October 24th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Enough is Enough

By John G. White

Wrangler said enough was enough. Just as had the duck hunters who came puttering in about the time we arrived at the landing, and the young teenager who had jumped from the boat leaving his shotgun behind to waddle quickly in his baggy browns to the pickup. Wrangler wasnt blowing hot breath onto his cold hands, although he could have. He held his hand out. "My fingers," he said, "are frozen. I just can't handle the cold any longer."

He wasn't getting an argument from me.

Funny how just a weekend or so ago Wes Konzin and a crew of us camped on a river island and canoed through the most incredible scenery towing a stringer of catfish. A golden river, if you will, thanks to the colorful canopy. That was just about perfect fall weather. Warm. Sunny.

Our canoe trip crossed my mind as I snuggled deep under the covers early Sunday morning. Then I noticed the leaves outside the bedroom window. It seemed the wind, and the cold temperatures that came with it and has battered us ever since, had subsided.

As I laid in my quilt-warmth staring through the window, I had one of those decidedly mental chats. You've earned a day of rest and relaxation, so stay put. Yet there were the leaves. If dressed properly for the elements, one could canoe into the shallow bays for some late season bluegill and crappies. After all, what fisher is not excited about the pre-winter bite. That's when the "hogs" are in the bay. The "hogs," the "slabs," the "big'uns." Why lay in bed when you could be filling a frying pan.

Once the Earl Gray was steeping I gave Wrangler a call down in Renville. He, too, had his eyes on the quiet leaves. "I could go for some late season nymphing, but give me time to replace a trailer light." October is late season? An hour or so later we were at the access pulling the canvas off his boat. As we worked, the duck hunters motored in. "Great day for ducks, eh?" shouted Wrangler in a friendly greeting. "Got two," came the reply.

The kid was soon huddled in the pickup blowing warmth into his hands. His father wasted little time stowing the decoys, including one with battery-driven wings. "Look at it this way," I told Wrangler. "Our arms will be in constant motion. We'll stay warm."

"It's my hands I'm worried about," he said.

Indeed. Fly fishers are in constant hand contact with their lines and frigid water is unavoidable. That and the droplets freezing over the line guides. Some people spray cooking oil on their guides to keep them open.

These cold and miserable moments are part of duking it out with a coming winter. Once a couple of us were fishing trout at Deckers, an incredibly beautiful portion of the South Platte before it drops into Waterton Canyon near Denver, in a near-blinding snow storm. Here we have blizzards. In Colorado, powdery snow just seems to drop like a cold, puffy blanket from the sky. Despite being a "soft" snow, it is cold. Your fingers, already numb from stripping in and casting the line, feel colder because of the falling snow. It's beautiful but cold beyond belief.

You can't let winter knock you down. That's what we were thinking a few years ago as we headed to Churchill Dam New Years' afternoon. After days of bitter cold and mucky days, the "day after" broke with a shallow blue sky but a warming sun. Whether the walleye would take our flies was immaterial. We hit the riprap banks and started casting. I was trying to cast with waterproof mittens, which kept my hands relatively warm - until I used my fingers to melt the ice in the guides.

My fishing partner's rod tip broke due to the "arterial" clogging of ice in the guides. This was an afternoon when the sound of geese was all encompassing. Above us the sky was an umbrella of flying geese. Yes, we were cold, and yes, the walleye were scarce, but neither of us would have missed that moment of nature for anything.

As the duck hunters departed, we backed in. I gazed out to the flats where we would be fishing. Although there was a bit of a breeze, there were occasional blips that indicated fish activity.

On my third cast I hooked into a nice bluegill that seemed a mite angry about my nymph having a hook in it. His circularly fight promised a bigger fish, though, than came to hand. Yet there is something magical and jewel like when you catch a fish this time of year.

We were in enough of a breeze to be pushed off the flats into deeper water, and Wrangler kept saying, "They're down there." He kept an eye on his electronic gizmo as he rolled his fly back toward the weedy edge.

"Maybe we should have brought ice rods."

"Nah. We're going about it the right way."

We skirted the first weed bed and pulled into an open-water sandwich between beds where Wrangler picked up his first bluegill on a top-water foam bug. We worked the area over pretty thoroughly with any number of flies and fly combinations with an occasional hit. We left for a nearby bay that is a popular crappie haven in the spring. Here we hoped to get into either sunnies or crappies. The water is a little deeper than in the flats.

No sooner had we pulled into the bay than I picked up my second bluegill, a little bigger than my first one.

Soon, though, we were sobered by the elements. A few weeks before Wes Konzin was ecstatic about us being on the river on "our last perfect weather weekend." I was a little more optimistic in believing we would have a few, if not several, good, warm days of fishing left before the ice season cometh.

So when Wrangler said he could handle only a cast or two more, a sudden sadness settled in. We had been out for about two hours with three bluegill between us. We hadn't had enough action to keep our minds off the cold. Besides a solid breeze and 32-degree temperatures, tiny ice pellets had pelted us on occasion.

I dislike succumbing to winter. On Sunday, the calendar said we still have some October left, so surely we must be due a day or two of warm, fishable weather - but we'll need something beside leaves as an indicator. ~ John G. White

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