The weather app on my smart phone uses little cartoons to help describe the current weather. When it’s hot, there’s a cartoon sun. Rainy, clouds and raindrops. On a clear night, it shows the phases of the moon. For the past week or so, there’s been an igloo on my phone. I’ll allow you to sort that one out.
The post-holiday season leaves you too stir-crazy. What a letdown, following the “most wonderful time of the year” with three months of cold, bitter suck. Football is nearly done, baseball is still months away, basketball doesn’t count. This year was such a spectacular tease, as well: first we get a major change in trout regulations that opens up the season in the beginning of January, and then through the month of December we’re showered with days that almost count as Wisconsin shorts-and-flip-flop weather.
Now it’s three weeks into our new trout season and I have a damned igloo on my phone.
It’s a good reminder that in winter trout fishing is merely a suggestion. It’s something that can be done, but need not be taken too seriously. There’s plenty of time for that later, in the frenzy of hatches in April and May, into June as bluegills build their beds and smallmouth crash the banks of the Wisconsin, and into the late fall when steelhead can be taken on the swing. Right now the fish are usually running one gear above torpor. No need to rev yourself up much higher than that.
Winter fishing can’t be treated in the same way spring and summer fishing is. It’s as much fishing as it is stomping the banks and watching where fish flee from, in order to work out the lay of the stream. It’s bench time working out new fly patterns and tying up old favorites. It’s sleeping in late and fishing those few hours in the afternoon when temperatures are up and fish are most active. It’s exploring new waters without the apprehension of going home empty, since expectations aren’t that high anyway. It’s scouting new waters from bridge crossings, following small back roads flanked by rolling hills covered in snow.
When the air is still and the sun is out, it’s a beautiful time of year to trek along a stream, fishing. Or not. This time of year every fish in hand is simply the added bonus to being out there.