The weather seemed a pleasant interlude between the waves of blizzard and polar temperatures. Stepping into Spring Creek (near the Caledonia fish hatchery in upstate New York) I didn’t think I’d need the gloves I’d left in the car, but after three hours of non-productive casting, my left hand got so numb I couldn’t tie a necessary blood knot to save my life. I floundered into the snowbound woods and blew on my hands to get me functioning again. A half hour later I was good to go, and luckily, the air suddenly felt mild enough to certify a case of hope.
Earlier, on arriving at the tiny, garage-sized parking lot provided by the DEC, I found it filled with four other vehicles. Squeezing in on the ice, I suited up and began the short walk to that rare upstate commodity– an excellent trout stream free of ice in winter, thanks to the relatively constant water temperature throughout the year.
Public fishing space below the hatchery is limited, to say the least. The most popular and “productive” locations were occupied by earlier arrivals, but the good news here is that no matter where you stand, you’ll see fish. To catch them is another matter. The wild brown trout here have seen it all, and they’re often smart enough to deflate the egos of the most experienced angler.
Throughout the morning I tempted the fish with all the usual suspects– midges, streamers, scuds, emergers, and soft-hackles– without luck. I had to listen to anglers talking about their jobs, their marriages, and fishing successes– all of which is fine, of course, until you can’t “turn it off.” And it really sucks when you’re not catching fish.
But then I caught the turn-around. I got myself warm and comfortable, and more confident. There was one fly in the arsenal that I hadn’t yet tried. I tied it to the 6X leader point, attached a split shot well above it, and keyed in on a nice looking fish. It took. Finally.
And in the next 90 minutes I caught and released another half dozen browns, most of them well above a foot in length. Wild and colorful, and well-conditioned by the excellent nutrients synonymous with limestone flows.
Driving home, I encountered strong winds and a heavy mix of rain and snow. With a month of northern winter still ahead of me, it was good to have spent a day with the fishes, like having swallowed a shot of tonic for whatever lies ahead.