Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the blink of an eye

What can I say? In the blink of ones eye the year slipped through our hands. Time managed to pull a fast one on me and I feel as though this years season was almost over before it began. For the most part there is some truth to that remark for I got a very late start this year. Mostly due to work commitments and mediocre to non-existent river conditions. I have no regrets. The time I did get to spend on the water was quality time. Time spent in heavenly places with company more deserving of the likes of me. For these reasons alone I harbour no regrets. We once again managed to catch more fish than we deserve and spend quality time back in the Shire. 2009 was short lived but will always be remembered.
A special thanks to Norland...a man, a scholar, a friend, and a POS. Thanks for being there brother.

A Happy New Year to each and everyone of my fishing nerd friends. Thanks for visiting and stay tuned for future exciting 2010 adventures.

I leave you all with this photo essay of the 09 Fall/Winter Season. Enjoy...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"This little river owes us nothing..."

To quote a wise friend... "This little river owes us nothing..." As I sit here in front of my computer I think to myself how precisely true this simplest of statements is. I couldn't make a more accurate remark to summarize exactly how I feel about our little river and the 2009 Fall/Winter Season. Our little river has provided me great reprieve from life. It has provided me a means of escape. She has managed to once again keep me captivated in her raw beauty and the beauty of her offerings. This little river does indeed owe us nothing.

This morning we once again decided to push our luck and forced what was most likely our last shot at the home waters. While I lay in bed last night listening to the wind howl across the ponds behind the house I wondered if this would indeed be our last outing. I wondered if we would arrive to to a river completely iced over and void of life. I wondered if we would finally feel the true wrath of winter. And for a brief moment I wondered if we were in fact doing the right thing.
As in almost all aspects of life it is inherently easy to error on the side of caution and play things on the safe side. We have neglected to operate in this fashion in the past and have experienced some truly memorable outings as a result. If for nothing more than the enjoyment of the road trip I shook off those thoughts and fell fast a sleep.

The 6 am meeting at Norlands came early and we found ourselves loading up the Tercel deafened by the crashing waves coming off the Southern Huron Beaches. We glanced blindly at each other and as if words were not needed we visually agreed on the madness we were about to embark on. It is only when I step outside of those moments that I can appreciate the humour and stupidity that they must exude to those that are not afflicted with this passion. After all it is December 29th at 6am in the morning and we are going fishing under Squall Advisories. Lake Huron is in a rage state and it's a balmy -5C according to the Weatherman. It makes complete sense to me.

The ride up is fairly uneventful. We experience typical intermittent lake effect snow and work our way past the squalls safely. About 3/4 of the way up we run into our first road closure of the season. We decide to work our way around this route and take the back way into the upper sections of the river. In no hurry we take our time and arrive under full daylight. Now having the ability to easily check the river conditions we do and peer over the side of the bridge to witness a river once again under winters grasp. Shelf ice had reformed and the slush was flowing relatively strong. This dampened our spirits considerably and we decided to head into town for a quick coffee and weigh our options.
We decided the epic hike back into the shire was out of the question and any attempt at fishing would be best done from the upper river access points. So after a shot of Bowmore we gear up and head for the water.
The river was beautiful under the fresh blanket of snow and the surrounding forest was the same. I got different satisfaction from today's outing. I didn't feel the need to force the issue. I dealt with it early on and decided to accept this day as a means to an end. Today would officially mark the end and demise of the 09 Ontario Fall/Winter Season for me. I decided to accept it and not go kicking and screaming.
We could have pushed her hard and I have no doubt we would have found success but at what cost. We pushed the envelope our last two outings with great reward and I didn't feel a need to force it today as much as I felt a need to say good bye to a wonderful friend. " This little river owes us nothing... "
And on that note we said our good byes and casually made our way back home.
I will miss our little river.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Warmest holiday wishes to each and every one of you from my family to yours.

Here's hoping Santa may bless you all with stockings full of Drennans, micro swivels, soft shot, hooks, flourocarbon and most of all Visors.

