Being a fishing guide in the Northeast comes with a price. We have a long off-season. By late October cold weather has settled in and the first snow is falling. Water temps plummet, hatches end, and before long the slower reaches of our rivers and our lakes and ponds become skimmed over with ice.
Winter here is long. Really long. This year might be the longest I can remember in at least a decade. We received our first blizzard in November, and it hasn’t stopped snowing since. It’s hard to be locked inside when all I do is think about being on the water, but you have to make the most of it. I spend my free time refilling my fly boxes for guiding and my own fishing, and I usually pour through the internet looking for new fly patterns or tying techniques to experiment with.
Fortunately even at the 45th parallel we get a few days that help to shake off cabin fever. Winter fly fishing options here are limited. Tailwaters offer the only real fishing opportunities, as our freestone streams are buried in snow and ice. Winter fishing offers a peace and solitude that can be hard to experience at other times of the year. I look forward to my opportunities to get out, and its always nice when I can get out with a friend.
While I enjoy winter fly fishing, it is not for the faint of heart. Our weather here is more humid than places like the Rocky Mountains. The damp makes the cold that much more unbearable. I don’t care how warm I dress, it’s hard to stay out most days for more than a few hours. Windy days are downright torture.
A chance for a few fish make it worth it. Cold, stinging fingers and aching frozen feet become more bearable on the days when I find success, and fortunately most days I find success. Thoughts of guiding on these cold days creep into my head every time I free my barbless hook from the lip of a trout, but those thoughts slip away as the fish slides back into the frigid water and a cold breeze blows across my wet hands.
The end of March brings a new anticipation of the coming season. April marks the beginning of fishing season in Maine, and a host of other waters open in New Hampshire. A few warm days will begin to open some of the mountain streams and tributaries, but this year the snow is really hanging on. I will continue to make the most of the off-season, tying flies and fishing when I can. My phone is starting to ring more each day with guiding inquiries, and I’ll take it as a sign that despite what it looks like outside my window, Spring is coming.