Living in Wisconsin often means long winters. Some are longer than others. This year’s feels like two eternities.
By February, I usually start to lose my mind and get a bit stir crazy. I need to go fishing. For various reasons that I’ll explain some other time, ice fishing just doesn’t appeal to me, so that is out. I want to get IN the water.
I was spoiled when I lived on the western edge of the state (in or near La Crosse). There, I had opportunities on a warm-ish day pretty much year round. I could head over to Iowa where there were streams open year-round. After January, many streams in Minnesota opened up, so options were even closer. Then, when March rolled around, I had options practically in my back yard.
Where I live now there are certainly fishing options, and good ones at that. However, they aren’t quite as fly-fisher-friendly in the “off” months. The Milwaukee River, my favorite local fishery, does have year-round fishing season for certain species. However, in the cold winter months, many of my favorite spots are mostly, if not fully, iced over. As the weather warms and the snow melts, the river often rises to a level where wading would be tenuous at best. That’s the scenario I’m staring at right now.
Every day on my way to work I pass over the river and look to a couple of key landmarks to get a gauge on what the river is like. Far too often in the last few weeks the small islands I use for reference have been nearly or fully under water – a sign that I’m not going to get too far away from shore if I do try to wade.
This past weekend, I decided I had waited long enough and was going to go fishing one way or another. After donning my gear, I carefully stepped into the water. Not far from shore, in a spot that is typically just over knee-deep (and was significantly lower during last year’s dry summer), I found myself over waist-deep and was losing traction to the strong force of the water. I turned back.
I found a couple spots where I could get in close to shore and had enough space behind me to cast. Just doing that was cathartic.
I couldn’t really get where I wanted to, but I was still hoping that my fly might cross the path of a stray steelhead or pike. I was really hoping for the prior because I’m still 0 for infinity on steelhead, but that’s a post for later. Still, as always, it was just great to be out in the river.
But, as I look outside on another rainy day, and see a forecast with snow (EFFING SNOW!) later this week, I am not encouraged about my opportunities. So, I will continue to lament the weather, contemplate relocating my family, and daydream of warmer days and calmer rivers.