Sunday, December 5, 2010


Airborne, my light blue heron Sharkskin disappeared into the thick, falling snow; slate grey strand invisible against the backdrop of heavy, leaden skies and white-coated tree branches. Without visual cues, the other senses are enjoined – feeling the flex of the rod, hearing the textured line whisper through iced stainless steel guides, sensing the gentle rhythms of the slow, steady tick-ticking metronome that is the cast.

There’s magic in fishing the first snow.

It was out of character, and probably foolish, for this southern boy to point his truck into the teeth of an approaching weather advisory, but the thought of standing on a quiet trout stream as winter blew in had great appeal. The day didn’t disappoint. A half-mile from my entry point, the snow arrived as a wave, rolling down the tailwater, an ethereal first surge of dam release, without siren warning, crashing over the angler, muffling the white noise of the tumbling stream as if with a soft, ivory blanket. My world shrank to that which I could see, fifty yards upstream, fifty yards down. That was enough.

I shook the skunk early with a small brown trout, fooled by the venerable prince nymph – preferred, it seems, over the copper john suspended below it. Having heard that browns get aggressive, and foolish, with the arrival of snow, I switched to a white streamer and quartered my way upstream as the fat flakes swirled around me. I hooked a dozen and long line released most as they tumbled along the wintered waterway; my frustration with each loss was tempered by the notion that, this way, I need not dip my hands into the frigid water.

The chill of thirty-degree air and frigid tailwater flow was forestalled by two layers of UnderArmour, a light fleece jacket, and rainshell - all over waders with two warm fleece layers for my legs, silk wicking and heavy wool socks. Four hours on the stream and not a moment’s shiver. Warmed from the inside, shielded from the out.

My thanks to Matt from Greensboro for his brief trailhead company and much appreciated stream courtesy. Those out on such a day are looking for communion with the season, not man, and his path upstream while mine lead down was kind acknowledgement. Upon my return, his tracks were fresh, so he had embraced the day in its entirety as well, undeterred, perhaps energized, by the appearance of the white wall. I suspect that he savored it as much as I and hope his travels home were similarly uneventful.

Winter’s arrived. It seems that just last week I was trumpeting the arrival of fall. Time moves fast, except, perhaps, on a cold mountain stream in snowfall.


Michael Agneta said...

Great pics. Thanks for taking one who hates the snow fishing with you. BTW, loved this:

" frustration with each loss was tempered by the notion that, this way, I need not dip my hands into the frigid water."

Clif said...

Beautiful writing and wonderful pictures....well done.

Bigerrfish said...

Awesome post! I'm happy you braved the storm. A heck of a way to see what your made of...


Love the pics! Kudos to you for getting out when others shy away...The rivers are beautiful in the winter...And there's just something about the peaceful stillness as the snow falls on the water.

Anonymous said...

What a post! Fly fishing in fresh snow, what could be better? Stunning views you had.