I am not usually a guy who goes fishing in sub-freezing temperatures, but sometimes the desire to fish is just too great.  The gall of those trout to just sit down there, unbothered, with no fake bugs drifting past their face eventually just gets to you and you have to go out and bother them no matter what the conditions are.  This particular day was a real beauty.  The high was 19, but in hindsight that was probably optimistic.  My friends Jeff and Ben and I are Real American Manly Men though, and so we decided to tough it out and go fish the Warm Springs to Trout Creek section of the Deschutes.  Coming out of the dam, the water was a crisp 46F degrees, still well within the wheelhouse of a Columbia Basin redband's metabolism.  The car thermometer, however, as we were coming up out of Madras around 8 was reading a tropical 20 degrees.  Could it be?  Would we get above freezing despite the forecast?  Emphatically, no.  As we dropped down into Warm Springs, we saw a fog covering the river and the temperature immediately went into the single digits.  Hooray!  Less people on the river!  When we arrived at the boat ramp, I snapped a quick picture of Ben with the boat and the frozen grass and branches on the bank.  We looked, but saw no risers in the boat ramp run to the surprise of no one.

Shoving off, we drifted down to the first spot and reluctantly got out of the boat.  The water was probably about 35 degrees warmer than the air at this point, so it  felt nice to hop in and start wading.  Jeff started swinging a lower part of the run and Ben and I chucked our euro setups into the first riffle of the day.  No matter how many times I catch trout, and it's a lot, I still feel a bit of trepidation until the first fish comes to hand.  This trip that feeling was tinged by a bit of reluctance to do anything with my hands besides hold my rod or shove them in my pockets, so when I hooked a fish in the first few casts it was slightly bittersweet.  I netted the fish, popped the hook out, and flipped my net over to let the fish go, but got my hands a bit wet and for me that was the end of fishing for another 20 minutes while I waited for my hands to regain feeling.  Ben is from the east coast, so he has east coast trout fishing hands, and he caught another 4 or 5 while I sat in the boat with my gloves on and watched everyone fish.  At the next spot, Jeff continued swinging for steelhead and the fog gave us a really cool photo opportunity.

Ben and I resumed our eggy assault on the trout, and got some nice fish to hand again.  The temperature had risen a bit, so I'm confident it was at least 12 degrees at this point.  Ben had gone upstream a bit, and I was still taking breaks in the boat between fish.  This gave me time to ponder things.  I think pondering while on the river is a great pastime, even more so when most of the living matter around you has a layer of ice frozen on it.  Why doesn't any brewery in town make a red ale and name it after redband trout?  Why do people in Montana hate European nymphing but love European brown trout?  Why didn't I pick a hobby I could do indoors?  The best thing about pondering is that once you're done, you have nothing else to think about the rest of the day.  With that chore out of the way, I hopped out of the boat and got one more fish before we started downriver again. 

The sun eventually broke through the glaze of fog on the river, but somehow that made the temperature drop.  I am not a meteorologist, so I don't know the exact science behind it, but I think this should be illegal.  Jeff and Ben trout fished the rest of the way and we all picked up quite a few fish.  The snow and ice made for a lot of really cool backdrops while fishing, but I was certainly glad to see the boat ramp at Trout Creek at the end of the day.  The fishing was pretty good, and we did actually see other people at Mecca, but only 2 or 3 and no one else floating.  If I had to be outside on a day like this one, floating down the lower D with some friends isn't the worst way to spend it.  It's easy to take that river for granted sometimes as it is such a consistent fishery, but the reality is that there are very few rivers anywhere in the world that can fish well year round like the D, and we're lucky to have it so close to us here in Bend.