December 30. Nearly all the streams and rivers of the region were flowing high and muddy from the recent rains, but I found a headwaters stream that was manageable for fly fishing. I was close to the source of one of the longest river systems in North America and, for an hour or so, I felt comfortable casting a Glo-bug in the cold, dark hemlock woods of northern Pennsylvania.
I landed only one wild brown, a nice fish with color and, all in all, I got in some good practice for winter fishing– reabsorbing that slow-motion feel of rod and reel and line and (sometimes) fish with half-frozen fingers, toes, and brain.
January 1. Tim and I got together for a fly-rod outing once again, our fourth consecutive New Year’s work-out, despite some challenging conditions. Our options in New York were limited due to closed seasons, snowy weather, and a lack of time, but we did well, considering…
We opted to fish a Steuben County creek that neither one of us had much experience with. We knew that Mill Creek had a reputation for excellent wild trout fishing, if you don’t mind casting on a small stream through some really tight, brushy corridors. It’s an under-utilized fishery, at least by fly casters, so, of course, we thought it might be fun. The weather reminded us of steelhead conditions but, in fact, it was New Year’s Day, so what the hell…
I found myself up in one of those brushy corridors of Mill, in knee-deep water, when I hooked a nice brown. I pulled off my new gloves– a pair of cheapos from the Dollar General store– and stuck ’em between my knees while pulling in the trout. With a quick photo and release, the trout said goodbye and slipped into the roiling water, along with one of the gloves. Actually it all happened so fast I never saw the glove depart.
Later, I told Tim about the catch, and asked if he had seen a black glove floating by. “No,” he said. “It sounds like your trout might have stolen it!”
It’s possible. If so, no amount of winter practice could have prevented the theft. In that case, the trout had some New Year designs of its own– even if the use of a glove is less than practical in a trout’s small world.
We almost met the planet’s sorriest spin fisherman, a fellow who had just worked a deep ravine. Giving him credit for venturing out on a cold first day of the year, we approached him to say hello and to ask about fishing access on the creek. The guy was young and owned a nice truck. It seemed to us that he had reasons for being optimistic about his life, but when we said hello, he merely grunted and never even slowed his pace while heading toward his vehicle.
It seemed that something had stolen his sense of human worth, and it’s doubtful that the culprit was a trout. Even if he had just lost a massive brown in that ravine, he would have come out with a smile and a shake of the head, but no, a wild fish seldom steals a human soul.
“What are the chances we’ll run into someone that unfriendly while fishing this year?” asked Tim.
After hiking for about a mile on an abandoned railroad bed and doing some scouting for later in the season, we resorted to a nearby river, the Conhocton, upstream of Avoca.
It was getting colder. The wind was picking up, and snow showers filled the air. Ice began to form in the guides of our bamboo rods, but it was good to try the deep river waters, to cast in the dark winter air, and to catch a second brown.
The trout never stole another item from us. In fact, fishing for trout gave us something to remember, a gift to be shared among friends.
January 3. The air was 30 degrees, filled with flakes, and promising to become a lot colder by evening. It was a good time to do a little backcountry hiking and fishing.
All I really wanted was to feel the big woods again while practicing my underhand Glo-bug swing on tiny water.
I fished for an hour, dropping a fly into miniature pockets of the brook. Buckseller Run doesn’t have much trout “structure,” but it offers me a chance to get into the woods on short notice, and to hike away as far as I like.
I enjoyed pulling up small natives, even though they all got away before I could release them manually. Getting chilled, I put away the fly and hiked until the winter warmth returned and made the solitude feel perfect.
No. The wild trout never steal a thing.
I don’t know about that last statement, Walt. Those wild trout have, at the very least, stolen my imagination. I finished reading BLAM, too…beautiful, beautiful. Sometimes you make me jealous with the breadth of your life experiences!
Bob, you make a good point about the last statement. I can see how they steal imagination, but in my experience I like to think that wild trout borrow it, massage it, send it left and right to places it has never gone before, only to return it with a pat, “We’ll see you later, brother,” sort of thing. As for the book, thank you for taking the time to read it. And to see it, beauty, warts, and all.
Thoroughly enjoyed this, and I hope you’ve used up your bad luck in one go there. A glove is no price to pay when it seems like a soul went missing for the unhappy fellow.
Your photographs are beautiful in a chill inducing way (which seems a strange thing to write from up here!)
Thanks, Walt, and I’m stumped to think about what use a small fish might have for your glove, but it made me smile.
