Today we woke up to a winter wonderland with the trees covered in pure sparkling white snow and about an inch layer on the ground. By noon the temperatures rose to 36 degrees and the snow was mostly gone. By 3 pm it was completely melted. Since it is a rare occurrence below 500 ft. elevation it is usually not unwelcome.
I donned my waders and took my fly rod out to the river. With a "Purple egg sucking leach" fly tied to my 6 foot long leader I felt optimistic and hopeful that a Steelhead would give me a go at it. The river is low and clear and the sky overcast and gray. These days I wade more carefully than in my younger years knowing that one false step could result in a very cold and rude awakening. It's happened more that once in the last couple of years so I must look like a person trying to avoid a mine as I tread slowly to a point in the river that allows my back cast enough room to avoid snagging my line on a Willow. On this day I wade to a depth reaching the top of my thighs and brace myself against the current. I cast straight across the river to a slot that is about 4 feet deep and let my fly drift naturally with the current.
On each cast I try to cover as much of the river possible by moving slowly a step at a time down stream. Like many days there was not much action but the cold air and the sound of the river beating against my legs keep my senses clear and focused.
I rejoice at the sight of one of my favorite birds which appears suddenly on a rock close by. It's dark, plump gray body with tail raised high, while bobbing to the river's music up and down all around the rock it goes. Diving swiftly headlong into the river's current,disappearing for seconds then reappearing again. The Water Ouzel or "Dipper" is the only passerine in North America that is aquatic. It either swims or walks along the bottom in search of aquatic insects. It is non migratory and is found year around on swift moving streams in Western States from Alaska to parts of Mexico. Today the Ouzel entertained me for a few precious minutes before flying low over the waters surface to a rock downstream. Then my eyes were averted to four Common Merganser's flying higher above me along the rivers winding course.
Another cast brought my focus on a tiny Winter Wren easily recognized by it's small dark body and extremely small tail pointing upwards. It hopped and bobbed amongst the tangled willow branches along the river's edge behind me. It's quavering voice unheard and muffled by the river's roar. Few people would enjoy standing in the middle of a cold river while patiently casting for a Steelhead that would not appear on this day. But for me the experience of just being there at that moment was enough knowing well that one day not too far in the future I may not have the capability to experiece the pleasure of such things.