Snow is deep in the woods, and snowbanks cling desperately to the sides of our roads, gritty and grimy, but still lingering 10 days after the official beginning of spring.

Spring in Maine, of course, is our most reluctant season. It teases and taunts for a day or two, then recedes for another week, leaving bitterly cold gusts and that insult of insults: More snow.

Still, there are places that we can count on, year after year, spring after spring. Places where “spring” is simple, predictable and constant.

For generations, Grand Lake Stream has been one of those special places, and over those decades it has played host to a specific group of people who seek the one natural gift that is so hard to find at this time of year.

Flowing water is the lifeblood of this tiny Washington County township. Anglers covet it. Guides depend on it. And every year, the little river that runs through the center of town obliges.

Cool. Fresh. Babbling and roiling. Grand Lake Stream is there. And so are the fish.

That’s where we are this morning, all of us April Fools. Beside the stream that shares the town’s name, we lean on our trucks and trade tales. Then we shuffle down the bank — sometimes sliding on our rear ends is the safest way to get into the water — limber up our casting arms, and toss flies toward the landlocked salmon we know are huddled together in this famous pool.

They call it Dam Pool, and it’s easy to see why. There, a couple hundred feet away, sits that dam, which holds the waters of West Grand Lake at bay. More importantly to us, on this day, is this: That constantly flowing water that tumbles over the dam leaves this section Grand Lake Stream free of ice, year-round.

Predictable. Constant. Traditional.

Today is the customary opening day of open-water fishing season in Maine, though the rules on some pieces of water have changed, and allow for earlier angling celebrations.

And when much of the rest of the state is covered by two or three feet of snow, and lakes are iced over, that flowing water is a rare commodity indeed.

That’s why you’re likely to see the same faces here as you did last year, or the year before. Fly fishers who have spent the last six months huddled over their vises, tying the flies that they’ll use all spring and summer long, have had enough of winter.

They’re eager to fish. And today, that’s what they’ll do.

The water is cold — 34 degrees or so — but that doesn’t stop those who arrived in the post-midnight hours to vie for a spot in this famous pool.

Toes tingle, and fingers lose their mobility. Ice builds up in rod guides. And still, we’re here.

We eat sandwiches that we bought at the Pine Tree Store, which sits hard to the stream, just a few hundred yards away.Or we munch on some of the deer meat that we’ve been saving all winter for just such an occasion, cooked on Coleman stoves that we set up on our tailgates.

The hardest bitten of us usually arrive just before midnight, so that we can start fishing as early as possible: Once it’s April 1, the procession to the stream begins.

After daybreak, the crowd thickens, as a steady stream of cars and trucks begins to arrive. At the busiest times in past years, more than 20 anglers may find themselves ringing the pool, casting, while another dozen or so warm up on shore, waiting for another turn.

Some of us are working — that’s one of the cool things about this gig. Others sheepishly refuse to talk to reporters and hide when cameras are present, because their boss thinks they’re working.

No matter the case, we gather here, on this stream deep in the Maine woods, for a simple reason.

It’s finally time.

Time to stop hibernating. Time to stop shoveling snow. Time to get outside.

And no matter what Mother Nature says, “spring” means it’s time to begin seeking out those special spots … reconnecting with our fishing friends … or making new ones.

Yes, it’s sometimes cold. And yes, we might not catch anything.

But it’s opening day. And we’re here.

Really, what other choice was there?

John Holyoke can be reached at or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...