The thermometer read 12 degrees. Not exactly the ideal temperature for fishing. When it comes to steelheading your plan has to be flexible. With the temps this low I knew I would have to use every option.
I was a guide for a steelhead outing for a group from Patagonia, and the plan was to pick up Bill Klyn, work a small creek for a couple hours, then head for the Grand River and bounce our way upstream. Unfortunately, the cold was a problem on the little creek. Shelf ice was rapidly building and flow ice made it difficult to get the line to sink. An accidental cast onto the shelf ice meant the fly would immediately freeze in place.
Until the day warmed up, the creek wasn’t the place to fish. Time to be flexible and try another option. We moved onto the Grand, where the water would be slightly warmer and the flow and shelf ice would be minimal.
It was still no picnic, but I figured the Patagonia fly-fishing folks probably suffer from inferiority complexes from rubbing elbows with all the rock climbers and extreme skiers. At least Bill will have something to talk about with them, I thought.
Due to the ice melt the day before, the water visibility was about eight inches and the flow was high. Then the wind kicked up. I didn’t want to know what the temperature was with the windchill.
After a few hours of standing waist-deep in glacial gray water, it was apparent this wasn't happening. We worked our way back to shore. Bill mentioned the ice on the back of my waders, and I turned and saw a fine glaze of ice all over him as well.
It certainly wasn’t the great, big frozen beards and the black, frostbitten fingers you see in pictures of mountaineers, but it would certainly help fight that inferiority complex. We weren’t hanging on the side of a mountain at 25,000 feet, but for this kind of stream fishing it was pretty extreme.
"What a great catalog shot.” But the minute I said that I realized that we were just a tad too old and too plump to be proud of such a shot. Instead of extreme outdoor enthusiasts, we looked more like a couple of glazed donuts.