December 12, 2016

Grinding Away


Everybody dreads the grind. The times when you walk endless miles, trudging through the water, climbing over downed trees and pounding the water hard from first light to sunset. That's what its been like for the past several years, grinding it out whether its in my backyard - the Rock or the streams way out east. It's times like this the truly separate the boys from men.

So far this season, I've logged a lot of miles on the water. The Alley is one of the most heavily stocked streams in the lower 48 states, but don't let the high number of fish stocked fool you. It hasn't been easy for me and my steelheading brethren. Sitting at one hole is a complete waste of time, but not passing up a small piece of pocket water. That's part of the grind, working every section of water and hoping for something.

That's what it was like during my vacation. What I thought was fishing a section of river and catching a decent number of fish, keeping me content. But that was wishful thinking, it was walking through the woods or getting the car and drive from location to the next. It didn't matter if I was out east or close to home - I had to grind it out.



I'm one the Grand at first light and it still feels like October instead of late November. We received rain over the weekend and it bumped the water up, but it didn't blow it out. The river is still high as that's evident as I cross over. I feel the current push me downstream as I cross over. I dig my boots into the gravel bottom as I force my across. The river is stained and I set my sights for the section downstream. With the heavier flow, I don't expect that much company coming over.

Just three days before me and a friend grinded it out on the same river. However, rising waters and the "Game" made it a quick grind. The ole faithful spot has never let me down, but in recent years its been either feast or famine. I start the process of working the section, making adjustments and trying different colored sacs. I do however, noticed several gulls swooping down and snatching shiners from the eddy on the opposite side. But, the water is too dirty for jigs. I look up stream I see a couple anglers that decided standing along the shore was a better idea. After 20 minutes or so, I hook into the first fish, which not surprisingly is a skipper. Skippers have a been the norm all season long as they made up the majority of fish caught.



I continue to grind it and I start breaking the water down to grids. I works as I pluck a couple more fish out and then I start to slowly shuffle downstream, grinding out the pool until I know that I gave my 100%. I slowly trudge through the water and mumble to myself, whether I made the right decision or not. The grind can make the even the best second guess themselves. 

Through out the morning, I grind it out in several locations. I remember watching the Deadliest Catch and there was an episode of a crew grinding it for cod. They endless hauled up traps and dropped them and repeat it over and over. Ever spot its the same, work the run, work the hole or work the pool. I methodical work the spot and I pick off some more fish. It's getting closer to noon and my stomach is grumbling. I open a protein bar and eat, I'm not even close to being done. 

I head further up river and walk down into a small valley. It's a large sweeping run that spills into a long pool that runs along a cliff and eventually tails out. I'll be here for at least an hour I tell myself. Today, I'm glad I'm fishing solo, because I don't know if the guys could handle me constantly moving from spot to spot. I start at the head of the run and drift the float downstream, hugging along the seam. I shuffle down as I slowly drift that seam. I see the large rock in the middle of the run and I know there should be a fish. That spot has never let me down in the past. I make a slight adjustment as the run starts to get shallow. The float drifts at a leisurely pace and I watch it go under. I set the hook and watch a bright silver fish leap from the water. I walk back towards the shore and beach the fish. A decent sized hen without a blemish on her. I pop the hook and gently push her back into the water. She slowly swims off at first then with a burst of energy, she bolts for the deeper water. I walk further down to the pool and I start working that until I run into the tail end and I have nothing to show for. 

I look at the time and it's almost four. In about an hour it will start getting dark. Then I have to deal with rush hour traffic coming out of Cleveland. I walk back and I feel the effects of the grind. My back is sore, my legs feel heavy, and my shoulders feel stiff. My efforts paid off as I caught a decent number of fish. Most people would of thrown in the towel before lunch time. Full days of fishing are few and far between for me, so I make the most of it. 

As I get closer to Cleveland, I see the brake lights of cars and trucks ahead near Deadman's curve, there I'll start the grind on the way home.

November 11, 2016

Hillary, You're Fired!!!


Yes, the Donald is the 45th president of the United States of America. Millions of Hillary supporters and staunch liberals are in a fetal position and mumbling to themselves this morning that this isn't happening. The media is stunned as many predicted a slam dunk for the Democrats and usher in a new era having the first women elected president.

