Winter can be a very enjoyable time to fish. Sunny days make the cold completely tolerable and can lead to midge hatches that get enough fish rising to forget that it's the middle of January. This winter, however, has not been that winter. The cold spell that started off the winter throughout the country has been perpetuated in Utah by dreaded inversions, rendering the local rivers nearly inactive. The water temp hovers right around 32 degrees, slowing the fishes metabolisms to a crawl. Promising runs and holes have only given up small trout that can justify the energy expenditure for a small nymph passing by. The ones we fish for, on the other hand, have been hard pressed to waste energy to intercept an insignificant fly in its drift. We yearn for spring, can't wait for summer are so sick of winter etc., which is understandable. But we also have to remember that winter brings the snow that feeds our rivers throughout the year, providing life-giving, cold, clean water for the fish we love.
Fishing is often a humbling activity. If it were always easy, and always the way we wanted, most of us would probably lose interest. Every once in a while we have to step back and learn, once again, to appreciate the moment, and each individual aspect of fishing. When we do this, we find a satisfaction again that is so easy to forget about. Though it can be challenging, there are many satisfying ways to deal with winter. Here's a few that have helped us out.
When i first learned to tie, I wasn't the biggest fan. It was frustrating because patterns seemed so simple, yet when I finished one, inevitably something didn't look quite right. As I was about to finish a fly I'd over-tension my thread and...SNAP...followed by cursing. It didn't take too long, though, for me to get sick of buying flies and recognize the utility of being able to customize any fly I wanted, and the experience the satisfaction of experimenting and creating flies that worked. Now tying is an integral part of my fishing, and we at Crimson Jaw are tying fanatics. Beyond its obvious usefulness, it is something that connects you with the sport when getting out and actually fishing is hard. At times, tying can kindle enthusiasm almost as much as being on the water. So if you haven't invested the time yet, it may be worth your while, especially if you find yourself yearning for spring to arrive.
These are some of the flies that worked well for us this year.
Winter is also a great time to start preparing for the coming year of fishing. Over time, anyone that is serious about angling begins to familiarize themselves with their favorite hatches, runs, spawning events, etc., and a big part of fishing becomes being in the right place at the right time. Organizing and prioritizing these events can be beneficial for getting the most out of your year of fishing. One useful way to do it is to create a fishing calendar. Mark in each month your favorite events and opportunities, and then as the time comes closer prioritize, and solidify plans according to your schedule. Also, no year is complete without at least one big fishing trip; maybe to a favorite destination, maybe to somewhere new to chase a new species. Planning things trips like that can get you almost as psyched as the fishing itself and can occupy a mind distraught by the cold of winter.
I am reminded of a day, early this last fall, that I spent driving hiking and wandering around for an entire day in search of a fish. Drainage after drainage, I could not find what I was looking for. All of the searching had been in vain. I started to get frustrated. I was hungry, thirsty, and tired, and the day seemed wasted. Finally, as evening was starting to fall, far up a remote basin that harbored a stream that was barely more than a trickle, I hooked into what I had been looking for. I was as happy as I'd ever been to catch a fish, and though it was small, it was healthy and beautiful. As I admired the fish, I also began to admire my surroundings. I had been wandering through beautiful country all day without seeing another soul, and had not stopped to appreciate it all day because I was either catching no fish, or the wrong fish. That was one of the MANY times that I have had to be reminded in fishing that each individual fish is a special creature to be appreciated, and that we should also appreciate the landscapes where we search for them. That is an important lesson to remember whenever you have the opportunity to get out and fish in winter.
In the end, what I'm saying is that winter can be rough, but it is necessary, and we can still make the most of it, and it can be valuable in improving our skills as anglers.
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