Doing some early morning casting on Saturday with any open water I can find. The plan was to tackle a slice of tailwater before the reality of the warm weather report had a chance to materialize and play itself out. Weather like this in December can draw a heavy crowd. We could get in early and deal with some cold or have to deal with a bit of angling traffic. What Don and I didn’t expect was single digit temps for the start up.
For some reason the 40-degree high with very little wind forecast lulled me into a false sense of security and a mere two-layer setup. My eyes briefly glanced at the low temps predicted for this area but didn’t take notice. The bright yellow\orange icon on the Internet weather report suckered me in. It wasn’t until the morning gear up and ride up the mountain when reality set in.
“This is going to be a cold @#$%!”
The truck was parked in predawn light and left to talk to alien space ships (yes, I drove again on this trip). Our breath formed billowing clouds as we cursed Father Winter and wished for the sun to make an early appearance. Working the gear felt like reaching into a bag of pins and needles. Movement was limited and every cast came with some element of pain. Half the morning was spent with gloves on warming the fingers and the other half was spent fishing while wishing I had the gloves back on.
(Above: Sorry for the grimace. I would be happier if my hands weren’t dipped in the water before grabbing this fish. Not a trophy fin-slapper but it will have to do.)
The open water congregates ducks and there seemed to be a few hundred. These mallard and hen combos were churning up the bottom with their beaks in a complete fervor. At times the activity would brown up the water and foul up the rig. This would force me to pry off the gunk off with my fingers. At times the gunk would freeze up on the knot so hard that I would have to dig the pliers from my pocket.
(Above: Small cluster of web-footed waddlers. For the first part of the morning ducks were the only things active. Ten feet in either direction offered another group.)
In between duck clusters and cold weather curses I did manage to get a few nibbles and even a fish or two in the common slot. With more effort I could have tempted and most likely missed the big fish, which typically happens to me on this stretch for no good reason. Unfortunately hooking up with a fish also requires the release of said fish. In an effort to minimize handling damage my hands are wetted before touching the fin-slapper. This helps prevent the removal of the slimy layer on a fish’s body that acts a bit like an immune system. This small act of altruism may help the fish but this time of year it tends to make my fingers turn bright red with pain.
(Above: Quite a few shots on this trip turned out grainy from poor light and others unacceptable. Hopefully my one or two avid readers will forgive the shameless double posting pics of the same fish.)
By the time I reached the 18th hole on this stretch my fingers felt like they had been smashed routinely with a meat tenderizer. Don and I had to take longer and longer breaks from casting. One of my rods was iced up like an icicle where as the other one was not picking up any bites. This is where I decide to switch up and put the hot creature pattern on the one working stick left. As soon as I trim the lure Don says something I have never heard him say before.
“Let’s go grab a cup of coffee. My fingers stopped working an hour ago.”
I didn’t even finish tying up. We rounded up our gear and the shards of our sanity before finding the trail that lead over the bridge and back to the truck. Turn the key, engine turns over and we head out to find a coffee shop. Stumbling across the Egg & I we roll in for breakfast. Wrapping our hands around a steaming cup of coffee helped bring our fingers back to life.
(Above: Here is a shot leaving with the sun looking like it’s all nice and perfect. This is how a lot of spots look as I am leaving and everyone else is going in. Sometimes my planning works and sometimes it doesn’t.)
In closing I have to admit that some trips are not planned to hit the water at the prime time but more towards avoiding a stampede. By noon this area is typically full and you have to wait to fish in some sections. Rather than taking a number and waiting we chose to brave the early conditions and froze our @#%’s off. An angler with better planning and more patience might have done better. The things I need most are not sold in tackle stores.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic