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



What do you think?

2 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
  Follow the comments on this article.  
Notify of
Bob Matuzak

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


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.

Domenick Swentosky

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.

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