It is beautifully clear this morning, with a lovely orange tinge in the south, blending to soft blue at sunrise. It is deathly cold here though: two degrees in Crooked Eddy. The Super Bowl lies behind us, and thoughts of the angler are wont to run to spring, but those thoughts seem frozen in place. There are no days above freezing in our ten day forecast.
I long for a break from the clutches of winter, one of those two or three day warmups with temperatures kissing fifty! Three such days betwixt milder nights would find me at the river’s edge, with a smile as broad as the horizon. We had a few little breaks from the icy oppression during my first two Catskill winters, and though I didn’t bring many trout to hand my soul was freshened and my spirits reborn.
I crawl back into the blankets of my memories as this ice age drones on, to soft afternoons where spring teased in February.
Walking in the shallow currents of the Little Juniata one February day, the sun flirting late in the afternoon, I came upon the glassy tail of a pool… with dimples! The leader lengthened and a tiny midge secured, I played the game with half a dozen sipping browns, hooked them all, and brought five to hand! They were cold and firm between my fingers, wild and alive, and they shared that with me.
Finding Spring Creek uncrowded on another February day, I plied her runs with my little olive shrimp. With the sun in my face I squinted to follow the leader as the little fly bounced along the bottom, pausing enough for my reaction: a bent rod, running line, and eventually an eighteen inch brownie wriggling in the mesh of my net. The limestone waters offered such gifts readily in winter.
Our Catskill rivers have proven stingy, even when those lovely hints of spring part winter’s clouds, but their beauty and the freedom they provide are gift enough: walking shallow riffles as an eagle circles aloft, and the soft glow as the sun kisses the mountain tops goodbye.