September 30, 2012

Don't Give In


There have been times, when I get that feeling of giving up when fishing. When I'm not hooking into fish, I'll start ringing off the excuses - low or high water, the time of the season, my eggs, my lack of patience and so on. But at times, I get that nagging feeling, if I leave I might miss out something great. In the past, I've been burned when I'm speed fishing. Speed fishing is when I set a certain amount of time on one spot. Once I've reached that allotted time, I go to the next spot. I do this when my time is limited. It isn't the most effective way to fish as some times it pays in huge dividends and other times I struck out. 

Today it was like that when I fished the lower Grand. The day before the other guys did well on the lower Rock. I passed up the opportunity to get in some much needed sleep as I was worked a very long week. Today, I would be fishing solo and I wonder how the Grand had been fishing. I didn't hear much chatter and nobody I knew had fished it yet. I arrived at first light and to my surprise, I was the first person there. When I reached the river, it was running low but the water was stained. The river looked the same when I lasted fished it back in July for catfish. I crossed over and started fishing the head of the pool. The flow was lethargic and the banks reeked of something rotten. The bottom was very silty as clouds of it swirled up as I walked. The river definitely needs a good thorough blowout. I had the float adjusted to about 3' and I watched struggled as I knew it was dragging bottom. I made some adjustments and resumed fishing. I pretty well half assed it all the way down because I figured the fish would be in the deeper hole around the bend. I finally reached the hole and there was some flow albeit slow. I worked the hole and the only things interesting were 3 juvenile bald eagles chasing each other along the river and several deer watching me do a lot of nothing. Speaking of nothing, I didn't see one fish roll. In the distance, I could hear thunder off over the lake. The black clouds loomed closer and closer. I took my phone and checked the radar and it was going to miss us. This section generally holds new arrivals from the lake, but a little over an hour, I had nothing. It was time to take a leak, when I walked to the shore and when I looked down, I could see some scraps of blue spawn sac netting on the rocks. I chuckled as it was my netting I used back during the summer to tie chicken livers. Despite some of the rain we received, it never got high enough to wash it away.


The hole was a lost cause and I made my way back up. I started doubting that if there was any fish present. I looked up and there was still nobody. Maybe the locals knew something that I didn't know. I pounded away working the pool and I was getting frustrated. The only thing I could hear were bass chasing minnows. I was getting ready to throw in the towel when I was back at the head of the pool. I gave myself 15 minutes and that was it. I tossed the float out and watched it go downstream. Bored, I yawned several times and continue to watch it when it shot under suddenly. I quickly set the hook and felt the fish charge downstream. I knew this was a very large one. It peeled off line at lighting fast speed. I kept the rod high and gingerly applied pressure. I watched the water boil and I could out make out a very large fin coming out the water. Several times the fish charged back out in the middle and I started to gain the upper hand. Luckily, I was using a 3X tippet so I was able to muscle it in as fast as I could. Being mindful that the water temperature was still at the upper threshold for these fish. It turned out to be a massive hen, thick and fresh - a titan. She already sported a hefty gut. Her tail was so thick, I could barely get my hand around it. I whipped out my phone and took a couple of quick pictures. I popped the hook out and quickly placed her in the water. I gently moved her back and forth and I started to feel her regain strength. Finally, she surged forward and bolted back out to the river. I figured she must of weight close to 15 pounds and if she survived to next spring, I'd bet she would tip the scales at 18 pounds. 

When I was fighting her, I watched another fish roll further up. It started to make sense as the head of the pool had the fastest current. I casted out and quickly mend the line. The float started down along the seam when the float shot under and the water erupted. A small male flew out of the water and ran downstream. It was a fairly quick and intense fight as I was able to pop the hook out without beaching him. Shortly after that, I hooked into another male that aggressively hit a pink sac. After that it pretty well shut down once the sun came out.

