Some winters you live in perpetual white. Bookend in December until bookend in March, an almost constant accumulation of white on the ground. These winters you accept hibernation as the natural course. You begrudge the near daily shoveling and salting. You give up on keeping the floors pristine as the constant tracking in of snow, ice, salt, grit and the like make some basic house chores futile. A winter like this leads to the best time behind the tying vice. Boxes are filled better in these years, tying more precise, patterns more creative. The extra pounds in the boxes and around your middle make you a bit ponderous the first few times on the stream but mid season fly restocks are fewer. Maps causing daydreams of new holes and beats for the next spring get sprawled across floors and tables, notes made in margins and various circles, X’s and arrows hope to lead you to many large trouts. You arise every morning to look at the latest 10-day forecast in hopefulness of the warm-up that leads to ice out and the first fishable days of late winter and early spring. Wait for the Robins.
Then there are the forever brown, mild winters where you worry that the bulbs might pop up premature and be slaughtered by an almost guaranteed late hard freeze that leads to a tulipless Spring. These winters result in January barbecue parties. Fishing gear never gets put away for the winter. Those fall stocked fish are never frozen-in and are kept just warm enough that they still feed aggressively. The only tying accomplished are the little black stones, and midges that are a constant during these years. You worry that you won’t be in stock for the spring, but the fishing is too good and the days too short to worry about the Spring. These winters are fleeting. In the back of your head you know the dry winter with its lack of snow, let alone rain is a recipe for disaster for the summer and the brook trout. But, smoke if you got’m these years. By summer you’ll be trying to figure out how far to drive for tailwaters at minimum flow or hitting a smallmouth creeks for brown bass and maybe carp. You find yourself saying the common refrain of these winters, “I’m glad just to be out.” Amen, brother.
And, then, there are winters like this one. Schizophrenic winters. As I write this in my room in Pittsburgh on January the 30th it is 55 degrees outside a new record high was set today, 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Monday morning there was an ice storm. Last week the high was 15 degrees. Tomorrow morning I will awake to ice and snow again. A glorious commute is guaranteed for sure. A warm-up is predicted toward the tail end of the 10-day. I don’t hold my breath for this. Let alone what comes from the warm-up; high, unfishable water.
This pattern has repeated itself since mid-December. 60+ degree days dangle out there over a weekend and you begin to plan a much needed fishing trip. Anticipation grows, gear gathered and checked, a game plan is drawn up, tentative plans set with a couple buddies. However as the planned day creeps closer you begin to check stream gauges. Your heart is broken to see the sudden spikes. Even the tail waters are blown to to make sure the lakes the dams hold back stay at winter pool during the sudden melt now occurring. Now what? Chores, I guess…and beer drinking. I watch Eastern Rises, again.
We’ve been quiet here on Bug Chuckers, Inc. because of these very reasons. We haven’t had very fishy things to share. This too shall pass and we’ll have plenty for you to read as soon as the weather cooperates. We’ll keep you posted of any shows or events coming up of course and some flies we’ve been tying during this odd winter.