Winter at Rocky Ford. It's been cold, but rising temps have opened a window, and you've climbed through it. Roads are wet, not icy. It's so warm it could be February.
You slog through the snow down to waterside.
A fish splashes across the way. Welcome.
You start with a mouse. Oh my, the fish can't take their eyes off it. They follow and bump and swirl. But they don't take it.
You toss out a callibaetis and let it drift. There. A feisty fish takes the plunge. The first fish of 2016.
Have you found the magic fly? No. Just one fish.
You put an indicator on, and hang a scud under it. Some tugs, then the cold shoulder.
You go with a big fuzzy nymph. Now we're talking. You get a hookup. It lasts about a second.
Marsh Hawks are materializing out of the fog right over your head. They dematerialize back into the fog, then materialize again over the water. You glance up once and miss a strong pull. You stop birding and get down to fishing.
You cast into the shallows upstream and get another good pull. This time you're ready. You hook up. A good fish. It takes off for the deep channel and the tippet separates from the leader. The indicator shoots into the air and comes down free and clear. It drifts downstream out of sight.
You have one indicator left. You try another nymph, get a tug, rare up and miss. The line ends up in the cattails out of reach. You yank it free. But indicator and fly are gone.
Time to mouse. You cast and strip. The fog thickens and the dusk deepens. You cast and strip. You get some swirls but no takes. You cast and strip. You cast into the shallows downstream and a fish comes up and grabs the mouse. No messing around. Alright. Your day is made.
It's not a bruiser but it's decent. You play it carefully, leading it out of the dangerous cattail hummocks right up to the bank in front of you. Home free.
You're reaching for the net when the fish rolls off the hook. Off it goes.
You cast awhile longer, until you can't see the mouse anymore, then pick your way through the dark to the truck.
Sometimes you drive home thinking about all the things that went right. Then sometimes it's like it was tonight.
But here's what you like about this pastime: redemption is always just the next trip away.