A Weather Break in February
Through the truck passenger window I notice the green aqua marine color in the deeper sections of the flowing stream. Immediately I feel an exciting vibe run down my spine. The water color looks perfect. After over a month without fishing because of the abundance of snow and freezing weather, Jim and I decided to hit some water on this sunny, 32 degree Sunday.
As I step out of the truck, the late morning February cold is felt upon my exposed warm skin. I take in a breath of the fresh air and even if I was blindfolded I would know I was near a stream! It’s just something every fisherman can smell when they are near clean flowing water. We walk on the packed snow upon the cabled wooden bridge that spans over the stream for a better look at the water. From above, the bright sunshine denotes, by reflection, every ripple of the gradual flowing water. Shelves of uneven edged ice extend from the snowy banks, layered with mounds of snow over the calmer water. Hopefully the trout aren’t hiding beneath these shelters. I notice the water is shallower than normal so it looks possible to wade between the ice edges and the deeper mid-section of the stream.
Bare trees line the far bank as the hardwood forest rests behind with a few standing pine trees among them. The well groomed grass, of the Public Park, is now covered with pure white snow from the bridge to the dam, practically untouched. Even the parking area is only half plowed because of the lack of visitors this time of year.
Turning downstream water rushes between boulders and rocks just below the bridge. My eyes look to the side of the turbulent water in search for an unmistakable shadow or tail fin. Through polarized lenses I search the shallow stony streambed for fish but nothing stands out in the clear clean water, even so, we know trout lurk beneath, somewhere. As we descend from the bridge, Jim, in his usual positive manner, comments that “we should be able to slam them today!”
Through my experience in winter and cold weather fishing for trout, it isn’t all that easy. The fish are lethargic and don’t feed aggressively. The left over fish, from stockings, are wary of fishermen and in clear water aren’t all the easy to fool. But I always like Jim’s positive attitude.
At the truck I put on my 3mm neoprene hip waders. Jim puts on a pair of lightweight breathable chest waders. I sure hope he’s wearing heavy weight gutchies if he plans on wading in the water. I assemble my 8’ GRF 1000 Cortland fly rod. I wasn’t sure if we were going to find open water on this wide stream or we would have to resort to a small brook stream in the ANF, so I brought this short rod instead of a longer rod.
Jim heads up to the first pool below the man made rock formation that extends across the stream. I put a chew in and head for the second pool to begin my fishing. I stand in the water between a couple of snow covered boulders. The first cast becomes a familiar feeling from the past month of inactivity. I roll cast, than overhand cast to get the feel of the rod and rhythm of my stroke. I drift a weighted nymph, than realizing that any takes will be subtle from the lethargic trout, I attach a small indicator to detect any strikes. Through the cold water I slowly wade and nymph fish with my rod tip following the indicator. It isn’t too long before I forget about any other thoughts except for fishing and the area around me.
My hearing is conscious of my suroundings, though the inactivity of winter is upon us. Water running and flowing over and through the boulders sounds like ice being stirred in a glass of Jim Beam and Squirt. Wavy water slaps beneath the ice shelves transmitting a soft gurgling noise that would normally be unheard if I wasn’t so aware of my quiet soundings. My eyes concentrate on the floating green tipped indicator among the glare of the rippling water.
Time passes unnoticed with my concentration on fishing, casting, tying and wading in the peaceful setting. With each drift I watch for any slight, unnatural movement of my indicator. My peripheral vision is aware of any uncommon surface movement though I’m sure there will be no surface activity due to this cold winter time of year. My hands feel the brisk air, my feet, somewhat, feel the chilled water through my boots and heavy sox but my soul and body find warmth in my passion of trout fishing that I have missed in the past month or so.
Continuing to wade downstream, in knee deep water, I cast just shy of the ice edges hoping to coax a trout from beneath. I work my way down to the next pool of water and continue my search. Downstream I work a triple threat slowly through the riffling swifter water. Below the riffles I tie on and convince myself a lime green latex caddis is the most tempting fly in my two fly boxes.
I cast across and mend upstream. The green indicator slowly flows with the current downstream in the reflecting glare of the sunshine. I peer through my polarized glasses with squinting eyes trying to keep it within my vision. I catch a slight hesitation and the indicator starts to submerge. I lift the rod and with a quick wrist set the # 14 curved hook. I feel the fish on the other end and watch my line tension and rod flex slightly towards my catch. I give a holler to let Jim know I have one on.
The girth of the 10” brown fits into the palm of my hand as I unleash the hook. I release the cold firm bodied trout into the just as cold flowing water. After releasing the fish I light up a Macanudo Ascot as a just reward.
After another ½ hour of loosening up the stiff joints, getting my rhythm back and fishing blood flowing more energetically, we decide to head back to the truck. We talk it over and head out for another stream in hopes of more open fishing water.
Oh, it felt good to get back into the water with the fly rod. Hopefully I won’t have to wait so long for the next break in the weather.