“I am fishing on Tuesday if you can swing it” reply “IN”
It is always nice when like minded anglers connect the dots and when I pay attention to it, it happens more than I realize. The same feeling at times when you have reminded yourself thirty times to check in with a certain friend and as you reach for your human encompassing device, they call you. There was no need for talk on this occasion as thoughts were allinging through text. “I am fishing on Tuesday if you can swing it” reply “IN”. There was plenty of data that had been contemplated prior to that enthralling 10 word conversation but that is a story for another time.
It has been an extremely warm early winter and thoughts of how strange it was to float this particular stretch of water in mid December without snow on the ground was just another sign of the times. The first lingering snow that provides a calming sensation and is reminiscent of when instead of cleaning your room you hastily shove everything in your closet and sit back at the relief of the aesthetic you quickly created, and the thought of what’s waiting behind the door and when to deal with it has vanished because your room just looks nice, had not taken place yet. The forecast suggested the weather might be changing in short order, but then again predicting the weather these days at times seems more like a carnival game that looks so simple yet it leaves you scrambling for more tickets in your pocket, and it is no longer relevant in my world. You just go. Not to mention canceling planned fishing in the busy phase of life is akin to crushing someone’s hopes and dreams.
As we pushed off of the summertime boat ramp and now a winter time boulder field, that overwhelmingly rush of floating away from it all, sank in. The wind was there a little more than expected downstream and was pushing the pleasant temperature a little closer to the edge of what is manageable. One of the fortunate things about the possible slow bleed fishing in the winter can provide, is that you can finally see what you are constantly curious about when the conditions are vibrant.
We were streamer fishing on this day and while my relationship with nymphing has come full circle as of late, I am fortunate to fish often enough to experiment and commit to certain techniques irregardless of the results.
The first pieces of the puzzle of the day came quickly, yet they did not necessarily fit, as the randomness of winter trout fishing can often change the shape of the pieces. Soon enough however we had put a couple of the pieces together and were rewarded with some nice fish. The weather also started to cooperate as the wind settled and comments of pleasantness floated around the boat coinciding with the confusion that it was actually mid december in the northern rockies.
At this particular moment I was standing in the front of the boat contemplating why so many eagles seem to be paired up on the trees, maybe one last party before winter finally set in? With one hand on the rod holding the line and sloppily roll casting towards the hasty bank and twitching the white streamer back to the anchor of another roll cast, out of habit while looking downstream for the next possible spot that could be a player. My other hand was in my chest pocket caressing the hand warmers that were giving me extreme pleasure and I was commending myself for finally bringing them, a fish moved on the fly.
“Did you see that fish”
The white jaws breached the surface of water and briefly engulfed the white streamer and followed it up with a toilet bowl flushing spin and disappeared. The dreamy thoughts of the hand warmer evaporated as my physical state snapped into action a couple of seconds far too late. Shock followed by loud expletives and of course a question “Did you see that fish” response “no I just saw the boil” and then “Do you want to go back” quickly “Yes”. After another pass and no signs of life we simply moved on. I make no attempts at guessing the size of the fish, but I do know it would be up there in the rankings with the largest trout I had seen in 2021.
“What is that fish doing in that spot” I said while standing frozen in confusion, bewilderment and mild frustration.
The river had set into it’s winter flows, roughly 950 cfs. The water temp would fall somewhere in the 40 degree f range and we were coming down one of the few fast paced banks on the river left due to the flows. It was a shallow run and it was short. Was the fish just moving up the river, switching to it’s winter locale?” Was there a hole there that was not apparent to the eye and the fish just lived there? A spring? Was the fish just out hunting? Or was the fish just different from all the others?
The size of the fish, where it was holding, the time of year, the flows, the temperature and it’s aggressive nature made no sense at all; it was a stark contrast to years of observations and discussions.
As we made our way back to the real world, Aristotle’s words were in my thoughts “The more you know, the more you don’t know”. The fish was briefly discussed en route “You know exactly where that fish is right” “Yes I do” Do you think she will be there again?” “No” I said. But then again I didn’t know and was content to sit with the missing piece of the puzzle.