Sunday, January 22, 2012

#*%$!...That can't be good

The cabin was extra cold this morning.  Cody-buddy didn't wake me for his 3 a.m moonlight piss so the woodstove didn't see any refueling during the early morning hours.  There was definite hesitation as I rolled out of bed at 7:45 to re-stoke the fire and start my day.  Between yesterday's bitter cold session on the river and the afternoon work out from snowmobiling and raking the snow off the roof my body was feeling the effects.  The morning air still harboured a wicked bite as it hit my face upon opening the front door of the cabin to let he dog out.  The swaying of the trees spoke to a moderate breeze.  I was seriously leaning towards a morning on the couch with the fire, Internet and some Baileys coffee. 
I sat down, powered up the lap top and started to check the blog roll.  The coffee was magnificent and I settled in nicely watching the fire start to dance that magical way it does when it's burning efficiently.  After acknowledging some comments on the day priors post I opened up the Consummate Sportsman's blog and was pleased to see "Hollywood" Ricks had spun off another HD video.  Each video JB has been knocking out betters the prior so I was anxious to review "January Slab Hunt".    I must say the video was awesome.  It certainly put a smile on my face and more importantly had me motivated to get off the couch and geared up to hit the river.  I noticed there were 2 or 3 squirrels hitting the bird feeders hard this morning and I took this as a positive to indicate a somewhat warmer shift in the weather.  I loaded up the van and headed for the river. 
Prior to this trip I had made arrangements with Bruce Farrell from the Grey Bruce Outdoors board to demo a 15' St Croix AVID adorned with a Riverkeeper Frogwater Edition Centrepin.  The gear is on loan for a limited time and I was anxious to put a bend in the big stick and run the Frogwater through some big river action.  The day priors session spoke to the refinements of the reel but I really needed a fish or two to develop an informed opinion.  I have been getting bombarded from my Michigan brethren to run the "Waxie" as they call it this time of the year. 
I decided to stop and pick some up on the way in the hopes that a Brown or Rainbow could be enticed at a minimum.  I wanted every option available after yesterdays lock down.
The river was once again deserted.  I had the run of the water below the coffer so I decided to start up tight with a black and red Norland special.  I gave it a fair run and decided to switch it up prior to working my way down the drift.  I adjusted my float and tied on a new #10 135 Dai Riki Scud to my 5.6lb Raven Flouro tippet.  The maggots were looking me in the eye so I popped open the container and mulled around the sawdust for a big fattie.  After two drifts tight to the coffer I threw out my third and started to shuffle sideways towards a gravel bar that protrudes out into the flow.  Doing this I took my eyes off the float to concentrate on the substrate of the river when the rod was almost pulled from my hand.  I set up and a very hot titanium steelie jumped a foot or so from the surface and screamed down river.  The avid loaded up nicely and it was fish on!  For a late January steelhead this fish was on fire and gave me a run for my money breaching the surface multiple times.  From what I seen it was a purple buck in the 7lb range.  I was cautions not to put the boots to this fish with the big stick as I was unfamiliar with the blank and the power it possessed.  Just as I was starting to gain some ground the float flew over my left shoulder and the fish was gone.  Anxious to evaluate the incident I collected the slack line and pulled the rig in for a close inspection.  Fully expecting a broken leader I was surprised to see the knot had failed on the hook end.  Disappointed
I shook it off and retied a fresh hook,  chose another fattie waxie and picked away at the middle seam working my way down towards the large bar.  From here on in things got weird. For the next hour and a half I hit five more fish of which three were blown from the hook popping free.  There was no denying the effectiveness of the wax worms.  I had fished them before but never with as much conviction as I had today and never with as much success and reward either.  The three other fish I lost were well into the battle and almost done deals when the hook just popped free and the rod went lifeless.  I couldn't really figure it out other than I was very hesitant to hammer them on the hookset with the big stick and  a non-stretch mainline that came on the Frogwater.  Needless to say I did manage to put a couple of nice fish on the beach.  One was a 6lb Titanium buck that was simply outstanding and the other a long pretty hen in the 7lb range.  All of the fish today fought remarkably strong for the time of the year and I could only tie it to the shift in the weather and figured they were putting on the feedbag after the day priors lock down.  The hen was giving me a tough time once I put her on the beach and in my haste to keep her under control and eliminate any risk of getting the Frogwater wet I leaned over and my camera fell into the water in front of me.  Instinctively |I grabbed it in as soon as it hit the bottom but not before it had become completely enveloped in 6" of the frigid waters of the Big Manistee.
Reluctantly I powered it up and hoped for the best.  It came to life but I could see the lense had seen some minor moisture.  During all the ruckus the Frogwater Centrepin got splashed and was now frozen up.   I positioned the fish and took a few shots for lucks sake and hoped for the best.  The camera took the pictures and I accepted this a positive and cleaned as much surface moisture from around the lense as I could prior to tucking it deep into my waders for the remainder of the outing.
As expected the water splashed on the reel had locked it up solid and the rest of the morning was played out fighting an ever increasing cold wind with the big stick, frequent attempts to de-thaw the reel and another blown Steelie.  Tight tolerance pins are works of engineering but can be ones nemesis during the frigid months.  It's imperative to exercise every precaution practical to keep these pins clean and water free at these times. 
That don't work for me and my shutter bug tendencies.  It's a risk I'll aways take for the photo.  Today it didn't work for me, the reel and my camera but I wouldn't change it for a minute.  After a harsh lesson of what typical deep winter steelheading can be on Saturday morning I managed to turn it around and hit 6 quality Michigan Steelies in the matter of a few hours today.  The landing ratio was poor but I'm gonna chalk that up as a learning curve issue with the new gear and my reluctance to hammer them on the hook set.  I plan on putting up a detailed review of the St Croix 15' Avid and the Riverkeeper Frogwater Edition Centrepin reel soon so stay tuned.  As of 4pm this afternoon I think I have managed to dry out the digital camera and just may have dodged a bullet.  It was a matter of time and I should probably feel blessed it hasn't already happened multiple times like it has to my useless acquaintences.  Time will tell.


