by Mark Littleton
When I tell people I'm going flyfishing this time of year, they look at
me with disbelief. It often draws comments like "you don't really go
fishing when its this cold" or, "are you insane?". I never tell them
that I am not insane. Its been my experience that the more emphatically
you deny being crazy, the crazier you seem. It is just the opposite
however. I don't go fishing in the winter because I am crazy, I do it
to maintain what little sanity I have left.
My wife Katie, knows that my attitude can take a serious turn for the
worse when I am stuck inside for more than a few days. She has seen
"The Shining" and knows how dangerous cabin fever can be. She will
start to make comments like "are you going fishing tomorrow?" or "why
don't you go fishing?" Katie knows me, and my moods better than anyone.
Maybe that's why she hides the axe in December.
Winter is not the most productive time to flyfish. The fishing is
rarely fast and furious, but we almost always catch some fish when we
go. There is more to fishing than catching big fish. It is a chance to
get outside. For some reason, as much as I love to be outside, I don't
go outside in the winter unless I have an excuse. Fishing is as good an
excuse as any. I almost always see unexpected and interesting things
while I am out on the Yakima River. Last week I saw a male bighorn
sheep running full speed across the road and up into the hills. The
sight of that powerfully built animal charging up the hill is burned
into my memory. I think it is interesting that the most memorable thing
about a fishing trip often has nothing to do with fishing, except that
you only saw it because you were there to fish.
If you decide to go winter fishing, take another trout bum. The cold
weather and cold water make for a dangerous combination. A friend of
ours fell in twice in 30 seconds recently. His waders filled up with
water and he was struggling to get back on his feet the second time.
His fishing partner waded over and helped him to shore. He probably
would have been okay without any help, but then again, maybe not. Wear
warm clothes, and avoid cotton. Cotton is for summer. It retains
moisture and keeps you cold when wet. Wool, polypro, and polyester will
wick away the moisture and you will warm up much faster if you get wet.
The trout tend to feed in groups in the
winter. Look for pods of rising fish in shallow slow moving water in
the afternoon. We have had success lately with black midge emergers and
chronomid nymphs in size 16 to 22. The takes are often imperceptible,
Go try winter fishing for
yourself. If anyone says you are crazy for doing it, just give them
your best Jack Nicholson smile.