Early Season

“Any chance you can get away for a day this weekend?” I asked. 

“Possibly on Saturday, but I gotta be back by about five.  Isn’t it supposed to be in the single digits this weekend?” he replied. 

“Yes to both.  But there was a bit of open water last weekend, and I didn’t land a fish.  So, better to freeze my butt off with a buddy, than by myself.”  I countered.  “Pick you up around quarter to five?”

“I’ll let you know on Friday.  Just don’t like fishing when it’s that cold.”  he said. 

We connected once or twice before Friday and with the temps still predicted to be around eight degrees before windchill, I thought the chances were slim. But I felt the tug of the water, and really wanted my first fish of the year. 

My phone went off late Friday evening with a text – “see you at 5”.  We were on…

I loaded up the gear in the darkness of the early winter morning.  As the truck rumbled to a start, I tossed in my fishing gear and cameras, and ran back inside to let the car warm up, pour myself a cup of coffee and fill a thermos of the same.  It was going to be a cold day, I tried to enjoy the warmth while it was available. 

Turning the lights off as I rolled in to his driveway, he popped out the door ready to roll, with an armful of clothes matching mine.    With more clothes than we could ever wear, we were determined to stay warm. 

The three hours went quick and we watched the sun begin to pour in to the valleys, revealing the hill tops, melting the overnight frost.  From inside the car it actually looked warm out there.  The outside temp gauge reading twelve degrees told me otherwise.

Barren corn fields covered in snow can be a beautiful thing.  The rolling hillsides painted in white and brown are a stark contrast to the lush green farm fields and valleys of summer.  Rolling up to our normal spot we noticed it was still frozen over.  As we drove along further upstream, we began to notice spots of open water.  We layered up in the car, tossed on our waders and were headed to the stream in no time.

As we approached the water, I told him to take the lead.  He slowly led the way upstream, working the little open water there was.  With every bend, more and more of the stream presented itself, finally revealing moving water from bank to bank and the chance to make a decent presentation. 

Working our way upstream around a corner, the familiar rings of a trout rising rippled across the water.  I told him to make a few more casts and get ready.  As I pointed out the spot, the fish rose again.  It would require a bit of a tough cast and he didn’t seem up to it, as he looked and me and said,  “It’s all you on this one.”

Since he was handing over the reigns, I took my time and tied on a size 20 Adams and straightened my leader and tippet.  This was my first shot at a fish in 2014 – I didn’t want to mess this up.  As I readied my rig and got in position, he grabbed the GoPro from his bag and said “Whenever you’re ready, let’s do this.” 

A couple of false casts and I laid out a beauty.  About ten feet ahead, perfect drift, a nice mend, and a slow rise.  As the fly disappeared from the surface, leaving only a slight wake, I raised my rod, setting the hook and connecting with satisfaction.  As I stripped in a cookie cutter Driftless brownie, the cold left my body and the warm sensation of contentedness set in.  The ultimate in my book – seeing a rising trout, and outsmarting him for just a second, and bringing him to hand.

Is it Early Season opener yet?