Life as Norland II

It is a continuing sad sad story...

Life as Norland II from Brian M on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Life as Norland

The title speaks for itself. Those of you who have had the misfortune of fishing in his presence or reading his blog know all too well just what "Life as Norland" can entail. Here is what I wish to be the first of many entertaining animated shorts attempting to communicate just what it means to be Genes. Special thanks to my girls for their talents and appreciation of humour.

Life as Norland from Brian M on Vimeo.

Pulling the Plug

We live in truly weird times. The information age no doubt. I look back on my life and think I could never have imagined the likes of the Internet. If someone told me some day I'd be able to surf the world wide web from a device small enough to fit in my hand while deep in the bush of my favourite trib I'd have brushed it off as impossible. I often find myself marvelling at the graphics and liquidity of the games I can play on my cel phone while waiting at a doctors appointment. I find myself wondering how we ever managed to navigate the hi ways and bi ways of our great continent without Global Positioning. These are weird times indeed. So weird that I can honestly say the information age has had an effect on what I hold most near and dear to my heart...Steelheading. The Internet has granted me the ability to network with people of similar interests. It has granted me the ability to reach out and do the research necessary to further my horizons, shorten my learning curves, and improve my opportunity for successes. The Internet has fueled my creative spirit and appreciation of writing and photography. Honestly without the Internet I would most likely have not experienced the last 7-8 years of adventure and for this I am forever grateful. Without the Internet I would have not met a number of decent people that share the ridiculous passion I have for this sport. But with all good things come the spoils. In life there are givers and takers and the Internet is another avenue for both sects to operate. There will always be those who choose to share and there will always be those who chose to take. This basic human nature. I believe it is ingrained in humanity and it will never change. I guess where I am going is that lately there has been alot of angst and dissension in regards to these blogs and the lurking going on. By the hits counters I can see we do generate a fair amount of traffic. I'm sure the overall group of travellers are small as these blogs do appeal to a niche audience. However, the overall fear is that the information relayed in these avenues will somehow have a negative impact on the rivers we so love and cherish. There is no denying that us "Steelheaders" are very passionate/irrational individuals. We are extremists and by the very nature of the word take everything to the limits. Who else chops shelf ice free to fish a run? Who else drives by "Road closed by order of OPP" signs to go fishing. So as with our extreme actions come extreme feelings and emotion. We will do whatever it takes to guard and protect what we hold near and dear to our hearts. Sometimes we over react and once again take things to the extreme. We may tend to blow things out of proportion to protect what is important to us. I guess what I'm saying here is that we don't need to shut down these blogs that so many get enjoyment from. We don't need to pull the pin on it all and hibernate. We need to become more creative on how we share our experiences. We need to focus on the creative content and continue to improve and enjoy our experiences. Also there are a great deal of visitors to these sites that can share their own experiences as well or better in their own blogs. It would be nice if the people that take from our blogs were to give back in their own. It would be nice to have a circuit of sites to visit with different perspectives and avenues of expression represented for Great Lakes Steelheading. I do not plan on pulling the plug on my blog. I get much enjoyment out of putting together the days experience and sharing it with those that care to enjoy it. I get equally as much enjoyment looking back into the journal of adventures we have experienced over the past number of years. I would like to think the positive well out weigh the negatives with these efforts. And as someone recently told me the effort put into our adventures is far too much for the masses to handle. Our little pieces of Heaven will be safe mainly due to mankind's inherent laziness. God bless lazy humans!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Today marked the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year and the official beginning of Winter. It also quite possibly marked our last attempt at the home waters.

