Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Playground is Open

Come On In - The Water is Fine

The wind howls on and off like a freight train, reminding me once again on this cold February afternoon who is boss out here on the river. My face is numb and my feet feel like concrete blocks as I stumble along the riverbank.

No, this isn't a fool's errand; it's part of the plan. The diligent and faithful few who adhere to the plan are rewarded handsomely.

The river is strewn with boulders and ledges. At the bottom, there are hungry beasts. You can't see the beasts, but their lairs are unmistakable. They are dark, foreboding places.

I pull a small streamer from my pocket. 
My clumsy, numb fingers struggle to tie simple knots. I start getting shaky. Not from the cold, mind you; from the anticipation and nervous tension.

I know the kind of trout that live here. I know what this place is capable of.

The streamer rockets across the river as I throw a large upstream mend. I count the seconds as the fly settles in deep toward the bottom. It's dark down there.

The line begins to tighten as the fly swings through the current.  Seconds pass. The anticipation is killing me.

The resulting jolt is indescribable. The river's tranquility is abruptly interrupted with an act of aggression. 

My rod doubles under the intense pressure. This is one of those fishIt's a beast.

I struggle to get a glimpse of the beast, but can't raise it. My best efforts at turning the fish go unrewarded as it bulldogs its way back into the boulders.

My line begins to sing like a banjo string. This is not a good sign. Too much tension on the tippet.

Then, as quickly as it began, it is over. The tension is relieved and the line goes slack. The beast and the boulders have won.

Some days, the beasts drop their guard and you become a hero. Other days, they put you in your place.

I am deeply disappointed. However, the disppointment is buffered by many other good fish that come to hand. Repeat after me: "The winter playground always rewards the diligent and faithful few who adhere to the plan."

Most fly fishermen describe the winter season as a time to "pay your dues" and wait for nature run its course. I think of winter as one of the best opportunities of the year to catch a large trout. The water is easy to read and there is significantly less pressure on the river. It's not for everybody, but I find it extremely rewarding.

All of the fish in these photos were landed this week in near-freezing temperatures.

Many thanks to Chris and Shane for a great time and photos. You've got to love a couple of guys who - after watching you set the hook on a good fish - drop their rods and run over with a net and camera to assist. Much appreciated, gents.

(All photos in this post by Chris Cutler.  Thanks Chris.)

1 comment:

  1. Jiminy crimmus, man. Do you even have small trout out there? Beauties, those are.