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Just one.

Lets face it, the winter time isn’t the best time for troot chasing. Trout are lethargic, with low metabolism and are mostly just Netflix and chilling. They eat but its not very much or often. Mostly during the middle of the day. But I went for it today. It was the warmest day we have had in a while.

I would be steelheading…but I need to find an apartment and the pass was kind of crappy this weekend anyway. Plus its wicked busy being a holiday weekend. I have been skiing the past two days and figured my legs could use a break. And I just wanted to catch a troot in all honesty.

I walked up from S. Cle Elum. I was looking for slow at least 6 foot deep water large enough to hold several podded up wintering fish. Those spots can be hard to find in the upper river as the flows this time of season are really low. Working areas like this at various depths with different flies will produce in the winter.

It requires patience and constant presentation throughout the zone. I found a spot upriver of the bridge a ways. A large area of deep water walking speed or slightly faster in places. Larger boulders. An area where a large group of fish would be holding this time of year. I started from the top and worked my way down. Fishing the closest lines first with multiple presentations. Then worked my way out into the middle of the river.

It takes patience…after 3 hours I had a big whitefish for my efforts. I was cold and was near the tailout of the area I was working. That little voice that says, a few more casts…just a few more…just one trout…just one. It wasn’t a whisper in my ear and I kept at it.

Nymphing isn’t my favorite thing as many know, but it works and I do enjoy it at times, especially on my Conti 10ft. 4wt. When my indicator went down I was expecting whitefish.

But cutthroat change direction and shake a very specific way. The instant an angler realizes they have a large trout on is always amazing. My adrenaline flushed and the familiar dance with a wild westslope ensued. When the orange flash of the belly caught my eye my heart fluttered faster. I do love a colored up trout. Winter trout this season are heavy. This trout wanted to run away and bulldog instead of roll which was just fine with me. The moment the tension released and the fish sloshed into the net…missed that feeling.

The orange and red like a blush painted on the underside. The paddle of a tail with peppered spots and that hue of chartreuse. The bronze in the head and jaw and that neon cut along the throat…the metallic magenta in the gill plate. I admire every fish I have the privilege of meeting or introducing. I admired this trout a little longer.

To this day it amazes me, the effect these wild critters have on me. Life has been tumultuous…ya thats a good word for it, recently. I still find that clarity I seek, the time for reflection and looking inwards, and I still feel that sense of awe and wonder at all that surrounds me when I am riverside. My passion for wild fish, angling, and sharing the experience of fly fishing through guiding has only grown.

The spring still feels far off. But the days are longer which is the start of the transition. Soon the late winter snows will fall and subside. The sun will break through as the days warm and the thaw will begin. The days of chasing just one trout will pass. I always enjoy the spring, the river rages, the trout come out of their wintery slumber, the trees green up and grow, the birds chirp and sing, and the bugs start to hatch. The spring brings a cleansing to the river. Flushing the system, recharging it, preparing it for the year to come. Those of us that spend enough time out here know that feeling seeps into you. After this past season and this crazy offseason I welcome that feeling. Back to the river, the work, the feeling of being plugged in. But like the trout in the winter…a little more patience is necessary…soon though…really soon.

Tamarack

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