The worst is behind us, that's what I'm telling myself as I'm working on my third pool without a bite. The rivers are finally freed of the ice that old man winter held in his grip for months. I dubbed it the "relentless" winter. The cold never let up. It lingered and punished for weeks. If it wasn't the cold, it was the snow. The only smiling faces were the the ODOT plow operators as they piled up the overtime. But we did get a couple of warm spells. We hoped the thaws would give us enough time to get out. We were punished enough. But winter was toying with us. Just when rivers freed themselves of ice, they were frozen over within a matter of days. The door was slammed shut. Winter slowly departed, but it didn't leave without a few parting shots. Spring struggles to assert itself, the weather is still cold for April. Some parts of the lake are still covered in ice. We struggled to find fish as they were few and far between.
Grumblings were rampant about the lack of fish. Numbers were very low for this time of year. A trip out to the Chagrin was proof of that. I walked by several gravel beds and there wasn't a fish to be seen. There wasn't a single redd anywhere. I watched four anglers look in vain for a shadow moving in the water. They would of had better luck sighting Bigfoot. I plugged away at every hole and pool and didn't get a single hit. I suspect the lake was still too cold. I didn't fret as I knew the fish will eventually come.
The fish started to show up in small numbers and I was fine with that. Low numbers equal low numbers of anglers. We were halfway through the month of April and the landscape was still bare and grey. There was still a chill in the air as I'm fishing Conneaut Creek. Easter Sunday is a blessing as I have the entire creek to myself. I went on a Easter egg hunt myself as I scoured the creek for fish. The ice floes altered the creek as banks were gouged, rocks dumped from one spot to the next and trees fallen into the water. I found my easter eggs, but I had to work for them. They were starting to come in, but it's almost the end of the month. Pretty soon my work schedule will start picking up and I won't have time to fish. The clock is ticking.
Back on the road very early and I'm going back to Conneaut. The creek received rain to blow it out and I hoped it got a push of fish. I got it right as the creek indeed got a run of fish. I see a guide with three clients on a gravel bed. I look over and I see about 12 fish moving about in the fast water. I have a disdain for people fishing gravel. I view it as "canned" fishing. The fish are packed tight into a small area. Their urge for spawning is so strong, they're unwilling to leave it. I don't bother exchanging greetings and I mutter "dirtbags" under my breath. I see the pool above and I hope for some drop backs. I wade out to the head of the pool and start to work the bubble line. The float chugs along and gets sucked under. I feel a surge and watch a large fish launch itself from the water. The fight is furious enough that the anglers downstream stop to watch. Since the water is stained and warm, I'm using a 10 pound tippet. I muscle the fish in quickly and it's a massive spawned out hen. With a full load of eggs, she's pushing over 15 pounds. No time for pictures as I quickly release her. The pool is chock full of drop backs as I catch ten fish. All of them except for three are spawned out hens. These fish must of spawned in a matter of days as the creek was a torrent just six days ago.
I go further downstream and I catch a couple of fresh hens, but the fish are scattered. Fresh hens and were three days away from May - unbelievable. I have enough time to go to the Grand and I want to get some time on it before the season is over. I stop at the dam and head down to the first pool. The surrounding woods are a mess. The banks are littered with trees and branches. There are piles of sand scattered about. It looks like a bomb went off. The water is too stained to see if any fish are on gravel, but I know there has to be some. The two past trips out to the upper Grand this past year were awful. Both times, the river bottom was choked in anchor ice and went home skunked. Nobody was on the river and I stood on the bank and drift along a seam. The first fish was a beautiful spawned out hen. She put up a magnificent fight as she tore through the fast water. She wasn't terribly beaten up as most hens I've caught had numerous sores and cuts on their bodies. The pool gave up five more fish and they were all old dark fish. It didn't seem that any fresh fish made it up - yet. The day ended on a good note. There are fish, but it's anybody guess if more will come in. I'm leaning more to the side that more fish have yet to come in. The lake is still cold and temperatures for most of the spring have been below average.
The worst is behind is us, but are we going to run out of time?