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January Thaw

Posted by on January 23, 2013


23 Degrees and Waiting for the Sun

I decided to take the weather forecaster at his word.  He promised a brief January thaw:  mid 60s on Saturday then plummeting into the low 20s with a rebound Sunday afternoon of 40 degrees.  Perfect winter fishing weather.

After working half a day Saturday, I drove the  2 1/2 hours to the creek.  True to his word, the car’s thermometer registered a balmy 66 degrees, albeit very windy.  When I arrived at the stream long shadows were already beginning to fade, so I immediately began to fish, but with little success. After a very busy workday and a long drive I was still decompressing. Soon the lowering sun on my face and the gentle press of current on my legs began to work their magic.

Knowing that the next day promised a full day of fishing, I set up camp on the water’s edge.  One other tent was visible in the distance; otherwise I was alone. I heated the left-over picadillo on the Coleman, supplemented by a large salad I had made in advance.  Milk to drink, having foolishly allowed myself to run out of beer.  The setting sun pulled the night sky behind it, and the first stars began to shimmer.  Although the afternoon had been unseasonably warm, a chill developed quickly , and soon the nearby trees were performing a supernatural dance in the flickering light of the campfire. By the time I turned in, a half-moon had risen in a sternklar sky, casting remarkably dark shadows, its light bouncing on the surface of the stream.

Inside, I struggled with the combination of sleeping bags and blankets I knew would be needed for a comfortable sleep.  On with the hat and gloves and I settled in for the night, the murmur of the creek soon quieting, quieting my conscious mind.  Dreams were of coyote song and hooting owls and the grunting of some unidentified creature (feral pig?).  Awakened to crows’ calls, crows perpetually in their mourning clothes, that deep black with the iridescent sheen, like oil floating on water.  Befitting, I guess, a creature who dines on the dead. I struggled into my many layers.  First order of the day–coffee.  Yes, I could make instant, but I like the ritual of ground coffee in the old aluminum percolator.  Reminds me of childhood and Dad (coffee and “bellyweight” pancakes being the only items he could reliably cook).  When the percolator had established its rhythm, I lit the stove’s other burner and began to fry bacon, lastly preparing scrambled eggs.

On with the waders and fleece and into the stream.  The sun had yet to gain the hillside and it was cold.  A thick mist obscured the water. My hands, clad in fingerless gloves, hadn’t become rigid purple claws quite yet, and I was able to tie a #24 white parachute fly to my leader without too much difficulty.  Although no hatch was visible, I knew that would soon change.  As the air warmed, trout began to dimple the surface, first occasionally, then with growing frequency as the day warmed through the twenties into the thirties.  By lunch, I had counted a dozen or so rainbows brought to hand, all on the small white parachute.

A quick lunch of homemade hummus and fruit, then back in the stream.  Now forty degrees, my dark brown fleece absorbed and stored the sun’s warmth.  I tied on a Beetle Kebari, hoping the trout would remember the tantalizing flavor of that warm weather offering, but to no avail.  While contemplating my next change of fly, a small brown caddis, about a size 20, landed on my hand, and the decision was made.  A diminuitive Elk Hair Caddis did the trick, and an afternoon of satisfying angling followed.  The slanting sun announced time to strike camp and head for home.

Good Way to End the Day

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