Barely mid-November, and snow lies on the slopes of the Catskills. Days ago, seventy degrees and sunny, and now the majority of the days this week will huddle in the thirties; ah, changes! There is no plan for fishing right now. Perhaps a little warming trend will pass through come December, before the ice grips the rivers and makes the change complete.
I tented the drift boat just in time, feeling certain that the region’s first forecast snowfall would come to pass. That has become an annual ritual of surrender. I have tied no flies for the past ten days, there being no urge to wet them. Well, that’s not wholly correct. The urge remains, though the time has come when judgement of the conditions and the inevitability of season’s end conquers all.
I have an old friend who long ago moved to Florida, planning to fish year-round. The Saltwater game is exciting when in play, but my dabbling found it to be very much a feast or famine affair. In all the wild and endless arena of the ocean, it can be rare to find the fish you seek in the fishing location you choose. In trout rivers, there is some comfort in knowing they are there. The hunt remains electric, for the experienced angler knows his quarry is always close. The game requires adapting to the moods of the fish, the temperature, clarity and flow of the river, for we know there will be trout just a cast away. That makes it very much a mental game, until winter.
I miss the urgency of that mental game in winter, though it continues without rod nor reel nor bright water at hand. Thoughts turn back to specific moments, those where the correct decisions were made, and those where they were not. Pondering the merits of the choices not made, assessing the flies offered, casting positions, time of day; all of this keeps the mind connected through the months of ice and snow.
One of the joys I find in reading classic works from angling history involves recognizing and comparing the mental processes. More than a century ago, Theodore Gordon was considering the words of Englishmen like Halford and assessing their approaches to the same problems, as I might assess Gordon’s approach to a situation encountered last week, last season, or a decade ago. We have much more in the way of science today, yet the same puzzles are revealed on the water, challenges to be met by a solitary angler with his tackle and his wits. Observation of the moment still means more than all of the data collected!