Beat The Posse Out Of Town

The full rage of winter would soon be upon us in western Pennsylvania.  High school basketball games were cancelled, local restautants were calling it quits early, and commercial traffic had been shut down on the Interstates.  Meteorologists were calling for anywhere from 10-15 inches of snow followed by wind chills in the negative teens.  As I sat there and stared at the weather report, an impending doom overtook me.  This was it, our proverbial last meal before the scourge of winter that we avoided for the last month would set upon us. 

Snow followed by such biting cold would shut things down on the local freestone streams for the better part of the next month. The trout that sat entombed underneath the sheets of ice would be patiently waiting the spring thaw, as would the anglers anxious to wet a line again. I knew that with that storm approaching, it was either go fish now or wait out the next month indoors wishing I had fished on that last opportunity.

So out I went, into the cold trying to catch the last few fish before the weather rolled in and travel became "extremely difficult-impossible" per the news folks.  The local stream had a decent population of wild browns and it seemed a fitting place to spend the last reasonable day of fishing for a while. I thought about how this must be like an inmate on death row requesting a final meal, and the choice being a modest homecooked supper from childhood.  Surely there were better options, more filling and fancier displays of culinary prowess, but this was more comforting.  Death row might be an extreme description of a fishing trip but it sure was frigid out there on the stream! 

From trips the previous weeks I knew that the fish had transitioned to their winter holding patterns, tucked down deep in the largest pools and moving only as they needed to feed. I waded into the tail end of one such spot and began working the bottom portion of the pool with a brace of tiny nymphs with some supplemental splitshot attached.  The first ten minutes yielded nothing, but that's to be expected in times like this.  A quick fly change and renewed sense of confidence then saw me casting into the main gut of the pool just downstream of a county bridge more often traveled by Amish buggies than cars. It only two a few casts before the indicator ever so reluctantly bobbed signifying a potential trout willing to cooperate. 

A sharp hook set downstream and I was in business!  A deep orangish brown object became visible from the depths of the pool and I worked him back down towards the tail out so as to not spook any other lurking fish.  He slid into the net and just like that the skunk was off the board!  As I popped the tiny midge out of the corner of his mouth, I thought about what to do next. Surely there were more trout willing to cooperate, but it was already starting to snow.  Soon, the fine powder would turn into wet blogs that would not only saturate me, but the roads needed to navigate back home.  

I decided this one fish was plenty, and quickly reeled in and de-wadered at the truck. It's a quick trip from this spot back to the house but in that time the weather had already deteriorated exponentially with air temps plunging and the snow drifts mounting. Back at home, with a hot coffee and a warm blanket, I contemplated the events of the day.  Conceivably, today would be the final local fishing trip of the winter.  The next day would bring even colder temps and slushy streams soon to be followed by crippling ice. 

Could I have stayed and caught a few more last second trout before winter sunk her teeth in for the next month or more?  Probably, but as it stood I felt like the posse had been gathered and I was just lucky enough to beat it out of town. Sometimes, that's plenty good enough. 


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