Rain. Grey cloudy skies. Mist on the water. Hail. Ferns as tall as a man. Moss painted trees. Salamanders. Cold fingers and toes. The smell of firs and cedars. Elk trails. Little brown birds that seem to follow you from run to run. Translucent fins. Blushing cheeks. Anticipation. Knowing that if you spend enough time with your fly swimming it will come. Maybe next week, maybe tomorrow, maybe today. Every cast that swings through water that has that juice could be the one. Hope. When I’m in it there is no doubt winter is my favorite season.
Hope and expectation. The definitions of the two words are close but a world apart. Expectation can ruin your day. Expecting that fish will be caught because the conditions are perfect, because you caught one last time, because the reports are awesome is a mistake. Expectation takes you away from the moment. It keeps you from enjoying the things that surround you. How many people are sitting at home with the winter blues while you’re out on the river? A wild river, dressed warm and dry, water rushing around your legs, concentrating on every step, every swing, with your whole being. In the moment, part of your surroundings, nothing else exists. Hope is that thing that exists with every swing, every delicious run fished, every cast well executed. Hope is the possibility this is the cast, this is the run where lighting will strike and that connection with the wild will be complete. One fish can make a season, its not about the numbers.
Get out there and fish. Fish by yourself. Fish with a friend. Concentrate on one river, two at the most. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to get out there. Go when the water is low. Go when the water is high. Fish in the rain and the sun. None of it is time wasted. There are things to learn under all conditions. Things that can only be learned on the river. Don’t worry about fly selection, pick a few you like. Pick a light fly and a dark fly and maybe one in between for giggles. I don’t think the fish care much. Keep your fly in the water. Keep it in the water all day. Then go do it again the next chance you get. Enjoy every moment, even the ones spent not catching. The fish will come. Get out there.