Memories of fine smallmouth will help me make it through another long winter.
[by Ben Romans]
HALLOWEEN WAS BARELY BEHIND US and Thanksgiving wasn’t even on the horizon when the first arctic blast of the 2014–2015 season landed in my backyard. Just as I was thinking I had a little more time to squeeze in one last float for fall trout or steelhead, my radio alarm clock proclaimed a snow day for my two boys—on a Friday, no less. That never happened when I was in school. C’est la vie.
Make no mistake, winter is here—and in many parts of the country, it arrived with gusto. I’d like to think I’m mentally prepared for the short days, long nights, and accruing ice in the shadows of my north-facing driveway, but that’s seldom the case. My thoughts always seem to progress at least one season ahead. When it’s winter, I can’t wait for spring fishing. Once I get a taste of spring, I can’t wait for the golden stoneflies to show up. Once I get my fill of stones, I want steelhead.
By the time October rolls around, I’ve had red meat on my mind since June. This year, it came easier than other hunting seasons, and with enough lean elk, deer, and turkey in the freezer, I can revert my thoughts to important things like finding the time to whip up the dozens of flies I need to tie and figuring out which items on my 2015 bucket list I can reasonably tackle.
I haven’t even raised a glass for a New Year’s toast, and I’m already fantasizing of things to come. I suppose that if I had to say something nice about winter, it would be that it’s a good time to reflect and a good time to dream, things I do in spades. While others might pine over missed opportunities and recollect the fish that got away more than the fish actually brought to hand, I’m thinking about revisiting favored haunts, exploring different water, and supplementing memories with family, friends, and new fishing cohorts.
I’d like to revisit Montana’s backcountry with a good friend, and work a specific three-mile stretch of the Snake River for some fish I saw in 2014 that (hopefully) will be a couple inches larger when I (hopefully) hook them in 2015. Maybe I’ll wet a line south of the equator. That’s something I’ve never done before, but hope to accomplish before I’m too old, out of shape, or poor—likely a combination of all three—to do so. I could also be talked into scrapping it all and plying the waters around home with my kids. Truth be told, I’d get more satisfaction fishing with them than I would from the sum value of the entire bucket list.
But that’s why I love winter daydreaming—or any fishing-related distraction, for that matter. It’s fuel for getting through the winter. Walking into a fly shop to browse or talking about it all with kindred anglers just adds to the excitement. After all, part of the fun of this sport is the preparation—the fantasizing, the scheming, and the crafting of falsehoods when one’s spouse sees fishing expenses compounded over Christmas spending on the monthly bank statement. I usually start with, “Honey, you don’t understand. It’s not a question of want—I need this stuff if I’m going to fish X, Y, and Z this year.” Then I just wing it from there.
Depending on the point of view, I suppose that’s the price or virtue of being an angler. We’re dreamers by nature. While we’re generally happy where we are (especially if the fishing is good), we’re almost equally excited about where we’re going to be. Don’t underestimate the anticipation of a better day, month, or season than the one before; it’s incredibly motivating and can carry you through the lull of the year.
That said, if there’s one assurance I can offer you this holiday season, it’s that the snow will melt, the wind will subside, and spring will return. Until then, enjoy reveling in the memories of the past year and enjoy the excitement of planning the season ahead. The anticipation will make the upcoming year on the water that much more gratifying, and nostalgia will provide you with the memories you’ll need to make it through next winter.