Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Mar 2015

Rigging in the cold, always seems to be the most daunting task at hand whenever I am fly fishing winter waters. So, as history had already proven, standing at the rear of my truck attempting to complete a simple task I had done a million times over was once again kicking my ass. Even though 25 degrees and no wind felt almost balmy when I first stepped out of the truck, 5 minutes with bare finger tips trying to tie a tandem rig with two size #16 nymphs quickly changed all of that. And to make matters worse, fluorocarbon really does disappear when the backdrop is snow on an overcast day. Not to mention those little tungsten bead-heads certainly do disappear in a flash when dropped in snow. A realization I was none too subtly coming to grips with as I searched for my fly while muttering unsavory expletives. "Son#@!&&^%$#," I thought out loud as I went back to work rigging my dropper with the now added benefit of not only cold but wet fingers. I finished up, sat my rod aside and blew on my fingers to warm them. For a fleeting second I saw my wife's bewildered look while shaking her head as I packed to go trout fishing in January. Thankfully I was called back to my senses by the sound of the stream to my left and the knowledge of what lay beneath those waters.

Winter to most is an ugly time of year, unless folks find themselves looking out over new-fallen snow and an almost Christmas time view. Those views tend to fade quickly however, with trampled and dirty snow soon changing to slush. For me, the winter world is simply a world in black-and-white. Not only in the visual sense of a lack of color, but also the fact that winter reveals everything. No vegetation and flora's which to hide behind. In the winter you see the outdoors as it is, with no distractions. And while many of the colors are not often found, many more step to the front to take their place. In the summer the river stones look a basic grey. But in the winter, the blues, greens and opposing shades of greys and whites come forward showing all the beauty in natural slate and water-worn rock. Even the colors in the streambed rock seem to shine brighter in the winter with less reflection from overhead cover to compete with. I try to take it all in when on the water. To find the beauty in whatever the situation has to offer. Sometimes I fail, but those times are few and far between since nature always has something to offer.

As my legs adjusted to the cold damp feeling of the stream against my waders, I slipped my indicator on to the desired depth and studied the water. I had chosen a bright orange indicator. Had I done it subconsciously to oppose the winter's lack of color? That would only be answered for certain by hours of intense therapy which, will never happen. So I'll go with yes. No sense in adding a white or pale yellow indicator to the already monochromatic scene. Attempting to hold tight to the bank, the effort took me several times to achieve as I dusted off my casting arm. Yet once my feel for the line returned and my drift was right, as if on cue that little orange dot dipped beneath the surface and a lift of the rod brought a hefty fish. It was a fat brown of 17-18 inches and quite stubborn with the prospects of leaving the water for my cold air world anytime soon. But eventually the rod won and I was admiring an example of colors in which only nature can provide. The buttery gold of its flanks, contrasted by the white belly and silver haloed black markings and bright orange spotting, were much more pronounced than any summertime fish I had landed. It was as if God had said, "The summer is for bloom, but for the fish of winter it is your time to shine." Shortly thereafter it was proven as such when a rainbow came to hand with bright crimson and orange flanks that extended through the entire cheek area. The bright silver of summer was replaced with a Smokey-olive color that provided for a truly beautiful fish. Trout and fishing for them, some often say is enhanced by the beautiful places in which they are found. However, I will contradict that by saying, trout take the areas in which they are found and make them that much more beautiful by adding colors found nowhere else in nature. They are the jewel that makes the setting a ring.

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