Well, that all came to a screeching halt when Trump pulled off the hugest upset in U.S politics. Since I'm not a U.S citizen, I couldn't vote. Even I did, I probably wouldn't of casted a vote anyways, because I found the both of the them to be despicable human beings. Trump is the worst example of malignant narcissism and Clinton is a flat out pathological lair. This is best the two parties could come up with? Truly pathetic.

I watched one of the debates and after 15 minutes, I turned the TV off because they bickered and argued like an old divorced couple blaming one another. Him with his smug demeanor and her waddling about the stage sounding like a harpy. For most Americans and the media, they thought Clinton would be the winner because she represents the status quo. They never gave Trump a chance because he constantly shot his mouth off or inserted his foot in it. I remember having several conservations with my Dad back in Canada listening to him tell me that Trump was certifiably crazy and that I should move back to Canada - immediately if he won. I would listen and calmly tell him that Trump won't and can't win, because the American people couldn't elect someone that unstable and inexperience. Somewhere, I could of swore I heard chickens clucking.


It's election night, I'm watching the results on my phone. It's a rerun of the past elections as both are grabbing the states that they should win. Then it starts getting interesting when several media outlets are calling Ohio for Trump. Ohio is a swing state and in the past, whoever wins that state, usually win the election. As the night goes on, it becomes clear that Trump might pull off the upset. The media informs that Trump is going to win in Wisconsin. He's picking off more and more electoral votes. By now, I'm tired and I head to bed and I have this uneasy feeling that I'll wake up with chickens roosting in my bedroom.


The alarm goes off and I see that Trump has won the election. The pollsters are stunned, Hollywood is pissing their pants, liberals are freaking out and world financial markets are in turmoil. I just fire up the stove and pour a cup of coffee and start reading the news on the computer. I've accepted the results and I'll head to work soon. 


In the end, half of the country was fed up with the bullshit. Rural Americans and the working class had enough of Obama's eight years of hope and change. They were done with the career politicians. They wanted a new direction. What direction will this country go? I have no fucking clue. Our president is a former reality TV show star. Is it going to be like the boardroom on the Apprentice where Trump sits back and watches members on a team trying to save their asses from the chopping block? Is he going to randomly bark out "You're fired!" when a cabinet member fails to carry out one his directives?


He's a shrewd businessman and he doesn't have the checks or balances as he has both the house and Senate. Hopefully, the more moderate voices in his party will be the ones to hold him accountable. All I know is buckle in because it's going to be a roller coast ride for the next 4 years. As for some Americans looking to immigrate to Canada - good luck, because they have tougher immigration rules than the U.S.

September 25, 2016

Yet Another Gear Review


Another summer and it's time for me start going through the gear to see what needs to be replaced. It's a never ending thing with me as I go through gear like crazy. I'm not the guy that looked like he came from a LL Bean catalog shoot, but the guy that came from under the bridge. I'll admit, I treat my fishing gear like crap. Waders are often stuffed in the box wet and they'll stay for a least a week. My jacket is covered in egg spooge and fish slime and my boots left in the back of the car to freeze solid. That's the life of a hardcore steelheader and deep pockets don't hurt either. So here the latest edition of my gear review.

Simms Rivertek BOA Boots


For the record, I'll never buy boots with the BOA system ever again. Time and time again, the wire laces would fray and eventually break. They also had a habit of breaking at the worst time. Several times, I would have to use duct tape to wrap around the boot to help prevent it from coming off. The other problem was just trying to find the laces for them. The Rivertek was a discontinued model and the local fly shop didn't carry them. The clerk recommended that I try a ski shop and guess what they did had the laces, but sometimes they didn't. I ended up having to buy the laces through Simms and they weren't cheap. But, other then that, the boots did hold up to my abuse as the soles didn't crack or split. There were some tears on the sides of them, but that's expected when it comes to heavy usage. But the next boots will be the good ole fashion laces.


Simms Guide Stocking Foot Waders


These waders are pretty well done. I had more holes than a slice of swiss cheese and the fabric basically wore out, it got so bad that I didn't even bother to patch anymore leaks because it was late in the season. I can't complain because I treated them like shit and I've had them for almost 4 years. This was the 2nd pair as Simms sent me a free pair because they couldn't fix it. That's outstanding customer service in my book and Simms got a customer for life. The next pair I get, I'll certainly try to take better care of them. 


