We are coming up on the halfway point of the off-season for us guides. The winter has been pretty chill so far. I spent a good chunk of the start of the winter in Michigan, which helped get me through the first part, which can be the toughest. The body and mind want to keep going, but mother nature says otherwise. It’s takes a while to come down from the season and rest and settle. Traveling makes that process easier. Also, sharing the offseason and living the trout bum life through the offseason has been something I’ve always wanted.
The business takes care of itself, and finally, post covid is allowing me to live close to the way I want. Less stress, slightly financially comfortable for once, and a 2023 season filling up with trips before it even starts. For once… being content…its nice. Takes some getting to used to…my generation has issues when things get comfy…we aren’t sure how to operate.
December brings about the midpoint of the offseason. The offseason shuffle. We hit the winter solstice this week, and slowly but surely, the sun starts to shine longer each day as we move towards the thaw. January will bring more snows, thick ones, and it will get cold. But then it breaks in mid Febraury and gives us a taste before the river takes its time waking up throughout March.
With no pressure to work prior to March this coming year, I get to ramble into the trout season at my pace. I don’t know if it’s how long I’ve been doing this, or if it’s my age, or just how this winter is going, but this offseason has been one I’ve looked forward to and now that we creep up to the downhill side of it things start to change.
The first thing I notice is the sun. It starts to wake up earlier, and my body starts to reset its internal clock to match. The days start to get longer, and as someone who spends 80 percent of their time outdoors, you feel it. As we get through January, the itch to get out increases. The days have a other hour to them by then. When February hits, the sunny, warm days are usually fished. If it gets close to 50 degrees, it’s fishy in February. As a guide, I have to perform and produce when guiding starts. So, I typically spend February prepping for the season. Get the chops back up. I haven’t touched a boat in 3 months by February. So, each week, wading and rowing are important no matter the fishing just to get back into shape for the year. If you don’t, the chances of hurting yourself in March are much higher.
Spending 10 to 15 February days on the river gets you ready. Fishing in the cold works the winter insulation off the body, gets the muscles fired up and working slowly. I get familiar with the boat, work, out any kinks or maintenance issues, give myself time to check gear, establish what needs replaced, and tuned up. All part of guide work.
I also get a chance to feel out the river. She tells you a lot as she’s waking up. I feel out when bugs hatch, I’m able to determine fish movements, water temps start to change, food starts to move, fish start thinking about spawning. All these things start to show themselves and give me a picture of what the river is going to do as we move into the spring. When you pair those 15 days, with a handful of years of experience, watching the snowpack, 10 to 3 month weather forecasts, air temps, river flow, and barometric pressure predictions, and you can get an idea of what goes into guiding and how I prep for the season.
As the winter subsides, the brain wants to be in that space again, constantly troubleshooting and prorblem solving. By February, I’ve had a long enough mental break. I want to be moving again, both physically and mentally. The cabin fever and sitting still, 4 walls, feeling trapped, it’s ran its course, and it’s time to get back into the guide life.
The holidays approach, and I take a little break from the social media stuff. I tie through the next 5 to 6 weeks. I’m doing holiday stuff. I even have a trout bum Christmas tree. My kids will be here for New Years. I’m planning a trip to Florida in January or February prior to the season starting. Not a bad offseason anglers.
With March and April dates filling up quicker than any previous year, I’m stoked to get to the 2023 season. I’ve got a goal to book 75 to 100 trips before the end of April. Fill out the schedule. I know there’s enough after doing so many last year. I love spring fishing more and more each year. It’s less crowded, and it’s consistent fishing compared to summer. There are big trout all colored up from the cold water and the spawn coming. There’s BWO and March Brown dry fly headhunting, and aggressive streamer takes. Plus skwallas.
As December rolls through, I wish all of you a Happy Holidays. Thank you to everyone who continues to support your local trout bum guide. Enjoy time with loved ones and those you hold close and dear. Be kind to one another. I’ll see you riverside after the thaw anglers.