I had “slept in” until 5:30 am. There was no rush to get to the river by dawn, as the temps were low and I didn’t want to deal with icy trails in the dark.
When I arrived at a favorite pull out, I was the only car there. When I got to the river bank, I didn’t see any other anglers. I was glad because of it.
It was a sharp change from two weeks ago, when the day was warm and the trees were bursting with peak-fall colors. The recent storm had knocked down the leaves, leaving most trees bare, gray, and looking a bit sad.
I walked for a bit and arrived at a favorite spot. The water was high and dark and looked angry as it rushed by the bank and over and around the boulders.
Fishing is very much connected to the seasons. When you go out in the heat of summer, everything looks and feels lush and verdant. The river traffic is high, and anglers have to arrive very early or pick and choose their spots to try to ease into an area without irking others.
Winter is different. You’re usually all alone out there. And, the people who do fish are often under-dressed and leave their spots after just a little bit. You have neighbors, but they’re soon gone.
But, my gosh, it is beautiful in the winter. It’s beautiful to be alone on a dark river with menacing clouds gliding by. It’s beautiful to see nature in repose, taking a break from a spring bursting with life, a summer’s languid days and warm nights, and an autumn’s gradual retreat, as life folds onto itself and disappears. Winter is a time for rest.
Fish still feed, though they’re mostly resting and conserving energy. You dupe them with slow-moving streamers that resemble a wounded baitfish. Or, you try your hand with artificials that mimic worms awash after some rain or eggs in the drift from spawning trout. Sometimes, small bug patterns work, too.
But, winter fly fishing is mostly a game of persistence, as you drift innocuous bits of feather and fur on a hook, hoping to tempt a fish to awaken from its stupor for a snack.
I saw a few fish on what ended up being a typical slow winter day for fishing. But, it’s a joy to see a good-sized brown trout no matter the time of year. They’re feisty in the oxygen-rich cold water. They’re hard to fool in the winter, and each one you see is well-earned.
You take the slow days of winter with the lights-out forays in the spring. Each is fun but different in its own way. It would not be fun if it were always easy, after all.
There’s a life lesson there, I suppose. But, for me, it was a wonderful moment to be outside and to forget the worries of the world….