Simms Guide Jacket


Comfortable jacket, unfortunately it's absolutely filthy. Once again, my indifference toward everything I use for fishing. I tried cleaning off the egg spooge the best I could, I scrub and scrub and you can see stains everywhere. I guess it's a badge of honor as I'm not the fair weather angler. Despite  not having any water repellent capabilities, it still did a great job of keeping me dry. 


As for the rod and reel, there hasn't been any spills or incidents - yet


July 1, 2016

The Comeback


Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, The Sweep, The Decision, The Injuries and the two times the Indians failed to win the World Series were events that become a part of Cleveland sporting lore for all of the wrong reasons. Cleveland sports fans were the equivalent of Charlie Brown having the ball yanked out at the last second by Lucy Van Pelt. All of that came to end when the Cleveland Cavaliers finally broke the 52 year drought on Sunday night when they beat the Golden State Warriors in dramatic fashion.

What made this win so remarkable and memorable was the fact the Cavs were the first team in NBA history to come back being down 3 games to 1. Me and many others thought the Cavs were dead after getting blown out in the first two games. None of the sporting pundits thought the Cavs had a chance. They were ready to write yet another eulogy to long suffering Cleveland fans. Whether it was the Warrior's arrogance or the Cavs started to believe in themselves, the series started to shifted when Warrior's Draymond Green got suspended for smacking the King's family jewels. Without their emotional leader, the Cavs won the game on the road and headed back to Cleveland where the city erupted as the Cavs forced a game 7 and the momentum was shifting.

But for some in Cleveland, that black cloud started to form over their heads. They've seen it too many times where victory is almost in their grasp and it was suddenly taken away. It was close all game long and late in the 4th quarter for many Cleveland fans it was too much. Neither team could score in a 4 minute span, it was like two heavyweight boxers trading punches, just waiting for that knockout punch. With 50 seconds left, Kyrie Irving delivered that punch by draining a 3 point shot and the Cavs took the lead. The Warriors couldn't score on their possession and the Cavs got the rebound. The Warriors had no choice but to foul them. LeBron James inbounds the ball to the back court and Kyrie Irving grabs it and races for the basket, with no shot he threw the ball back to James, to was ready to throw the hammer down. Green fouled him and James missed the dunk and fell to the ground hard. He writhed in pain as many thought he injured his wrist. It was nail biting time as James had to make two free throws. The first clanked off the rim and the Warriors fans loudly cheered. The city of Cleveland was on the edge as James was ready to throw his 2nd shot. That black cloud over some fans heads started to get a little blacker. James threw the ball and it rattled in, they were up by 4 points with 10 seconds left. The city was on the verge of exploding, but it wasn't over yet. All the Warriors needed was a 3 pointer and a foul. But the Cavs pretty well gave them the space to shot it. Curry chucked the ball and it bounced off the rim and another Warriors player grabbed it and threw it in vain as the buzzer went off. ABC play by play commentator Mike Breen yells out "It's over, it's over, Cleveland is a city of champions once again, the Cavaliers are NBA champions!!!"

For many in Northeast Ohio this was the first taste of victory, nearly every Clevelander can tell you where they were when the Browns, Cavs and Indians all failed to win. It was past down from generation to generation. This victory washes all of the negativity that plagued the area for decades as it was ridiculed and made fun of. Now all of those failures can be tucked away and forgotten as the city will celebrate this special victory. 

LeBron James cemented his legacy as the prodigal son who once left and was scorned, came back with a promise to bring a championship back to the area where he grew up. Last year, he fell short as he carried the team on his shoulders when both Irving and Love were injured. He delivered with 3 amazing games and his game 7 performance will go down as one of the greatest. We were all witnesses.

May 14, 2016

The End


I could hear the robins singing in the dark. I glance over at the clock and it's 5:30 in the morning. It's Sunday and I should be leaping out of bed and firing up the stove for some eggs and bacon. The phone should be ringing on where we're going to meet and after wolfing down breakfast, I should be on the road. It's the last outing of the season, I should be pumped. Instead, I have no intentions of getting out of bed. I roll over and go back to sleep. My season ended nearly a week ago.

