It’s a wrap. An awesome weekend of opening day festivities drew to a close on Sunday morning with a group of hardy, tired and hung over anglers bidding farewell to each other once again.

The weekend began Friday night with the f3t Fly Fishing Film Tour in River Falls Wisconsin. We could have not asked for a better crowd at the Kinnickinnic River Theater on the  UW River Falls campus. The Theater was sold out well in advance of the showing and the crowd on this sub-zero evening was hungry for the entertaining short films. Yours truly was the MC and could not have been more pleased with the warmth of the crowd on this cold night. With over 50 prizes from sponsors and donations, folks left with smiles on their faces and gear in their hands. The success of this showing has fostered a new tradition that will continue into the future. Look for a repeat performance next year the Friday night before the trout opener. A special thanks to all the sponsors and to Rush River Brewing for their generous donations, and for providing a taste for every pallet in their fine selection of craft brews chosen for this event.

IMG_5337The “after film gathering” lasted until after midnight. Arrival at MANWORLD was safely achieved by a pair of designated drivers. The crew looked a bit bedraggled after a long day at work and a long night of film fest celebration. Breakfast at Ray’s Truck Stop Cafe, was scheduled for 9 am where we would meet the rest of the crew arriving to fish on Saturday morning. There was some hushed talk of hitting the hay.

The Poker game began at 2:30 am after a rally cry from Nelson, one of the new comers to the opening day crew. Nelson had heard of epic nature of past games and at 2 am questioned the integrity of the group.  I think he may have mistakenly sensed vulnerability and a cakewalk to our greenbacks. A second wind blew through the room and the game was on. The bottle of aged Irish Whiskey was placed on the table and the cork thrown away. Talk was cheap. Play was inspired.  Dealers game was the model and new rules were explained with every round. At 4;30 am,  the game collapsed like a sea sick sailor when the largest winner pushed his pot into the center of the table and said, “I’m Done”.  It has ended like this before and there was no question when the bank was divided equally among the players. Really, we were all done, and no one questioned the outcome. We all won the poker trophy on Friday. I am not sure what Nelson thought about the outcome but by 4:40 the lights were out and the snoring commenced.

IMG_5318Saturdays breakfast was lively and by noon we arrived stream-side to make the historic trek up stream to fish for our beloved trout. With the temperature at-1 and the snow ranging from knee to hip deep it was clearly the most difficult effort in the 33 years of our unbroken opening day streak. Snow shoes helped but no matter how far we traveled, the deep slow pools we looked to fish were covered in a layer of ice so thick it could not be broken by any safe measure we could devise. The only water that was open to fish was fast and shallow. Guide ice was generally not a problem because you could stand on an ice shelf right next to open water. No more than 5 feet of fly line was required out the end of your rod to actively fish High sticking was the rule through the narrow slots in the ice. The ice problem became your line leader and flies instantly incasing in ice. This fact alone made it impossible to strip line anyhow. After 5 or 10 casts your 9 Ft leader would way as much as the head of a 10 weight line and your flies were covered in ice balls so thick that the hook points were no longer exposed.  It was what we expected. No fish were caught. No fish were seen. No one questioned the effort.


Poker began again on Saturday at 2:30 in the afternoon. The earliest start time for poker ever recorded for an opening day. Meals prepared by two chef trained masters in the group were delightful. We ate like pigs, and played until after midnight. By 6 p.m., with 1/2 of the bottle of Venezuelan Rum gone, one angler fell asleep in his chair during the game. The dealers continued to deal him cards and with the help of players on either side we made sure he anted-up and bet accordingly through his slumber. We all thought he might be bluffing. Eventually, after his money was gone, he was picked up and poured onto a near by couch.  After 5 hours of sleep he made a awe-inspiring re-appearance to the game and helped finish off the bottle of Rum. It was a impressive rebound and this new comer to the Manworld poker game was given kudos by the players.


As I drove home Sunday I side tracked to some of my favorite stretches of local trout water. I was amazed by the extent of Mother Natures efforts this winter. Mile long sections of riffle, run, and pool were missing. Camouflaged  by snow and ice to the extent that only an angler who fished it regularly would know the cold clear water still gurgled deep beneath the blanket of frozen white. The widest sections of river have been reduced by 10x by the cold hard truth. This angler knows, even with warmer temps predicted, it will be a while before our trout waterways are open enough for meaningful trout fishing/catching. But that won’t keep me from searching for the illusive little buggers.


As I write today, I notice the high will be 13 degrees. I just might go have a look.  Searching warms my cockles almost as much as catching at this time of year. I will let you know what I find.