Winter Dedication and Below Freezing Fortitude

Posted on 21 January 2020

If you don’t know me and just read this BLOG you may start to believe that I am a winter person.  Someone who seeks out the coldest conditions and finds ways to get there and fish. That would be completely wrong. In fact, my main focus for the past 20 years has been the tropics.  That is where I belong, where I feel most at home and the place I dream about.

So, how did I find myself in New York on I-81 in the middle of a snow storm in January, headed back to the Salmon river?  I was asking myself the same question when Jake and I woke up ridiculously early to go and fish when no-one else would. The answer it turns out is motivation.  I realized that our motivations were not to catch as many fish as possible or to enjoy a warm day on the river. Our motivations were to simply get away, to have the river to ourselves; if we caught fish, that would be a bonus.

A few hours earlier we had packed all our gear, and I mean all of our gear.  The weather was supposed to be bad, and nature did not disappoint.  When we got within an hour of the river, the lake effect weather; known for being extremely unstable, hit us hard.  I have to admit, we both questioned our decision to do this trip as we drove by accidents and trucks that had slid off of the road.  However, we made it through safely, persisted and hit the river.

Our fishing adventure started at the DSR (The Douglaston Salmon Run a private stretch of river that usually  feels as far from private as possible. This stretch of river, known for great fishing but also immense crowds was completely empty.  For those in the know, an empty DSR parking lot is a rare site. And so we fished the DSR literally alone, we achieved one of our objectives, we found solitude and beauty in a place that is usually devoid of both.  Unfortunately, it was also devoid of fish.

The weather continued to worsen as we called it a day and went back to the Tailwaters Lodge, a beacon of hope in a stark and cold landscape.  After what tasted like the best drink and burger of my life, falsely exaggerated by my happiness at being inside and warm, we regrouped and prepared for the next day.  Little did we know that we would need more of that fortitude the next day, along with a bit of crazy.

We woke to a still day.  The wind had blown the day before which had made the conditions even less bearable.  So we were excited to look out of the window of our room at still trees and a warm looking sun.  That was until we checked the weather app and saw a single digit, 3! It was 3! That was enough to make me consider calling the trip off and heading home.  Most smart human beings would have done just that.

Well, we are not the smartest but we are motivated, and our goals had not yet been reached.  So we soldiered on, hoping for it all. Searching for solitude, searching for freedom and searching for fish.  And despite freezing temperatures, we found them. Beautiful chrome Steelhead on a river that we had to ourselves.  I call that success and I have no regrets.

Chris Frangiosa is the buyer and retail manager for TCO.  Jake Villwock is the owner of Relentless fly fishing and a TCO team member.  After this trip they have both decided to go back, battle the weather and fish the Salmon River in February and March to try to catch more amazing fish.  Keep an eye out for more Blog posts from future trips.


For you photo geeks out there, the camera used for this trip was the Nikon Df with a 24mm f2.8 prime lens.  This camera is a full frame SLR that was designed to be a celebration of the past with its retro look and controls.  I use it in the field because its super durable and creates images that always makes people look twice. There is a depth and a true color that the Df can create better than any other camera I have ever used.

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  • Chris Frangiosa: January 22, 2020

    That game changer was tied with Game Changer Finesse Chenille, thanks for asking! Also he is friends with R2

  • CGW : January 21, 2020

    Great read – well earned chrome right there! On a warmer note, what material was that Game Changer tied with on the dash?

  • robert moore: January 21, 2020

    Been there done that, one morning we were there in January, we noticed the Upper Fly stretch was empty…..after my nephew broke a fly rod on a Steelie, back to the car, get another rod and warm up, move to another spot, Ellis cove empty, well comes in 2’s, I break a rod on a Steelie and we think, maybe it’s just to cold. We decided to head for breakfast, we walk in the diner it’s is full, we see a friend and say howdy, we we out already. Only to come to find it was -20 degrees(YES MINUS 20)….ate went back out, hooked a few more as the temp went to 0 degrees, still coldest day I’ve ever fished….

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