The last trip of the season was on the Grand after work on Monday. The day before I fished the Vermilion and it was a disaster as we struggled to get into any decent number of fish. That's been the theme all spring long - a lack of fish. I wasn't going to end the year with a resounding thud. The Grand was dropping nicely and I wanted to get into some drop backs before the river dropped even further before the following weekend. I finished work early and beat the traffic coming out of Cleveland. It was a beautiful evening to go fishing as the temperatures were in the upper 60s. It was a far cry from a week ago when it was in the 30s and blowing snow. You have to love weather in Northeastern Ohio during the month of April.


I pull into the lot and wasted no time. My destination is a pool upstream just below a prime spawning section of the river. This pool is usually packed with spawned out fish resting. I walked along the upper bank and scanned the riffle for spawning fish. I couldn't see anything because the river was still murky. I continued upstream and there was the pool. In the distance, I could see a fish rising near the downed tree. I had this feeling that I was going to do well here.


I start at the "meat" of the pool, where I know the fish are holding. With the warmer water temperatures, I have a 8# tippet so I can quickly muscle in the fish. It doesn't take long to get into the first fish - a small spawned out hen. It's the same cookie cutter type of fish, I've been catching all season long - 24" and 5 pounds. Years ago, I remember battling some titans that pushed over 10 pounds spawned out. Those were some epic battles as fish leaped and thrashed about and ran me downstream. But with these smaller ones, I easily haul them in. I beached the fish, I noticed the red blisters on the tail as this little hen tirelessly dug out one redd after another to the point that her bottom tail fin was worn down flat. I quickly release her and she bolts back to her resting spot.


The action was fast as I would watch the float chug along and then suddenly go under quick. There were no light takes as several times I was late on setting the hook. But, I didn't care if I lost fish. I enjoyed the fight and waited for the next opponent. There were no large fish, but the ones I fought with, but up great battles as they leaped and took long runs. That's how the last trip of the season should be - a memorable one.


The action at the pool eventually stops and I head to another section of the river. I don't have a lot of time so I pick a place closer by. I get to the spot and the shadows are starting to creep over the cliffs as the sun gradually starts to set. I start working the run drifting off the main current hoping that some fish are resting. I spend almost an hour working the entire run and all I have is one brief hook up before losing the fish. It's evident that the run doesn't have any fish or they got beat up earlier. I make the long walk back to the car and my stomach is grumbling.


As I'm driving home, I look at the weather for the upcoming week. There's no rain in the forecast but the temperatures will be holding steady. The Grand will be low by the time the weekend arrives and the other ones will be even lower and clear. My weekend is booked with events, so getting out is going to be difficult. But quite honestly, I really have no desire to go out as I've been chasing steel since last September. Nearly all on my fishing buddies have traded in steelhead for walleye and bass.


I look back at the season, and there were plenty of firsts and all of them negative. No fish for the months of September and October, no trips to Pennsylvania, no fish over 30", and the numbers were low again. The fall was dry, early winter was very mild, late winter was very cold and this spring was cold and wet. That's life on the Alley, you have to adapt to the conditions.


I get home and open the freezer to pull out some chicken and there in the corner are the rest of my eggs. There's about eight packs of them. With the awful salmon run of last year, I sweated as the weeks went on in the fall as the tackle shop owner would tell me the grim news every week that he had no eggs. Finally I was able to secure some, but I was careful not to over extend myself for this year. As for more eggs next season? Who knows? I got news that Michigan's salmon population has crashed to the point of no return. New York's run wasn't that great either, but their population hasn't seen the sudden crash of both Michigan and Huron. Will this be the end of getting a good supply of eggs? I hope not, because I don't want to resort to keeping a couple hens for eggs.


I unpack the gear in the basement and hang up the waders. My Simms waders are practically worn out as I had to patch three tears. I've had them since 2012 and I can't really complain about the wear and tear, they stood up to my abuse. I look at the boots and they're tearing at the seams. I'll probably have to replace both waders and boots. I place the rod in the corner and I close the door. There they'll remain until the cool winds come across Lake Erie in the fall.

April 5, 2016

The Grand


The Grand without a doubt is my favorite river. It's large, mysterious and fickled. Wide and murky, the river rarely reveals its secrets. Due to its large drainage area, the river can take over a week to come down to fishable levels. There has been times during some springs, when the river can go the entire time without being fished. Fish have come and gone, without ever being caught. In some upper reaches, getting to certain places can be difficult and for the adventurous soul, the rewards can be great. 


