The dry cold air hits me like a wall as I open up my back door and step outside. I close the door behind me and head out to my chicken coop to let my chickens out and pick up any eggs that were laid. It is earlier in the morning and I am awake this early because I am planning on getting an early start to a fishing day with a buddy of mine. I think to myself, "Man it is cold. I cannot forget my glove". I go back inside with a couple of eggs and get started on my breakfast. While eating I make sure all my fishing gear is ready to go and I double check. I already have my waders and boots on. I try and minimize the time I spend at the river getting ready. I finish my breakfast and look at my phone. My buddy says he will be twenty minutes late. "Good", I think, "That gives me time to figure out where the hell we are going to fish today." We had been fishing earlier in the week on the South Fork of the Snake River. We only caught a couple of small browns and nothing else. Despite the lack of bites the fishing was still fun for me. As my mind thinks back to those previous days I decide to put all my gear in the truck just to be proactive. As I step out my buddy pulls up.
As we are driving north to a tributary of the Henry's Fork, I casually glance down at the temperature on my dashboard. I notice the temperature getting colder the farther north we travel. I do not really mind the cold though, as long as I am prepared for it. Fishing also helps take my mind off the cold. This, I have found, leads to me either not noticing or ignoring my numb and barely dexterous fingers at times. I am excited to take my buddy here though. He recently moved back to Idaho and his is excited to get back to fishing this state. I am more than happy to show him some good spots and beautiful landscapes along the way. It is nice having someone that shares the same excitement and enthusiasm for fishing as I do. I often feel like my excitement becomes too much for me to handle when I am talking to people about fly fishing. It seems to prevent people from wanting to talk more with me in the future. In the end I do not care much because it does not stop me from catching fish or enjoying myself any less on the river. Even though we share the same enthusiasm we have different ways of fishing.
My friend basically grew up fishing. He was raised fishing for bass and catfish. His bread and butter though, is catfish. They are by far his favorite fish to target. Unfortunately, East Idaho does not have much in the way of catfish. So he is getting into the trout game. He has fished for trout but not enough to be really comfortable with it on a spinning rod. Some anglers get the wrong impression at times when they are either fishing in a new area that is home to unfamiliar fish species. It happened to me when I first moved to Idaho. I was having poor success on the river with a spinning set up and started to think that I needed to fly fish. I do not know if this is what my buddy was thinking but I feel it may have crossed his mind a time or two on our previous days of failed fishing. I told him though that the most common advice I have heard about catching fish on the rivers around here is using a worm on a weighted line. So we decided to fish our own ways on a different river. I will Euronymph and he will use bait on his spinning rod.
We parked the truck and got out and immediately headed over to the embankment. We looked at the calm mountain river down below us. The clean mountain water meandered quietly with a calm energy past our gaze. "This is it man." he says. "We are going to catch some fish here. I can feel it." I shared the same thought with just as much enthusiasm as he allowed himself to show. We are fishing at my favorite river today. Everyone has those places. It is a fishing spot or river that has evolved into a sanctuary as you have spent more time there. It gets to the point where catching fish is just a bonus of being in that particular fishing spot. Time slows when you are there. A need and addiction to the spot has developed over time the more you have fished there. This river to me has turned into a place that helps me clear my mind and gain a greater appreciation for where I am at. The familiarity of this river and the meaning it has to me fuels my excitement the more I stare at the it. We somehow gather ourselves and pull our attention away from the river and head back to the truck to gear up and do our best to try and catch fish.
I step into the cold familiar water and start looking for fish. The water here is very clear and crisp. You can usually see the fish holding up in areas with structure and cover. As I moved deeper into the water I was not seeing the amount of fish I usually do in the particular stretch where we were fishing. My heart started to sink a little and I started to try and find the fish by fishing around. My buddy started to do the same thing. He set himself up with a hook, some sinkers, and nightcrawlers. A tried and true method to fishing. There was no doubt in my mind he would hook up some fish. I just hoped they were good enough to keep and enjoy at the dinner table.
Two cold hours pass. The temperature seemed to be getting warmer. My hands, at least when I noticed them, were not frozen stiff. We both had moved up and down this section multiple times to try and get better angles on the fish. I moved more, probably due to my impatience rather than tactics. I saw him hook up a fish and he reeled it in and held it up for me to see as I walked by while changing spots. It was a good fifteen inch brown trout. A good size and perfect for the table. I asked if he had any other luck and he said he hooked up a few fish before but were too small to justify keeping them. His excitement was contagious. It was his first good sized trout he has caught in while. I was excited for him as well. If I did not catch anything I would still go home relaxed and happy with the day of fishing we have had so far. He puts his fish on a stringer and proceeds to walk up the river. I tell him I'll meet him upstream I just will park the truck up there so we don't have to hike back very far.
We wade into a different section of the river about a mile or so north of where we were previously fishing. My guess is that the fish are reacting to this cold weather and cold water by going into deeper water with more structure. This section has a small waterfall and a deep run in the tailwater of this faster water. I am usually able to yank a few fish out of this area. We throw our lines and and do our best to get lucky. I start to hook up. That familiar stop of my fly as indicated by my sighter on my line. Then setting the hook and feeling that familiar tug and fight on the other end. "YES!" I excitedly say. "You got one!?" my buddy asked with just as much excitement. "Yup!" I reply, now focused on landing the fish. This was the first of quite a few fish from this spot. It is true what they say, "The tug is the drug".
We finished the day out not out of being tired but the fact that our line, eyelets, and wet rods were starting to freeze up as the sun started to set. Well and the fact that my buddy's waders had a leak that had filled with icy water. We laugh as he dumped all the water out onto the ground. We packed our things and headed home. Day dreaming about the area we fished and the fish we caught.
My point in sharing this story is that Fishing is meant to bring relaxation, reflection, and concentration. At least for me. Now if a fly rod helps me do this then great. Same thing with a spinning rod. I would have had just as much fun spin fishing that day as well. My buddy and I both caught fish, some small and some perfect eating size. It is about the experience and enjoying yourself that day or any day you go out. We were not judging each other about our different techniques. We were just two guys who genuinely love to be out on the water fishing and getting excited for each other with every success. I have always tried to do this on the river. If I see someone fishing near me having success I always shoot a thumbs up and a big smile at them. I am happy that they are happy. As people who enjoy the outdoors we should strive to encourage and be excited for other people that enjoy it as well. This should be done on and off the water. I feel that you will find this to make your fishing day that much more memorable as you drive home.