GT said...

Good on you to even it up with old man winter! Nice " feesh". Did you find the AVID a tad heavy?

lambton said...

The AVID is a telephone pole. Very heavy. I held it up against my 15' Frontier Friday night at the cottage. Both rods side by side for comparison and the Frontier was actually lighter with a smaller taper all the way through. The rod loaded up nice but is way too much stick for my liking. I guess I'm going the way of the aged but I think it will be 13' sticks for this cat here on in.
The wind picked that thing up like nothing. Quite a workout and I just fished for 2.5 hrs. Casted like a dream though and line control was awesome with the added 2 feet. The finish on that rod sure was pretty as well. Pet peeve was the hook keep placement...very poorly chosen IMHO. at the bottom of the blank hidden from ones line of sight. Had to guess every attempt at hooking up to it.

JBR said...

Thanks for the kind words! Glad you liked the video.

We're going to plug fish the lower river tomorrow. Bringing along 4 cameras for this one...

About time you gave in to the power of the waxie, btw! :)

lambton said...

4 cameras??? OMG what are you shooting High Def 3D steelheading now? Christ what's next? LOL!
Can't wait for the final cut. What I want to know is how are you gonna top the minnow bucket shot? That was awesome!
Good luck down there. Should be on fire if the mild spell holds. If she swings and another arctic lockdown occurs it might be tough sleddin down there. Go get em brother and for Christ sakes put some green line on that reel!
I think you MI dudes worship the waxworm lol as you are the second fishin brother to regurgitate that sentiment..."believe in the power of the wax-worm" Sounds like something YODA said to Luke Skywalker. LOL! Well I'm in and on board. There is no denying their effectiveness. Those little white sons-a-bitches are awesome. Everything has their time and place I guess.

Gil said...

Thanks for the info on the AVID. I was never much a St. Croix fan, float or fly.

Trotsky said...

Winter fish are are a POS...
I have to get over there.