Recently my son asked, “Where does an old fisherman go when it’s just too cold to fly-fish?” Good question.
Lately, with daytime temperatures peaking near the single-digits (Fahrenheit), it’s a little too cold to be standing in water or falling through the ice. I hadn’t been fishing since December 10th, so this was clearly my longest dry spell of the 2017 season.
Since there’s always something for a pumped-up naturalist to do, especially in a time of holidays and odd traditions, I’m not complaining, really. As my son also noted, there’s an old expression that might have an ironic connection to my current status as a non-fishing angler. “Truly gone fishing.” It can be found in Pink Floyd’s song “The Trial” (from The Wall) and it implies derangement or outrageous behavior. Glad for an excuse to make myself useful, I took a walk down memory lane and, sure enough, there it was:
I’m truly happy that the toys in my attic (mostly books and angling and artsy-fartsy items, by the way) aren’t as burdened emotionally or as self-destructive as Pink’s (now there’s an understatement) but I get the drift. Let’s see what little toys I’ve picked up as gifts (or have stolen figuratively) since this cold holiday season began…
One frozen afternoon I accompanied wife and daughter to the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, New York. Every visit to this reconstructed village is an inspirational jaunt through early American history, especially in December when it’s only partially open and the crowd of visitors is minimal. I had glanced nostalgically at my fishing haunts along Spring Creek nearby (even there, man, it’s too cold to fish!) but soon got swept up with the period costumes, subject matter, and warmth from ancient fireplaces. No 19th-century fly shops could be visited, but damn, the hot mac & cheese and the home-brewed beer, colonial style, was tasty!
I was celebrating Winter Solstice with a walk out back and an Old Man Winter Ale in hand when I heard the high-pitched and repetitive too notes of the tiny saw-whet owl from somewhere in my grove of pine and spruce and tamarack. I don’t often see or hear this little creature of the night, but its too too too notes rang out loudly for several minutes as I stood there on my path and wondered if I’d had too many sips of Old Man Winter or had too many toys in my attic. Ultimately I decided that my friend the saw-whet owl was just presenting a bird’s good wishes for the new year.
The family’s traditional “whiskey walk” or Christmas Eve hike with my son and my brother was resumed this year, and it was fun, and cold. My son recently posted his report on our hike into the rollicking depths over on his blog, Bridging the Gap. It’s well worth checking out. We had dinner, spirits, gifts, and a bonfire just before the snow began to fall and Christmas closed in from the skies.
The days weren’t getting any warmer and, with temperature predictions for New Year’s Day predicted to peak at less than 10 degrees F., it looked as though Tim Didas and I could freeze in our six-year tradition of fly-casting on the holiday. Just when things were looking dim, I rediscovered an article in the Summer 2006 issue of Trout magazine about the world’s rarest and most imperiled trout, a wild fish only recently documented, and what a small group of bi-national pros is doing to save this newly examined species and to help indigenous people who live nearby. It was what I needed.
Reading about the rare Rio Conchas trout still dwelling in the Atlantic drainage of Chihuahua, Mexico, and then watching Joseph Temelleri’s 2016 documentary called Truchas Mexicanas, the Native Trout of Mexico, floored me with inspiration and, if not with hope, then with pride in what our species can do for another when push comes to shove. You don’t need to be an angler to love this nearly one-hour video on You Tube (link is at the bottom). It’s beautiful, from content to production. Anyone who appreciates cultural diversity and the wonders of nature should enjoy it. I’ve viewed the documentary twice and dreamed of visiting the Sierra Madre for adventure… “truly gone fishing.”