Sunday, January 5, 2014


It is with every Christmas and New Year’s Day that I find myself with appropriate time for reflection on the year past, and the new year to come.  

School is out. I have few obligations.  And as always, the brand new Virginia Wildlife calendar that I unwrapped on Christmas morning hangs empty and unmarked on my wall.

New Year’s Resolutions

        In my mind I see that empty collection of dates branded with the experiences of the past year.  Bass fishing in the farm ponds near my home in spring, smallmouth fishing in the spring and summer, catching crappie as they move shallow in Lake Anna and other large reservoirs, trout fishing as the weather and water permits, squirrel hunting when the acorns begin to fall, and deer hunting as the year wanes and begins anew.

        Each experience is seasonal, as is the life of an outdoorsman.  You follow the spawning and feeding patterns, water temperatures, and migrations, hoping to land within the brief window of opportunity as it presents itself unannounced, albeit always anticipated.

        To miss one of those windows is a sad thing indeed, though unfortunately, it’s all too easy to do.  Cabin fever, as it sets in after the close of deer season, usually lasting well into February and March, is a blinding ailment.  Sitting at home, wishing for fishing and spring and a last chance at the buck you’ve stalked the season long, it’s easy to overlook the work that must be done prior to spring’s arrival; for once it has sprung, and idle world is set swiftly into motion, and time is limited.  You need to be prepared.

        So, as I am self-obliged, I form my “New Year’s resolution” to maximize my proficiency on the water this coming year.  I plan to begin, now, tying flies on a schedule, organized by species, and season, so that I am prepared for each phase of 2014.  I plan to camp more, spending more time in backcountry areas.  If possible, I would like to fish more often.  And above all else, I will fish smarter, not harder.

        Now that that’s out of the way…

The Planning Stage

        In taking to heart the time-old bit of wisdom, work smarter, not harder, the idle time between Christmas and New Year’s and the eventual restart of school is spent researching, planning, mapping, and organizing trips in accordance with the seasons, weather patterns, and fishing opportunities.  Balancing budgets for such trips, as well as several busy schedules makes planning a challenge, but a very welcome one, considering the end result may be the fish of a lifetime or a trip never to be forgotten.

        Suddenly, though school is finally out for a brief period, I enjoy homework again.  I start perusing guidebooks—Harry Murray’s Virginia Blue Ribbon Streams, Beau Beasley’s Fly Fishing Virginia, Bob Gooch’s Virginia Fishing Guide, and David Hart’s Fly Fisher’s Guide to Virginia—to identify areas of interest, and in hopes of finding a previously-overlooked gem.

        The areas of interest, and the trips from last year that I hope to do again, along with the corresponding season get scratched onto a piece of scrap paper by my desk.  From there they are transferred to the calendar, in messy scratchings in the margins.

        Each destination is plugged into Google Earth, routed, calculated for gas costs, and split between members of the party.  Lodging is arranged, and accounted for in the budget, along with gas, though camping simplifies this portion of the process.

    Maps can be downloaded from the US Geological Service website, or bought from, and studied and filed away for further examination.

        Study on the subject of each trip is then conducted.  At the time I will be going, what will the fish be feeding on?  Those lures, flies, and rigs, discovered on internet forums, revealed by local fly shops, or already known are listed, either with the trip information, or mentally, and bought, tied, and created on a deadline.

        Such trip planning not only helps you have your ducks in a row come time to fish in the spring, it can also serve as a refresher course on know-how and biology.  If you know you will have to use a certain tactic somewhere you are going later in the year to catch fish, practice it on short day trips close to home in the off season.  Practice casting, tying flies, or shooting.  This can be a very exciting time of year.

        Happy New Year!

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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