-15 degrees.  40 degrees.  Slush ice and even a trout rise.  In the winter, before you can hunt a trout, you have to hunt the forecast.   Dan and Grant were targeting Monday about ten days before the date.  The forecast held.  They launched with guide Matt into a perfect winter day: cloudy, 30s, a little fog, flat light, just right.

When a plan comes together

Matt and I floated yesterday, Tuesday.   But by the time we launched the weather was just about to break.  It held long enough for me to make one cast — my first cast of the float — to a good backwater and move an enormous trout.  Enormous.  It was so big I just said it was “a big one” and we carried on.  The clouds broke.  The sun came out.  The wind kicked up.  I kept thinking of the first trout.  The way it appeared from the black water, a sudden sidelong glance, before immediately disappearing.  I’ll be waiting for another shot at that trout: the tail end of a warm day, maybe 4 pm or so.  That’s the kind of trout you hike through the snow for, break the shelf ice, make a dozen casts, and hike out.  It’s winter.  Better than watching tv.

Way better

What we should have been doing was nymph fishing.  I heard the nymph fishing on Tuesday was awesome.  Silly.  Ridiculous.  Bonkers.  But oh well…we were on a more remote, streamer-type water.  We didn’t switch flies too much.  A few trout chased, and we caught some.  We saw three eagles soaring in the sun, together, chirping at each other like they do.  There were tons of tracks on the shelf ice: bobcat, coyote, otter, beaver.  We saw two grouse fanned on a sunny hillside.  And by the end of the day we were cold and it was dark and we were rowing out talking, as winter anglers often do, about all the good food we were going to eat when we got home.

The next seven days look pretty cold.  The lakes are freezing up and the ice fishing will begin just after the New Year.  I’m heading to Ohio for Christmas, but I’m already anxious to return, waiting for those warm afternoons, the solitude of a winter river, and the pull of a trout or two.

From all of us at Gates Lodge, have a great holiday season.  Get out and enjoy the outdoors, whether you’re a snowbird…or just buried in snow.