As the last few days of 2015 disappeared before us, Darrell and I found ourselves with some time off work and a desire to go fishing. Atypical warm weather meant there wasn’t even a hint of ice on our local lakes, so the ice fishing gear remained scattered through the basement and fishing room. I was eager to visit a lake just up the road and throw spinnerbaits for pike, but with Luma’s motor still in need of some repairs, it seemed like it wasn’t the best idea. So we settled on gathering up our float rods, donning our waders, and hitting up the river.
I have a love-hate relationship with river fishing. I love the peace of finding yourself a quiet stretch of river, with no one else around, where you can cast uninterrupted and just enjoy the scenery, even if no fish make an appearance. I hate that most rivers, especially during the extended season at the end of the year, are crazy busy with other anglers at every pool and run. Some of them are respectful and avoid areas where other people are fishing. Some don’t. I think it’s great to see so many people enjoying the sport, but I long for solitude and hate fishing in crowds. I love the tug of feisty steelhead and seeing my rod bend over, but I hate that I’m always thinking of how much better it is to catch fresh chrome out in the big water while in the boat.
In the two days we managed to spend on the water before the New Year, I experienced all of these feelings.
If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, that would wrong. Our visit to the river on Monday was pretty much perfect. We found ourselves fishing spots along the river that we haven’t fished in years because they’re usually so busy. The crowds were non-existent and we ran into only a few other anglers, giving us that rarely obtained peace and solitude that both of us prefer. A light dusting of snow lined the trail, hiding the occasional icy patch that sent my rod tip dangerously close to a tree more than once.
Water rushing over boulders, gulls circling overhead, the brilliant green colour of the river, and the silence broken only by our own conversation made for one of those days that remind me of why I love fishing so much. The wind picked up through the day, making me grateful that Darrell had insisted on my wearing his warmest winter coat, though I still found myself ducking into the trees for cover and taking a break every few casts to warm up my hands.
After putting several drifts along the edge of the faster water, I dropped into the slack water right in front of me that held several boulders, and watched as my float disappeared beneath the surface. I reeled up the slack in my line and started putting pressure on the fish as I saw it rise to the surface. I got a couple more turns of the line in and watched the fish flash over a rock before I felt my line give; my float flew into the air and the fish went on it’s way, taking my hook and bead with it.
The adrenaline rush stayed with me for the rest of the day, but the cold temps and approaching storm had us turning around and heading back earlier than we would have liked. We fished our way back and stopped at a spot that we rarely manage to cast in (when we’re doing our usual crowd avoidance). I took a few drifts but ended up retreating to the cover of the forest while Darrell kept at it. Just as I was about to say we needed to go, since my legs were now completely frozen, his float disappeared and his line went straight. I saw the fish come up in the water column and started running for the net because it was a big one. However, it would seem that we were destined to lose fish that day, and Darrell’s line broke just as mine had, and the fish took off. We made some changes to our set-up after that, but we headed for the car a few minutes later.
Losing fish was the theme of the day, according to the other anglers we talked to. Only one seemed to have been successful at landing them. It didn’t really matter to us, we still had a great time and had a wonderful day on the water.
The storm on Tuesday kept us at home and we headed out again on Wednesday. Wednesday was the opposite on Monday. I woke up feeling exhausted and lacked any real desire to leave the house, but didn’t want to miss a fishing opportunity. We made it to the river and I knew by my mood that I’d better get into a fish fast or it wasn’t going to be a good day. Most of the time I enjoy a day on the water whether or not I catch anything, but every now-and-then I just can’t get into it and I just don’t enjoy it. That was Wednesday.
The river was more crowded, people were walking into the spots we were fishing and taking casts, interfering with our drifts. I got snagged often, we both lost gear, it just wasn’t fun or peaceful. I told Darrell I would go wait in the car while he continued fishing, because I sure wasn’t good company. Being the good guy he is, he decided to call it a day and we headed home.
It was a less than wonderful way to end our fishing season, but that’s kind of fitting given the year we had. We did not fish near as much as we normally would have this past year, a fact that has bothered both of us. However, the day I will remember from this past week, is that great day we had on Monday. The fun, the peace, the wonderful time on the river. That’s what fishing is all about.