It is snowing heavily outside my study window this morning as I write and I, like many of my fly fisher brethren, are wondering aloud – “will it ever end?” It’s not that there’s not a lot of fishing-related things to do: Waders need patching, reels need lubrication, lines need cleaning – gear needs going over. And flies – well, tying always seems to call before the season. Still, the snow and cold of winter can seem to stretch on endlessly this time of year and just plain “get to you”. In the words of one fellow fly angler hailing from equally frost-bitten western PA: “I think I have the opposite of seasonal affective disorder; the lighter it gets means trout season is coming, and the more impatient and irritable I become…”
For the most hardy amongst us, even winter fly fishing is limited by this most recent spate of bitter cold. Just a few weeks ago, before the Arctic enveloped the Southern Tier, I made it out for a walk along the main stem of Nanticoke Creek, up north of the village of Maine, NY. This little put and take fishery was largely icebound, save the riffles and glides…
The Nanticoke is closed in the off season to fishing but it did offer respite for this winter-bound angler. The creek-side snow was deep the day I hiked its course – the surrounding woods silent, save the sound of the wind whispering through boughs of hemlock.
The soft murmur of it’s icy black water soothed my soul like a lullaby; the contrast of the stark colors of winter – the deep green of hemlock against the white snow – enough to offer promise of spring.
Although it’s hard to acknowledge in the depth of winter, especially when we are assaulted each weekend with fly fishing shows from southern locales, there is purpose in the off season. Like the seventh day of the week, we all need time to reflect on the past, rest in the present, and look forward to the rebirth that comes with spring.
So for inspiration to the winter-bound out there, I’ll close this post with one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems – Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. While there are many themes found in this poem, including Frost’s own bouts with depression and dealing with loss, its words speak to me about the importance of balance: Valuing rest, symbolized by the alluring beauty of the woods in winter, with activity, which there seems to be so much of in modern life.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Sleep softly, Nanticoke Creek…