We watched daylight race the river downstream

by | Jan 3, 2017 | 10 comments

**NOTE** This Troutbitten story is from early winter, 2017

My waders are leaking again. I noticed it around noon today, when icy water saturated a leg seam. It seeped through the breathable membrane and soaked past three layers of polyester fleece (or whatever other synthetic fibers are stitched into 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 from 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 on the water. 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 getting longer, so five days in a row don’t come around like they did in my single, childless, college student, table-waiting, pre-mortgage years.

On some of these five days I only fished for a couple hours, but I’m still counting them. Yesterday I made 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 a family Christmas buffet 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 trout 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 that 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 an angler to sleep. It was peaceful. And it didn’t take 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 1000+ 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

Wavering Confidence

Wavering Confidence

I was resigned to the plan but having a hard time watching it fail.

Why was my confidence so easily shaken? Because a river that was once the most predictable of any that I fish has now become the opposite. It’s a confounding mystery that I keep coming back to, wishing to solve. And I know that with enough time, with an open mind and by running the right experiments, I’ll find the answers . . .

Podcast: Freewheelin’ Two — Stories and Experiences — S5, Ep7

Podcast: Freewheelin’ Two — Stories and Experiences — S5, Ep7

It’s the things that happen while we’re out there that make fly fishing for trout the all-consuming, never ending pursuit that it is for us. And, in truth, all of us need to LET that happen. It’s in the choices that we make regarding where we’ll fish, when we’ll fish and who we’ll fish with. Those elements, the locations, the woods, the water and the friendships make all of this special . . .

The Good Wader

The Good Wader

The good wader keeps moving, believes in traction, casts in rhythm and makes no excuses. The good wader becomes the good angler . . .

Midnight Vise

Midnight Vise

Two more turns to anchor the tail. Keep it tight. Build a solid foundation, or the whole thing falls apart after a few fish — and that costs time. The shortening days steal enough of that already.

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