Sunday, November 26, 2006

Still pray'n

Fall 2006, Wow what a year for conditions. Almost weekly precip events have dealt us a royal flush of cons. My home trib has been high and fishable every week this season and the fishing has been nothing short of spectacular. Today was to be my test. The lands that drain into my little emerald jewel have not experienced any decent amount of rain since last Friday and she is very thirsty. Today's test was not going to be if I could manage to turn any fish but more of a test of my ability to enjoy the deviation from ideal. I must say it is hard to change gears in full stride but I did manage to enjoy the morning of solitude and had a nice walk out of the bush. Turned a few fish aswell ;o)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Now I pray for rains

On the heels of a spectacular high water outing I had plans to fish with my good friend Gene on Monday. The Cons were pretty much known but the usual game plan was decidedly deviated from for a more systemic approach. We decided to hike way up to the far reaches of our normal routine and work our way back ending where a branch of the trail crosses the river. This route would offer us an opportunity to fish first light on runs that we never or seldom get first crack at. I was also interested in self proving my theory about the previous outings late bite due to the cold water temps we are just starting to experience. We arrived at the top end and fished 2 runs that always turn plenty of fish. Today we struggled to lift any. There were signs that these runs may have been fished but we blew them off as the previous days war scars. 1.5 hrs into the morning we verified that others had beat us to the punch so we cut our losses and doubled back down the river. On the way back we joked about how we should have stuck to our usual game plan and talked ourselves into a miserable state of self pity and what would we do if our next destination was occupied with piscators. We arrived at the large wintering pool to find it untouched. It was pushing 10am. This hole was to keep us occupied for the next hour offering up steelhead after steelhead. At one time Gene hit 3 fish in 3 drifts!
I was fortunate enough to tie into a spectacular buck that took me on an epic journey down river and tested both my gear and nerves to their breaking point. This fish would have been in the 10lb class and was a spectacular representation of the health or our home waters. My day could have ended there but I will let the story unfold. After managing a few more fish from this hole we slid up to a long run just upriver from the wintering hole. Here we were to exchange fish after fish for another hour. One of the highlights was a fresh-in chrome buck pushing towards the 10lb mark. Gene hooked the last fish in the run and it was a good one. Some things are not meant to be and after a fair battle this fish was to get off without either of us getting a good glimpse. I felt his pain and couldn't look him in the face for a few seconds. As any good friend should I offered up some words of encouragement and asked him why he blew that fish? You know kick him when he's down like a real buddy would ;O)
I could tell this was going to bother him for some time as these types of losses usually do. I was anxious to get him into some more fish and we slid back down to the wintering hole where he was to shortly redeem himself and his demeanor. A short time later we decided to move out and make our way down stream to the next run. Along the way we made reference to the spot that the big buck from earlier had taken me and how epic of a battle it was. I may have even made reference to the fact that I was astonished at how I managed that big fish as I usually blow almost all big fish opportunities. "That's just what I do" is my typical response to Gene's query as to why I blew yet another big fish. We reached the crossing point of the river. This section is normally just a crossing point but in high water conditions just below where we cross there is a nice section of water that looks appealing. On a regular day it would be overlooked in an instance but in high water it just looks like a fish should hold in there. Half way into the river crossing I cast my offering into the run and watch my float as I carry on. My float goes down and I set up on a fish. This fish is hooked in pretty fast water and it is hard to tell just how big it is but I do know that I have about 200 yards of fast water down river from me and I am in the midst of another epic journey. 150 yards or so down stream we manage to land the fish in a side pocket in the grass. Gene tails the brute and holds up a stellar wild buck in fill winter colours. This fish is to be the best fish of my steelheading life.

We measured the fish to reference makings on my float rod for accurate measurement later. When I got home I was astonished to learn this fish measured 31.5" long and I estimate the girth at 17 - 18". Truly a fish of a life time for our home waters.
To catch a fish of this caliber is one thing. To do it in the presence of a highly respected peer is another. It means so much to me that I got to experience this moment with my good friend and highly respected steelheader. Without him I may have not landed this fish. Without him I would not be the obsessed freak on the river that I am today. Without him I may not even fish the waters that I truly love today. And without him I would not be the steelheader I am today. When we first fished together he taught me humility. He went 6 for 6 while I scratched my head and he genuinely felt bad. He is the type of guy who would give you his last pack of hooks. He would sit on the bank and wait until you managed a fish after he has taken 2. I can honestly say that Gene enjoyed that fish yesterday as much as I did and that means a lot. Gene, your a hell of a fishing partner and a hell of a steelheader. Thanks for being there, thanks for being my fishing partner, and thanks for being a friend. Oh ya, you cast like a girl. What's wrong with you?
Now Our day wasn't to end here. We were to travel down river and manage a few more fantastic specimins one of which was a Michigan clipper in the 10lb class in full chrome armor caped with a million black markings on his back. These fish are truly from a strong gene pool and a pleasure to have at the end of your line. By the end of the day we made our way out of the valley recapping the days events and joking as we do and gathering a garbage bag full of discardings. I don't think there is an outing where we don't count our blessings and discuss just how fortunate we are to live in the great lakes region and have the opportunities we do for world class steelheading.
As I type this my river has since dropped and cleared. I have done my water site homework, reviewed my multiple weather forecast models, and now I pray for rains.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

That Variable

Every outing has that variable that defines the moment. Today's outing was to be no different. Going in I new that my little river was greatly affected by the mid weeks precipitation event. Arriving at my chosen starting point I was faced with a barely recognizable rendition of fishable water. We as steelheaders have to adapt to our environment and adapt I did. For the next 2 1/2 hours I was to fish 6 different highly productive spots with no avail. I fished all the current breaks and slack water, all the seams, boulders and pools from top to bottom but still no luck. The decision was made to slide up to a run that was overlooked in years prior mostly due to low water conditions.

