Finding a rhythm in winter is difficult. DC’s lack of ski slopes and fish friendly tailwaters limits my prefered outdoor activities. I try to remain optimistic, but winter’s icy hands form an ever present stranglehold. Bitter cold and leafless trees swathed in grey only add to the seasonal struggle. Fleeting daylight, 35 degree water temps, and lethargic fish deliver the knockout blow.
I refuse to go down without a fight. I don’t want to become another sad face on the subway, moving in tubes from one box to another. I will not spend my weekend indoors. I will continue to fish. I must for my sanity. I must because the alternative is grim: a season long hibernation away from the things that make me feel alive.
A single warm day is a cruel tease readily accepted. I chose to spend this day with friends exploring the partially frozen creeks of Shenandoah National Park. This park has become something of a haven for me. Free of man’s influence, it is a place to soothe mind and spirit.
The remnants of a recent snowfall covered the hiking trail, but quickly turned to slush and mud anywhere the sun hit. As we hiked along the creek, outer layers were shed and memories of sun warming bare skin were briefly renewed. Although no hatching insects were visible, I decided to tie a #16 Stimulator on my 2wt rod. Shenandoah National Park is the only place I will solely fish dry flies; not for some purist reason, but rather the simple sake of efficiency. There are so many shallow pools and riffles no more than an arms length in size, changing up nymph rigs can be incredibly time consuming. I prefer throwing a few casts with a dry fly before moving to the next pool. Witnessing the aerial acrobatics of a brook trout take is another reason I favor dries in this environment.
Although the sun warmed the surroundings, the larger trout stubbornly remained hidden on the stream bottom, allowing the fingerlings open reign on my fly. I caught no fish over 7” on this venture, but it was no matter to me. This day was more of an excuse to get outside than anything else. Still, a fish is a fish no matter the size, and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with these miniature residents of the stream. It never ceases to amaze me how these little trout compete against their much larger brethren for the same resources. I find it strange to think that the same fly can catch a 3” fish or a 30” fish. Trout are interesting like that. These thoughts often come to me when I am near a river. I hold onto them as long as I can until I return to the city where they are replaced with thoughts of traffic and fluorescent lights.
I know winter will pass, but sometimes I still forget.