Another time, I drove from the Kanawha Valley to another Nicholas County stream despite 6 inches of snow on the roads. I thought I was in for a banner day after my first two casts with a gold-plated spinner yielded a matched pair of wild 14-inch brown trout, but a warm wind blew in and started melting the snow. The fish abruptly stopped biting, and what started as a promising outing turned into a long, slushy slog back home.
On another early January day, my employer at the time asked me to drive to Covington, Va., to see a client. The meeting wrapped up by late morning, so on the way back home I decided to try my luck on a well-known Monroe County stream.
With a small Pheasant Tail Nymph and a large Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear knotted to my leader, I flipped the first cast of the new year into a favorite run and watched the end of the floating fly line as the two nymphs drifted deep along the bottom.
In one of those Zen-like moments that happen occasionally to nymph fishermen, I set the hook without even knowing why. The rod bent sharply, and a few minutes later I brought a heavy-bodied 17-inch brown trout to net.
Not all days were as successful; I remember one time when a friend and I drove to an obscure little Greenbrier County creek, waded 8-inch-deep snow all day and caught zip, zero, nada.
Another time, on a snow-free January day 30 miles farther south, an icy wind blew so fiercely I couldn't cast into it. I turned and fished downstream, but the trout were having none of it. Six hours of fishing, and not even a nibble to show for it.
That's the way it goes with January fishing. Some days the weather cooperates but the fishing stinks. Some days the weather isn't fit for man or beast, but the fish bite like crazy.
The fun, I suppose, lies in simply being hardcore enough to venture out there.