Sunday, January 22, 2023

Winter Purgatory

Usually my inaugural fish each year is caught while ice fishing in Connecticut. It goes with saying that wouldn't be the case this year. Every day this month at the climate station in Bridgeport has been warmer than normal. The average monthly temperature there of 40.1°F is 8.4° above normal. The same goes for Hartford where the second warmest January on record is underway, 9° higher than average. For ice anglers and snow lovers, we are stuck in winter purgatory; a seemingly permanent state of early March.  

With no ice fishing opportunities within a two-hour drive, I have been looking for other ways to scratch the itch. I had a few hours to myself on a recent afternoon and decided to spend them along a stream I had not seen since May. A fresh rain had the flow in its sweet spot. I started out with the dry-dropper method and never strayed from it. The first combo of flies was my go-to; a #14 Stimulator dry with an #18 bead head pheasant tail nymph trailing below it. Kneeling on the bank beside a familiar riffle, I watched a small wild brown trout attack my dry fly. A surface eat in mid-January for my first fish of 2023. I'll take it. 

After several drifts with no love for my nymph selection, I swapped it out for more of an attractor pattern; a trusty San Juan Worm. That seemed to get their attention and a couple more wild browns quickly came to the net, each slightly bigger than the previous. I also missed one or two others due to late sets on the dry fly. It felt good to wield a fly rod again and shake the rust off. No native brook trout on this trip, and what the browns lacked in size they made up in their beauty. Just gorgeous creatures. 

The second and last stop of the afternoon was a short drive downstream. There were trout rising to what I believe were small winter caddis. I didn't bother embarrassing myself with a cast in this shallow, slow stretch; instead I just watched them feed for a while. I walked up to the next riffle and missed a fish on top during my first drift. That was it. A couple hours of fresh air and a few tight lines. It may not have been ice fishing, but to quote a legendary Stones tune, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you'll find you get what you need."

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