Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter's sparkle

It was the kind of winter day you’re almost embarrassed to admit was unexpectedly cold. It was, after all, officially winter. It was almost Christmas. Smoke curled from neighbor’s chimneys.It’s supposed to be cold.

But, up until this past Monday, it had been wonderfully temperate, even warm. There had been some great days to fly fish for trout and have pretty good success while wading with just a light shirt and cap. No need to bundle up too much.Monday’s weather turned like an angry beast. The wind howled.

I had an extra cup of coffee, wrapped in fleece and wool from head to toe. Our storm door was covered with a thick sheet of ice, giving it a fancy, old-timey window appearance. Sunlight struggled through the thick crystalline crust.Well, against my better judgment I left the cabin. I had a couple of hours to kill.

I rode around trying to spot some trout from the banks, but nothing stirred except trees in a brutal wind. Gusts gave the air a razory touch with enough punch to slap you back into the warming car. I checked the usual bridges too, but abandoned the water along the main road to head up into the forest.Up the dirt road the air calmed.

Hovering on either side trees blocked the wind like protective grandmothers with large, wrinkled fingers. A little sun came through.

But the air still had that cut to it and by the time I had the rod out of its tube and the reel screwed on my hands felt like they were being squeezed in a vise. I got back inside to tie on the fly.

After a few minutes I had soaked enough warmth to attack the water. I wasn’t ready to splash around but I could flip a bushy fly from the riverside rocks without getting wet. Everywhere there was ice. It wrapped itself around mossy rocks like fine lace, and ringed others with the sparkle of diamond necklaces. Drooping rhododendron leaves dripped pendant-like globs that reminded me of earrings Elizabeth Taylor might have worn in her heyday. One particular boulder sported a tiara, with icy jewels the size of grapes spaced evenly around its top.

Everywhere it dazzled and sparkled.Not getting any hits at the first campground, I warmed myself with a short ride upstream to the little wild creek, hoping those little rainbow trout were stirring a little.I always get some action there, I thought. It may just be a splash and a miss, but I at least get one or two shots at catching a trout and I don’t have to get into the water to do it.

Steep slopes on both sides held off the roughness of the wind. I could get a couple of good casts in without worrying much about where the fly would land. Ice dripped all around. In winter my creek becomes even more beautiful, with an added quiet that lends it a certain degree of grace and charm not found in the summer.

Within ten minutes I realized the fish were not interested in anything but hanging out under rocks, retreating into their winter mode where the metabolism slows. Trout eat less in winter. I eat more. That got me to thinking I should be taking Mrs. Koontz to lunch. Something hot and wintery.

It’s that time of year.


Cutthroat Stalker said...

Hugh, Thanks for sharing your nice thoughts as I prepare for my first winter foray tomorrow (in several feet of snow). I don't mind the cold too much, but I hate the wind whether in summer or winter, but especially winter. Hopefully you and Mrs. Koontz enjoyed that nice wintry meal (something stewy, perchance?).

Hugh Koontz said...

Thanks, CS.
The temps just dipped into the 20s here in NC
And we had Chinese buffet.