Mid-Season Form

by | Dec 21, 2017 | 6 comments

** Note ** This story is from December of 2017, just before the best wintry stuff really got started last year.

Sawyer isn’t afraid of the cold. He’s like a polar bear in waders — doesn’t even wear gloves on his paws. And I don’t get guys like this. I don’t understand where their warmth comes from. Is it a higher tolerance for pain or a motor that just runs hotter than most? Who knows, but Sawyer’s always up for anything, and he’s fun to fish with.

The first batch of winter roads had people a little skittish on Tuesday morning. Even the plows and salt trucks showed some unusual caution. Later in the season, they’ll be cutting close lines and motoring at top speed, plows laid flat, shooting sparks with bare steel on rock. Before long, they’ll be in a mid-season rhythm. But at 7:30 am on Tuesday morning, the highway traffic formed a line behind the yellow diesel beasts, and everyone unanimously and silently agreed to be a little extra careful. So I was late.

“He was already upriver somewhere. Sawyer had driven three hours to be on time, and I wouldn’t have waited for me either. “

When I finally stepped out of line and steered left onto the winding creek side road, I was eager to accelerate. So I took my new freedom with some aggression, pushing snow with my 4-wheel drive and generally driving the way a ten-year-old boy rides a sled. You gotta love fresh snow.

Three miles further, I slid into a small, unplowed clearing at the bottom of a valley. I joyfully circled the center tree a little too fast, deliberately over-steered, and skidded the truck to a standstill beside Sawyer’s Pontiac Bonneville. He was already upriver somewhere. Sawyer had driven three hours to be on time, and I wouldn’t have waited for me either.

Fishing friends should never be late. But if you are, don’t make excuses. Acknowledge it, apologize and don’t be late again.

There was another truck in the small pull-off too, and that was more than unusual for a day like this. At nineteen degrees, with a steady wind and some stronger gusts behind it, the day wasn’t one to make most people think of trout. The guy behind the wheel wasn’t thinking about trout either. And it took no more than a glance to realize he wasn’t a fisherman. He sat behind the idling engine, dragging on cigarettes and emptying beer cans into his laid back head. Smoke curled upward from the cracked window and blended with a similar cloud from the tailpipe. The beers and smokes came in pairs, and by my count he was on his third round by the time I laced up my wading boots.

I watched the smoking man behind my dark polarized lenses and through sideways glances, trying to give the guy some measure of the privacy he probably had counted on when he’d driven down the same snowy, dead-end road I had. I wondered about his plan. I wondered if Sawyer’s sedan and my truck were safe from being ransacked after I walked away. But I didn’t think on that too long. Sometimes you just have to trust people, no matter what.

I methodically pulled on the extra socks and layers, strapped up the waders and rigged the fly rod before I had much time to think about it. This is another thing that becomes more fluid as winter wears on. I’ll settle into a mid-season form, just like the yellow trucks and the passenger cars. I’ll get faster. More efficient.

Icy egg season

Winter fishing requires a lot of extra steps. There is no trick. Just do it. It might take an extra five minutes to deploy the thicker layers, the gloves, rags, hand warmers and more, but who cares? What else are you going to do? Go to work? Sit at home and watch television while you dream of springtime?

Once all the stuff is on, it takes some specific and practiced contortions to slide a 24 oz stainless steel thermos filled with coffee down into the back of your waders. Start beneath your shoulder blades, then allow the warm cylinder to slide down and lay at the small of your back. Resting just above the belt, it remains there until you forget about it. And hours later, when a nasty chill really sets in, you remember that you brought something special with you. Hot coffee is so worth it on the worst days.

I followed Sawyer’s snowy boot tracks for about three hundred yards. His larger steps and wider gait was a stretch for my own, but I followed them anyway for amusement — like a child’s game of hopscotch. At one point, Sawyer’s tracks reached a ledge beside the path, and standing in his footsteps, thirty feet above the rushing river, I could feel the way he had pondered whether to scramble down the hillside below or walk up to where the trail knelt to meet the river another hundred yards through the show. We both chose the latter.