The upper Grand is rural consisting a mixture of forests, old farms and vineyards. During the winter months, the scenery is beautiful, especially after a snowfall as the high shale cliffs and hemlocks are cloaked in it. Just walking a mile away downstream, you enter a place that time has forgot as the only sounds you hear are the riffles or your breath as you walk along the river.  The river continues north and the landscape eventually turns urban as the river flows through the towns of Painesville and Fairport Harbor. In some areas, the river runs through a series of metro parks. There are some high cliffs, but the river gradually widens and slows down before it empties into Lake Erie.


Today, I'm the Grand when most people wouldn't even consider fishing it. The night before I checked the flow gauge and the river is at 1080, it's fishable in my book, but I would never dare wade it in certain spots. I haven't fished since last year, because of it freezing over or being too high. I’m in dire need of a change of scenery, as I've been fishing the Rock hard over the past month.


It's a crisp cold morning as I walk down the hill into the metro park and there's a dusting of snow on the ground. Once I get down, the river is running a little high and fast. The color isn't that bad and I know exactly where to go. My guide is the is the house perched precariously on the edge of the cliff. It's a prime winter hole and I suspect the fish are holding off the current. It turns into a grind and I'm grateful that I don't have to stand in the water. On top of the bank, I watched the bubbles move and I place the float where the current is the slowest. I continue to make constant adjustments with the shot placement and I finally find the correct depth. My hard work rewards me with 3 steelhead and monstrous white sucker. But, I start getting antsy as it been almost 30 minutes without a bite. I grab another sac and suddenly I hear a loud splash in front of me. I'm startled as I see a cloud of muck come up. I have no idea what the hell is going on. Then 20 yards out I see the culprit - a river otter. He stares at me and bobs up and down. I've never seen an otter in Ohio before. I've heard they were found on the far upper sections of the river, but I never would think they would be this close downstream. The otter pops up one more time and then disappears.


I leave and head to another place. I drive along the tired main street section of Painesville. The community has seen better days. I turn the corner and head into the recreation area. Here I tend to fish farther below the old dam. This isn't the prettiest place to fish as the banks are littered with old bottles and concrete that the ice floes have scoured up. I start to long for the upper sections as I enjoyed the peace and quiet and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, the flow would be far too dangerous to cross. I look across the river and I see the new park that the town has opened. At one time, the park was a condominium complex. The massive flood of 2006 all but wiped out the homes as the river exceeded the flood stage. It was a 500 year flood as I remember it getting national attention. I'm barely standing the water and to the untrained eye, it looks featureless. But, I know exactly where the shale ledges are. After an hour of fishing, I've landed two fish. I suspect with the colder temperatures, the fish might be farther down at the tailout, but the high banks and overhanging trees stop my progress and I have to go somewhere else. 


It's back in the car and off to another spot. Thankfully, I don't have park on top of the hill and have to run across the road because the blind corner. Then there was the creepy tunnel where at times homeless people would camp out. I park at the cul de sac and I see an angler at the prime spot. The flow is hard, probably a little too hard. From the bank, I scan and I start thinking maybe I should head to another spot. That's what my gut is telling me and I usually go with that. So I walk back and drive off without wetting a line.


The next spot is where the river starts to widen and the lake is not far away. I pull in a there’s about 4 cars and I have a good idea where everybody is. This place was once a asphalt plant and farther down there was a chemical plant. At one time the chemical plant was a deemed a Superfund site. This place is in stark contrast to the places that I fished up river. I see all of the anglers fishing the run and there’s no one farther down. I immediately wade into the water and the other anglers watch me thinking that I might either go under or get swept away. The river here is shallow enough and the bottom even that I can wade with relative ease. The spot I’m fishing is a run above the mouth of a small feeder creek. This spot only fishes well at a certain flow and at times the fish will be stacked towards the tail end. I’m not disappointed as I start to get into fish. With the heavier flow, the fish feel bigger and fight with vigor. Many of them are bright silver right out of the lake making their way upstream to the spawning grounds. With no net, I have to corral fish and pin them against my leg as I wrestle the hook out of their mouths. The action is fast and furious and I attribute that to the sun and rising temperature. The float chugs along and quickly goes under and I see a small steelhead leap from the water. I have a grin my face as I land one beautiful fish after another. I don’t want to leave because I know in a matter of a couple days, the fish will not hold in there. I look downstream and I know several other spots that could be holding a lot of fish, but I’m content to stay here. 


