As I slipped the foot-long rainbow back into the frigid waters of the river, I thought I could actually feel the heat belching from up from the floorboards of my brand new FJ Cruiser, melting the neoprene shrouded ice blocks that once were my feet. A day spent casting blindly over likely water netted one fish.
A fish. The fish.
Now I could quit.
I'm not normally so tender, but ... damn it was cold today. The thermometer in the truck read 16 degrees when I slid behind the wheel after spending the day stumbling through the riffles and runs of the Henry's Fork chasing trout that just weren't there. Likely runs that normally hold fish were vacant, even of the lowly whitefish, a wintertime staple on the fabled river. Ice floes wandered lazily downstream, and the wind challenged all three layers I'd painstakingly donned this morning.
I hoofed it back to the car through a couple of inches of fresh snow. Mine were the only tracks along the anglers' track into the river, and they were the only tracks out. At least I had solitude.
But it didn't feel right to quit. To just hang it up. I hadn't stretched a fly line tight since November, and I needed to feel that tug, that soul-refreshing bend in a supple graphite 5-weight. It had been too long.
Part of it was my fault, and my dalliance with my shotgun and collared doves and the thought that I might actually be able to shoot enough of the critters to make a meal (and, by God, I will ... one day). But part of it was purely circumstance. Normally, I'd blame the weather, but it's been nothing short of gorgeous here. In fact, today was the coldest day in weeks, and of course, this was the day I could spare to venture to the river. I've been busy with work and a little travel here and there, and over Christmas vacation with the kids, I wanted to spend some family time catching up, reconnecting. It was nice.
And, honestly, while the chance to wander off the river for the day presented itself, I couldn't bring myself to gather up all the trappings that go with a wintertime sojourn to the water. Neoprenes (there's a season for everything), boots, layers, a jacket. Then there's the somewhat complex winter angling rig (with apologies to my Czech nymphing friends) that consists of everything from double-nymph rigs to Thingamabobbers. And don't forget frozen guides. Oh, for a Tenkara rod on a day like today (mine are "in the shop" after my Saskatchewan adventures).
In short, it takes commitment.
And that's all I needed. A spirited tug. A leap or two. A photo of Girdle Bug hooked snuggly in the corner of a wild fish's mouth.
I'm good. For now.