Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shake Me Down, Not a Lot of People Left Around.

A three day weekend and an intense urge to fish led us to the conclusion that we had to hit the road and head north. Despite ridiculous temperatures we headed into steelhead territory and open water with the intent and high hopes of landing a few slabs. After a brief one hour nap I awoke, changed, and stepped out into the low teens. Not bad for Pennsylvania, but we still had to travel four hours north. As I drove through the night, my groggy eyes were kept open from red bull and some sweet beats. I watched the temperature gage on the truck slowly drop until it hit 4 degrees.  It was then that a question popped into my head; what the hell are we doing?

The Calm Before the Storm.

We arrived a little too early and headed to a local fly shop to buy some gloves. We went all out and got the new Simms (it was a good choice). We then contacted some friends from Chris Michels and Nick Naclerio who would be meeting up with us on this crazy adventure. We told them which access point we were heading to and hit the road. Thoughts of the large sign in the fly shop reading 275 CFS again caused us to question ourselves. What the hell are we doing here?

Hopelessly Swinging Away.

Frozen Solid.

Dead Drifting Tacticians.

It didn't help that the majority of the roads were still covered in several inches of snow thanks to the lake effect systems constantly rolling through the region. In the parking lot, fresh powder was being blown off of trees and down on top of us and into the truck as we geared up. We eventually made it to the trail head and started our hike in through knee deep powder. Eventually we set up shop and after a few casts through likely holding water our lines accumulated too much ice to be casted. Leaving the lines in the water didn't seem to help so we resorted to using our fingers and gloves to strip it off. We were careful though to not take our flies out of the water. Frozen feathers are not quick to defrost and will freeze instantaneously when coming into contact with reels. This usually results in a fly being torn in half and marabou stuck to your reel. After the twentieth time I de-iced my fly line, leader, and tippet I once again asked myself: what the hell am I doing here?

One Last Time Before A Long Goodbye.


Looking for Some New Water.

De-frosting a Sculpin Popsicle Via Mouth.

Soon Adam and I both transitioned to swinging flies despite knowing full well that our chances of getting a fish to move were slim to none. Nick and Chris arrived and began working the water dead drifting anything and everything they had. It was around this time that Chis lost his wading jacket. Unbeknownst to him, it fell off while fishing never to be seen again. We all had a quick chuckle about that but I would soon top it. I had brought my cell phone with me so Chris and Nick could find us and I never put it away properly. It sat in my jacket pocket slightly above my waist. After snagging a branch on the swing, I ventured into deep water completely oblivious to the fact that my cell phone was slowly submerging into the icy water. I discovered it a few hours later after reaching into my frozen solid pockets. Chalk it up. Number 15 lost from a fly fishing related death. As we headed back to the truck to find Chris and Nick we were covered in ice and my jacket would not come off because the zippers were frozen. We met another angler in the parking lot putting together his spey rod. He shook his head at us and said, "I don't even know what I'm doing here".

Don't Get Your Tongue Stuck to the Frozen Red Bull.

We Were Not Alone in our Lunacy. 

A Hook Up & Subsequently Lost Fish. 

Nick Fighting A Nice 8-10 lb. Hen.

During the remainder of the day, the temperature had risen making fishing much easier. The snow however, kept coming down. Meeting back up with Chris & Nick, we discovered that they had landed a few fish. Lucky them. For the remainder of the day we fished together on a new stretch of water. As the light slowly faded from the sky, Nick hooked into a nice fish that I was able to land for him. The greedy hen took a rubber legged copper john. Before Nick's frozen hands could remain stationary enough for a picture, the fish wiggled free. While this was going on, Adam had slipped on the bank and slid down into the water. Water rushed into his waders and needless to say, he was quite wet. He left the stream early and made the mile hike back to the truck to strip down and warm up. When we found him, he was passed out in the front seat of the truck in his long underwear, blasting music and heat on full levels, and completely sound asleep. We said our goodbyes to Nick and Chris & contemplated driving home. We didn't. What the hell were we thinking?

Let's Take These Inside to the Truck to Defrost. 

A Morning in the Snow.

An Articulated Realistic Stonefly Dead Drifted Through Prime Water.
No Luck.

Usually, our hotel is the nearest Walmart parking lot, but this was no ordinary Saturday. Adam is a devout life long Packers fan, and they were about to play. Driving past our sleeping arrangements we made a long trek (thanks snow) to the nearest Outback Steak House where Adam could yell, clap, and be an obnoxious fan amongst the locals. We ended sleeping in the truck in the hotel next to the outback. We awoke to find five inches of fresh snow covering everything and we headed back to the river. With a new day dawning, we had high hopes to erase the previous day off the books. It didn't work out that way. As we stood freezing alongside the river, with snow accumulating on our shoulders, and a bitter wind attempting to push us over, we decided that enough was enough. We drove home.

With This Middle Finger Salute. 
We Packed It In.

Just in Time For Some Football.
The Truck Has Seen Better Days.

So, what the hell were we doing there? The answer is simple. For one, we were steelheading. The chance to have a large migratory rainbow smash a swung fly and cartwheel downstream is quite an alluring prospect for two anglers with a three day weekend and suffering from cabin fever. Secondly, it was beautiful. The river was covered in fresh snow with more coming down. No matter how cold I was or how dispirited I became from not catching any fish, all I had to do was look up at where I was. Every time I took the time to look at my surroundings I realized that we had entire sections of the river all to ourselves. With solitude being on of the hardest things to find on Great Lakes tributaries, I took the skunking and came away with a new respect for mother nature and the river I love to fish. If I had to do it all again, I would, despite the cold, snow, lost cell phone, and near hypothermia of one of my best friends. 


Wade Rivers said...

Where's a nice steamy laundromat when you need one?

Beautiful images and entertaining commentary, Mark. I can't help but admire real fisherman who take quality photos under difficult real-time fishing conditions like that. The Beck's should take a few notes from a couple of real pros over here at TRIW. Yeah, I'm looking right at you, Barry.

Sorry to hear that the catching was a little on the slow side.

Mark said...

a washboard willies would have come in handy but the outback, beer, and food were a worthy replacement

thanks for the compliments, I fear I have the long way to go before I enter the realm of the becks