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Fly-fishing

Winter conditions accompany steelhead fishing

Thursday, November 29, 2012
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Fly-fishing


An angler suits up at the Douglaston Salmon Run  in Pulaski in 2011. Lake-effect snow adds to the adventure of steelhead fishing, but proper layering is important for angler safety and comfort.
An angler suits up at the Douglaston Salmon Run in Pulaski in 2011. Lake-effect snow adds to the adventure of steelhead fishing, but proper layering is important for angler safety and comfort.

It’s less than 24 hours until my first steelhead fishing this fall, and my mind is on the weather.

Most of New York will be enjoying chilly, but uneventful weather the next two days, but Pulaski is often very different from the rest of the state. “6 TO 12 INCHES TONIGHT. . . AND 3 TO 5 INCHES MONDAY,” read the warning from the National Weather Service Sunday afternoon.

Oh, well — that’s steelheading. If you want a shot at a 10-pound rainbow trout, you must be willing to shiver a little and drive on slippery roads.

I have a feeling we’re in for a cold winter, anyway. The National Ocean­ic and Atmospheric Administration said the 2012-2013 winter outlook is a toss-up, there’s not likely to be an El Nino in the Pacific, after all, and that “usually means less predictable U.S. winter climate conditions,” NOAA reported on Nov. 15.

Even an average winter, in terms of snow and cold temperatures, will feel severe after the non-winter of 2011-2012. But the September cool-down had a determined feel to it this year, and apart from the usual warm spells, it seems to have held and intensified.

The impact on anglers, whether they’re chasing steelheads or regular stream trout, is obvious. Staying comfortable on the stream will require an appropriate wardrobe.

I’ve got a couple of long-johns tops that I couldn’t live without. One’s made of wool, the other is silk. Both are light and thin, but they’re much more effective than any cotton T-shirt. Over one of these will go a polyester long-sleeve T, nothing fancy — I picked one up at Target over the weekend for $12.99.

Over those go a nice fleece pull-over, and then my winter coat, which is also nothing fancy, just a waterproof Land’s End shell and quilted liner. (Had my Powerball ticket come through over the weekend, I’d be stopping at Whitaker’s for a Patagonia SST jacket Monday, but no such luck).

Below the waist, I’ll be wearing long johns and my trusty polypropylene fleece Hodgman wading pants. I’ll wear two pair of thin socks, so as not to crowd my shoes. I’ll keep my head warm with a fleece cap, and will have my indispensable fleece-lined neoprene Glacier Gloves if it’s simply too cold to fish bare-handed.

This, plus the long march from the Douglaston Salmon Run parking lot down to the water should be enough for me to be comfortable enough to fish.

When temperatures will stay well below freezing for the entire day, I used to add layers to this outfit, but now, I have a new strategy: stay home.

You always run into someone who brags about fishing when the temperature’s in the single digits. Better you than me, buddy. I already spend way too much time popping ice out of my guides when the temperature’s a few degrees above freezing, as the forecast promises for this week. Add the slush that fills the water on bitter cold days, and I think it’s a miracle anyone catches anything.

These days, I pick my days. When temps are in the teens, I don’t fish unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, and there almost never is.

I like a cold, snowy winter. But truth be told, I’d prefer to fish on a balmy 45-degree day, so I could concentrate more on fishing and less on avoiding hypothermia.

Still, winter weather adds to the spirit of adventure in steelhead fishing. So it’s time to embrace the cold, bundle up, get a fly in the water and hope for the best.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.

 
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