Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Praise of Winter

We have entered full-fledged winter now. The roads in my town are packed with an odd snow-ice mixture that leads to surprising slides and endless fishtails—from trucks rather than trout. The sun is absent for days at a time and there is the ever-present foreboding that we are in month one of a three-month period when the mercury spends just a few fleeting moments parked above 32 and several icy days (or weeks) well below zero. When it comes to winter, trout fishing is not my primary concern. Rather I am focused on simply surviving the various dangers of the season—bad roads, cold, boredom, the flu, and American Idol.

There was a time when I hated winter. And I still don’t love it. If money and lifestyle were to permit I would likely ship out in November for the southern hemisphere and some fish that are just now waking from the clutches of Jack Frost rather than steeling themselves against the oncoming season.

But even though I would rather be on a plane to New Zealand or Andros Island I have found things in winter that I enjoy. The fishing calendar turns over for me in winter. It is roughly the same as the calendar on my wall. Come January, its time to start thinking about what fish lie ahead, how they might be caught, and how I’d like to catch them. Until then winter offers the chance to look back, sort through photos and fishing logs. Remember trips that were only talked about and fishing partners who have drifted away. The imagining and re-living and endless thinking about fishing adds to the enjoyment of fishing, at least for me.

And of course there are flies to be tied. There is something exciting about cleaning out half a fly box and staring at the empty white rows of foam, planning the new recruits that will fill those slots. You can spend an afternoon cleaning fly lines and oiling reels. Or spend a week or two (or a month) building a new fly rod. One winter I reorganized all my fly boxes and printed labels for them. Since then I have reorganized the boxes again and blacked the labels out with a marker.

These kind of tasks might distract me through December, or maybe not. But come the holidays I’ll be looking at the weather forecast trying to persuade myself that the roads to a favorite river will be okay, and that the midges will be out in the afternoons. Eventually, cabin fever will drive me to water. Its just a question of when.

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