We watched daylight race the river downstream …

by | Jan 3, 2017 | 10 comments

 

**NOTE**  Entering the holiday season and visiting family over Thanksgiving reminded me of a special stretch of fishing trips a few years back. Here’s the story of those last days of 2016.

 

My waders are leaking again. I noticed it around noon today, when cold water saturated a leg seam. They seeped through the breathable membrane and soaked three layers of polyester fleece (or whatever other synthetic fibers make up my wading pants). I was waist deep in the river when I felt it, and I just kind of shrugged. I’d already lost multiple studs off my boots, and I’d fallen face first in the river, chasing downstream after a spool of tippet I’d dropped. What more? Who cares? I was fishing, and I was happy. Shit happens.

The leak came on my fifth consecutive day of fishing. The holidays provided some opportunities that don’t come to me very often — so I took them. I’m a Dad and husband with a job and a list of home improvements to do, so five days in a row don’t come around like they once did in my single, childless, college student, table-waiting, pre-mortgage years.

On some of these five days I only got on the water for a couple hours, but I’m still counting them. Yesterday I made only about a hundred casts on a walk with my boys, but I was in my leaky waders, carrying the boys across side channels in turn, so that one counts too.

Aiden uses two hands.

Not every day was a dawn-to-dusk affair, but the best of them was . . .

I caught up with some long lost friends in the snow. We traded fishing lies and swapped opinions on streamer strategy. We ate smoked meats and cheeses, leftover from some family Christmas buffet tray, and we floated down a river. We cast and stripped feathers, polyester craft fur and whatever the synthetic hell EP fibers are made from. We snagged trees and rocks, and we caught a few big fish in the miles of flowing water. We added to the memories of a year gone by. A gray winter day with little sun and a lot of wind provided the last page in a final chapter — the last casts of 2016. And we watched daylight race the river downstream.

The best thing about a float is seeing miles of water as if in one frame. It’s like a filmstrip that you can take out and hold in your mind for a while. If you’ve done this long enough, then every rock around every bend carries a memory. The best island channels hold a group of those stories and offer them up as you float by. It’s a photo album. The river is a flowing film of your best and worst times on the water — moment by moment passing by. And if you’re lucky, you might create a new highlight for the reel.

— — — — — —

The day before, I’d snuck away for the last hour of daylight just to wade fish a couple spots I couldn’t get out of my mind. I don’t always like short trips, but lately I haven’t been passing them up either. Give me a chance to put the waders on, and I’ll take it. The first spot turned up nothing, but the second had some surprises.

Winter trips on marginal water have a way of putting the angler to sleep. It’s peaceful, really, and it hadn’t taken me long to get into a happy rhythm of going through the motions. That isn’t to say I was fishing poorly. No. I was methodically probing the channels with patient retrieves and deep drifts, changing flies just enough to keep me honest, but not enough to distract myself with knots and rigging.

I was in the zone when I caught the first fish, and a few casts later I noticed the unfastened buckle on my vest. With the flies soaked in mid-drift, I tucked the rod under my arm and buckled the vest in a few short seconds. Not short enough. When I looked up, my line was under. I pulled the rod back and stripped all the length I could manage in one long rip. But I only felt a meager bump at the very end — not a good hook set. I whipped the rod forward and stripped more line. The fish rolled my way, from the darkness of the run into the light shade of the shallows, and I saw another wild brown trout that could have been looking for a name. Then he easily slid right off the hook and back into his place in the darkness.

Her lost brother was so much bigger. Isn’t that always the story?

— — — — — —

My last trip of five was another full day affair. I spent the time in and out of drizzling rain and snowflakes. The river was big and the fish were few. The space was lonely — just the way I like it.

The biggest fish I saw all day. Nineteen inches and expired.

— — — — — —

I finished the wader patch, and my wife walked in just as I put the cap on the Aquaseal. She hates the scent of acetone and toluene.

“They leak again?” She said it more as a statement than a question.

“Yes.” I said.

She shook her head. “Don’t they make a pair of waders that won’t leak?”

I thought about that one for a while.

“No. No they don’t.”

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Cicadas, Sawyer and the Clinic

Cicadas, Sawyer and the Clinic

Just as the Cicada settled again, with its deer hair wing coming to rest and its rubber legs still quivering, the pool boss came to finish what he started. His big head engulfed the fly, and my patience finally released into a sharp hookset on 3X. The stout hook buried itself against the weight of a big trout . . .

You Need Contact

You Need Contact

Success in fly fishing really comes down to one or two things. It’s a few key principles repeated over and over, across styles, across water types and across continents. The same stuff catches trout everywhere. And one of those things . . . is contact.

. . . No matter what adaptations are made to the rig at hand, the game is about being in touch with the fly. And in some rivers, contact continues by touching the bottom with something, whether that be a fly or a split shot. Without contact, none of this works. Contact is the tangible component between success and failure.

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Understanding the ideas of other anglers through the decades is how I learn. It’s how we all learn. The names change, but the process remains. We build a framework from others. Then we fit together the pieces of who we are as an angler . . .

One Last Change

One Last Change

Every angler goes fishing to get away from things — and most times that means getting away from people too. So whether they be friends or strangers on the water, going around the bend and walking off gives you back what you were probably looking for in the first place . . .

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

The real joy of having Troutbitten as my career is in all the chances I have to be creative. The articles, presentations, videos, web design, and the guided trips — each one is an opportunity to communicate ideas about why we fish, how we fish, and what keeps us wishing to fish, day after day. Thank you for that chance . . .

Walk Along — Jiggy On The Northern Tier

Walk Along — Jiggy On The Northern Tier

This article is part of the Walk Along series. These are first person accounts showing the thoughts, strategies and actions around particular situations on the river, putting the reader in the mind of the angler.

Tuck. Drop. Tick. Lead. Now just a five-inch strip with the rod tip up. Pause slightly for the fly to drop. Focus . . . Fish on!

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

10 Comments

  1. Great post as always. This is becoming one of my favorite blogs. Keep it up.

    Reply
  2. Once again, I’m glad I stopped by. Shame about that 19″ brown. What streamers were you using?

    Reply
    • Thank you, Bob. I’m glad you stopped by too. That streamer was just a craft fur jig.

      Reply
  3. I love the kids fishing hats!

    Reply
  4. Your blogs put me in a dream state. All the best in 2019.

    Reply
  5. Wonderful story! I truly felt as if I was with you on the journey. Also, nothing worse than taking a river dunk on a cold winter’s day…been there done that. So glad I happened upon Troutbitten.

    Reply
    • At least all the layers keep you warm, even when they get wet.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest