Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Rise and the Fall

Morning on the Elk

After a balmy, practically tropical, New Years Day, the temperatures here in the Olde North State took a nose-dive, falling through “seasonal” and into the down right arctic. The dip chilled our Appalachian streams to frigid levels and drove their finned denizens into a deep lethargy, if not absolute catatonia.

Mid-week was not the time to be on the water.

So we looked towards a late week rebound in the thermal conditions - and a day on the Elk River - figuring that trout would also snap back, pop off the bottom like jack-in-a-boxes at the quick warm-up, hungry after their brief hibernation, ready to be caught.

We should have known better.

For along with the mid-week winter temperatures came snow covered steamsides and ice encrusted waterways. We were greeted with a classic winter tableau – a pristine white riparian corridor scored with an orchestration of soothing white noise. Winter fishing is a treat for the senses.

Dressing Warm

The submerged stream thermometer registered a frigid thirty-six as the sun struggled towards the treetops, but the day was forecast to clear and temperatures were projected into the lower fifties. It would take a while, though, so we gamely nymphed small and deep, hoping to get lucky and place a stone or midge on some trout’s nose – the only way we were to entice a strike. And, in the crystal clear, frigid morning waters, we managed our first few fish of this new year – wild browns and ‘bows. But we wanted, we needed, it to warm up.

Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.

2012's First Fish

By mid-morning, the struggling sun finally shook its solstictic shackles and began to warm our faces and the woods around us. It also warmed snow and ice. The temperature mercifully rose, but, to our surprise, so did the stream. Crystalline flow turned into the slate blue/grey of the melt, obscuring footing and limiting underwater visibility to near nothingness. Despite the warming air, the already chilled waterway assumed a glacial feel. Our day on the Elk was done.

Abandoned Power

Sure. You western fisherman are saying, “Well, duh!” But us southern boys know little of snow and even less of real winter. What do we know of The Melt? Who knew that rising air temperatures might mean falling liquid ones? Yes, you did. Yes, we’re slow.

Pretty, but too big for the day.

But, my Rock Mountain friend, did you get to fish yesterday?


cofisher said...

Well Duh! No fishing here my fine friend. If I wrote like this I would have passed on the fishing anyway...great stuff.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks Howard, but be honest. You'd have gone fishing. ;-)

Clif said...

That's more snow than we've seen around here.

Mike Sepelak said...

Go figure, Clif. This was not a widely spread snow - limited to the high elevation that we were traipsing around in. But don't worry. You'll get your share before all is said and done.

Ken G said...

Near 50 for the next few days up around the Chicago area. Clif being south of me has it even better. The smallie bite on the creeks and rivers is still tough, but not impossible.

You should hear the ice fishermen whining.

Gary said...

Enjoy your blog from the tailwaters of the Missouri in MT. Actually, we have had some ridiculously warm weather putting ski season on the back burner. Saturday was filled with rainbows taking anything-pink nymphs and sloooow swung streamers. Less snow & ice on the banks of the Mo than your picture!

Steve Zakur said...

Nice. On the board for 2012! Im glad to see you're dressing for the weather

Sanders said...

There is definitely something to be said for that "white noise".

Glad you were able to break the ice...cheers!