The bite finally shuts off and I start to wade back and I hear one of the other anglers yell out that he didn’t think that fish would be there. I smiled and acknowledged him because it was one of the many secrets I know about my favorite river.

February 8, 2016

Online Dating and the Catch


The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” ~ John Buchan

Elusive, attainable and a perpetual series of occasions for hope - that pretty well sums up looking for that perfect woman. We all seek the catch of a lifetime. The catch that brings a smile to our face, makes our heart race and want to brag to the world about it. But, dating is very much like fishing. We have more failure than success and some of us have better luck than others.

Ironically, I joined a dating site called Plenty of Fish. I was skeptical about online dating because of the horror stories I heard about it. But since I work in a male dominated industry, I'm not into the bar scene, and I didn't grow up here. I was limited in who I could meet. I sit down at the table and crack open a beer as I begin the process of making my sales pitch to the opposite sex. I start to wing it, jotting down random things about myself, interests and what type of woman I looking for. But like any good angler, I scout the waters and I select traits that I want

Athletic, thin and average
Between 40 and 50 years old
35 miles from home
Non smokers
Tall 

With the click of a mouse, I see them and I squint. I chug my beer a little harder. I'm not impressed. I scroll down and my enthusiasm dampens. As scroll down and click on the pages, I mutter


"Fugly"
"Athletic my ass"
"The dog looks better than her"
"She needs a makeover big time"
"Is this best Cleveland has to offer?"
"Just shoot me"

My problem is, I'm very picky. You have to look a certain way. I'm usually a sucker for blue eyed blondes, I prefer tall women and you have be in great shape. After 20 pages, there's about 6 women that spark my interest and three of them I have nothing in common with. I go back to working on my profile and after 2 hours I'm finished. I put up about 6 photos of myself and go to bed. The next morning I check and I see about 20 women viewed my profile and I have 3 messages in my mailbox. I open it and all 3 of them are ugly and their message is basically "Hi" and "Hey there" - compelling. Sorry, but this fish isn't going to take the bait. I go back to under my log and sulk. For the next few weeks, I get random messages and all of them don't measure up to my standards, I won't budge from under my log. But I get the same treatment as I had a couple women reject my presentation. It's not fun having to watch a pretty trout turn up her nose at your offering. You have to reel in the line and move on to the next spot. Dating isn't for the faint of heart and there's plenty of other anglers vying for the same fish.

I do eventually meet one girl and we go on a couple of dates. On the second date, she pops a couple of red flags. I quickly toss the hook and head back under my log. I'm starting to get a little discouraged. One late evening, I'm looking at more profiles. Then I see one that catches my eye. She's not blonde, but a brunette. The last time I dated a brunette was way back in college. She has hazel eyes, is 5'9" and she's athletic. Even though she has one picture, I find her attractive and exotic looking. I read her profile and it's well thought out. At the end, I noticed she says extra bonus points for an accent or speaking another language. I see she's online and I write her a witty response.

"Would a Canadian accent count eh?"

I wait to see if she takes the bait. 15 minutes later, I get a response

"Maybe"

Ah a nibble. I write back and remind myself to exercise patience. We start to message one another for a couple of hours. Over the next week, we continue to talk to one another, but we haven't exchanged numbers. I cast back out with a new presentation and I offer to give out my number so we can talk. She's writes back that's she reluctant to give out her number. I don't panic and play it cool. I write back no problem. She's wary but I have a feeling she won't bolt. After a couple more weeks, I dangle out an offer if she wants to meet. She accepts and we agree to meet at a local tavern on a Friday afternoon for a couple of hours.

I arrive and I see her waiting in the lobby. She's wearing a black dress and high heels. She looks stunning and I on the other hand is dressed very casual - black shirt, shorts and flip flops. I'm a little concerned, because first impressions are whether you make it to the second date. She stands up and she's almost as tall as me. We hug each other and head out to the patio for some drinks. We start off slowly talking about one another and our interests. I'm a little nervous and I come off as intense, but I can see she's a little nervous too. Dating and being an introvert can be difficult. I start to lose steam and I then I'm thinking what to do next. The couple of drinks I had start turning the wheels in my head.

"What do women love? Ice cream!!!!"