I almost passed up that last spot to head to another one and I was glad I gave it another kick at the can, because who knows if I would caught fish at the next spot. By then it was almost noon and I watched two anglers head upstream. I drove further upstream and fished a long run that spilled into a wide pool. I worked it for about an hour and my stomach talked me into to leaving. I wasn't disappointed with my outing as it can be hit or miss and it was nice to end the month. All of the rivers are woefully low and we need at least several heavy rain falls to replenish the ground, because the ground basically soaks up any available water before it has a chance to run off. As the weather gets cooler, generally we start to see more wet weather and hopefully October turns out to be like last year - outstanding.

Tough Crowds, Tougher Fishing


Fall once again has begun to make its appearance along the Alley. The days are getting shorter, nights cooler and some of the trees are starting to turn color. Lately, we have started to receive enough rain that some of the rivers are allowing fish to enter them. September is a month that depending on weather, I'll venture out. Generally the numbers of the fish can be low. But, the savvy steelheader can find a decent number of fish. In past years, its been either feast or famine. I go only when the water conditions are great. The first trip out didn't yield one fish due to muddy conditions and me forgetting to bring the spinning reel as the lake was perfect for casting spoons. Last week, I didn't go out due to coming home very late after the Ohio State game and still fighting the after effects of a cold. It didn't really matter because all of the streams were running low and clear. So far for September, I've been shut out. 

I awoke very early this morning sometime before five in the morning. The alarm blared and I looked up at the ceiling. In the dark and I could hear rain pelting the windows. I crawled out of bed and peeked outside. My Jeep glistened with water and it was lightly raining. The day before we received sufficient rainfall that raised the levels of some streams. The overnight temperature was in the 40s and it was going to be a cool day in the low 60s. I stumbled to the kitchen to my dismay I was out of coffee. I'm one of those people that can't function in the morning without a hot mug of java. I cooked my eggs and bacon and wolfed them down. I loaded the Jeep and drove to the gas station to fill up and get some of that raunchy gas station coffee. As I filled up, I watched several Browns fans walking in and getting ice and beer for the early morning tailgate. I thought to myself that I would rather have ice picks stuck in my balls than watch the Browns play. The Browns have been a joke from day one and 14 years later they still stink. But, I can relate to them as a long suffering Leafs fan and there's a possibility that there might not be any hockey this upcoming season. The pump popped loudly and I looked over at the  total - $65.00, it was going to be an all event as I was going to get my money's worth. 

I hit the road as the rain pelted the windshield. I looked on my Iphone and the weather app showed a small band of rain coming off the lake. It was a quiet drive to Pennsylvania - no music, just the sounds of the tires on the road and my thoughts. I crossed into Pennsylvania and it was first light. The black clouds in the horizon were scattered and the roads wet. I drove down the road to the Elk Creek access and several cars ahead turn into it. It was seven when I entered and I could see a lot of cars. The first lot was packed and I was forced to parked in the second one. This is what the steelheader expects in late September on the Elk. Fishing the access is a test in patience and playing well with others. Those two attributes are ones that at times, I fail miserably. It was put on my happy face and I wondered how long it would take me before I blew my stack. I geared up and walked down to the creek to see a mass of humanity. The log jam had about 15 guys fishing and others were forced to fished farther down patiently waiting for a better spot. I looked farther upstream and there were more people fishing. The water up there was very shallow and my gut told me to fish lower in the deeper slower moving water. 

I crossed over and there were anglers sitting on the wall and others on the opposite side. I walked down around the bend and there were more people scattered on both sides. I found one spot on the opposite side of the shale bank and I shuffled in. Several large trees hung over the creek and fishing on that side was difficult due to the branches. It was a mix of fly and bait fishermen and not a lot was happening. It was quiet as people focused intently on their floats and indicators. In the distance I could hear the roar of the waves crashing on the shore. There wasn't a lot of chatter and not too many happy faces. The water felt cool and somewhere in the murky depths were steelhead. Once in a while a fish would announce its presence by rolling or jumping clear out of the water. I had a couple jars of clear water and flash cured eggs and I hoped they were up to the task as they spent the entire summer hidden way back in the depths of the fridge. I worked my small section and once in a while the mundane morning  was broken by the sound of fish being hooked. Nobody was hammering them and no particular spot was yielding fish. Just as fast as the action was, it quickly went back to quiet and unassuming. I kept making adjustments and at one point I tied on a white jig. For two hours I didn't get nothing and I started getting cold. I dressed for early fall, a tee shirt under a long sleeve shirt and I wore a flimsy fleece jacket. I shivered as I tried to concentrate. I went back to sacs and finally redemption. I watched the float tapped a couple of times and I set the hook. The rod throbbed and I felt that tell tale powerful surge of a steelhead. It was a powerful quick intense fight and I landed the first fish of the season - a chunky bright silver male. I beached it in the mud and quickly took the hook out. I watched the fish quickly dart back into the murky depths. 