I climbed down the bank and easily spotted Sawyer’s polar bear frame across the river. When I yelled out, he startled, then turned and waved. I noticed he had gloves on this time — go figure. Not in mid-season form yet, I suppose.

Sawyer and I fished together all morning. We shared the coffee around noon and set the hook on the last couple of trout just before dusk.

Of the smoking and drinking man in the clearing, all that was left were his snowy tire tracks and a series of holes burned into the crusty snow by glowing cigarette butts.

 

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 900+ 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

Night Shift – The Porcupine

Night Shift – The Porcupine

So I was startled, but not surprised, when something heavy hit my legs in the dark around midnight. Fishing to the banks upstream while standing in the swift middle current, the hefty thump happened so fast that it was past me and downstream before I could move. That was too soft to be a log, I thought.

I flipped on my headlamp and looked downstream to see a porcupine returning my wide-eyed gaze. His head turned, and he glared back, as if the hit-and-run was somehow my fault. I almost expected him to flash a middle finger, but I guess he needed both paws for swimming . . .

Night Shift – Into the Dark

Night Shift – Into the Dark

You can't stand up to the night until you understand what's hiding in its shadows.  -- Charles De Lint Last June I made a commitment. I promised myself that I would go deep into the night game and learn to catch the wildest trout in the darkest hours. Having spent a...

Admiration

Admiration

Not many fish allow you to break off a fly on the hookset while they still take another fly just five minutes and three drifts later. It takes a special kind of stupid for that to happen.

Pat spread the mustard lightly this time. And the joy of all children, April fishermen, spinnies and hobbyists was firmly hooked.

This is the End

This is the End

The fisher awoke before dawn. He put his boots on.

He took the rod from a gallery of graphite and cork and walked down the forest hall.

He moved through thick, hazy darkness — miles toward the island, with no sound but the crunch, crunch, and rustle. Footfalls on sandy dirt, roots and rotting leaves. The log. The water. The red halos around orange spots as big as nickels, randomly speckled and enhanced by the minor refraction of cool water sliding and dripping across the broad sides of wild magnificence, the size of which as rare as any to be called legendary . . .

Muddy Meathead

Muddy Meathead

. . . Things started to happen. I moved two really nice trout — the kind of fish that makes you yell four-letter words as the opportunity vanishes — and I picked up a couple average sized browns. I went over to visit with Dad, and I plopped a few casts next to the bank across from him. He was at the top of the river-left side of the island. I walked across to the far side and waded through the high water by myself, into position to fish a place that’s a little special to the Troutbitten guys. I moved a small fish, then chucked the next cast as close to the water-logged tree stump as I dared.  Strip … drift … strip, strip … drift … strip … BAM!

Momentum carried him to the top of the brown water, and I saw the fish I’ve been waiting for. He swam hard to the tree stump, but with strong 2X I changed his mind. These are the moments fishermen live for. It was the culmination of a new streamer pattern, a new rig that Burke showed me, and relentless hope against forceful, muddy water . . .

The Boys of Summer

The Boys of Summer

These fishing environments, and the goals and obsessions that come with trout fishing, are good for me. And I think they are good for my boys too. . . . So, while I’m becoming an expert in patching bicycle tires and skinned knees, the boys are learning how to catch wild brown trout. It’s all possible now. This is the summer I’ve been waiting for . . .

What do you think?

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

6 Comments

  1. Hello Domenick: Thanks for your time writing such excellent material for all of us. Merry Christmas. Rick, Boston MA

    Reply
  2. Love the way you create the mood. Terrific writing, as always. Proofreading: “gait”. Hahaha!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kerry. I appreciate the edit. Sincerely. Facts matter.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  3. Man that chicken sandwich is looking good

    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