Friday, December 20, 2013

Sub-Zero day on the Metolius


The forecast for Camp Sherman said -7 degrees Fahrenheit overnight and 15 degrees during the day-- should I even go?  I knew it was foolish, but this trip had been on the books for several weeks, the car was loaded, and my wife and daughter were out of town giving me full reign on the decision.  Lured by freedom, I made an evening trip to the Metolius with a plan to sleep in the back of my truck (I have a camper shell) so I could wake up and fish in the morning.  I didn't check the current conditions until I was already headed up the mountain:  -17 degrees and dropping.  I've never seen temperatures drop like that-- every 20 minutes meant a degree colder and I spent the night in a pile of sleeping bags throwing a couple of handwarmer packets in the mix to keep my feet warm.  That night the temperature hit an official -22 degrees fahrenheit.

I woke up around 5am with the sensation that my knees and back were burning where the sleeping bag insulation was compressed as I had curled into a survival-mode fetal position fully inside my sleeping bag.  Too cold too sleep, I jumped out and was relieved when the car started without a hitch.  I drove around for a couple of hours staying warm and staring in complete awe at the beauty of the frosty scenery.  It's a popular place but it felt wild and remote and the only other souls out there were a few coyotes that had gotten comfortable with the lack of human presence.  I even spotted one that appeared to be playing, pouncing about and spinning circles until he saw me and trotted casually off.  On most of the roads my tire tracks were the first to mar the virgin snow.


Snow has a different sound when it gets this cold, it's usual crunch is replaced by a squeakiness that only slightly compares to the sound of fine, dry beach sand, that chirps when you run across it.  And the river, being a spring fed, is warmer than the air temps resulting in a beautiful haze of fog that hovers over the water, condensing and freezing on stream-side foliage in an impressive array of crystalline coating.

I went ahead and spent the day trying catch fish without killing myself.  By 11am the temperatures were still several degrees below zero and fishing seemed impossible.  Hiking was made difficult by icy boots and frozen waders.  And these fish want long, drag free drifts which are tough when your reel is frozen and line feeding is made nearly impossible as it freezes to the guides after a single retrieve.  I hooked a single fish which came unbuttoned shortly after.  I mostly didn't care.


Honestly I'm not sure if I would make that trip again--  at least not by myself in those conditions.  But as I admired the snowy peaks on the way back to civilization I was filled with a sense of renewal-- perhaps even more so than if I caught dozens of fish. I knew it was a low probability day and the conditions forced me to relax and focus on the surroundings rather than on the quarry.  And the surroundings were unrivaled by any winter conditions I've yet encountered... though that may be measuring the immeasurable.

Til next time.


10 comments:

Brian and Andrea said...

wow! those images are breathtaking!

Seth Fairman said...

Fantastic pics!!! hats off to you for having the balls to just get out there!!! Well done!!!

outsidebendproductions.com said...

Super well written Brian with great supporting pictures. I really enjoyed your descriptions of what it sounds like walking in the snow when its that cold.

Paul

Ryan said...

Opening pic is awesome, its on my to do list, i go up there every year to fish but never hit the METOL...need to do it. Big Bulls watch out!

RJ said...

Great pictures

Lester Kish said...

Great shots for sure. I remember you mentioning a while back that you switched to shooting with an OLY. Looks like you've got it figured out.

Brian J. said...

Thanks all! I always appreciate it when folks take the time to leave feedback

Cheers & Happy Holidays

Chase said...

Been scoping your blog for a while but this post is my favorite so far, awesome work and fantastic photos. Couldn't agree more that it's trips like this that awe and refresh the soul more than the ones with dozens of fish to hand ever do.

HighPlainsFlyFisher said...

Stunning!! Mother Nature in all her glory for sure. I admit I have a hard time doing it...but sometimes those trips where we slow down a little and take it all in are the best ones.

Eddie Rivard said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed this story thoroughly. Almost as much fun as being there without having to freeze.

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