At first glance it looked fishy, really fishy. But once you were in it you realized that there wasn’t much trout holding water. The bottom was a smooth green shale, sometimes the only structure were the random cracks forming miniature canyons in the creek bottom hardly big enough to wedge a wader boot in. There were only a couple spots were there was enough gravel and bottom structure to hold and produce food for a trout in the ravine, but I still wade it and make occasional casts every time anyhow. It’s too beautiful not to.
As I stripped my streamer back along the far side, a trout, as clear and obvious as watching something happen through a freshly washed window, emerged from the darkness of the undercut bank across and upstream. It was facing upstream and came out of the dark bent like a horseshoe, or like a snake turning to face you when you’ve walked up behind it. It followed the streamer, inches behind it, its mouth half open as if it just wasn’t sure if it was hungry enough to eat or not. It turned away and retreated back under the bank almost even with me, and I finally breathed.
It was a piece of ice about the size of your average kitchen table top, and it caught me off guard. Bumped into me from behind as I was concentrating on managing my sink tip line downstream. It wasn’t anything close to dangerous or tragic, just a small piece of shelf ice from upriver somewhere. One that maybe a little bit of sun on a warm weekend had broken loose. Or possibly a drop in the water level caused by the dams far upstream had caused its freedom from the river side and subsequent slow speed collision with my hip. It was a quick moment of “what the…!” accompanied by a skipped heartbeat and then a realization that it was nothing but a small slab of ice. As it pivoted off my right hip and continued on I thought for a second about jumping on to float and cast until its next collision with the river bank somewhere downstream. And then the thought passed, and I made another cast.
The roads were fine. Everyone was once again making a big deal out of nothing. Somewhere over the past few years people have forgotten that they live in Upstate NY and that this is just winter. We call school days on account of two inches of snow, we declare snow emergencies when there might be some lake effect coming, we broadcast winter advisories… when the first and only warning we really needed is that this is NY, and yes, it’s winter. Those of us who still fish how and when we can all winter view it as a huge farce mostly. I guess we’re a dying breed. Fine with me. We’re all dying anyhow. May as well do it with a fly rod in your hand. Let’s get this over with I say.
I stood at the Jeep, a fly box on the hood opened up displaying my tools to the fishing gods while I struggled to tie on a size 16 scud. A red squirrel sat on a rotten limb leaning against the base of a tree, watching me with indifference as it rolled something over and over in its paws, gnawing away feverishly and filling its cheeks. If the truth was told, we were probably both in the same frame of mind. Better get this done now while we still can. A forty-five degree day in December is nothing to take for granted. I rig up a fly rod. The squirrels search out and store away more food. We all have our priorities.