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On the 20th of December the predicted air temp for the 1st was grim topping out at twelve degrees. As the days crept closer it only got worse, the night before while most were celebrating I was prepping gear, packing my winter box and tying the last few flies I wanted before the winter season began. I had a few ideas on where I wanted to fish but the weather often dictates my movements. Knowing the temp was going to be low I chose to fish a spot that never freezes and almost always has rising trout. I saw this place and the fish that reside here last winter and as such I prepared several midge larva and emerger patterns for this situation. I knew I would be fishing mainly size twenty flies hoping to take one or two on or near the surface and probably not hanging around for too long after. My goals were to see a few happily swimming fish, shake the last month off my shoulders and enjoy some moving water. On site I rigged my rod and got into place, my first mistake would turn out to really hamper my first day of the season. [singlepic id=1111 w=495 h=415 float=center]
I have been meaning to get into tying my own leaders, don’t really want to admit that I haven’t yet but I still use the 3.00 dollar tapered leaders that I was shown to start with. The issue today was the temp and the slinky that became the taper of my leader. I used my “straightener” to correct this but with single digit air temps it did no good. I believe that this slinky resulted in my missing almost every take while fishing upstream. It was only when I let my rig drift downstream and across would it eventually tightened to semi-indicate a strike. I set the hook on a few flashes, one small rainbow came as a result of this method. I took one other 10in brown with the downstream and across, I lost most other fish due to poor hooksets that I am attributing to the slinky that absorbed most of what little strike you will get out of the winter trout. Could have landed a nicer rainbow but lost it before the net could make it out. [singlepic id=1107 w=320 h=240 float=right]So all in all my goals were met in the sub-arctic temperature that hung over the winter opener. I also continued the tradition of fishing on the 1st, cold or no cold, did it as comfortably as possible and managed to have a damn good time in the process.
My orignial plan had me fishing the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd but with the air temps the way they were I held off Saturday and instead dealt with my slinky problem. I trashed my old leader and got to buisness, I mastered the easy perfection loop knot for quick changes and I made a few different leaders starting with a butt section of 14lbs mono-filament tapering down to 3x by the 7ft mark. I then added my 5x tippet on the end topping the entire leader out at approximately 10ft. I also tried adding a 6in. section of Hi-Vis Orange mono to the butt section for deeper nymphing situations. As Sunday morning came and went I watched the air temp crawl out of the negatives to push five above by 12:30pm.
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I made up my mind that I was going to attempt a short run on a hole not far from my house, I had stopped to take a peek at it on Friday on my way to the rising trout. Friday morning at 10:30am the stream looked a bit iced up with a decent shelf forming but with a downstream cast I felt the hole was still very much fishable. As I pulled up Sunday at 12:45pm the majority, close to 90 percent of the hole was covered in ice, no way to get a drift not even for a quick second. I have to admit I was a bit bummed, got all my crap together for nothing. I sat in the car and after a minute decided to rig and hike anyways. I had planned to sit on that hole but if I couldn’t do that I would find one that wasn’t iced to hell and sit there for a minute.
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Just downstream a bit, over about six downed trees and through a small field of burrs and other annoyances I managed to stumble up to a hole that was only a quarter covered in ice. I rigged a #18 Pink Patrick and put a decent sized split shot eight inches up. Second cast with my new home made leader and sure enough I was retying my 5x tippet on wondering how I managed to overlook the tree branch that was holding my lost fly. This is an amature mistake that was only amplified by the bitter cold. A few minutes later I was warming my hands up and approaching my casting position again, three drifts later I saw a slight pause. The Winona Fly Factory, One. Brown Trout, Zero. I quickly landed the fish standing on frozen rocks I was able to get close enough to grab him, get my fly back and snap a quick photo before getting my friend back in the drink. My new leader didn’t curl in the bitter cold temps which allowed for a more accurate hook set, I doubt I’ll ever pay for a leader again. With that I chose to move on, satisfied that if one can find open water in this weather it is possible to have a good time and catch fish, its just a bit more of a pain in the ass. This weekend will make the first 20 degree day feel like June, I am pumped.