A Fishing Day

The heavy frost belied the broadcast temperature of 34 degrees so that, upon my second perusal of the thick white coating on the grass, I grabbed a jacket and took my own stock of the situation. The chill proved genuine, my porch thermometer revealing a much more believable 25 degrees here in Crooked Eddy. Nearly midway through December already, I applauded the sunshine glaring over the mountains to the southwest. It is not uncommon for our actual morning temperatures here to be colder than the TV reporting for Hancock. To offset that, our afternoon highs tend to exceed the forecasts whenever we are graced with sunshine.

I smiled at the frost and the telling thermometer, for this is a fishing day. We won’t see the heady fifty-degree sundrenched afternoon that visited us yesterday, but with enough of that sunlight the predicted mid forty-degree day at hand will do nicely for a handful of hours along a favorite river.

We had more than our share of frigid days during November, but December seems more kind thus far, at least to those of us who crave the magic of rivers. I am leaning toward bamboo today, dabbing a touch of varnish on a wild thread to keep my old Water Seal Wright & McGill rod whole late yesterday, in anticipation of the rod’s first foray of 2021. I like impregnated rods for winter fishing, finding less risk to their considerable longevity than the varnished rod I first acquired for an off-season rod. You can never be sure you won’t find an icy overcoat on a delicate rod tip when fishing winter days.

The mountains that bear their bright water to us have a wonderful capacity to trap rogue air currents, particularly along rivers. Way back in my youth, riding motorcycles more than proved to be good for me, I learned this little rule of Nature down in the lowlands where no more than a gentle undulation in the flat topography could shepherd a pocket of chilled air. Mid-summer surprises were discovered riding in shirtsleeves through the countryside, with sudden goosebumps. I have fished happily in winter ice-free, only to round a river bend and suddenly feel the chill, finding ice forming in the rod guides that had remained clear all day.

It has been three seasons since I cast my mini-tip line with the Water Seal, having tried it out during the incessant high water my first autumn in Crooked Eddy. Long enough that my memory fades as to the details of its casting characteristics. Prior to packing it up for the afternoon I will likely give her a go in the yard, just to be sure of my choice.

The Water Seal was the last new innovation in the Granger line of fly rods before the bamboo embargo put the Wright & McGill company and many others out of the bamboo rod making business in the early 1950’s. Mine is basically an 8642 Granger, usually a five weight eight-and-a-half footer in my hand. Impregnation however did more than protect the cane, it turned a perfect five weight fly rod into a more powerful six. That suits me fine, for a number six rod is better suited to the kind of fishing left to me once the magic season of the dry fly has passed.

Such stouter rods work perfectly for the somewhat inglorious casting of weighted soft hackle wets and small streamers and yet, being bamboo, they are still adept at delivering a small dry fly delicately should I ever encounter the Holy Grail on the rivers of my heart. Ah, the winter rise! I still dream of it, encountered along the limestone springs of my former home, and a few freestones and tailwaters.

Enough dreaming! Time to prepare for the day, and those brief, glorious hours wading the river. The sun is battling with the clouds, the winner yet undetermined. I will fish whichever way the contest is decided, though I am cheering for the orb, the giver of light and warmth.

December Light

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