When you live riverside for the better part of the year lots of things happen. You sleep on a more primal schedule. Waking with the sun fishing into the low light. You feel the weather change, you tell time by the sun, there is a feeling that sets in. A connection. You start to sense the river, the fish, it’s hard to explain you have to feel it.
It changes with the seasons, the flows, the hatches, it becomes instinctual. You anticipate all around you. Plugged in. The river and trout talk at you. When you listen you become part of the conversation.
I’ve become accustomed to it. It can drown out a lot of the other things that don’t revolve around that connection with the river. That can get in the way of those life things that are there outside the river.
I am coming into the offseason in a way that is foreign to me. I connect and share with people in my career. But that connection is through the river. In the offseason that connection dampens and I fill it with the other types of connections in my life. That being different this year with my personal life. I would normally fill my off season days with all the things outside of fly fishing. The trout season leaves me wanting that non fishing stuff with a vengeance. Not being able to satiate it this off season will be a trial for me.
As winter creeps in I feel that connection to the river starting to dampen and I’m left in a strange place with nothing to occupy my passion and energy. If you’ve fished with me you know there is a lot of energy, it needs to go somewhere in the winter. I do not like to sit still. I’m also burnt out. This season was long, filled with awesomeness and some shennanigens (fucken truck killing deer). I’ve been on water guiding or fishing for 200 days or something. I’m fished out. Rivered out.
I fished today. I landed one really nice fish…then was done. Even my fishing partner was taken back when I said I was done. The fish are sleepy, and I’ve caught enough. I work in the offseason, but its minimal compared to the guide season. This offseason will leave me more time for it. Not a place I was planning on being but when you round the river bend and there is a gnarly rapid, you’ve gotta get through it. Set your line and hit that shit. I’ve been battered around by rivers and life quite a bit so I’ve become accustomed to rough water.
Fishing in the winter can occupy the mind but it’s slow. Its repetitive, and easy to decipher. The fish and river talk really softly and not for very long. A few conversations and it loses its allure. I’ve had that conversation before many times. Look for the slow water, there are only a few small food sources, and a short window to fish them. Not much else goes on. The mayfly hatches in the upper are almost done and the fish are podded up ready for winter. They feel it creep too.
I will fill days with fly tying, a task that can be fulfilling but also mind numbing after 100 dozen or more. And I tie a few thousand flies a winter. I’ll ski, work, and try and focus on the positive. I’ll fish, when I feel it. Sharing fishing with others does help. It allows me to put energy into something. I’ll have that human connection with my kids before to long again. I’ll surround myself with the outdoorsy and river peeps that are my tribe. I’ll get out of my comfort zone both in fishing and my personal life. Kinda have to now. This offseason and the ones that follow as well are like a new river, at least that’s a positive way of looking at it.
As that connection with the river becomes less…connecting with new things, experiences, people, and putting all my energy and passion into that is all I can do. I’ll say that fly fishing has taught me many things but the lessons it teaches me that can be applied to life off river…they can be relied on and have gotten me through some tough shit. Should get me through this rapid too.
See ya riverside anglers