Winter creeps up on me slowly and then surrounds me every year. I look each day at the forecast and try to line it up with my schedule and the free time I have in my calendar, only to find nothing lining up. The feeling of winter is heavy sometimes and I begin to realize that another prime time of fishing has come and gone. I had a pretty good go at this this year. I know I had some days that I wasn’t even expecting to be on the water that just popped up. I had good days and bad ones, caught some nice fish, got to explore some new holes and revisit some old ones too.
I may have put on some pounds since getting married but still the extra “blubber” hasn’t made me any more winter resilient like I would have hoped it would. I am not a cold weather person really. Cold water and snow are not my favorite conditions to fish in. I have trouble watching my line in the middle of a snow flurry. I get frustrated when my leader freezes up into a icicle. I have a lot of respect for those fellow anglers I see on the river in those conditions but still don’t feel the draw to be like them that much.
Now I am not saying I am only a “fair weather fisherman” but I do like not having to focus on if I am getting too much exposure to cold and risking frost bite. I also hate slipping and falling on the banks into ice cold water. Given the right crazy Colorado nice day in the middle of winter you bet I will be trying to hit whatever water I think I might get access to. I will pack a small thermos of coffee and find a hole to fish.
The reality is though that I actually look forward to the quiet of winter. It is when I can rest a bit and dream a lot. I reminisce about where I have been and also consider where I would like to go. This quiet contemplative time is also when I like to hunker down and tie flies a bit. Look over my gear and clean up my fly tying station. I can scout maps and look at places in and out of state to explore and fish in the spring.
There are a lot of things you can do in the winter months to keep you busy while you wait for the ice to melt and the spring months to come.
Tenkara fishing is both a solitary and a social thing during the peak of the season. So why shouldn’t our winter time also be both? I have attended two Tenkara themed social gatherings already this year. They are a lot of fun and you do get to chat up ideas and share your experiences. I hope to host one myself soon. They don’t have to be fancy. Just plan to have some friends get together some fly tying , snacks and maybe even have everyone bring a favorite beer or scotch to share. Have a fly swap session or even enjoy a competition of best fly with limited materials, fastest fly rodeo? You get the idea.
If all else fails break out your gear and decide what is essential, non-essential , what needs repairs and what needs replacing. Service and clean your rods. Don’t do it all rushed and hap hazardously though. Make a point of really paying attention to what you are doing? Savor the time you have and put your attention and care into being thoughtful about it. Treat your life with the respect it deserves and appreciate the ritual of doing what you can to pass the winter months along. These down times are just as much an opportunity to connect with Tenkara as fishing on a favorite stream in the late spring. They can be as rewarding to your sense of self as well.
Finally look at what you can give to the next season. What can you give back? Do you have an extra rod that would be a good starter rod you can give to someone? Maybe you can make a commitment to give some of your time to teach and mentor a young person in Tenkara? Maybe you can donate equipment or time in the next season to a veteran at project healing waters. We should not horde our passion for Tenkara, the pleasure and growth we get from it to ourselves. Tenkara will only grow if we share it.
I wish you all a wonderful winter. I do hope to see some of you at a gathering soon and I will share some photos later of the flies I have been tying in my winter hovel. Stay warm and busy.
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.