The first fish of the new season made the cold feel more bearable. It briefly rained and several anglers started to depart with their catches. That opened up more space for me to even pull off some hero drifts, which is unheard of on the lower Elk. The same pattern played out all morning 2 and 3 fish caught. Thankfully the sun started to come out and I felt the rays. My body started to warm up and I felt rejuvenated. I ended up with 2 more fish and by then it was early afternoon and the fish shut off. More and more anglers, especially the ones who didn't sniff one bite packed up with disappointment. The place started to clear and I too made my way out. The log jam was down to 5 guys however all of them were tightly clustered. 

I survived the access for another day. Remarkably everybody got along. There wasn't f bombs hurls, cut lines, and fellow anglers pummeling one another. We'll see what happens the next time I venture out to Pennsylvania.

September 23, 2012

O-HI-O!


September 15th was a date that was circled on my calender. It was the Ohio State vs California game in Columbus. This was going to be my first live college football game. I've always been a big fan of the college game and preferred it over the NFL. The student athletes play with more passion, the traditions, the game is more pure, and the atmosphere is electrifying. 

This is the first season under the tutelage of new head coach Urban Meyer - the 2 time national champion at Florida. This is a home coming for Meyer as he's a native of Ashtabula, Ohio and started his coaching career at Ohio State. He replaced Jim Tressel after he resigned during the tattoo scandal that eventually cost the Buckeyes all of their 2010 wins and Sugar Bowl victory and their first losing season since 1988. I was never a big fan of "Tressel Ball", so I wasn't terribly sad to see him go. This year, they're banned from a bowl game and many consider this a rebuilding season. Meyer is considered one of the best recruiters and he has secured some of the best talent in the nation so the future looks bright for Buckeye Nation.



We left Rocky River early Saturday morning and it was a beautiful warm day for a game. We headed south on I-71 to Columbus and on the drive down we could see many Buckeyes fans dressed in scarlet and gray. We exit the freeway and it was a wall of traffic. As we walked to the stadium, we could see groups of people tail gating and off in the distance we could hear a live band playing. Everybody was in a festive mood, people tossing a ball, playing corn hole, pounding back beers and grilling food. In the distance, I could see the fabled horsehoe. The Shoe is considered one of the best stadiums to watch a college game and it's steep in history. We were in a sea of scarlet and gray as hundreds of fans of all ages walked through the tunnel hooting and hollering towards the rotunda. Mixed with some of the chants were the famous "Fuck Michigan". 



Our seats were in the D level under the press box. After a long climb up to the section, we settled in as the Ohio State marching band came out getting ready to perform the Buckeye Battle Cry. The seats were great as we were on the 35 yard line. As they assembled on the field, the crowd was getting worked up. Then the drum major ran out to the middle of the field got the band started. Over 100,000 people started singing the Battle Cry and it was amazing. That's what makes college football so special, the tradition unique to a particular school and Ohio State's is their marching band and its fans. They put on a spectacular show of precision as they performed "Script Ohio". After the national anthem, Cal entered the stadium to a chorus of boos and when the Buckeyes came running out, the place erupted. 



The Buckeyes raced out to take the lead but as the game progressed Cal started chipping away and eventually took the lead. The Buckeyes struggled in the 3rd and 4th quarters. With minutes left in the 4th quarter, quarterback Braxton Miller tossed a perfect ball to wide open Devin Smith and ran it 70 yards to secure the win. It was an ugly one as they gave up over 500 yards of total offence. This year they might win 10 games but it will be seen whether they can hang with the big boys of the Big Ten - Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin and the hated Michigan Wolverines. But a win is a win in my book.


