Winter in Colorado is probably my least favorite time to fish. I suppose I could shut myself in and just tie flies through the winter. But Colorado weather is a tricky thing. It fools me every year into believing I should brave the elements because it is going to be moderately warm.
Last night I decided I was going to get up early and hit the water. I was going to try and get up at 6am and be out the door at 6:45. As it was though I slept in a little longer than that. I looked out the window and saw cold, gray fog banks. It was cold and looked almost like as if it was going to snow even. So I puttered around, made a cup of coffee and got my gear together. My five year old woke up and wanted to wrestle. My wife had a headache and I got her a cup of coffee too along with some Advil. (It's keying into those little things that make them love you and let you go fishing. Trust me on this.)
Eventually I did get out the door at around 8am. It was still cold and foggy. I headed up to Clear Creek Canyon and found a new spot to drop in and get into my quiet place. The banks were icy and there are wonderful deep channels. Pocket water by any other name. I had brought my digital video camera along and was just kind of taking notes to myself. Recording thoughts as they arose. My hands were a little cold but I kept casting until I hooked a tree and broke my tippet. A good excuse to go to the car, warm up and re-rig. I had a travelers mug of coffee there that was still quite warm. It was good to warm up a bit.
Back on the water I turned the video back on and did a little more fishing along the slippery iced over banks. I thought about how a fish weathers a season of winter. "Just hunkers down" I imagined. I noticed that the tip of my rod was starting to bend with the weight of the line. No not a fish just the leader building up a coating of ice. I had this experience before. It is like the process of making dip candles. Each time the line goes into the water a new layer of ice adheres to the line. Eventually the line gets stiff and the weight become horrible to cast. So you gather the line in and as you do clean the ice from the line. By the time you get down to the fly it too has a chunk of ice filling the gap of the hook.
While I was clearing my line and kebari of ice I leaned too far forward and my camera dropped out of my pocket and into the stream. The power was on when it went in and off when I finally fished it out of the 6 inches of water it had submerged itself into. That sucked! It wasn't one of those really great waterproof cameras but it was a good little hd camera. I got a good deal on it when I bought it but it was still a loss. I am drying it out to see if I was lucky enough to spare it but I am cynical about any positive outcome. My mood was shot from that point on. But I fished on despite of it. Frustration is a cruddy mood to meditate through.
I stopped fishing that canyon and moved to another south of there. Bear Creek. I didn't go too far just to the first decent pull off I could find. I rigged up and trekked into a spot that cascaded into nice pocket water an deep channels. If this were spring I am sure it would be a great place to fish. But it isn't spring is it? I decided to just make a mental note and hope for a better day.
I don't care much for fishing in the winter months. The timing alone for hitting a free day from work and getting out is always a gambit as it is. Last week I went out to show a friend a patch of water that I found that was "good water for fishing". The weather that day was great and he had another fisherman come out with us. The water was all I said it was but just absent of fish. How depressing. How cool to not only go out and get skunked but to get two to other guys skunked as well? (please read that with sarcasm) Winter can be that way I guess.
In the past few years I can only recall catching a few fish during this time of year. The one year I caught the most trout in the winter I was ice fishing. Probably about the most boring times I have had fishing. I should have brought a book and a lot more whiskey than I did. It was fishing though, just like today. Some days are wonderful and others pose challenges. Days like this just make you wish for the excitement of spring.
I look forward to renewing my fishing license every April. Until then I hope I can just tie some flies, drink some single malt scotch, surf the internet for a new camera (waterproof this time) and keep myself from being tricked into going out fishing. I am pretty sure I will be out on the stream before then. There is one thing I won't be doing and that is Ice fishing. I am looking now at a GoPro system. I'm going to slam one more swallow from my glass of scotch and work up the courage to hit the "pay now" button. If all goes right the new video camera should be here in about a week.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.