"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres
April (written in 2004)

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 it.

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 and morels.

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 picture.

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.

bloodroot.JPG (68756 bytes)
trout lily.JPG (18283 bytes)
The beauty of a patch of bloodroot will stop me in my tracks, but the plants also tell me stories about morels. Also known as adder's tongue in a white variety, the trout lily is a good indicator of the progress of spring development. 

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All columns, stories, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the Scifres Family.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Scifres Family, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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