Saturday, February 20, 2010

Snowbound fly fisherman mislead by calendar photo

Those romantic notions of being snowbound in a mountain cabin, with snow spread thick as frosting on the roof, makes a splendid calendar photo for February. Tree limbs bend with their heavy loads of fresh snow. Branches break, sounding like rifle shots in the dark. The world slows. Trucks cease to roll by. A trout stream sings in the background near the little cabin, and you just know that water is full of trout.

It takes about three days to melt that notion like an old icicle, and then the miserable reality of winter sets in. Pipes freeze, heaters quit heating like they should and roads glaze over with scary ice. Getting out of the driveway becomes a major challenge. All the dogs are wet as dishrags and smell like zoo animals. There are wet clothes, stiff boots and mud on the floor.
And sometimes the snow grabs your car as you drive through what you thought was a clear dirt road and you cease to move. An hour and a half later, you are still stuck in the national forest, it’s black as new Bibles and there is no other vehicle on the road.

Where’s my calendar photo?
It got worse. The Troutmobile’s transmission burned up, we had to get towed out by a pickup truck with chain and then spent most of the next two weeks stuck with driving rain, sleet, more snow and a little ice here and there just to wake you up if you tried to get to the store too quickly.

February weather is never great. The month itself ought to be abolished. Burn that calendar page in the wood stove.
I was already set for some fly fishing, no matter how cold or miserable.

The mountains looked like old bear dogs sniffing the clouds with grizzled muzzles. If the wind died and the sun came out, a fellow could hook a trout or two, provided it did not get too dreadful. That was the plan, anyway.

Late Sunday while on a short hike up the waterfall road, I noticed very few signs of human presence. Past the first campground, the road was smooth as new sheets on a bed. I came across some turkey tracks, apparently left by a lone feathered wanderer earlier in the day. The tracks were fairly fresh.

A little farther there were some rabbit tracks, dotting the snow like colons on a typewritten page, two-by-two.
Even farther up the creek road, deer tracks zig-zagged in the crunchy snow.

I never saw any sign of trout, though.
For the next 10 days I saw no fish. On the two days when the wind died and the sun softened the wicked cold, I had no luck with the little yellow nymph.

It turned out to be an adventure just to get down the 10-foot bank without slipping and cracking my head on a rock, but a fellow can stay inside only so long.

I’d tied a ton of flies.
Wonder if I’ll get a chance to use them before summer?

But first, let’s get rid of that calendar photo.