driving analogy might clarify the level of irritation for those readers who have never hiked or secured fishing hooks to leader by aid of a headlamp. Those gadgets are marvelous, and every household should have them on hand for power outages, flat tires, searching for the family cat and so on. I should dedicate an article now and then to outdoor gadgets. Watch out for a lighting review.

We secured our snowshoe straps and shouldered our packs. Cameron took the lead, breaking trail on the uphill stint; being the youngest has its privileges.

He switched his lamp to high beam and trudged on. He spotted a rabbit in the intense glow, just a few feet off the trail and sitting perfectly still. It hopped away as we got closer. I love snowshoeing at night, and I’ve done more than my share. What can you do when you’re anchored to the dreadfully modern-day job routine?

The Big Dipper dominated the sky, the snow barely lit by a sliver of  waxing crescent moon. The snowpack was perfect, our mid-size shoes penetrating just a few inches. I’d never seen April winter conditions so perfect.

We reached the cabin after about a solid hour on the trail. Rob switched on the solar-powered cabin lights and we switched off our headlamps. I opened the propane valve and began melting some April snow for a kettle of tea. Cameron fetched some splits from the woodshed and put a match to tinder. In no time the cabin was warm and cosy, despite an outside temperature of -7 C. Drinks of dark Caribbean rum were passed around and cigars were lit. Plans for the daybreak hike on snowshoes were sorted out amidst a haze of Romeo y Julieta and a smoking home-welded woodstove.

There are, indeed, blessings to be found in all manners of weather, including an April snowstorm.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every

opportunity. He can be contacted

at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com

Geographic location: Newfoundland, United Kingdom, Ireland Atlantic Ocean England Emerald Isle Pinware Caribbean

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