I haven’t been fly fishing since the beginning of time, like some guys. But, from the first spring after I started, to a few years ago, there was pretty much nothing that would keep me from hitting the stream on opening day of early trout season here in WI. Wisconsin’s early trout season starts the first Saturday in March and runs for nearly two months before a short break before the regular season.
However, for those of you who haven’t enjoyed a March in Wisconsin, it’s a really mixed bag. Typically, the first couple weeks in March are far more winter than they are spring. For instance, as I write this on March 4, we’re under a winter storm warning with the chance for 9 inches of snow. Not really the weather most conducive to standing in the river. I’m sure many of you folks in the mountain North-West area can relate. I know my only fishing trip to Montana in early April went from near 70 degrees one day to snowing and sub-freezing a couple days later.
Luckily, many of the spring-fed streams and rivers of the driftless area remain largely unfrozen thanks to the regulated temps of the spring water pouring into them. So, if you have the will to fish, and a license, you can feel free to live it up. And live it up I did. I didn’t care if it was below freezing, and I had to stop every other cast to apply ice-off paste or pick ice from my guides. I was going to be on the water.
Hell. When I lived in La Crosse, I would also purchase a Minnesota license (their early season starts in January on select streams) and an Iowa License (they have year-round trout fishing on many streams), so I was almost literally fly-fishing year-round. Get a decent 30-ish degree day in January or February? I was asking the boss for an impromptu day off and making the drive to Iowa or Minnesota.
Then, something changed. Was it moving away from the driftless region? Was it having kids? Was it simply getting older? I’m not totally sure. Or, maybe it started with a day in the teens (Fahrenheit) opening day with a strong breeze bringing wind chills near zero. Josh said it was -10, but I think he’s full of shit. But, it sounds more bad-ass, so maybe we’ll roll with it.
Josh made the trip to my home in Coon Valley (ah, how I miss Coon Valley) for the season opener. And come hell or freezing temperatures, we were going to fish.
After losing sensation in our fingers, getting wind burn on our faces, having snot frozen to the rims of our nostrils, having sunglasses fog up from our breath, Josh snapping the tip off of his rod, and only one 10″ trout between the two of us to show for it, I think the luster of early-season fishing wore off a bit for me.
At some point, it wasn’t enough to just be fishing season for me to go fishing. I had tacked on criteria like “ideally around 40 degrees” and “less than 20 mph winds.” At some point, I went from feeling sort of tough when friends would ask with the smallest iota of awe, “You went fishing yesterday?” to deciding it would be more enjoyable to stay inside. At some point, I went from die-hard to something of a pussy.
So, fellow fishermen, when do you say, “F-it. Too cold,” and put away your rod and reel for a day behind the vise?