On a recent warm winter morning, I was standing on the edge of the First Fork of the Sinnemahoning River in Southern Potter County drifting a single, white salmon egg at the mouth of the Freeman Run tributary into the bigger waters of the Sinnemahoning.
I released one 13-inch brown trout and tempted several others which followed. Some, I was certain, were older holdovers that had lived in the creek for several seasons, while a few smaller ones were at least there since last April, the last time these waters were stocked.
I repeated that action several more times that morning before my hands became chilled from releasing fish and I called it a day. You always tell yourself “Just one more cast” and that’s exactly what I did. A long cast across the pool, the egg sank and drifted slowly along the bottom in the slow current. I lifted my rod tip and adjusted the slack line as it hesitated at the end of the long pool.
One of the main reasons I go fishing is to take in the solitude that the winter outdoors offers. I do it to escape the responsibilities, expectations and people one has to deal with in everyday life. Fishing in solitude is one the few activities that allows me to completely lose myself in nature.
I stood enjoying the silence of the outdoors, silent except for the slightest splashing of water as it left the pool’s end and flowed down a small area of rapids till the next hole below.
That was until my thoughts were interrupted when the line tightened against my finger, and started to zigzag up the pool causing my ultralight rod tip to bend excessively. I reacted out of natural instinct with a quick snap of the wrist that set the hook. The fight was brief but more exciting than the sluggish drag I felt from some of the smaller brown trout I had caught earlier.
A few minutes later, the action revealed itself after the trout made numerous runs in the pools deeper depths before finally rising to the water’s surface. It was a brightly-colored rainbow trout, with a silver body enhanced by the brilliant red stripes running along its sides.
Without a doubt it was the undisputed apex predator of the tributary pool, especially with its length of 21 inches and the large hooked jaws it had. I watched it swim back into the deeps from which it came after a couple of quick camera shots.
By the time I reeled in the line around 11 o’clock, I had released seven trout but had the feeling I should have had more hookups. Regardless of any or how many fish I catch, stocked or wild, during the winter, they are all special fish to me.
The best way to experience the solitude of the outdoors is to venture to the stream during winter and be alone on the quiet waters doing battle with the trout that reside there.
If this sounds intriguing to you, remember it’s easily accessible on a small stream near you especially with the mild weather we’ve had so far. Winter can be a great time to be on the stream.
Just remember to switch baits and go with spinners, paste baits and salmon eggs. You need to put your bait right under their nose; even with the smell, they are unlikely to move more than a few feet when water temperatures hover just above freezing. Avoid the fast waters and riffles, and fish the slow current where trout wait for food to come their way.