I didn't need to break any ice on the river, but I did get to fish in the first snowfall of the season. I was content to let it come; I just put snow tires on the truck yesterday.
I trudged down the railroad tracks past our neighbor's house--the one who prefers we not use her land for river access--climbed a gate and hiked across someone else's land to the river.
It was a good way to get there, and it took me right where I wanted to be. I made my way down the deer path and hopped the three feet from the bank to the water. Getting in was easy; getting out would require some climbing on hands and knees through the slippery, sandy mud.
I fished this long run as far as I could. We've found Smallmouth along here, and it's deep enough to hold Steelhead, it seems to me. Worth a look.
I then made an effort to cross the river. I've done it here a few times before, but usually in summer, and even then I found unexpected chest-high holes. But the river is low, and I have a wading staff now, a gift from a concerned and thoughtful brother.
I got a third of the way across and gave up. Even though the water is low it's still thigh-high here, and many cubic feet of water backed up in a long deep stretch of river flow over a shallow hump and form a long slick which picks up considerable speed and power. The footing is a gravel bar, and the stones tend to wash out from under your boots like the sand under your feet in the ocean surf, making the whole venture more risky than I was in the mood for on a cold, snowy day.
There must be a good route across. I made a new resolution to get out there on a hot summer day suitable for wet wading and find it once and for all.
I waded upstream and fished my way back over the potholes and channels.
I felt good. It was beautiful and peaceful, and I was glad to be fishing on a snowy day.
I climbed out and hiked a little way downstream to another access, Jeremiah's favorite spot. I slid down the bank and into the water, made my way through some deep silt, stepped over a vestige of the salmon run, and found good footing about six feet out from the bank, right on the verge of deep water.
My goal was to fish this long, deep run under the high bank. This has also held smallmouth, and it's the deepest run I've found, over my head, I believe, based on a summertime reconnoiter. Another place worth exploring for Steelhead.
I was able to cover a good stretch of it by roll casting out into the main channel and stripping out line for longer and longer swings. About thirty feet out I got some bumps as the fly hung on the end of the swing. I recast, felt the bumps again, and set on one. I hooked up with a fish, though not a Steelhead. I saw it roll just under the surface, and it looked too bright to be a smallie, so my guess is a trout, or--more likely. based on how it was pecking at the fly--a whitefish.
Whatever it was, it got down into the bottom, got off the hook, and put a branch on the hook in its place.
Note to self: whatever it is, try to keep its head up.
There's something to that. Fishing in wintry weather isn't the easiest thing one can do. And it did take me awhile today to finally overcome inertia and actually get geared up and into the water.
But I enjoyed it once I was there, and fishing in snow is a treat. And next time it will be that much easier to do. And one of these times I'll catch a Steelhead, and then it will all be crystal clear, no question at all about why or whether one should be in a river with a fishing rod at this time of year. Of course one should.
But I have to admit that today, as I got out of my wet gear and anticipated getting inside the warm house, I was thinking that one of the best things about cold-weather fishing is that it feels so good when you stop.
They say that about hitting your head with a hammer, too.