5 Fly Fishing Lessons from a February Day

An app on my smartphone told me I needed to go fly fishing on a late February day. Oh, it didn’t say it in those exact words. But the weather app predicted a one-day window with mid-50s temperatures in southwestern Wisconsin. So I contacted Dave, my podcast partner, and we shifted our schedules to make it work.

Now, I’m at my laptop a couple of days later, and five lessons from that day come to mind:

1. Getting out of Dodge at the last minute isn’t easy.

Dave drove an hour from his home to mine on a Monday evening. We had decided to make the three-hour drive from my home that night to stay in a Super 8 near our fishing spot. That way we could hit water first thing on Tuesday morning.

Everything went according to plan.

But we were both fried emotionally when we left my house. Both of us overscheduled our Monday so we could be gone on Tuesday. I felt like I was on the run all day. Meetings ran longer than expected, and I had scheduled a razor thin margin between them. Dave’s SUV was in the shop, so he had to bring his family’s mini-van. I threw in two duffel bags of fly fishing gear because I didn’t have time to pack it into one.

Now I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that you have to push through the craziness that a last-minute trip creates. It’s worth it . . . eventually.

2. The early bird gets the worm.

Perhaps “getting the worm” is not an apt image for fly fishing. But bear with me.

Arriving at our destination on Monday night turned out to be a great move. We were able to get an early start on Tuesday and arrive at the Blue River before anyone else. The stretch we like to fish is less than two miles long. The “river” is really a small stream, so there are a limited number of productive runs.

The fly fisher who arrives first doesn’t have to take the leftovers.

3. Woolly Buggers are the ticket for coffee-colored water.

The Blue River always has a bit of color. It’s always a bit stained.

But there had been enough snow runoff that the water was coffee-colored. I suppose it was a rather weak coffee color. We guessed that Woolly Buggers would be our best bet, and they were.

Dave and I each landed two 14-inch browns — big fish for such a small stream. I also caught a nice rainbow and lost another brown after playing it for half a minute. All this happened in about three hours.

For a bright sunny day in February, we were pleased with the outcome. It was consistent with other days when we’ve had success stripping streamers in murky water.

4. The streamer bite has a definite window.

The first two hours on the river were productive. The last one was not. As the sun got higher and the temps warmed up, the fish stopped hitting streamers. Dave remarked that the streamer bite was finished for the day. I agreed for two reasons. First, I knew he was right. Second, it meant we could grab lunch at the local café sooner than later.

We both remarked that we could have (uh, should have) started an hour earlier. That would have given us a three-hour window of fishing rather than only two.

We’re not complaining — just observing: Once the trout are done feeding, it’s useless to keep fishing.

5. Mud can be slick.

I was worried about slipping on the ice and getting hurt. The good news is that this didn’t happen. The bad news is that I slipped on the mud and tweaked my ankle. It’s only a slight sprain, so I’ll survive.

Who knew that mud could be so slick! Let the fly fisher beware.

More Fly Fishing Lessons

Alright, I promised only five lessons, so I’m going to stop here. I won’t talk about:

  • How it’s best not to catch your front bumper on the concrete wheel stop at the head of your parking space. That might embarrass Dave;
  • How it’s easier to snap a front bumper back into place in the daylight than in the dark;
  • How it’s best to hide your limp (if you sprain your ankle) when you arrive home. Otherwise, your adult children might send the rest of the family a rather hilarious Snapchat video (complete with a satirical caption) at your expense.