We hung around after the game and watched the band perform several songs before playing the battle cry one more time as they marched their way out through the tunnel. After the game we wandered along the street and many of the bars were packed with fans looking to celebrate and quench their thirst. We drove to High Street and my urbanspoon app picked out a bargain gem a place called the Press Grille. It was a little quaint cozy restaurant filled with students and young professionals. The food and beer was delicious and I soaked in all of the experience and I'll never forget it. We made the long drive home and I'm grateful that my fishing partner Bubba - a former player was gracious enough to give us tickets. It's an experience that any college football fan should do and it was one of those things on my bucket list. I'm looking forward to attending another one in the near future. 

September 12, 2012

A New Season Begins


The alarm goes off at 5:30A.M jarring me out of a deep sleep. I hit the alarm and squint in the dark looking for the lamp switch and the light blinds me. I groggily stumble out of bed and make my way to the kitchen. I fill the coffee maker with water and coffee and turn on the stove for eggs and bacon. As the eggs and bacon are cooking, I look at the calender and today is September 9th. Over the past couple of days, we received much needed rain. This summer has been one of the driest on record as nearly all of the Alley’s streams have barely flowed. But some fish have been reported making their way into the lower reaches albeit in very small numbers. 

Today’s first trip will take me to Pennsylvania. I wolf down the eggs, bacon and English muffins. I double check all of the gear and start loading it into the Jeep. I fill the mug with steaming hot coffee and I'm on the road. The highway is wet as I pass through Cleveland into Lake County. On the way out, a dense layer of fog is rising over the Chagrin River. It’s still too dark to see how high or dirty the water is. I check my Iphone to see the conditions of the streams. The Elk has gone up to 13cfs on the guage. With the exceptions of the Rocky and Chagrin, the other streams never blew out. 

After an hour of driving, I cross over the state line into Pennsylvania. The skies to the east are dark and omious. The roads are very wet as it must of just recently rained. I'm curious to see how many fish have pushed in. Reports have been sparse and none of the people I know have seriously started to fish. I pull off the exit to the lower Elk and make my way down a series of rural roads. The fields are covered corn and soybeans and the forest is still lush with green vegetation. Autumn seems so far away. 

I pull into the access lot and there are 2 cars. The creek is extremely turbid as visibility was virtually non existent. I didn’t drive over 100 miles to turn back so I made the best of it. I tied on another tippet and ran double large sacs into a riffle that ran along a downed tree. I worked that section for 45 minutes and nothing. I decided to make my way to the mouth of the creek. The lower section of the creek gradually flatten out into a large flat slow moving section of water. Then it gradually turned and quickly spilled into the lake. The muddy water mixed with the bluish green hue of the lake. The lake itself was remarkably calm and I wished I brought my spinning reel as I could cast spoons far out into the lake. I fished the mud line and some waves crashed into the flowing water and the float drifted aimlessly. I sat on a large log and watched a group of large black clouds drop rain far out into the lake. I finally realized that the Elk wasn’t going to get any better so I drove over to the Walnut. 

The Nut was slightly better but the water was turbid. There were more people here mostly fly fishermen working the skinny water. Further downstream, there were some people fishing off the wall. Nobody was hooking up and I started to move upstream fishing the faster water. For an hour, I fished nearly every spot that I could remember that held fish. I accepted the fact that fishing for steel in early September on the Alley can be boom or bust, with the latter happening more often. 

I drove into Conneaut for lunch and I stopped by the first bridge to see. The river was just as dirty as the Elk and nobody was fishing. The rivers more than likely have very heavy load of summer silt. It will take more than one rainfall to clear it all out. For the time being, many of us will patiently wait for cooler weather and rain. Others will be enjoying the bounty of lake full of perch and walleye. Some will make the trips regardless because they have nothing else better to do.