In April I focus on wildflowers--both literally and figuratively.
Admittedly, I do not look with jaundiced eye on morels that sneak into
my pictures (the hotshot photographers call them images), nor do I agonize
if the wildflowers and morels happen to be on the edge--or merely in the
vicinity--of a good fishing hole, you name the species of fish and I like
What I am saying, I think, is that although this month is known for
its showers (as in rain), the mere presence of that element figures greatly
in my outdoors pursuits involving the principals.
In essence, what I am saying is: early spring outdoor activities are
the spit and image of their brethren of other seasons, at least in the
important area of finding maximum outdoor pleasure with minimum effort.
Actually, while I most often categorize my outings at this time of year
as "mushroom hunting," I spend more time enjoying wildflowers than looking
for mushrooms. This is not all bad because I can be stopped in my tracks
by the beauty and mystique of either.
Then, of course, there is the fact that the time clocks of both spring
fungi and wildflowers--even fish--are on the same wavelength. For example,
when spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) blooms--right now in the
southern half of the state--the vanguard of spring fungi is pushing up
through the humus of woodlands.
Nobody says: "It's time to go." It just happens . . . scientists explain
it in a word: "photosynthesis," the short form for the length of day as
determined by the position of the sun.
However simple or complicated it may be, it is there for those who will
use it, and it has been the premise of my hunting/fishing activities in
all seasons throughout the year: "Mix 'em up and you'll love it!"
Of course, if the progression of the spring wildflower bloom tells us
when to be on the lookout for the many fungal species, it also will tell
us when they are slipping over the hill into Michigan and points north.
The bloom of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) joins the more
obvious lilacs (lawn shrub) in proclaiming that it is time for big yellow
(big yaller) morels. But when bloodroot flowers are replaced by elongated
green seed pods, the morel hunter will go for the large, long-stemmed woods
mushrooms with brown caps that seem to say: "It's all over, Charlie!"
Interspersed at ground level with the spring beauty and blood root on
the two ends of the spring wildflower spectrum are such standouts as adder's
tongue (a k a trout lily, Erythronium americanum), the toothworts,
dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), the anemones (rue and
wood), jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), the waterleafs,
May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum) and literally dozens of others.
Little wonder that the spring wildflower woods is best described as
a riot of color.
If the earth-dwellers are not enough to stir the hearts of spring outdoors
folks, there are the arboreals, just as numerous and spectacular, though
less noted in many cases.
Justifiably, we go gaga over the flowers of redbud, dogwood and a few
of the other woody growths, including trees. But every plant out there
buds, blooms and seeds in one form or another each growing season. It is
nature's way, and even though some of the buds and blooms do not offer
a stunning array of colors, they interesting and beautiful.
I would venture a guess that 99 or 100 Hoosiers who profess to be spring
morel hunters have never been awed by the tiny (half-an-inch-wide) burgundy
bell with green sepals that hang straight down from the twigs of paw-paw
"trees." Yet, the multi-colored sequin dots on the inside combine with
exterior features of the bell make it one of Hoosierland's most--beautiful
and colorful wildflower miniatures.
Larger, though seldom seen by human eyes are the blooms
of the various hickory species, or the yellow-green, tulip-like flower
of our state tree, the tulip tree (a k a tulip poplar or yellow poplar).
No doubt about it, catching a fleeting glimpse of that first mushroom
of the spring is a heart-stopping experience. But I figure if I see and
enjoy the residuals, mushroom will come my way.
If that way leads to a stream or lake that has strong fishing potential,
I let the chips fall as they may to enjoy the fishing while keeping my
eyes skinned for the wildflowers
Many years ago I sought to emphasize the fact that fishing is to "morelling"
and the study of all wild things (plant and animal) as bacon is to eggs.
To make my point--and create a cover picture for my first book, Indiana
Outdoors (now out of print), I motored to a small creek that fed
a large impoundment in the northern part of the state.
It was a beautiful, late April day that had been preceded by two days
of rain. As a result, the stream was a foot to 18 inches above normal and
rolling, but fairly clear.
I figured many of the bass in the impoundment had been lured upstream
by their spring travel clocks. It was solid thinking.
I found a spot on the creek where the gushing water--hellbent for the
Gulf of Mexico --cascaded through a narrow opening in the creek bed and
collided head-on with the exposed root wad of a large sycamore tree. The
water ricocheted off the roots of the tree and shot upstream along the
far bank to create a beautiful eddy.
Standing ankle deep in the swift water near the massive tangle of tree
roots, I cast a black Gapen's Hairy Worm (one-eights ounce) upstream to
the fast water and bumped it along the inundated gravel bar on the retrieve.
Whamo! And I flipped a flouncing largemouth onto the banks behind me.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, I caught several times my six-fish
limit of bass for the picture. I was halfway home. I had the bass for the
When my angling appetite was sated, I stood motionless enjoying the
beauty of the spot. My gaze zeroed in on a yellow morel with short stem
and a cap the size of a baseball in the brush at the base of the sycamore
tree. As I picked it, other ''yallers' seemed to creep out of the earth
around the tree.
Needless to say, the bass and morels became stars of the cover
of my first book -- notwithstanding the fact that they had to share
top billing with a character in the shade . . . if not a shady character.
Click on thumbnail
photo to see enlarged image.
beauty of a patch of bloodroot will stop me in my tracks, but the plants
also tell me stories about morels.
known as adder's tongue in a white variety, the trout lily is a good indicator
of the progress of spring development.