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Into the Outdoors: Traditional Weather Predictors

As promised last week, we are going with a little look at, for want of a better word, traditional weather predictors. These have made their way into American folklore and have been handed down for generations.

Every year, around this time, we are bombarded with predictions about the upcoming winter. A lot of so-called weather experts have sprung up on the Internet, and their sites are festooned with charts and graphs. That said, they often make totally opposite predictions. So, what do the old timers use to predict winter conditions?

One of the oldest folkloric predictors is the wooly bear caterpillar. My mother actually placed some stock in this one. The legend goes that, the darker the caterpillars, the colder the winter will be. I should say, that’s what is said around these parts. In some areas, they believe just the opposite. Over the years, I have reached the conclusion that this theory is pure baloney, and that the color of woolly bears has nothing to do with weather prediction.

Another old method involves squirrels. It is said that if the squirrels have really bushy tails, it is a sign of a bad winter to come. It has been my experience that squirrels just naturally have bushy tails. In fact, their nickname is bushytails. There is also a belief that if squirrels are hoarding away a lot of nuts that it is a preparation for very cold weather. Once again, squirrels always do that.

And finally, we have skunk cabbage. This plant is found frequently in moist areas, often along streams. Most of us have seen it many times while trout fishing. It’s name is well deserved, as it smells really bad. It is not good to eat. Anyway, there is a belief that if the skunk cabbage is tall, there will be a lot of snow.

There are many other so-called weather predictors embedded in the folklore of our society. I have focused on the winter ones.

On another front, many consider walleyes to be warm weather fish. In fact, I used to hold that opinion myself. These tasty critters are, however, rather active in the autumn. In fact, one of my best ever walleye catches, aside from charter fishing, took place on a brutally cold November on Pymatuning. The techniques are not the same in the fall as in the warmer months. The key to fishing now is to slow down. The fish are less active in the cold water, but they don’t stop eating.

One of the best ever walleye lures is the weight forward spinner. The Erie Dearie is probably the best known of these. Tip it with a worm or minnow, cast it out and slowly retrieve it. If you fish the Allegheny, which has a good walleye population, you will go through a lot of these lures due to snags.

Jigging can be very productive at this time of year. Sadly, that is a skill that I never really mastered. This late in life, it is doubtful if I ever will.

In closing, I have noticed some things which, while not bizarre, are, to me at least, a bit on the unusual side. There are several dandelions blooming in my yard. My dawn redwoods have lost their leaves earlier than usual, despite the relatively warm weather we’ve been having. I have also been seeing more groundhogs than usual this late in the year.

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