At first glance this seems a perfect morning to test my theory of sunshine inspiring trout activity in cold water. The sunshine is beautiful as it glimmers o’er the landscape, but the water is hard. My porch thermometer reads a balmy one degree on this gorgeous morning. I wanted a fresh photo of the East Branch post Gail, but I have no way to keep my SLR warm enough to function without the lens fogging. Trust me when I tell you there is a lot more ice in the river this morning than in this photo from early 2020.
I took my river walk yesterday afternoon, when the sun broke through and lit the east bank, it’s light already diffused, past it’s apogee west of Point Mountain. The river revealed a mosaic of windblown snow piles, ice jams, and pockets of open water, one flowing upstream, the others ever southward to the Delaware. Some pockets had fast currents derived from the constrictions of the ice, water fleeing wherever it could escape; as all that reach of river below Crooked Eddy is calm water at the lower flows we have now. I hope the resident trout are hunkered down in the deepest parts of the Eddy, safe from the invading ice.
Winter Storm Gail put a definite halt on my fishing, and it remains to be seen when conditions might beckon me back to the river. I’ve done a bit of reading, recently securing another little volume from the late Dana Lamb. Tales of fishing and gunning from the Golden Age always light my imagination, and Lamb wrote beautifully and sweetly of all the moods a life outdoors displays.
I have busied myself with browsing tackle lists, tinkering with my reels, all in a half hearted attempt to chose how to outfit the new pent. I am thinking a four weight Triangle Taper might be the perfect line, but the depth of the snow keeps me from spooling one up and casting. Back in the day Lee Wulff’s TT lines were marked with two line weights: 3/4, 4/5, etcetera. The lower number gave the weight class of the line with the AFTMA standard 30 feet in the air, the higher the weight class when the entire 40-foot head was aerialized and cast. I liked that system, it was informative and straight forward. Today the company uses the single WF4F classification for its lines with a 36-foot head, and whether 30 feet or 36 feet of line matches the AFTMA standard I cannot be sure. Sometimes progress steps backwards to my thinking. Line selection can truly be accomplished by casting alone.
Deciding on which reel to use is more of a conundrum with the choice of fly line in the guessing stage. I have one old classic that seems a perfect mate, but you can’t simply go out and buy an extra spool for a reel that ceased production fifty years ago. If I go that way there is no way to have a three weight line without a reel swap, and I don’t relish carrying a spare on the river. That old school TT line would be just right: a three and a four in one.
I have a lovely little three inch Galvan with an extra spool, the traditional style reel they no longer make. It has the smoothest drag I have ever encountered, perfection when the largest trout eat the tiniest flies on the most invisible tippet. The Galvans are tactically the most ideal reels for fishing trophy size trout on the lightest tackle, but I miss the click, the sweet music one of my old Hardys makes when leviathan heads for the sea! Such are the dilemmas I ponder when ice and snow holds me at bay. Foolishness!
Actually I’m just marking time, for I’m not ready to resign myself to winter and months of indoor fly tying. I still need to be out there fishing and bird hunting! The promised La Nina winter wasn’t supposed to render the mountains inaccessible, nor ice the rivers in December. It wasn’t supposed to do that at all!
Spring is four months away, and it seems like forever when I consider that span. The outdoors has always been my sanctuary, and I feel the need of it more than ever this year.