Jane Latus Emmert

Montana Artist

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Winter in Montana

Posted by Jane Latus Emmert on January 28, 2013 at 11:20 AM

It is winter in Montana and that means that my outdoor activities change.   Most winters I snowshoe or cross country ski or downhill ski, but THIS winter my husband took me on a new adventure.

We fished the river in the snow.  I thought he was crazy to try it--and he IS crazy about flyfishing....but, I'm an adventurer, so I dressed warmly and went along.

It was a two-day adventure and I have to admit that on the first day I wasn't enjoying myself.  It was a "warm" winter day and instead of snow we got rained on for hours.  I am not a fan of being cold, but WET and COLD falls really low on my list.  The Forest Service roads were snow-packed and the rain turned them into an icy mess.  Our 4WD Ranger shimmied a bit as we moved from one fishing hole to another and when we got out of the truck we looked for patches of pine needles or twigs to step on for traction.  Once we got off the road, the snow down to the river was crunchy and we were able to easily navigate down to the river.  I stayed back from the snow covered edge of the river because I didn't know where the river actually began and I didn't want to get my feet wet.  I had nightmare thoughts about slipping into the river and getting hypothermia or having a heart attack from the cold.  My mind really wasn't on fishing--not the relaxing, summer, peaceful fishing I am used to.  My mind was on survival.  

Casting was difficult because the eyelets of the flyrod got iced up which meant the line wouldn't slide through easily.  I tried mending and roll casting (methods for moving your line without pulling it all in each time) but I never caught any fish.  My hands were cold and my attitude was grumpy.  It was difficult to change out a fly with numb hands and when I snagged a tree with my back cast I was ready to quit.

My husband caught a few fish and the intermittent rewards kept him casting.  He is an optimistic fisherman.   He knows there are fish in the river and he BELIEVES he will catch one soon.  By this time, I was a pessimistic fisherwoman.  The rain had soaked my jacket and gloves and I was cold, wet and miserable.  I am being transparent here--Montana Jane feels like whining sometimes.  I was NOT having fun.  So, I went to my contingency plan.  I always have a contingency plan when I fish, because if the fish aren't biting or the weather is nasty, I want to still enjoy my outing.  So, I headed to the truck, warmed it up, stripped out my wet gear, ate a sandwich and read a book.  I may have even napped.  :)  When the gray day turned toward evening I called out to my husband and asked if we could head out.  I knew we were 17 miles from the highway and I didn't want to end up stranded in the wilderness because of the bad roads.  Thankfully, he's a good team player and came immediately because he heard the concern in my voice.  It took us nearly an hour to drive 17 miles and I was grateful when we hit pavement again.


It was hard for me to talk myself into going fishing the next day, but the rain had turned to snow and the gentle flakes were far more inviting than the torrential rain of the previous day.  I asked my husband for advice, learned a new roll cast technique and took his favorite fish-catching flies.  They worked.  I caught several fish and really enjoyed the day.  I'm glad I tried again.  I had a delightful day with my husband and felt a secret glee at catching fish as large snowflakes fell.  Next summer, when I'm sweating as I flyfish in the summer sun, I'll remember this fishing adventure and long for the cool sport of winter river fishing....minus the rain.

I'd love to hear about your winter adventures, too, so feel free to share them here.

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