Winter Welcome Home

January 4, 2018

Author’s Note: I first published this to Troutbitten in the winter of 2016. This past week I had a day so strikingly similar that I had to dig this one up. I edited a few things and added some pictures from the latest trip. 

God, I love the winter. I slammed my truck’s hatch and noticed the nothingness. In the cold canyon, sharp sounds usually reverberate off the walls with a fading tat-tat-tat-tat. But the snow stole those echoes; it devoured the original thump of my closing trunk and held on. Winter is a quiet ghost.

And I do mean ghost. When days are dark and at their coldest, the woods are barren — void of life, save for the chickadees and a few eager squirrels. Most of the mammals hunker down in burrows, inside hollowed out trees and underneath hemlock bows.

You might miss all this if you don’t slow down, find a log and just sit for a while to listen to the silence. It’s different. The hunters know it. The forest is a widow in the winter wind.

There’s the chill of winter, and then there’s single-digits-cold, as it was this morning. It hurts, and there’s no fixing that. Not completely, anyway. No matter the layers or fabrics, something always hurts and there’s no way around it. While wading through water that’s just barely warm enough and fast enough to keep it from freezing, something underneath the layers of clothes is always cold. But you get used to it — rather, you accept it. The body builds a tolerance, I suppose, as in: this is normal now. Dull pain in the fingers and sharp air in the lungs remind you that you’re alive in the best way.

Sometimes I wade deeper into thirty-five degree water just to thaw out.

The narrow trail led me around a stone foundation from a century ago. I followed to the vertical limestone wall and then broke off toward the muted sounds of rushing water. I traced a set of rabbit prints in the snow, winding down through evergreen shadows on a crooked path, and then I lost it. I beat through loose brush, stumbling playfully sideways into slanting trees with earned momentum down the steep hillside. I went fast because I was mostly invincible. Like a boy sled riding in a snowsuit, layer upon layer formed an armor against average falls and impacts.

I found the water just where I’d left it, and the river welcomed me home. I hadn’t fished it since summer.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


  1. Reply

    Bob Matuzak

    January 7, 2018

    Very nice. Brought back memories, I’m heading out. Thanks

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 7, 2018

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Reply


    January 9, 2018

    A great reminder to get out there. A question for you – what’s your best tip/trick for battling frozen guides. The last few times I’ve been out I’ve been cursed by lots of ice build up, and getting to the tiptop of 10′ rod is a bastard when you’re standing in the middle of the river.

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      January 9, 2018

      Hi MG,

      By far my best advice is to use a Mono Rig. Ditching the fly line in the guides dramatically helps eliminate ice up.



What do you think?

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly 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.

marginal water big brown trout Streamer fishing indicator fishing Little Juniata River posted land It's just fishing friendship rookies last cast stocked trout spot burning bite windows Davy Wotten Burke tight lining mousing Wild Mushrooms DJS Wild vs Stocked Whiskey rigs suspender fishing Buggers favorite giveaway science matters walking brown trout hiking mud Peace Trout Unlimited Dylan Dad regulations tiny flies Grandfather fishing tips camera thunderstorm beadhead trout bum stinky bass Floating spawning Namer Galloup Boat Spring Creek winter fishing Mystery wet flies philosophy leaders Joey tippet PA Gold home-stream fishing with kids fall brookies Wild Brown Trout Ask an Expert front ended night-sighter Sighter backcast Streamers BadMoFo Bad Mother public land Memories casting Orvis Night Fishing fly line tightline the Mono Rig Weather Backing Barrel backcountry Gierach Euro-Nymphing come on man montana dog Discovery PFBC knots DIY musician flies Resources wading boots wildlife Fly Fishing fly tying cookout nymphs comp fishing Headbanger Sculpin mistakes Float Fishing streamside Stockies Grobe dead drift Pennsylvania George Harvey Quote float fly box Fish Hard gear skunked club fishing brush fishing photography family summertime fishing PSA Fly rods wild trout Sawyer fly patterns silence tracks net simplicity Camping DHALO patience Rich Trust carp bar boots Oakiewear nymphing dorsey yarn indicator waders Christmas Lights efficiency tight line nymphing dry flies fighting fish tips Tippet Rings wading Whiskey Drinker catch and release Fifty Tips BES reading water How it Started History nymphing tips small streams summer mono rig TU angler types conservation travel poetry tenkara ice Central PA Aiden Dry-Dropper winter fly fishing solitude etiquette Night friends Big Trout split shot boys