Beyond the window sill, stained dark from condensed water, lies a world picturesque and seemingly frozen by the chill of the winter air. Perched atop a stool, aswoon for the thought of a pleasurably warm fishing day, I spun cord to steel. Although thoughts of thawing ice stood toe-to-toe with wetting a line on the coldest days, my thoughts were directed to the future. Looking back through my personal patterns, the future is where my sights are usually set. It is always the next change of season. No matter the time of year, if you ask, I will tell you the same thing. “Oh, I can’t wait for winter” or “The best fishing is in the fall” or “The summer season kicks ass!” Even though I am looking forward to the next season, I will tell you that spring is by far the most exciting and most difficult to anticipate. To quell my thoughts of spring, I figure now would be a great time to follow through with the thoughts I had during the fall, to fish the winter. My timing of weather patterns was off. Way off.
Driving north out of New Mexico was as it usually is this time of year, cold and pretty miserable. The San Luis valley is by far the coldest area in the southwest, and close to the coldest in the lower 48. I know this valley well, for the past five years my journeys have skirted this valley and it has served as access to my favorite fishing destinations. I continued on, not thinking anything was out of place as the temperature varied about thirty degrees from hilltop to valley. The sun was out and that was good enough for me. Unbeknownst to me, a monster was working it’s way south that promised an icy temperature drop. Like fog, humans piled themselves into valleys and scurried about searching for gifts to present to loving families. I decided to pay a visit to some very good friends. The only gift I had to give was the gift of gab (aka “Shut me up before I overstay my welcome”). As I completed my final goodbye, I heard news of the coming storm. “Extremely cold with a little snow. Be safe out there.” I had to push south before the road conditions decided to get out of hand. My stomach growled as I passed through Colorado Springs and I figured it was time to find a rest area, eat some ramen noodles, and slip into sleep as snow began to accumulate on the highway.
I was twenty miles from my destination and as short as it seems, twenty miles can quickly turn into an eternity with icy roads and fishing on the brain. In the morning, my eyes peeled open, they were out of focus and white covered everything. I thought the worst and as I slowly regained consciousness, I realized that my jeep had been idling for the past four hours. It was warm and the blurry white turned out to be only a couple of inches of snow. Alas! I could travel! The cold wasn’t an element for me to think about just yet. My mind was solely focused on fishing and driving. At least it looked warm enough. I pulled into my favorite little parking spot and sighed. “Finally.”
I knew it was cold, after all, there was snow on the ground. Regardless, I stepped out to retrieve my waders from the back of the truck. It only took seconds before the cold seeped in through my jacket quickly enough for me to let out a “holy crap” and scurry back into the jeep. I sat there with my waders in the floorboards. With my hands on the steering wheel, I convinced myself it wasn’t that cold so long as I did not look at the thermometer on the dash. Curiosity killed the cat and it was 14. Fourteen! I have fished the Taylor in early February, the Pan in late December, the Blue in January, I know this game. By noon it would be 30 and everything would be fine. I’m fine with the cold, but here, it isn’t supposed to be this cold. I briskly hiked to my favorite spot and fog rolled off of the water, it was warm and loaded with actively feeding fish. Standing in the water to stay warm, my facial hair began to freeze with aid from my breath. The snow rolled in and as impossible as it sounds, it became colder than anticipated. It was time to eat something warm and warm myself in the process. The thermometer now read 15. It was noon. When my fingertips came to temperature, they started to itch, a sure sign of frostbite. I am rarely ever done until the day itself is. Returning back to the water, my thoughts drifted back into spring.
Thinking about spring didn’t keep me warm. Inward, the coming year had a warming sensation. A warming of the heart. The future is always at hand. Like the cold, the fear is nearly crippling. As much as I would hate to admit it, the anticipation of spring scares me as much as publishing this. The fear of rejection in both cases makes it difficult to move forward, yet excitement of the anticipated end product pushes me to keep going. The burning sensation wasn’t just the cold air and frostbitten fingertips, it was the warming feeling of the coming future.
P.S. Here are some more pictures from the trip!