“Well, we said we were going fishing, and we did.” - John Gierach
B and I had been looking forward to spending our post-Thanksgiving Friday with our friend Speytrout, fishing for steelhead on his home river. We really wanted to get together, but the cold weather forced a unanimous decision to reschedule. All 3 ended up enjoying brief and separate fishing outings anyway, but with a lot less driving investment. I'm not sure where Speytrout ended up fishing, but we headed for 'Secret Creek' (not it's real name) since it's one of our closest steelhead tributaries.
We expected to fish only for an hour or two, or even not at all, since the temperature was only in the low 20's after a morning temperature of 10 oF. Yikes. Sunshine was infrequent and indirect through the big snowflakes and wintry haze. Without direct sunshine and/or temperature above 28 or 30, wet fly line freezes to iced-up rod guides pretty fast. And human fisherpersons, standing in a river, don't stay warm without shivering in these circumstances either. At 23o, we weren't too sure how long we'd last. Before we even had our waders on, we made a pact: if either of us caught a fish and one of us had to submerge any portion of an extremity to land it, we'd call it a day and warm up on the drive home.
Layered up in our warmest long undies and a double dose of fleece, we stepped into the river at about 3:00 to fish the last couple hours of daylight. Normally a popular stretch of stream, we found the river uninhabited with only one set of footprints in the snow. We drifted orange and yellow yarn eggs under indicators in a deep swirly hole for an hour and found nothing but a couple of underwater snags. The cold air did necessitate rod guide ice removal every 10-15 minutes or so. B and I leapfrogged each other downstream for another hour, bouncing black beadhead woolybuggers and nymphs through dark runs and riffles without a single tug. I think we were both a little surprised, and self-satisfied for some reason, that we stayed warm (enough) for 2 hours.
We discovered several of our old favorite deep bends and pools have been rearranged by a year of sand deposits and formation of new side channels. It's a bit sad, and simultaneously satisfying, to have been fishing the same river long enough to see these natural changes.
No fish catching to report, but we had a good time and no one got hurt. There is something very gratifying about fishing comfortably in snow flurries standing in a cold river. You can't do it for more than an hour or two sometimes, but most folks miss out on it altogether.
Layers of fleece necessary to tolerate 23o, assuming warmest longjohns: 2 heavy weight
Lost flies, B v. TG: 1-0 (a rare victory for me)
Wildlife sightings: slim pickins - a few cardinals, a Cooper's hawk, and a big male Marsh hawk.
Water temperature: a little crunchy around the edges
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A
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