I’ll extend an ungloved hand to you in thanks for your appreciation. Yeah I hope the bad luck balanced out nicely with the good luck on the fish, and that we’ll all have a pleasant chilly winter from here on out. Glad I made you wonder what the fish was up to with my glove!
I think I found your glove frozen on my basement floor, Walt, but you’ll have to be more specific if you want it back.
Howard, I think it had a little Glo-bug hook embedded underneath the middle finger like a wart. Be careful here. Do you have it?
Those rascally trout might not steal ones soul but they can sure possess it. As for the wily one that made off with your glove, he must have been part gremlin, well known for making off with fishing gear. At least you got a look at the perpetrator of the thievery.
And I might add, that’s a swell looking reel seat on that fly rod.
Les, I almost forgot that trout at times do seem to have a rascally nature like the gremlins, but yeah, this guy didn’t have the characteristic fur. As for the reel seat, I too have liked it there, a comfy zone for the little Trout Bum rod. Thanks, and stay warm!
Always nice to get out and fish, no matter the cold. I did that myself December 30 on the Gunpowder for a few hours. Let’s just say Walt, you fared better than me in the catching department. Happy New Year to you and reading some of your fine print always brings a smile…
Thanks John, and have a happy and peaceful new year yourself. You’re right about cold weather fishing. As long as we’re not downright miserably cold, it’s good to get out there, fish or no fish, to commune with bare-bones nature where there’s always something going on if we take the time to look!
There could be a surge in Dollar General Gloves sales after reading this post. Colorful wild browns you guys landed, thanks for sharing
Well, thanks Bill. I don’t know about a surge in D. G. gloves, but if there is one, I hope that anglers don’t blame me if they lose their gloves on the water. I don’t particularly recommend these articles, unless the trout can prove to me that the gloves are somehow useful to them!
I posted this two days ago and it didn’t come through. Technology, right? It was something about your “newest” holiday tradition (being only in its fourth year), and how this was certainly not the WORST weather you’ve experienced on your New Years Day jaunt. Maybe we’ll find your glove in the Chesapeake.
Brent, glad you got thru this time. Our hi-tech has low performance sometimes, worse than a tired brain. The holiday weather wasn’t that bad this year, much better than the outing two years ago where we fished in windy 14 degree stuff! If the trout had decided to pass along the glove, it may eventually end up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, since Mill Creek, Steuben County, is actually in the Genesee watershed. That said, the glove is probably in some secret trout closet close to home. My theory.
Great post, you had me right there talking to Mr Grumpy and freeing the ice from the guides. It was a shame to have the story end and realize I had to get back to work.
Hi Kevin! Maybe you got him to talk more than we were able to, and then to find out what the problem was. Thanks for being here and commenting, and taking time out from work!
Fly fishing in the snow! Sounds like an adventure, theft and all… my husband got some flies for Christmas and can’t wait to try them out. Since it feels and looks like spring in AK, maybe he can sooner than later!
Mary Anne, Winter fly fishing can be fun, and since it’s probably warmer in Alaska than it is here (at least today), you guys might have a golden opportunity to try those new flies. If so, good luck, and a happy new year!
On a day when I receive Beautiful Like A Mayfly, wouldn’t you know Bleeding The Rocky River hits the mailbox. I have been making the attempt to do too many things at once and once my brain gets settled will be able to discuss things at greater length.
Doug, Take the time to settle the dust. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it!
Walt: I left a comment someplace else but I meant to leave it to your latest post, so I am writing it again. Can you e-mail me when you get a minute about several upcoming meetings regarding the plummeting wild trout population on Spring Creek in Caledonia and Mumford?
Yes, thanks for the contact. Will email you about this important situation!
P. S. to above… The DEC meeting re: Spring Brook and its fishery is scheduled for Jan. 11 at the Caledonia-Mumford High School from 7 to 9 p.m. Due to climate change for the past 2 winters, common mergansers had to relocate from the frozen Great Lakes to Spring Brook and, consequently, are the likely cause for a crash in wild trout populations in waters like the spring-fed creek.
Dear Walt. Finally getting a chance to get through some stuff. I sent a money order, but hope it covers the cost. I know that book is worth more than what I sent. Let me know when you get it and if it covers the cost. Love what I’m digging into so far. Peace and I’ll keep in touch. Later bro. Doug.
Ee god, mon, that was gift for the holidaze! No payee, please! Glad u like so far!
Sorry buddy. I wasn’t sure so I sent anyway bro.I am enjoying if that helps any. hahaha..