Today we ventured out on what was to be a yet another true winter steelheading experience. The air was cool and the sky was grey. The river ran transparent and the slush seemed to keep itself somewhat in check. The valley was void of all human life with the exception of us two cock-a-roaches. The shelf ice imposed an unavoidable danger and inevitable fishing challenge.
As you all know true winter steelheading is a crap shoot. One can do their homework and still have to rely on sheer luck for favourable conditions. Today we peered over the edge of our lookout to once again see a fishable river. Today we battled shelf ice more than slush. Today we crossed fast water sections with snowbank collections of slush under the water. Today we again threw caution to the wind and pushed our souls onward and upward in search of success. And just when all hope was about to be lost the little orange speck disappeared into the green unknown. The water exploded and the aches and chills throughout our bodies all but disappeared. Once again an outing on the edge did an about face and all confidence was restored for the remainder of the afternoon. The fish didn't come without work but the successes we did enjoy were that much more favourable.
Today I witnessed tragedy and redemption. I witnessed a good friend lose a fish on the shelf ice that was much needed to set his soul at ease. Shortly after I witnessed him throw extreme caution to the wind and enjoy the success he so much needed. The emotion behind both events made me truly feel alive. I shared his pain because I knew how much that first loss would wear on him but I also shared his jubilation when the second fish was landed against all odds. Today I once again returned to my youth and forgot about life. I feel sad for those who do not have something that offers so much gratification and escape as this sport does for us. As I type this from the comfort of my house the fire is warm and the beer is cold. My body aches and all I can think about is our little river. Will we have another shot before the seasons demise?

Extreme "Norland" from Brian M on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fond Farewells...

I get asked the question all the time. "You fish and you don't keep em?" and
"What'd you mean you let em go?" or my favorite "You fish and you don't eat fish?"
The answer to these queries really doesn't justify the true explanation as to why we in fact release these magnificent creatures. To capture the true essence of the feelings in words would do no justice to the true emotion behind the release. The best way for me to quantify it would be with this sweet little video I entitled "Farewell"
Although it stars Norland who's graphic image is somewhat hard to take his display of "human" emotion pretty much sums it up.

Farewell from Brian M on Vimeo.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"that rabbit out of a hat"