I ask her and she smiles. We head across the street and order ice cream and sit out on the patio. The drinks have taken the edge off of me and I start to open up a little more. I'm feeling a little more confident and I ask if she wants to go for a walk in the metro park. She smiles and says yes. We take a long pleasant stroll and as we walk, I don't make any moves. Instead, I offer to carry her shoes as she walks barefoot. We gradually become more comfortable and talk in detail. When it's time to say goodbye, I give her a kiss and she doesn't pull back. I ask if she wants to go a second date and she says yes. 

Over the next several weeks, we start dating more and we find out that we share a lot in common. We even joked that our backgrounds are similar. I thought she was Italian, only to find out she's Portuguese, French Canadian, Irish and Russian. She also thought I was Italian, but was floored when I told her I was a mix of Chinese, Ukrainian, Scottish and Welsh. 

Despite being comfortable with one another, we continue to take it slow. I even suggest that she could casually date, because we're not exclusive yet. It's a bold move, but I haven't got much to worry about because eventually we became exclusive. We both deleted our profiles and said goodbye to the wacky world of online dating. She goes on to tell me what attracted her to me was I didn't pressure her or came on too fast. Too many guys scared her off because they were impatient. Patience was the key to her heart. Like a angler working the pool, the successful ones are patient, taking their time knowing eventually they'll have success. 

It's been over six months since we meet on that day in August. During that time, we've gone to some of my favorite restaurants, celebrated my birthday, seen local bands, she picked out a suit for me, hikes through the parks, spent Christmas together, went to club for Halloween and New Years, and of course taken her fishing. I've meet her parents and eventually I'll meet her two kids. I look back at the evening when I wrote that response to see if I would get a nibble and I got more than a nibble, she caught my heart. 

January 27, 2016

The Student


Today, the surly sage of the Alley was going to share his deepest knowledge and secrets. My lucky student was none other than my girlfriend. Being from New England, she had no idea what a steelhead was. But she was intrigued and fascinated when I told her tales of my adventures along the Alley. 

Of course, I picked the worst possible day for a beginner - Thanksgiving Day. The streams would resemble a mall on Black Friday. But, I knew the river well enough that I could find at least one fish. I told her we would be waking around 5:30 in the morning. For most women, that strictly interferes with their beauty sleep. Maybe it's a good thing, because if some schmuck decides to low holes us, he would have to deal with the wrath of sleep deprived woman. But she woke up without a fuss and we had a hearty breakfast and off we went.




We made the drive up to the Grand and it was a quarter to seven when we drove by the lower section. I strained to see up the road and there was about 15 cars parked along the road.


Lesson #1 - if the lot is full, don't stop.
 


I seriously doubt the guys down at the pool believe in chivalry. Some would probably low hole their wives, if they started banging fish. I continued down the road and it was the same - cars everywhere. 

"shit"


"good lord, this is ridiculous"

Finally, I found place with two cars. We walked along the river to the cliffs and I can see a headlamp in the distance, it's one guy fishing. There's plenty of room, but will there be any fish? So far, this has been the season of no rain. A deluge would be considered 20 drops on the windshield. We arrive at the pool and I set up her rod and start showing her how to cast. I'm concerned because of the lumber and gusting winds. It wasn't the ideal place for a beginner to learn and she watched as I taught her the basics of float fishing. After 30 minutes, it was evident that the pool didn't have any fish.


Lesson #2 - Don't beat a hole too death


We move to another spot and the river is a crowded place. I guess everybody is squeezing in fishing time before the wives start calling. Luckily, I'm off the upcoming week and moving from spot to spot will pay off. It's a short drive, basically over the bridge to another metro park. It's another long sweeping pool and the river is very low. With the whacky weather, many of the fish should be in their traditional winter holding spots, but I suspect they're in the spring and fall spots.



I give her the pole and she starts to cast. Several times, the float falls short of its target. I tell her timing is key. The long noodly rod helps and gradually, she starts getting the hang of it. We shuffle down and I grab the pole to adjust the shots. I cast out as I'm showing her, how to fish near pocket water. I watched the float go pass the rock and it taps and goes under - fish on. I set the hook and to her surprise, I give her the pole. I tell her to keep the rod tip high and let the fish do the work. I have the drag set very loose, probably to loose. I gradually tighten it and tell her to start moving towards shore. It turn out to be a decent size hen, but I feel ting of guilt because I set the hook. I take a picture of my student beaming and it turns out to be the only fish caught.


Lesson #3 - when the teacher is hungry, it's time to call it a day. 


