White River

Winter came early

Posted by John Berry on December 16th, 2011
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According to the Trout Unlimited calendar in my sun room, winter begins on December 22nd. I humbly disagree. Winter, for me, began on December 5th at 10:00 AM. I remember it well, because I was on the river guiding, when it occurred. It was the first day of a two day corporate trip for River Ridge Inn.

When I left the house, it was thirty four degrees with rain in the weather forecast. After joining my clients for breakfast and driving to Rim Shoals, I noticed that the temperature had not changed. The water was low and dropping, the skies were ominously gray and the wind was howling (to include lake wind advisories). I knew that I was in for it. Under my waders, I was wearing heavy wool socks, poly propylene long underwear, a wool sweater, pile pants and a pile jacket, fingerless wool gloves, a windproof hat with warm ear flaps and a rain jacket. Would it be enough? It was soon to be put to the test.

My client Richard has fished with me literally dozens of times. He is an accomplished angler and a friend. Jim was a new client and had never fly fished, so we began the day with a quick casting class. Once Jim could cast twenty five feet, we returned to my boat where I quickly prepared the rods for the day. I rigged them both with a San Juan worm with a dropper nymph, a bit of lead and a strike indicator. On Richard’s line, I put a Y2K as the dropper and on Jim’s I put on a copper bead hare’s ear. I always start the day with my client’s on different flies so that I have a couple of chances to zero in on the most effective pattern. As I was rigging the rods, it was so cold that my fingers got stiff and I had a bit of trouble with the knots. It began to rain.

We launched my boat and motored upstream to a favorite spot of mine. Richard was into fish very quickly and landed a few nice ones. All were taken on the Y2K so I changed Jim over to one as his dropper. About this time, the rain changed over to sleet and then snow. The wind was howling and the temperature hovered around thirty four degrees. The wind was really having an effect on our fishing. The wind chill was really affecting us, it was also difficult to cast and even more difficult for me to maintain a steady drift. Jim was struggling a bit. I worked with him until he got the hang of it and began catching fish.

The wind was blowing the sleet and snow sideways and it was creeping up under my ear flaps I was getting chilled and Richard and Jim were faring no better. I checked my watch and it was a little after noon. I suggested a break for lunch. To get warm, I started my Suburban and cranked the heat to high. I passed out the box lunches and soft drinks. We ate in the car and we were reluctant to leave once we finished. As we sat there, we saw two other groups of anglers from our party call it quits and head for the lodge.

The lunch and warm up rejuvenated us and we were ready to hit it again. Richard and Jim suggested a couple more hours of fishing. It was still snowing but not quite as hard. We made a few drifts and picked up several fish. I looked at the bank and noticed that the water was rising. I stayed in the same area for a few minutes but the catch slowed. When the water rises or falls, the trout will relocate.  The trick is to know where they will be at any given water level.

I moved downstream to a favorite spot for that water level. We picked up two trout on the first drift. The rise had triggered a feeding frenzy. We began catching trout after trout. Jim got in on the action. For him, everything began making sense and he too was catching trout after trout.

About that time, Richard hit a big brown. The trout was hugging the bottom and having his way. Richard’s rod was bent nearly double. I grabbed my boat net and headed to the front of the boat to see if we could get the monster in. I called out to him as I headed up to get the brown on the reel. He was feverishly cranking in line when he noticed that he was standing on his fly line. The trout took a sudden run and the line broke. It was over as quickly as it began.

We continued fishing for another hour. The sun began to set and we were getting chilled. I suggested that we called it a day and Richard and Jim were ready to go. We had stayed there battling the elements and had a good day. We caught plenty of trout and had a shot at a trophy. Sometimes you just have to tough it out.

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