Having just returned from a 4 day trip to Nevada I was eager to hit the home waters with Norland. I had sent Gene an email from the McCarron International Airport prior to my flight leaving informing him I would be good to go for Wednesday morning. As reality would have it I was exhausted from the trip and flight and had to bail on our plans. True to his insane nature Gene ventured up Wednesday himself and found favourable results. With the daunting weather outlook I was on the fence as to force the issue for Thursday and take the chance at a complete write off. After a brief email exchange that involved a great deal of emotional and irrational logic we decided to make the drive up the lake for what might possibly be the last shot at fishing our beloved little river. If for nothing more this trip would afford the company of a great friend, immature and insane conversation, an arduous but beautiful walk through the bush and maybe...just maybe a chance at one more jewel from the shire.
In typical form we arrived, geared up and make the long hike. The forest was quiet and covered in a blanket of white snow. We walked on no others tracks and a peaceful feeling set across me. There is a vantage point on our little river that affords a panoramic view of the river and surrounding forest. We made our way to this cliff and peered over the edge with anticipation of a free and flowing river. To our surprise the river was flowing strong and appeared to be reasonably slush free. A feeling of jubilation set across our bodies and like children before Christmas we rushed down the hill towards the river for a better view.
To our dismay there was some slush flowing but we felt we would be able to deal with it. With the assumption that the slush would only get worse prior to better we made the long hike to the top end where Gene had positive results the day prior. This hike can be a test on normal days but combine the increased clothing and constant buildup of snow on the wading boots it was certainly taking its toll on our bodies. We finally managed to arrive at our destination. The run looked fishable but the slush was starting to really become a factor. After a 15 min session a feeling of hopelessness was beginning to set over me. In conditions like these our manor of fishing is really put to the test. We found ourselves way back in the bush with water that was virtually unfishable. We decided to hike up to a faster flowing run that might offer us an option. To our surprise the slush was flowing in a manor that allowed us to get our offerings down somewhat successfully. This combined with an increased bulk shotting approach proved to be the ticket. A few drifts in with a pink worm my float drops. Instinct takes over and its fish on. For the conditions being as harsh as they were this fish fought like a champion taking me well down river where we finally managed to put her on the bank. She was very beautiful and displaying that titanium colour some take on in the extreme cold. After a few quick pics she was returned unharmed to where she came. This fish was a real confidence booster at a time when all things were starting to look hopeless. This fish was the shot in the arm we needed and we decided to hike down to the Drive-inn run. Our luck this season has been minimal to none at this run and I had a feeling we were due. In no time Norland hooks up and blows a fish. Hanging in there he makes a few more drifts and hooks up again. This fish is sounding in the deep emerald abyss of the Drive-inn and we get the impression that it is a decent sized buck. True to our suspicions it was and in full winter colours. This fish takes Gene for a long walk down river, under trees, and into rapids where Gene manages to one hand him in the middle of the river.
This fish is big, strong, and ...ugly! LOL!!! Well we will say he had a face only a mother could love. Kinda like Norland. I actually said "Gene, you caught a fish that looks just like you!" But seriously...this fish was stellar and a survivor. After a few pics he raced back into the river to live another day.
By now our expectations were surpassed. We both put quality fish on the bank. We got some nice pics, had a tonne of laughs and were getting ready to make the hike out. We decided to walk by this new run Norland discovered a few months back that I had only fished once with him. This run is very "Sexy" as Gene would say and warranted a look. I didn't think we would be able to punch through the slush parade here but it was worth a look. I started fishing the middle section to no avail. We decided to leave and walked by the tail out. We were just about past it when I said "Hey...lets give it a shot" It looked awesome and worth an attempt. It wasn't 5 drifts and Gene blew a fish. Another 5 drifts and I hooked up on a chrome hen. It was awesome to see her flash in the emerald water below the slush. The slush was coming down pretty good and the mainline would cut it in two as the fish raced throughout the run. After a surprising long battle we managed to persuade her on to an ice shelf.
She was beautiful and made the trip. Before I let her go I gave her a kiss and wished her all the best. This might be my last fish of the season I proclaimed as she jetted back in to the "Mitchell Run".

The Kiss from Brian M on Vimeo.

We missed a few more fish then I hooked up again. This fish fought fairly decent but came to hand reasonably quick. We wondered if it was possibly the same fish. After photo comparisons later that night it was confirmed. LOL!! I caught the same fish twice. That counts as two doesn't it? ;0) We fished for a little while longer and decided to head out. On the way out Gene spotted the bald eagle. It was my first time seeing him this year and it added to the allure of the day. Rounding a corner we discovered a dead Coho on the ice half eaten and surrounded by raptor tracks in the snow. We had to assume the eagle had been preying on this fish and we spooked him away as we approached. It never ceases to amaze me what one will find when hiking in the shire.

The remainder of the hike out was brutal. Actually I can never recall a hike that has taken it's toll on me as much as this one. I like to think I am in reasonable shape but Gene is beginning to convince me that our quality days of "hitting her hard" are short lived.
Arriving at the car there we no chance of getting the now frozen wading boots off our feet. With a sudden burst of inspiration and ingenuity we decided to hit the local car wash for a de-thaw of sorts. I had to chuckle at the stares of horror from the older gentlemen in the adjacent stall as he watched us power wash our waders and boots while he cleaned his car. I'm certain he will be telling that story for a long time to come. For us it was pure genius and got us on the road home. Well... after a quick stop at Zehrs Country Market for some outstanding Mennonite baked goods and meat products that is.
This trip was bordering on the edge of catastrophic from a fishing stand point. I would have never guessed we would have had such a fantastic day. It just goes to prove that with true determination and perseverance one can pull that rabbit out of the hat. As I type this our little river may very well be locked up. This may have been my last trip up and that makes me very sad. If conditions change and we are blessed with another opportunity I hope to take advantage of it. If not this day was a stellar ending to a very short season. We are lucky to have special places like this in our world. Places where one can find peace with ones self and where one can become in tune with nature. We really are lucky...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

One to remember...