This year the run in question has proven productive. I decided it would be my last venture up river. This run proved to be very successful giving up 5 fish in the course of an hour. Before packing up I decided to drop down to the large wintering hole I had just beat up with no luck an hour earlier. This hole was due to give up a fish I just felt it. This decision proved to be wise for the hole turned into a revolver firing off bullet after bullet of chrome. This hole was to produce 8 fish as the hour unfolded 2 of which were pushing towards the 30" class.

It never ceases to amaze me how a simple 1/2 degree temp change can flick the switch and a morning of bewilderment can be recycled into astonishment. I strongly feel that variable today was the 1/2 degree rise. Driving home I pondered on similar experiences from Novembers past and smiled at today's.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jesus fishes Upstate NY

A trip of different sorts was in order for November 15th. Having fished our home trib exclusively with great success this fall we felt the need for a change of pace. That change of pace was to lead us to Upstate NY. 18-mile creek, more commonly known as "Burt Dam", was to be our starting point for the day. Now we had only fished "The Burt" once prior in the dead of winter and really didn't know what to expect in the prime of fall steelheading season. We were going in blind and what was to unfold on a midweeks morning neither of us would have predicted. We arrived at first light to find a parking lot full of vehicles. One SUV's plates declaring that Jesus himself was also fishing at Burt Dam. We geared up and made our way down to the river. Looking up towards the tressel we could see there was a tremendous amount of pressure on this river. Fish were rising all over the place but were not responsive to our offerings. We managed a brown and a steelie before heading up towards the dam where we were to be greatly disappointed. The disappointment was not only with the masses of "anglers" but with the lengths at which they would go to catch a fish. There must have been a dumpster at the parking lot where everyone deposited their ethics prior to heading down to the river. Snagging and lining were prolific. 9 out of 10 fish hooked were fouled and I suspect that the remaining 10% were questionably hooked. We quickly decided that this was not for us and we made a call to hit Oak orchard. This decision proved to be a turning point in a day destined for despair. We had fished The Oak last year with great success and we suspected that it may not have the pressure experienced at 18-mile. Boy were we right. We encountered a stretch of river with virtually no angling pressure whatsoever. It didn't take long to get into a beautiful fall NY Brown and shortly after a magnificent NY Steelhead.

The remainder of the afternoon dwindled away quickly with multiple hookups of steelies and browns. Our day couldn't have taken a turn for the better. What was shaping up to be a great disappointment turned into yet another Classic November outing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Beauty and the Beast

Shotgun season for deer is in full swing and I had been given a heads up from my buddy that our little trib is in the middle of a war on hoofed creatures. When I envision deer hunters in Southwestern Ontario I picture farmers who hunt once a year and are very excited that their season is in swing. The term Buck Fever comes to mind. Now having to walk a good mile back into the bush I have to say I was a little apprehesive about the whole situation. I really didn't know what to expect out there but my passion for steel pretty much secured the fact that I would be on that river. So to set my nerves at ease I plopped on my $6 Canadian Tire blaze-orange touque and made my way thru the bush. Luckily today the only bucks that were taken within earshot were by myself. Now if Steelhead were on a Boon and Crocket scoring system this guy would be registering big numbers.

The 2006 season has been nothing short of spectacular on our little river and today proved no different. Each outing plays out to be special for it's own unique reasons. Today's was hitting His and Her genetic champions in a large wintering pool that until recent had not been holding fish. This fall we have been gifted with plenty of precipitation and our little trib has been running high scattering fish throughout the system. But today was a low water day so I suspected I would hit a couple of fish from this long deep emerald abyss. To my surprise I managed a monstrous buck pushing well over 10lbs and a beautiful lady in the 7lb class. Both fish were immediately returned to the dephs in which they came after a quick pic. It makes me happy to see such genetic champions in our little river. My day could have finished after these 2 fish but it only continued on with insane pulsating runs and tremendous aerials. Some successes and some defeats but all great memories of another November Great Lakes Steelhead outing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Advent of November

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

Henry David Thoreau

I find this quote most appropriate having had the privilege to spend a mid weeks November day on my home waters under optimum conditions for the 3rd time in 2 weeks. Numerous times throughout the day I found myself enthralled by the emerald green of the river, the crisp blue of a clear November sky, and the wintering colours of a fall buck. On the water to know me is to know a man possessed. It’s all about business. This early November day was a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I was on the river to deal my craft but yesterday was a very special day. I watched my friend land a world-class chromer, we discovered some new water, and we had many laughs! In my opinion a priceless day and Oh ya...we hammered the b'jesus out of em again ;O)