Slow Fishing

“All you need is a credit card and you can be an outdoorsman on Instagram.”

If you look at a cache of photos on any given hashtag–#campvibes, #camptrend, #liveauthentic, whatever–you’ll find a few photos of people doing cool shit. You can see people hiking the PCT, traversing glaciers or camping in Trolltunga. But most of all, you’ll see people standing in a field with their backs turned. A sight like Half Dome or something will be in the background. The focus of the shot is usually whatever brand they are wearing or want attention for.

Why are we posing for photographs? What are these Internet points we desperately seek? If you really enjoy spending time in nature, photographs don’t matter. Internet points are pointless. If you enjoy going outdoors, then go outdoors. Take photos of things you see in the unique way you see them. Don’t pose for shots. If you’re going to #liveauthentic, then your photos need to be real and, get this, authentic.

This is what Phil and I were talking about as his Subaru sped south on Highway 55 toward Rochester. Conversations like this, whether on the river or in the car, are something I enjoy about fishing. This winter, fishing has been so slow that conversations and nature are all I have when I’m on the river. But I like it. A trout here or there would be nice, though if you expect a fish on every winter trip, you’re going to grow frustrated and hate what you love most.

We spent the morning fishing along the sunny bluffs of the Whitewater River. The temperature was just below freezing and the sun warmed our bones. Cloudy, foggy days have been commonplace this year; a sunny day is something to enjoy. A few sunny spots on the river were even buggy. Yes, buggy. Warm river banks yielded flies on the snow: crawling up logs, climbing footprint craters, reluctant to take flight.

When you fly fish, you need to observe the river and its surroundings. How warm is it? Is the sun shining? Is it getting warmer or cold? What about the wind? Is it windy? Do you see bugs? What kind? Are they rising from the water? Are they swarming? Is the hatch nearing its end? Knowing the answers to these questions gives you an edge.

This winter, however, has been another story. An edge means nothing. Trout have been sluggish–feeding infrequently with soft bites. Flies that are normally surefire have come up skunked. I’ve had to dig deep in my fly box for anything to work.

But at least I’m outside doing something I love. Authentically.

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