Article contributed by Field Staff Writer C. Duff.
For those of you that don’t know this phenomenon, “ice out” is the term used when the ice begins to disappear from the surface of the water because of thawing. Spending weeks on end painstakingly checking all the weather reports waiting for high enough temperatures for ice out is something all fly-fisherman (particularly those who love to chase lake run trout like myself) know too well.
Sure, the tail waters of the North Platte here in Wyoming are open year round but there is nothing like getting back on your home waters and getting after it. The “high” temps and sunny days that foreshadow ice out is a time of celebration in my home marked by frantically finishing off the final touches of this seasons fly boxes and unpacking the float tube. This year, however, I was left sitting on the bank watching the waves lap up on to shore thinking about resorting to dusting off my spinners and Cleos when my luggage was lost in the depths of a Denver airport.
Ice out had occurred and I was missing out on some of the best fishing of the year. I had accrued enough tying materials to fill all my boxes to the brim with assorted bugs but no way to sling’em. Little did I know, that the ties of brotherhood within the fly-fishing community run deep.
I was talking with a friend I had met through my Instagram page and mentioned my problem with the airlines. What happened next is something I will never forget. He gave me the opportunity to “drive his Porsche”. He loaned me his Winston Boron IIIX 5wt appropriately named “Hope”. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive at first taking an $800 fly rod from someone whom I had never met, but the call of open water took over.
The day after I received Hope, I pulled on my waders and hit the water. Wyoming, being Wyoming, the wind was horrendous. I spent about an hour trying to throw my fly out there but to no avail. Someone with better casting abilities would have had no problem, but I climbed back in my truck with my tail between my legs and headed home.
The next chance I got to go out the weather was perfect, unseasonably warm at around 50 degrees and no wind to speak of. I tied on a tried and true pattern, a brown #10 Wooly Bugger and started slinging it out there. With the second cast of the day, I hooked up with the first fish of the year. When I felt the line go tight and Hope flex in my hand, I had a grin on my face hanging an inch off either side. What felt like half an hour (probably about 20 seconds) later, I had color in the water and net in hand. I had a beautifully marked Splake in hand (a relatively allusive species for the lake). I snapped a quick picture, thanked the trout for the fight and set it on its way
The rest of the day I spent fishing knowing the rest would be icing on the cake no matter what happened. With the first fish in hand, I had high hopes for a great season, and so far it has lived up to my expectations. I’m still looking forward to when streamer fishing really kicks in, developing and fishing new patterns, and finding myself in the middle of some great Wyoming hatches. However, there is nothing like the first fish of the year.
Right now, I don’t think there will be a single fish that will top that gorgeous Splake. It was not only a fish to remember, but also a moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Its not often you get to encounter such a selfless act of kindness as I did when, my now good friend, offered to give me Hope, in more ways than one.