Like every February, Mother Nature cannot make up her mind as she slowly transitions from winter to spring. It’s a volatile time for the mind of the fly angler. One day the conditions are perfect and the fishing is pretty good all things considered, and the next its 5 degrees out and you might as well be ice fishing. That is how February typically goes and this year is no different. On average this early season has been pretty normal despite the lack of snow on the ground below 4000 ft. We are above 90% of average for the snowpack this season, we have a cooling trend keeping the temps well below freezing, and the trout are in no hurry to get going.
Water temps are still sub 40 for the most part with the lower river giving a few better days here and there. It’s still early anglers, but many of us, if not all of us, are ready to get after it. I for one, am tired of the cold. I am ready for 50 degree days, rain, sun, and the smell of trees coming back to life. I miss the sounds of the river in spring time and am patiently waiting for the conditions to be right…because lets face it…its still not fishing weather yet. You can force it all you want…it is not gonna be spring before it is damn well ready.
With no fish to occupy my mind, and the current state of the country, the stresses of everyday life, and all the other stuff, its hard to get away from the noise, the feeling of to much connecion, the echo chamber of stupidity. I find I am having to force myself to put down the phone, get off line, and try and occupy my mind with other things. It’s hard when the only other thing you really think about is trout.
I crave the solitude. One thing I love about the spring is its slow pace. Everything takes its time in the spring. For someone like me who is a very visually stimulated person…I love to observe the river as she comes to life in the early season. It is also why I am a sucker for a dry fly eat. It is incredibly visually satisfying to watch trout eat flies on the surface of the river. It gets my shit going.
The sound of the river all around you, the fly drifting along the seam, the shadow from the depths, the mouth opening and breaking the surface, the eat, the set, the fight…awwww ya. That is my jam right there. When something as simple and trivial as a fish eating a fake bug can literally take you out of one world and place you in another…that’s what I am in need of. That is the only thing that will satiate this boredom and anxious patience. I need trout in my life.
I love being solo in the woods, on mountains, and knee deep in rivers. I got healthy through it, it helps with depression, I lost 90lbs by way of it, and I live a richer fuller life because of my time outside chasing trout and mountains. Being by myself, away from civilization, unplugged from the world, and connected to the natural one around me. It became addicting. Though it all I became what you would call an adrenaline junky, chasing ski lines, mountain tops, raging river rapids; I didn’t feel alive if I wasn’t flirting in the Danger Zone. Did some stupid shit in my day. I’ve fallen off enough mountains, almost drowned enough times, and been buried by enough snow to realize that dying doing what you love isn’t so great. Being addicted to that kind of adrenaline rush is bad for your health. Fly Fishing is much better for you in so many ways. It gives me just enough of that adrenaline from my previous activities to keep me interested while giving me a trophy for my efforts that is more meaningful, fulfilling, and beautiful. A gorgeous wild trout is way better than a mountaintop for my beardy face these days. Fly fishing also has all the solitude I could want…but also has a large community of anglers to join and share in the fun with if you feel like company riverside.
I don’t always fish with others on my days off from guiding. As the season progresses the less I want to fish with people in general anyway. Burn out on people is very real and if you let it get to you it can fuck up your guide game. So I enjoy my days off fishing alone as much as I can. I have a few individuals I fish with, I can count them on one hand and not use all my fingers. I also get a lot of requests or asks to go fishing throughout the year. As the fishing picks up it becomes a weekly ritual of telling people I am too busy to fish for fun. It’s not that I don’t want to…unless I don’t like you…but I gotta fill my days with paid fishing to make a living. I don’t fish for free during guide season. Gotta pay the bills and feed the kids. And when you’re a guide…you never not a guide when you are fishing with others.
I get asked that same question every guide gets asked hundreds of times a season, “Do you fish on your days off? What do you do for fun?” To which I reply…”I fish.” And I do. By the middle of the season I typically take a day off a week to fish myself. To keep my sanity, to keep my skills fresh, and just to remind myself of why I do what I do for a living. If you can’t enjoy your work…you should find a new gig. I love my job, and I love fishing. I fish on my days off, typically solo, because I need that disconnect from the guiding, the job, the pressure to perform…so that I can enjoy fishing for what it is and what it does for me on a personal level…not a professional one. I love the spring because its a slow start for guiding and I get a lot of days to fish myself. If it ever gets here. It’s also the time of the year where things wake up, and when you live here in Cle Elum…which is pretty boring in the winter….its nice to be out and about as the whole place comes to life. Twitterpaited critters and birds, spawny trout, bugs finally flying around again, trees turning green and things budding up…after a long cold and fairly snow-less winter…the spring is a welcome to the senses. Being able to be solo and surrounded by it for a bit before the work starts rolling in is the best part of spring.
I crave that Solitude. If winter ever leaves these mountains…I am sure to find it.