I think of November as the coldest month, as judged by the number of days where I’ve come inside from a day on the river or in the woods and it has taken hours, and a hot shower, to feel right. But this November has been anything but cold. It was 60-some degrees today, and it has been like this for a week or more. We’re going to get ours next week: Highs in the 30s, wind and rain and sleet and snow for Thanskgiving weekend. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Not like this:
But Matt and Damion found some trout on even this bluebird day, and it’s clear that it’s post-spawn and the trout are on the look. This time of year it’s bigger streamers, slower retrieves, and you can fish right up till dusk (unlike during the pre-spawn, when the fish seem to mysteriously shut off in the middle of the afternoon.) I like flies with weight, and I tend to do best with black streamers though there is a time, and a place, and most importantly a water temperature, for the brighter colors. As long as it stays warm, the trout will chase brighter flies. When the temperature crashes, that’s when I go duller, bigger, and fish it slower. Right now that crash seems poised to occur in the middle of next week.
Besides the obvious joys of streamer fishing a quiet and deserted river, the nymph fishing really picks up through the end of November and the rest of December, or until the first real cold snap comes: You know, the one where the overnight lows plunge toward zero. Nothing like that in the forecast. Lance has us well-stocked with little bead trout eggs. Yes, it’s goofy. And no, it’s not a mayfly. But nymphing with eggs is a fun and easy way to catch fish during an otherwise difficult time of year to trout fish.
It’s rifle season right now and a lot of folks are up at their deer camps. It’s a good idea to wear orange and to be very particular about where you fish. In general, I tend to fish the Holy Waters or from a boat during the rifle season (which ends with the month of November). The hunting traffic is at its most during the first two days of the season (November 15 and 16) and tends to fade throughout the rest of the two weeks.
It’s been a wild week of hunting and I spent a lot of time with my dog Fin tracking deer for others. She’s a bird dog during the day, but by night she’s a pretty decent deer finder. When people ask how I’ve accumulated so many fine bottles of bourbon and scotch, well, Fin did it! I love any excuse to be outside, but I particularly like to be in pursuit of something. I remember in New Zealand people would just be hiking from place to place. No fishing rod. No rifle. Just hiking to hike. Tramping, they call it. For me, well, I like a destination, be it a trout, or a deer, a bird, or just the top of a mountain. I guess that means I like a story: A beginning, a middle and end. I think about these things this time of year, when my truck shows signs of almost everything I like to do. Fishing rods, waders, deer stuff, bird stuff. It’s out of control…and by the opening of rifle season, it’s like a crescendo of madness all around me, in my life, in the heaps of clothes on top of my dresser (which drives Katy crazy). The pursuit that I love requires by definition a destination. But with a destination in place, I get to enjoy the pursuit.
Sunset from the tree stand
And I guess that’s why, with hunting season now fading, I love the winter so much. The madness of too many destinations existing simultaneously dissolves into the easy pace of winter trout fishing and cross-country skiing. The destinations, in other words, become smaller and with far less time constraints. But they are still there. For me, most often, it’s a trout on the sand on a winter afternoon. A good trout finning on the inside of a bend, eating nymphs at a winter’s pace, swaying back and forth, nervous as hell…and me behind it, craning my head to keep it in my sight window, and pulling line off the reel, heart rate increasing. Some of this stuff…I don’t think it ever gets old. A sighted trout or, in a half a year, a rising trout. A deer coming in. A grouse flush. That feeling…that’s the destination.
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