Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Angler's Year- December

"Winter Storm to Intensify as it Heads Northeast!"

this time last year
So goes the headline.  Good for them I say.  Let them have a rah rah start to the season.  I live in a snow zone, and at this writing (Dec. 2011) we are curiously lacking in snow.  Mind you, snow has been leaking steadily from the sky for two days, as if someone forgot to shut the clouds off, and it's slowly drizzling down while still failing to cover anything.  Normally, we'd have at least a foot by now if not two, so I'm not complaining.  I'm looking around my yard to make sure nothing is out that I don't want buried til spring, checking the bed of my truck to be sure I don't lose any tools (or gear) to the ice and snow.

I try to be upbeat about the fishing opportunities found each month, they are to be had.  But when December comes, there's no pretending anymore.  The cold is here, and it wants to eat your heart.  There are no good days anymore, just the encroaching cold and darkness, short days, the icy grip of the longest season.  December is as bad as it gets.  Here in Michigan, a lot of streams are closed until the end of April, the fish have gone dormant anyways, and the weather is typically horrid- cold, windy, lots of snow.  By the end of the month the ice fishermen will be out in force, which doesn't bode well for the fly fishing prospects.

I am, of course, a fear mongering hypocrite.  After all, I've fished six of the last eight days, and caught a couple of small (baby) steelhead, and a bunch of decent trout.  All on egg patterns while fishing for steelhead.  If you ask me, the first two weeks of December seem to be just as good as the November fishing, but it depends on how cold it gets, how fast.   This year, it has been unseasonably warm.  I may yet catch my chrome siren.

oh sweet siren, how I love thee...

I've had my chances and haven't done my part.  I've hooked up on at least three good steelhead so far this month, and each has come unpinned in the first couple of head shakes.  I lost five in one day last December.  Or to be more accurate, five in two hours.  I'm feeling a little snake bit on the fall steelies.   Why do I tend to hook up on spring fish and not fall fish?  I'm fishing the same patterns.  I think I'm doing the same things.  Or am I?

Perhaps, perhaps I'm sabotaging myself, as sub-consciously I surrender to this most amorphous of seasons, like being devoured by a jellyfish,  its tentacles drawing me deeper into catatonic lethargy.  It would be very easy to just hibernate right now.  To sleep, just sleep, and dream of warmer, happier times.  I remember things- green scents, the whine of mosquitoes.  I remember warm sand on my feet.  I remember rising trout, and tailing carp.  I remember wearing a t-shirt outside, all day.  I remember clear blue skies, with those high, comma shaped clouds, like Nike swooshes visiting from another realm.  When was that?  Oh well, sleep is good.

remember these days?

All that is gone, and until then we have to survive.  And we will, we always do.  Most of you are so caught up in the holiday season, that fishing is an afterthought anyways.  When we get a break, we'll read our favorite magazines, books, and blogs.  This is the time of year we start to get serious about fly tying.  My tying desk is a mess right now, with too many materials packed into too little space.  I'll have to do something about that.  Maybe after I get some more fishing in.  I'm going to make it a point to watch as many videos online as possible, learn some new techniques, new patterns, broaden my tying horizons.

There's a couple of warmer days coming up, so hopefully I'll get back out there.  My favorite steelhead river freezes up so solid that the locals ice fish for them.  The other rivers develop extensive shelf ice, making the fishing challenging to impossible.  When that happens, I'll sit down at my vise, and start plotting for the time when the rivers flow free, the mayflies hatch, and the trout look up.

a fate I can live with

I had thought of including a winter to-do list here, but I don't think I can do any better than Alex Cerveniak.  In addition to his own blog, he now  is running  This post has an exhaustive rundown of what you need to do before next season.


  1. December is a tricky month. It's about the time when I start my hibernating and fly tying...but hopefully this year I'll find myself on the water more. Who knows...

    Hopefully you find your steelhead before the weather suspends the hunt...good luck and happy December!

  2. It's been a good year. And, I've much enjoyed this series.

  3. I've been patiently waiting for snow to come to my area, I need the compliment of snow to justify the cold that's outside.

    Time for a bit of hibernation and resting up for the next season.

    Beautiful fish...and writing

  4. Nicely written! You describe very well the reasons I don't fish after September. Good luck my friend and stay safe.

  5. Sanders- yeah you've got to take it day by day this time of year. Let's tie soon!

  6. Rebecca- thank you. I moved back up north in part because I couldn't stand the cold snowless (relatively) winters in southern Michigan and northern Ohio. Well, that was one of several factors.

  7. Howard- thanks- you're missing out on some good fishing, but I understand, definitely.

  8. e.m.b.- Thanks, there's a couple more installments left to go, and somehow I left September out. Back to the drawing board.

  9. Great blog Jason! Sorry I haven't got back with you. I haven't been on the river since I fished the lower section in October and put one steelhead in the net. I couldn't pull myself away from the waterfowl hunting, then became obsessed with one buck in particular. He's still out there, though I did bag a 5 point. My dad shot 2 monsters! I think we are heading up next Thursday or Friday to fish chrome for the day. Kelly has been do very well!