The Heat's in the Tools

The Heat's in the Tools

I believe that if the honest truth was to be told most Texas folks have a love/hate relationship with winter. Personally, I lean more towards the loving side of the cooler months while others become hermits and patiently wait for warmer weather. But saying that, please understand that while I love winter I do not, under any circumstances, like being cold. Once your fingers and face become numb and do not function properly, that is when it is no longer fun.

When you are not fully prepared, outdoor activities are not pleasant. I even have days at my real job (the one that pays the bills) wishing that I was sitting behind a desk somewhere warm and comfy and not out in the field working. On the bitter days when it is hard to get motivated, I can always hear my older co-worker quoting that old saying that I am sure every construction hand has heard a thousand times. "Come on Junior, the heat's in the tools!"

I often try to remind myself of that saying when I start to second guess my outing on a cooler day. My tools in the field though are my paddle and my FTU Green Rod. Keep them moving and you will surely stay warm. Anytime I have someone new with me or someone who does not fish often during winter I always try to inform them of the two most important things stay dry and stay warm.

For starters, if you are going to paddle or even wade, make sure that you leak check your waders. A good way to do this is in a swimming pool. I am guilty of failing to leak check but after a brutally cold and wet day on the water a few winters back, I swore I would never let that happen again. It is too easy nowadays to run down to any outdoor store and purchase a pair of waders that will keep you dry.

Your hands are probably the most vulnerable part of your body and important to keep dry. This is an especially difficult task when wielding a paddle that is constantly in the water. I have found that it is best to wear a pair of neoprene gloves while paddling to your initial spot. After doing most of the paddling I take them off to fish since they are kind of bulky when holding a rod and trying to feel a bite. Getting your hands wet is going to happen, especially when you start catching fish. I have started carrying a hand towel with me to dry them off after the release of a fish. If anyone has a solution to the dilemma of waterproof gloves that you can still fish with, please send me an email, I would really like to know.

Much like the thermostat in your house switching from cool to heat, my internal switch has changed from redfish to trout. I spend a majority of my winter fishing time chasing trout, searching for a fish of a lifetime. When I think of winter two things come instantly to mind - duck hunting and throwing Corkys for trout. I am not sure why I am so hooked on these things but they are both one of a kind experiences; maybe it is because there is such a small window I have to take advantage of it while I can. February trout fishing for me has always been very productive and certainly the best of the cooler months. I have still not caught my personal best during February but, on average, it has produced both quantity and quality for me.

Here lately my work schedule has been severely crowding my free time. When you work 7-12s you only have a small window to go fishing and that is when you are lucky enough to get off work early enough. I have hit a few areas right at dusk and into the first few hours of darkness with some luck but nothing that was just lights-out. Every trip that I have made I managed to catch a few 20 to 22-inch trout with the occasional 24-incher. This is where I'm stuck for the time being and hoping that we will get some consistently cold weather to push the larger ones into predictable areas I can target with my limited time on the water.

In true Texas fashion, winter this year has been more like a really long fall season with a few bitter days sprinkled here and there. As I write this there is a cold front coming early next week and hopefully by the time you are reading this we will be finally experiencing winter.

I will be back to my normal work schedule soon and I plan on being on the water on all three days I have off each week. February is one of the best times of the year to have a monumental day on the water; it also has potential to produce the caliber of fish you'd like to put on the wall. Either way, for the next few months I will be sitting on a flat somewhere throwing a Corky or Fluke, waiting for that one big bite.

Remember to stay warm, stay dry and, the heat's in the tools!