Shortly before leaving for St. Anthony and the lower Henry’s Fork where Bonnie and I spend half the year, I chatted with Rich and Jon over coffee at TroutHunter. It was a cold morning in late October and our conversation centered on the end of the primary fishing season and how quickly it has passed.
November, we agreed, is a fickle month when temperatures can range from 60 plus degrees of well below zero. Still, there would be days of fishing remnants of the Baetis hatch and midges could be a dependable contributor to late fall dry fly opportunity. Perhaps even more often, however, we would be tempted into those rugged places now made accessible by the low, clear flows of the season where a well-placed nymph or briskly pulled streamer can yield trout not often encountered in different conditions.
Even before parting ways for much of a long Idaho winter, our thoughts turned toward the coming of another spring and how the month of March can be a near mirror image of November with regard to weather, water conditions, and the type of fishing we are able to enjoy. The calendar really becomes irrelevant when the similarities are so pronounced, but if March marks the beginning of the seasonal arc, then November must be its point of termination.
With December and the sinister months of deep winter lying directly ahead, we in the business of fly fishing savor those personal days when the company we keep on the water is comprised of those for whom we care most. Often they are friends who are seldom away from the Henry’s Fork for very long but can become somewhat neglected during the busy part of the season. Most important, however, is time spent with family on water left vacant by visitors who may never experience the shoulder seasons when even the youngest members can enjoy access to trout left undisturbed by the absence of near constant angling attention.
While November is marked by a slower pace that is welcomed by all who live here, a quiet urgency lives in our consciousness when the short months and shorter days of November are upon us. Each day of fishing becomes more precious when accompanied by the knowledge that heavy, lasting snow and icy water can bring us to the bottom of the arc at any time.
Beyond a dozen or so days, I am away from fishing during the months of December, January, and February. And though explaining this can be sometimes difficult, I am not inclined to travel to a warmer place when fishing in my high elevation homeland has essentially ended for the season.
In my 70th year of life, I have learned that absence from the things we love does indeed make the heart grow fonder. And as a result, I continue to love fishing as much or perhaps more than ever.
March will arrive with the freshness of a new beginning but also with a return of what is left behind in November. And as the arc of the season begins again, there will be another brief time when the truth of my existence is renewed with a clarity that comes only when my family is near and with me on the water. The Baetis will hatch, the trout will rise, and joy is all that comes to mind for those who never leave. We are lucky people.