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
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
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
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