Countdown to winter solstice

Certain parts of the river never see the sun all day. Each night, the freeze returns, frosting over everything again. Those dark pieces of river never quite thaw during the day, and after a week of this, the river bar looks like a page out of christmas – frosted thick white, waiting for santa’s sleigh to zip across at any minute. Then there are the more open bits of river, where the river heads in a more southerly direction. Here the sun makes it above the ridge for a good six hours. On a sunny day, this could be October. Bugs come alive, birds dance in the trees, and sometimes the tiniest breeze announces afternoon before quickly passing. Otherwise, this place is like perpetual morning. The sun seems like it struggles to rise all day, just burning off the valley fog, before giving up and falling back behind the ridge. One long morning, dark at 5:00pm. How was it that I fished this place in a sweat bath barely three months ago?But this year is turning out to be an anomaly – the driest December on record marches on, leaving a river low and clear – barely higher than early fall flows, though much clearer and certainly one hell of alot colder.

With all the worry over a critically dry year looming, this does give the opportunity to maybe see winter fish working there way up this river when, otherwise, it would be too high to fish. However, in hand, they seem like fall fish – bronze backs and compact size. Not the sleek and shiny winter fish seen on the coast. They are classic inland river fish and I think if you showed me a photo of just the fish, many of us diehards could name the river and time of year within three months with only a  snapshot. They take a swung purple leech – a nice, long slow swing – the grabs are firm and whole-hearted, but not freight train swipes.

Although we are desperate for rain, this does provide the opportunity to explore a completely new river. Curious if those silvery sleek winter fish that are just a rumor will show?

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