One to remember... from Brian M on Vimeo.

Lake Huron Metal

I haven't fished the world. I haven't managed to chase chromers across the continent. Heck...I haven't fished outside of the Great Lakes Watershed. But what I have managed to do is fish my share of Premiere Steelheading Systems in the Great Lakes Basin. From the St Mary's on Superior down through to the Ganaraska of Lake O what I have found is that Lake Huron Metal ranks at the top of the list. The State of Michigan has done wonders with the Lake Michigan fishery but in it's entirety the fragile wild stock genetics of Lake Huron chromers are supreme. A biologist I am not! I speak only via opinion that is based solely on my experiences but history leads one to believe that these genetics could possibly be traced back to the initial stockings on Michigan's Au sable in 1876.
Lake Huron is not a fishery of grand proportions. The fishery is for individuals who are willing to work long and hard for fish. The fishery is for those that favour the raw untainted beauty of a wild stock fishery. The fishery is for those that can withstand natures elements at the worst possible times of the year to chase their quarry. Most importantly the fishery is for those that can find solace in one fish days as equally as they do with a multiple fish outing.
Lake Huron Steelheading is like drinking a fine Craft Beer. The batches are small and the costs are higher but the rewards certainly taste grand.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday Service

I went to Church today. Well sort of...You see I went fishing and at this point in my life where I fish is as close to God as I can get. It is a special place that I hold dear to my heart. It’s place where I can disappear and forget about the world, a place where I can become one with the elements. It’s a place where I can get lost in a calm breeze or a fierce winter blizzard. It’s a place where I can find inner peace with myself and most importantly a place where I can catch wild steelhead.
It has become so special to me that I feel an obligation to protect it. So much so, that I have developed a profound sense of ownership and responsibility. Maybe this is for selfish reasons but I like to think that the results can only benefit the resource and the others that share in my sentiments. One cannot put a price on such a place and the healing powers it provides. The resource is for all to enjoy and will be there if we all exercise ethical precautions. I spent an hour Sunday afternoon sharing a coffee with the Landowner that has so kindly granted me access across his property for years. We discussed how things have changed in recent times. He spoke to the lack of respect and courtesy exhibited by the area visitors. He spoke to the destruction of the trail network from unwelcomed ATVs and the increase in river bank litter. He spoke to uncomfortable confrontations he has had on his land and where this all was all eventually going to lead. During our conversation he said something that sparked a flicker of hope. He said "I don't feel like I own the land as much as I feel an obligation to look over it and protect it" If we all do our part we can all work together to keep special places like this.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Return

I had long awaited my return to the Shire. My absence was due in part mostly to environmental factors with some life thrown in to the mix. I had managed to avoid the pregame show in October and what was to be a grand November came and went without as much as a hope. I managed to keep my composure and assured myself that my return would not be under sub prime conditions. I needed a grand day on the healing waters and I would not compromise this for anything. Life was keeping me preoccupied and mother nature was keeping me at bay. So much so that we finally decided to book an early trip on the Muskegan with Jeff Stuhan. Any day on the water with Jeff is a blast so that was what we were planning when the graph finally did a little jump. Not the anticipated blow out that I promised myself would happen but a mere jump followed by what appeared to be a somewhat sustainable flow. The jump was big enough to temp a push of fish and big enough to offer some decent options with nice colour. A last minute decision was before us and we opted to tempt fate and follow our hearts back to the shire. It was a no loose option for me as I longed to get back and walk the cedar lined trails and stare into her emerald green waters. My reasons for being on the river have changed in recent times and my successes are measured with different metrics. Today I spent quality time with a great friend. I shared many a laugh. I forgot about life. I got lost in the stunning reflection of the far bank and relaxing pace of my favourite drift. I experienced grand successes and shared the pain of a great loss. I had forgotten how important that place is to me and what she really provides. It was nice to be home again.