Do you ever feel like the fish gods are blatantly against you? 2019 was not exactly what I would call a “fishy year,” and 2020 is starting to have that feeling too.
Now I am not against self-reflection. I have ruminated on the fact that I bring a lot of the issues I experience on myself; I am, after all, obsessed with catching musky- and with a flyrod just to push the stick a little further into my own eye. Even still, I am certain Triton has a voodoo doll with a bit of my hair on top of its head that he likes to poke with his trident all willy-nilly-like. I think I can prove my point.
2019 ended with the happy arrival of my first child; a happy, healthy daughter born in the early hours of December 1st. I was overjoyed! I happily accepted that my time outdoors would be few and far between for the next few months.
When I did get the opportunity to sneak away for a few hours (thanks to my amazing wife), I decided to try something easy-stocked trout in a beautiful area of East Tennessee would be enough to at least scratch the itch. The weather had been unseasonably warm for most of December, and I was hoping there might even be an afternoon midge hatch.
Enter Boreas, purple winged god of the north wind! My day of “easy” trout fishing was spent breaking ice out of my guides while the mercury stayed below twenty-eight degrees all day. The beautiful stream was beautiful all right, beautiful the way a barren lifeless desert is beautiful. I didn’t see a fish all day, let alone move one.
The one positive thought I had as I got into my truck that day was, “At least I have paid my dues. Next time will be better.”
Well, next time rolled around in early February. I had the calendar pegged on Saturday the 8th for a month. Great plans of Musky glory were made! The month of January continued with unseasonable warmth. February looked as though it would be more of the same. That is until Zeus himself decided to sling one of his lightning bolts right at me in the form of a biblical week of rain. The river we were planning on fishing went from 800 CFS to 38,000 CFS overnight.
With Musky glory seeming more and more unlikely (not that it is ever really “likely”), we called an audible the night before we were set to fish. We decided on a lake about forty-five minutes outside of Chattanooga. We figured it would be our only hope of finding clear(ish) water. At least there wasn’t any more rain in the forecast. Instead, Boreas decided to pull double duty on me. The forecast was now calling for a “dusting” of snow with 1-3 inches at the absolute most.
I awoke the next morning to a few snow flurries, but nothing was sticking yet. “I can deal with this,” I thought. The snow started falling a little harder as we pulled out of Chattanooga and headed east. By the time we were to the lake, there were eight inches of snow on the road. We could barely see the water from the road, but what we could make out was unmistakably Yoo-hoo-colored. We knew getting home would be no easy task. We heard a report of 13 wrecks on 75; the police had shut down south-bound traffic. So, we held out hope for some clean water in some of the creeks that fed into the lake and tried to find a put-in that wasn’t covered in ice.
We were sitting at the top of a steep snow-covered road staring down at a snow-covered boat ramp wondering if we could make it down to it when Momus, God of Fools, showed up in the form of a jacked-up Tundra pulling a glitter boat. The driver called out the window “Well, we found the only other idiots dumb enough to fish in this! Y’all gonna give it a go?”
Somehow, we made it down to the ramp without sliding off the road. We manually cleared eight inches of snow and another six inches of high-water-detritus off the ramp and eased the Towee into the lake; all the while snow continued to pour down.
We threw a Hail Mary and made a run to a creek we thought might have some clean water. Snow beat down on us and greatly impaired visibility as we ran, but somehow we made it to the creek without hitting a submerged tree.
We caught our one break of the day as we eased into some cleaner water upon entering the creek. We turned the transducer on and promptly received a message that said “Error! Transducer NOT Connected!” I guess our cable splice job after we tore the transducer off on our last trip to the Etowah (that’s a whole different story) didn’t really work. We were in an alien lake with no way to find submerged structure, being pelted with heavy wet snow, throwing 500 gr sinking lines with flies the size and weight of a soaking wet wool sock.
As if things weren’t bad enough, the boat had begun to rapidly collect snow. There is nothing slicker in this world than gelcoat covered in three inches of slush. I nearly fell out of the boat on multiple occasions as I danced to keep fly line from finding its way around my feet and ankles.
After a few hours of fruitless chucking and ducking we decided to pack it in. The snow had finally stopped as we pulled back onto the main part of the lake, so we decided to throw a few more casts before calling it a day. We pulled a couple of beers from the cooler where we were keeping them warm and poured a little out for the gods hoping they would decide to shine down their good graces upon us with a fifty-inch musky (or any musky really) or a twenty fish day the next time I am able to sneak away for a day of fishing.
By the time we had made it back to Chattanooga, there was not a flake of snow on the ground. The temperature had spiked to 54 degrees – further proof the gods are mocking me.
Article by Clark French, check him out at @clarkfrench.