And Oh How The Crowds Thin
Year after year, I've seen the same occurrence take place on the river Blue usually around this time of trout season.
For the most part, those of us who fish during trout season at Blue River experience quite tolerable and mild weather. However as it is with cold weather trout season, seasons change and so does the weather.
Yes, the mild fifty-degree days we grow accustomed to begin to fade, usually in January - giving way to the Arctic blasts. Its called January pain.
But again, the changing weather in the form of frigid temperatures do not dissuade us... for we are the rugged lot known as fly-fishers! Uh huh.
If you're a fly-fisher then certainly there will be a day during January you will rise at an early hour and catch the morning weather report. A report that tells you plain and simply that the air is cold enough that water dispensed from a cup, thrust suddenly in the air, will crystallize before touching the ground. And, the forecaster will also let you know that the wind is scheduled to howl on this given day and the wind chill factor will become known as the wind kill factor.
But, the call is too strong, the gear goes in the wagon, you grab another cup of Joe and hit the road to... paradise? Maybe, maybe not, we will see.
Once you get to the river you quickly gear up while the vehicle, and the heater inside is still running, the first tinge of doubt slowly enters the backdoor of your mind. So, you jump back in the wagon for one final warm-up and then through self-talk convince yourself that your are on a mission to defy the elements and clean house on the unsuspecting trout.
The wade you make to the designated water you've chose is slow and methodical, mainly because you know that one slip-up and you'll be taking the polar bear plunge, which will certainly bring an abrupt ending to your expected wonderful day on the water.
Ten minutes in... you find that your hands are already numb. Fingers that are coiled around rod and cupped around line are by now fairly static due to the fact the digits are also numb - numb with the exception of that unbearable burning feeling in the tips of the ol' digits.
By now, the olfactory has kicked in high gear and is running like the river itself. You snort, sniff and suck, but the olfactory keeps on producing as the product trickles down your face. If you have a moustache, like some of us do, then your agony is only compounded with the product freezing in that dividing meadow of your face.
Twenty minutes have now passed and suddenly you wonder if your ears are still attached or have they fallen into the river? If there is another part of the human body, outside of the ears, that is more affected by cold temperatures, it is most likely a body part that we normally keep covered... unless we live in a nudist commune.
With your ears aching and throbbing like there is no tomorrow you find yourself looking over both shoulders, keeping tabs on that clown of a fishing buddy you brought with you. Knowing your buddy quite well, you remain on edge and guarded because this is a guy that is most likely to sneak up behind you and thump your throbbing lobes.
The pain of your friend doing such an act is not your only concern - you are also concerned for his life. For you see if your friend committed such a thoughtless act it would call for swift and sudden action through retaliation that would result in murder right then and there in the river.
However, if you did grab your buddy and hold him under the current until he turned blue, and his body went limp you should not fear any charge that might be brought against you. Once the judge and jury hears your story you will most certainly be vindicated and set free. The judge will most likely go as far as telling you that never has there ever been a more clear case of self defense.
Now, an half hour has passed and you no longer can feel your legs or feet. The thought runs through your head whether or not your toes have turned black or maybe just a dark blue. You need to move about, but out of fear of not being able to perform said function you stand rigid as the doubt builds in your mind. As that doubt grows, the question of whether your are frozen solid in the river... a place you will remain until the spring thaw arrives, plays over and over in your head.
The gods of the north are tormenting you with their icy breath, but, you stand in defiance of their omnipotence. They blow another breath and your grab your collar and pull it a little tighter, while under your breath say, "Bring it on your dark northern devils!" Two minutes later they deliver a hard steely blow, and again, under your breath you say, "Okay, okay... I take back the devil thing!"
But stay you do. The word wimp is not in your vocabulary. Hmmmm.
At this point you begin to wonderful if you're the biggest idiot in the world, but with a simple look up or down the river you see that you're not, because you have company. But... the difference is these anglers are sitting on the bank, wrapped in cover-alls, with a fire going.
An hour has passed and even though you are sure your body is frozen stiff, your central nervous system is not. Working just fine, your nerve center is efficiently dissipating pain throughout your frozen carcass.
All this time you've been in the water you haven't had so much as a bump on your fly and if you did it wouldn't make any difference anyhow because your reflexes have totally shut down by now. The fish are smarter than you because they are holding deep in the column, slowing their metabolism, while laughing at your dumb-ass.
You decide to call it and as you spool your line in a trout slams your fly. You find the strength to bring the fish to hand, and in the excitement of this tiny moment you dare to wet your frozen hands, gently removing the hook and freeing the fish.
You tell yourself what a fine fly-fisher you are.
It took two minutes or less to wade into the river, but not it takes a good ten minutes to wade out. You make it to the bank and begin to go up the hill, looking like a waddling duck that has just had a prostate examination.
At the wagon you do not take the time to break the rod down and just like you throw the rod into the back, you thrust yourself behind the wheel where you turn the blast furnace of a heater on. Your day is done - you are toast. Well... frozen toast.
You pull onto the road while once again telling yourself what a fine fly-fisher your are.