By: Carrie Sorensen

Fishing is somewhat of a religion for me; baptized by the water every time I place myself in the current, or slip and fall in. I learned very early on that tackle and gear is vital to the success of a fishing trip. As a fly fisherwoman, the equipment necessary is different from those who fish from boats, docs, float tubes, or the shore. One of the most important pieces, being a good set of waders.

This year’s fishing extravaganza was initiated by my abundance of pure stubbornness and absolute indifference towards the temperature of the water. The physical state, of the aforementioned water, on the other hand, posed an issue. I’ve always believed the scale of happiness of today’s society could be determined by a simple observation of a lake in January. Anyone willing to plunk their happy hiney’s down on a 5 gallon bucket in the middle of January, in the Uinta Basin, is not a happily married individual. Period. End of statement. With that being said, the will to fish is a powerful force, and I myself harbor just enough crazy to make fishing (even on ice) seem like a splendid idea. Ice does create problems in the fly fishing world.……I figured (in vain), if I wished hard enough I myself could turn a solid to a liquid, and if not, the pure fury of the aggravating reality would be enough to melt a surface large enough to strip line into. I would be in business to fish once again. Disgruntled by my efforts of magically changing the ambient temperature with hate and discontent, I paced the bank of my river, back and forth, watching the recess as a person watches a pot boil…….ineffectively. It never happens. Stir crazy from the long winter break, and desperate to hear the buzz of my fly reel I continued to force the issue until the golden moment, I realized….it was time.

Now before this gets entirely too detailed, you should know a few things about me.

  1. I fish, therefore I am.
  2. I cannot swim……..therefore, I am not a fish.

Geared up and ready to go, I dusted last year’s seaweed from my wading shoes and donned everything I needed. My pole leaned loyally against my tailgate and I peered up at it in wonder and admiration. The leader was kinked but I was too excited to take the time to fix it, and at the end of a brand new piece of monofilament dangled a gorgeous hand-sculpted parachute Adams fly…..with a PINK indicator I might add.  I attempted to snap my waist belt and growled a little when I had to ease up the pressure to make it fit, next Christmas I’d skip the peanut brittle. Waders are an amazing piece of equipment; they insulate you, keep you dry, and allow you to withstand the movement of a river for hours. In the summer I almost always opt out of them and accessorize myself with a pair of daisy duke shorts and a tank top and fly vest………but in 32-degree water, I’m covered, head to toe. While my “water skin” protects me from the abundance of water being pummeled my direction from upstream, it does, in fact, retain fluids inside in the same fashion. No water in, No water out.

I giggled out loud as I approached the water, I could hear it moving although there were only a few exposed sections in between ice. Chances were slim I’d be hooking any lips today, but the idea wasn’t to catch every fish from Duchesne to Strawberry, the idea was to feel my line slip between my fingers as I moved the 9 foot structure through the air like a majestic flag that dances on a gentle breeze. This was about believing the winter would end, and spring was upon us. This was me proving it, to myself.

To my astonishment, a fish surfaced as I approached the bank and my excitement rose to new heights. It felt like the awakening of the bear. I unhooked my fly and stepped towards the stream, one foot in, I could feel the pressure building against my stance as the river pushed me.  Let’s be honest, I could have cast from the shore, but early spring, decked out in gear, rearing to go…..I’m getting in the water. Second foot in, I’m part of this flowing system now. I released the fly from my grip and began stripping fluorescent orange line from the reel, it peeled out like a seasoned professional and I watched the fly at the end distance itself from my captive proximity. Back and forth I moved the line, flying it further and further from my control, it danced on the wind and I felt a flicker of happiness building with every roll. Finally, I set it down, partially on an ice buildup, mostly in the water. I watched it intently and felt as though I was going to explode with excitement, the same sensation I get every time I cast. My heart beat fast and I leaned forward, I’m really not sure why, but I’ve watched professionals do it for years and it just feels right.  Intent…….Patient………Breathing, but deeply and with purpose.  Leaning forward. Watching. Waiting. Breathing. Still learning. Hmm…….


Shake it off, cast again. I pulled the line in, determined to flip the fly back into the perfect location and await the emergence of the monster Brown Trout I knew was lurking within. The fly caught the small ice sculpture I had admired earlier and I tugged it gently……stuck. I tugged it harder…..still stuck. In a last-ditch effort before the trek across the river to save my fallen soldier, I snapped the line tightly and popped it backward…..In doing so, I myself fell.

Acting out the real-life sinking of the Titanic as my waders filled with freezing water is a moment I will never forget. The rush of the freezing water, the solid push of the river, the frantic flailing of me, my rod, and my line was a sight to behold; I assure you. Orange fluorescent line entangled my body as I predetermined my death by drowning. I gargled water and felt it splash my face, I was getting heavier, and this time it wasn’t the peanut brittle’s fault.


I felt my hands freezing to my rod and I tightened my death grip;

We’ll go together ol’ girl….we’ll go together.

Whether it was the freezing water, my rod sticking in the sand, or the fact that my knees kept hitting rocks, at some point, I remembered I was only in 8 inches of water and the best approach to self-rescue would most likely be to simply….stand up.

Freezing cold…..Mortified……..Seriously freezing cold…….half way drowned in my own stupidity…….and Honestly, excruciatingly freezing cold. …..I drug my pathetic excuse of a fisherwoman out of the river. I must have stomped the entire 500 yards back to my truck, each step a reminder of my sloshed and dripping experience while my shoes squished in a mocking tone. I bit the line while I tossed my tantrum, took the fly off and stuck it to my vest…….reeled the line in completely and pulled the rod apart into its respectful parts.

I was done…….. for today.

I have decided February may, in fact, be a little early in regards to the general description of “early spring,” and as such, waited a more appropriate time to take the “maiden voyage” for the year. Fortunately, the river always waits for me, and the ice eventually melts into a summer that beckons my bare feet, daisy dukes, and kinked up leader line.

I was fortunate enough to make a second round attempt at such a trip and came up blessed for my efforts with a gorgeous 16’’ Brown Trout, on a Parachute Adams with a Pink indicator, on my second cast.  We danced for over an hour in the river before I landed him, took a selfie, uploaded it to every social media site I could think of, sent a copy to my ex, kissed him (the fish, not my ex) and let him go forever (the fish and my ex). It was a beautiful and poignant moment.

Patience has never been my strong point, but in the struggle comes ultimate victory. There is a serenity in the moments after you catch a fish, the one after the hook is set, and before Facebook knows about it. It’s calm and peaceful, it’s understanding and respectful. Extraordinarily beautiful.

The Uinta Basin has a multitude of tremendous fishing opportunities and I urge you (within your swimming limitations) to experience them all.

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