Winter Fishing

By Beacon Staff

The way Doll paused at the doorway the other morning reminded me that in winter, you go when you can because you never know when you can’t.

The dog paused because the deck was covered by a fresh dusting of snow, snow that hadn’t been there when I had brought the dogs in the night before. Waking up to unexpected snow is not a remarkable event in the Northern Rockies, but it did force me to reassess my plans for the day. Fly fishing was on the agenda, but now I would have to think about it over coffee.

My plan for this snowy Sunday was to put a couple solid hours in at work, getting ready for the coming school week, then spend the rest of the day nymphing for trout. I had fished the day before, and did pretty well, landing five nice rainbows and losing probably just as many. The fish were all in that 12- to 14-inch range that seems to be on the good side of the dividing line between dinks (anything smaller than 12) and trout worthy of the adjective “nice,” as in, “That’s a nice fish.”

I may have had one fish on that would have qualified for the next level of trout admiration, the “niiiccee” fish category, as in, “That’s a niiicee fish, bro,” only you draw out the word, and emphasizing the “I” sound in a way that’s usually used by young men to describe unobtainable members of the opposite sex. Think, “That’s a niiicee swimsuit model, bro.”

Trout in the 15- to 20-inch range generally fall into this category.

Trout 20 inches and above are a category all to their own. These fish are usually described using words and phrases best left out of the pages of a family newspaper.

Don’t expect any rhetorical style points here. Once you get a look at a hooked fish in this category your puckered sphincter redirects your blood flow to only those bodily functions necessary for survival, thus preventing wasted oratorical flourishes. By the time you get one of these fish to the net the reptilian brain is in complete command and your only means of communication are primal screams.

I’m guessing about the “niiiccee” fish because I never got a look at it. What set it apart from the others was the way my line seemed anchored when I saw my bobber dip in the current as I set the hook. For a moment I thought I’d hooked a snag but the snag started moving away and I was helpless to do anything other than let it go. Then I felt a head shake and it was off. I didn’t see the fish, but it felt and acted heftier than those I brought to hand.

I had almost missed this bite entirely. On Friday I was supposed to join some friends at the spot below a major irrigation dam. Rainbow trout start feeling randy this time of year and the fish were stacking up below the diversion, which prevents them from migrating any farther in their quest to get busy with the piscatorial equivalent of swimsuit models. But I had stuff to do at work and was skeptical the bite was really on. It got late and I decided not to throw my gear in the car and head to the river.

The Professor sent me a text suggesting I had made a mistake: “It’s freaking insane down here – 20 fish so far!!!!”

Story of my life. The best fishing always happens the day before, or the day after I’m on the water. The only way to avoid this phenomenon is to fish everyday. That’s what I told myself when I headed out Saturday morning. It had cooled off since the day before, and I had stuff to do, but I paid my bills while getting the oil changed, and that, along with blowing off a couple things that could wait, gave me some time to fish. Despite the ice clogging my guides, it had been worth it.

As for today, we’ll have to see how Doll feels about this snow. I left my gear in the car just in case.

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