Voices from the river Fishing

Warm winter days are nice — when they are rare

A wild Virginia rainbow trout.

By Mark Taylor

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

The first truck was parked just past the “Special Regulations Trout Water” sign.

A few hundred yards farther up the gravel Forest Service road I met an SUV coming my way. Two friends from my local Trout Unlimited chapter were in it.

We rolled down our windows.

George Kesler was driving and Jack Ward was in the passenger seat.

“Kinda busy up here today,” I said.

“What did you expect?” Jack said, smiling.

Former Roanoke Valley TU chapter president Jack Ward sets sets up on the banks of a Virginia mountain stream on a 70-degree February afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Jack Ward.)

This is what happens when you get a 70-degree day in February, the peak on a string of spectacular — if disconcerting — balmy winter days we’ve been experiencing in Virginia’s mountains.

On a warm February afternoon, Virginia mountain brookies were looking up. (Photo courtesy of Jack Ward.)

They said fishing had been pretty good. And they said that there were anglers working the sections both above and below the one they had hit.

It’s one thing to get seconds on big water. On a small mountain stream like this one it’s pretty much a fool’s errand.

Admittedly, the goal of winter fishing really isn’t to experience great fishing, is it? We just want to get out there and enjoy a break from the normal winter activities of trying flies, reading and watching fishing videos on YouTube.

Someone lost their TU hat along a Virginia mountain stream.

But, catching fish is nice. And, while 70-degree winter days are becoming more and more common, you still hate to waste one fishing water that’s already been thrashed.

So I bailed.

Forty-five minutes later I was dropping into another tiny creek, this time with no company.

The action wasn’t great. But it was decent, the creek’s little wild rainbows hitting small nymphs often enough to ensure that I never drifted away from a modest level of concentration.

When a rainy cold front hit two days later it was almost a relief.

Those warm winter days are nice, but we don’t want too many of them.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.