We head back home and prepare a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. During the weekend, I prepare a game plan for Monday and at least I know there won't be as many people. 

Lesson #4 - dress warmly because you never know if you have a leak in your waders.

Monday morning is cold as the temperature is slightly below freezing, I tell my student this is real steelheading weather. Today, we're fishing low at the place I wanted to fish on Thanksgiving. We arrive at the same time and there's about 5 cars. The air is crisp and my student is all bundled up from head to toe. She looks like she's ready to build an igloo. We walk down the trail and from high a top the bank, I look downstream and there's three bank billies and two guys at the top of the pool and one way downstream. With the colder weather, I tell her the fish will at the tail end of the pool. We cross over and head downstream. As we stand in the water, I start to feel water seep into my waders - crap. Once again, I fail to send them out for repairs. I sigh and hang my head.

Lesson #5 - Procrastination is a steelheader's worse enemy


My student was still having a difficult time casting as the river here is wide. The ice on the guides didn't help either. Most of the time, I had to cast out for her and give her the rod. We start to get into some fish, but it turns out to be a grind. I feel bad because she hasn't hooked into a fish on her own. Eventually my student succumbs to the cold and my left foot feels like a brick, we move to another spot where she doesn't have to stand in the water. 


We go back to the same spot where she landed her first fish and because of the cold, I suspect the fish might of pulled back into the deeper holes. Here the hole isn't that far out and my student is able to cast out without much difficulty. She starts working the pool and I'm paying attention to my reel when I hear her say "I think I have a fish" Sure enough the pole is bent over. I tell her to keep the line tight and I start tighten the drag gradually. She slowly brings in the fish and I see a huge grin on her face and it's a nice size female. She picks it up and I take a picture, when I'm taking the picture I'm thinking she looks like a model because of designer sunglasses, toque, puffy jacket and long hair. She gently puts the fish back in the water and we watch it slowly swim off. That concludes today's lesson and we go for a nice hot lunch nearby. 

Still, the Grand isn't the best river to learn how to fish for steelhead as I was hoping we could fish on a smaller stream. My student is very excited as she's officially caught her first steelhead. I tell her the best is yet to come, but we have to wait for a big blowout. That blowout wouldn't come until the New Year. 



It's New Year's day and we stayed out late as we attended a party at a local night club. We didn't get to bed until the wee hours of morning. 


Lesson #6 - Get wasted the night before and you missed out on a banner day


I get the news that the guys were tearing them up - shit. But I was too tired and I wanted to watch the Ohio State vs Notre Dame game. Too bad, I could of used my student to flirt with other anglers and steal their spots. I tell her we'll head out tomorrow morning. The next morning, we're a little tardy and I'm concerned because most of the spots will be taken up. We pull into the lot and I see people under the bridges, below it and above it. I look upstream and there's two guys fishing the bend. I know the bend well enough and I hope the two of them are newbies. Sure enough, they're newbies because they don't have a clue on what they were doing. We patiently wait as we work the water above. Finally both of them give up and walk away. We move into the spot and the river here is narrow enough that she can hit her target. She starts working the water and I tell her to move the float into the bubble line, where the fish like to hold. For about ten minutes we hit nothing and I adjust the shots and change the sac. I'm confident that she can handle it and I walk up on the bank to look upriver and there's guys everywhere. I look back, I see my student fighting a fish. I walk down and she battling hard. I see the flash and it's a decent size fish. She hauls it and I pull the hook out. I ask her to hold it and we take a picture. She puts the fish near her mouth and pretends to kiss it - nice. I give her a ten for creativity. 

My student did well this morning as she caught five and I caught six. We ended up going for lunch nearby and she had to go get her daughter. I drove back and slaughtered them for the rest of the day. It's a shame, because I wanted her to tangle with a hog. But, there's plenty of time for that. 

My student posted her catch on Facebook and she got a lot of oohh's and aahh's. It was fun watching her set the hook and battling the fish. Other anglers nearby watched and probably muttered under their breath, that they wished they had a hot looking fishing partner. The guys I fish with would never bring their wives because it would never cross their minds. As as a matter of fact, I rarely see a female angler on the river. It's a shame, because it's a fun fish to catch. Can't wait to get her kids on the water and watch Mom school them.


Lesson #7 - Take your girl fishing, because she'll love you for it