Cold. Cold is the only way to describe the random gusts of wind that blew past me at what seemed like thirty to forty mph. When the wind wasn't gusting, it was just blowing a nice light five to ten mph that was still pretty cold. I had a break from babysitting since my wife had the day off and I stay at home. I decided that with the sun shining and temps around twenty five to low thirties I should take the opportunity and hit the local stream for a few hours and relax. After what felt like several hours of frigid wind gusts that seemed to only blow while I was trying to cast and caused many frustrating knots in my line that attatched themselves to the tip of my rod, and several lost flies in and around the river, I couldn't decide if I needed a break or if I should just head home.
As I packed up my few things and turned to leave, I decided to get a few pictures of the landscape around me. It was a beautiful day after all, despite the chilly wind. So as I walked back to the car I snapped of a few shots here and there.
My camera was having fits from the cold and didn't want to cooperate. The batteries wouldn't hold out very long in the cold temps, but a few decent pictures turned out. When I got back to the car I noticed it was only one o'clock.
What had seemed like several hours on the river was actually only two. I decided to just head for the local gas station...you know the one, where everything for sale is coated with some kind of gold dust, or is at least priced that way. I went in and grabbed a Coke and a new set of batteries for the camera. I thought about it and now that I was warm and could feel my fingers again I decided I'd hit another stretch of the same river. This spot I thought would be good, seems how it's a long walk to the river over a couple pretty steep inclines. I got down to the river and messed around in my two favorite holes for another couple hours, with not a single nibble or anything else to make me think there were any fish in the river. Fully disgusted, frustrated, and frozen I made my way back up the trail, back up the steep hills and to the car. I packed my rod and jumped in thinking to myself, "well that was a waste of gas that I couldn't afford." I headed for the home ranch. Again I was warm and my thoughts turned to the excitement of the past times reeling in those silver beauties. About five miles away from the nearest gas station, which was between me and the river, the gas gauge hit zero gallons and caused a light to come on. Yes, it was the please refuel soon light, but also the light also said, "It's only four o'clock. You have at least another hour of good strong daylight left - why not try one more time?" I turned around, grabbed some precious fuel and headed back to the stream. I went back to the area I had started out in, but went a little farther back away from the road. I spent that last hour getting thoroughly cold and losing more and more flies. "This is the last cast," I told myself. I let that veiled egg with a soft hackle tied above it float through the deep black hole one last time and and felt something. "Another snag" I thought. No. In fact this heavy pull slowly took my line down stream like a log with an attitude."There we go!" I was able to hold this steelie pretty good thanks to my new reel with the heavier disk drag. I was doing good now. I worked the beast over closer to shore the whole time keeping good tension on my line. -The down side of winter fishing is the shelf ice. If your not careful it can cut your line instantly, sending your fish and fly to anywhere they want to go. This was not my problem at first. The hole I was fishing is known to have a drop off of sand close to the bank. The shelf ice was over this sand and I couldn't tell how deep it was under the thin looking ice. This caused my thinking to stray to scenes of me in muddy water that could be well over my head and was freezing cold. I needed to get that steelhead to swim up onto the ice and into my lap so to speak. I pleaded with it and tried to talk it into giving itself up willingly, but to no avail.. it was all up to me. I tried in one not so swift move to hoist the fish up out of the water and onto the shelf, almost had it. The weight of the fish and the pull of the fast moving current was too much for my elderly Eagle Claw 5/6 weight rod. The rod snapped off and my first thought was that I not only lost my fly rod, but because of the slackness of the line - I was losing my fish too.
I reeled in the line and noticed I still had the steelie hooked. I tried my trick again, this time my rod was a little more stiff given that it was only out to the first eyelet. As the steelie slid up onto the shelf ice my leader was cut, freeing the the fish that now lay on the thin ice. I very gingerly put one foot out onto the shelf and grabbed the tail in one hand, the head in the other. In one fell swoop I scooped the now lively fish up and tossed it out into the bushes away from the river.
Now, feeling as excited as I was when the day started, with my fish in one hand and my broken pole in the other I walked back to the car and headed for home. Now that I was warm again and had a chance to reflect - there is a down side to fishing alone. Yes it is enjoyable to be out in almost any temperature or weather condition, but when you have such a close call or an almost Unaccomplished Angler moment, it would be nice to have someone to talk to on the ride home.