Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When Winter Did Not Matter

Remember that old Janis Ian song "In the Winter" ?
One of the lines is  "and in the winter extra blankets for the cold, fix the heater getting old"  That song is playing in my head these days.
Although it's not quite winter yet here in Oregon it certainly feels like it outside. Night time temperatures are down in the higher 20's and the day time temperature doesn't get much above freezing. So as I wait out this cold and rainless weather my lack of piscatorial activity give me a lot of time to reflect on my angling life.
When I was in my 20's this weather was little more than a minor inconvenience. Yes I had to deal with iced up guides on my rod and maybe wear an extra layer of clothing but so what? Dude this was winter steelhead season we are talking about and there's is no way a little cold was going to stop me.
Back in the day before breathable waders we wore whatever cheap chest high waders were on sale. There was almost no flexibility in those old Red Ball rubber shrouds but I was about 75 pounds lighter and 35 years younger and, like I said before, it just didn't matter. Cleated soles for traction? How about felt soles? Nope! It was rubber to rock and you hoped for the best. I lost a brand new fly rod on the Washougal river one year after falling in the river one winter and my friend that was with me that day in 1976 still reminds of it every time he sees me. Those old rubber chest highs fill with water pretty fast let me tell you. It's because of that "spill" that I am a super cautious wader today.I will even pass up to the promising looking water because I am not comfortable with the wade I needed to make to get to that water.
Back then I never even used a rain coat, most of the time, while winter steelheading and also got drenched, most of the time, coming home looking like I went swimming instead of fishing. It was fun though and I have a wealth of memories from the days when winter didn't matter.
Today...well it's a whole different story. These old bones need some warmth and although I have a rain coat at the ready I still rather not deal with any rainfall that is little more than a mist.
The desire to get up at 4:30 AM with a chance of marginal water conditions (no internet back then remember) is long gone because I finally realized that in the winter the steelhead are just as apt to bite at 10am as they are at 6am.
Since it's no longer necessary to be the first one on the river in order to get the choice spot I get a few hours more sleep these days.
I feel I enjoy my fishing more these days without the need to be hard core about it.
Although I take a more laid back approach to my fishing I still feel nostalgic for those old days of trips to the Grays river in Washington or the walk up to the pipeline hole on the Sandy to fish along side of my 50 closest exaggeration either!
It was fun laughing in winter's face back then but in the end winter won as it always will inevitably.
The drive back over the coastal range is always enjoyable for me. I have seen more elk this fall and winter than in prior years. The smell of rotting salmon carcasses greet my nose along the river bank and while it is not exactly Chanel No.5 it is a good sign that these noble fish reached their spawning grounds and accomplished their purpose, insuring the future of the species.
I do not enjoy the winter season like I once did but I try to make the best of it remembering that there can be no spring without winter and in my 62 years spring has never failed to arrive.


  1. Well written. I liked it.
    We do all grow older and slow down. However, in slowing down and pausing now and then, we may be able to see, feel, hear, experience, and understand things that get missed when one is rushing about.
    At least I hope this is true.
    There has to be some compensation for aging.

  2. trout chaser6:48 PM

    The compensation for aging is (hopefully) wisdom. Fishing smarter instead of harder. To paraphrase John Gierach: "there's no sense in beating yourself over the head with a can full of rocks just because it feels good when you stop." For what it's worth, I genuinely love to be on the river in the winter. There is a simple, stark beauty to the landscape. I refer to it as the Ansel Adams Effect... The quiet and solitude are a big pull as well, although they can be rare even in the winter.--AJ