fall leaves drought
Photo: Matthew Reilly

Drought

What is bounty without shortage?

The southwestern corner of Virginia has been experiencing a drought that's run on since early September. And once the smallmouth fishing slowed in October and trout fishing would have theoretically taken over, streamflows bottomed out. So, for lack of ideal opportunity, I’ve yielded to my duties to academics, to my freshmen residents, and to writing, disheartened by the environmental condition, and chivalrous towards the fish in their stressed state.

Missouri River Winter
Photo: Mark Raisler, Headhunters Fly Shop.

Frozen toes

We hit the river around 1:00 in the afternoon this past Saturday, with a three hour drive in the rearview mirror and the various necessities of early March fly fishing - the waders and the synthetic long johns and the fleece pants and the heavy wool socks and the Nano-Puff jackets - all in place.

Missouri River Winter
Late winter on the Missouri River (photo: Mark Raisler, Headhunters Fly Shop).

It didn’t matter. While the air temperature was decent, the water was down in the mid-30s and wading conditions that were fine for a grown man were bone-achingly, foot-numbingly cold for a 9 year old boy with no body mass to speak of and the fat reserves of your typical anorexic super model.

We slid down the muddy brown bank of the side channel, stepped into the Missouri, and picked our way slowly across the current on a wide gravel bar, his hand in mine, both of us holding tight, knowing that if he went in the river, even here in the shallows, he’d be hypothermic before I could get him back to the truck.

Fly Fishing Parks Highway Alaska

Denali Looming

It’s an almost ungodly sight. It doesn’t seem real. Not when you catch that first glimpse, and not when you’re standing there among a throng of tourists at the Talkeetna overlook, each of whom is asking the same question: “Is that really Denali?”

Fly Fishing Parks Highway Alaska

It can’t be real, can it? Those rocky crags in front of it… the ones that look like the Tetons—only bigger—they might be real. But that massive white-cloaked behemoth of a mountain behind them? That’s not real. It can’t be.

But Denali is real, all 20-some-thousand feet of it. On rare clear days, it is the Alaska skyline—a massive preserve of rock and ice that looms menacingly over the interior like a moody schoolmarm just waiting for a reason to be cranky.

Shrews Mice Trout Stomach
Probably not typical, but this is still why you sling mice for trout.

Our Most Read Articles of 2013

It's New Year's day, so we're phoning it in a bit by looking back on the most read articles from last year. Even though we keep pretty tight tabs on which articles are well received by our readers, when you look back at a period as long as a year, there are often some surprises. The five articles that follow were the most read of those we published in 2013.

Shrews Mice Trout Stomach
Probably not typical, but this is still why you sling mice for trout.

#5) This is Why You Sling Mice for Trout

While many of you already know that catching a trout on a fly pattern intended to imitate a mouse or other rodent is perhaps the most exhilarating way to do so, there are always some folks out there that find it hard to believe that trout seek prey as large as mice. The inspiration behind this article, a photo of an unintentionally killed trout that was revealed to have a staggering number of voles in its stomach, likely set those doubts aside for many fishermen out there.

#4) Nymphing: Get More Hookups

I'm always surprised to hear other fly fishermen remark that they very rarely nymph, due to its difficulty or perceived lack of efficacy. If for no other reason, nymphing should be one of every fly fishermen's go-to tactics particularly because it is so deadly effective. It is also simple to learn and become adept at nymphing. If you're struggling with nymphing or just want to up your catch rate, there could be one simple mistake you're making that's costing you hookups.

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