September 21, 2013
The alarm blares and my eyes barely open. I slowly move my head and look over at the clock, it's five in the morning. I struggle to whether to hit the snooze button or get out of bed. I stare at the ceiling for a couple of minutes and I finally leave the warm confines of the bed. This past summer, I worked long hours and the weekends were for sleeping in. I couldn't remember the last time I got up at four or five in the morning. I debated because it was so early in the season. Not too many people would be out. All of the rivers were barely flowing and a couple days ago we had strong winds from the north, so I didn't know if the lake shore was trashed. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
I decided that I needed to get back into "steelhead" mode. Going to bed early and getting up even earlier. The problem is it's college football season. Even though I'm a huge Ohio State fan, I often watch other games and some of those games finish late. When it's all said and done, I'm hitting the sack around midnight. I slowly walk down to the kitchen and prepare breakfast and coffee.
Last week we were soaking up the last days of summer as the temperatures soared into the mid 90s for a couple of days. Steelhead season seemed so far away. Then a cold front from Canada made its way down and the temperature plummeted - all the way down into the upper 50s. The wind roared across the lake and cold rain made it feel like October. Steelhead season is around the corner.
It's a crisp cool morning as I hit the road. The highway is a lonely place as I pass a few trucks and cars. Towards the east, I see the first signs of light. The weather today is suppose to be warmer and the wind is out of the south - perfect for lake fishing. I pull into town and head north to the lake. I see the breakwall and there a couple of people fishing. The wind is chilly and I see a number of boats heading out into the lake from the nearby marina. For a lot of these guys the window is closing as we're at the middle of September, about a couple miles off I see the perch pack.
The high winds of Friday really didn't affect the lake and the water looked perfect. There was a nice breeze from the southwest and the water had a nice chop. I opened the tackle box and rummaged through the various spoons I had mostly Cleos and K.O Wobblers. With my 13'6" rod I fire off the first shot of the season. I watch the spoon fly far off into the lake - time to fish. For a couple of hours, I go through a variety of spoons and vary the speed of retrieval. That's breakwall fishing in a nutshell. It's a waiting game of seeing if a steelhead is in the vicinity of your spoon. I crank in a silver spoon and then I feel a hard tug - a strike. The rod bends and I catch a glimpse of silver. That's all it would end of being, nothing more than a glimpse. The fish threw the spoon. I looked to the sky and muttered. It could be hours before I get another chance, plus my wrist was killing me.
I decided to make another move, but before I went I had to check out the stream. It was a short drive and I pulled over on the side of the road. The stream was barely flowing and crystal clear. I stood on top of the bridge and looked down to see one lone steelhead mixed in a school of carpsuckers. The fish lazily rode the current, content on waiting for the next high water. I walk upstream to check out a popular hole. I stood where during the season, the water would been knee high. No signs of fish, I figure all of them are down in the deeper channel. I didn't linger long and I was off on the road again.
I arrived at another stream and I could see the parking lot was half full. Several people were sitting on the rocks and some in the water. It was a beautiful day to wet a line whether fish would be biting or not. I had no desire to fish the stream, it would be pointless. I dressed into my gear and started to walk towards the lake. The stream was low and clear and I could see numerous steelhead cruising up and down the pool. There was probably at least 50 fish and all of them had something in common, they had no interest in what the anglers were offering them. I watched several guys flip shiners in their direction, only to see the fish swim away. Others would cast out their float and hoped a fish would take their single egg dangling above the bottom. I could of called them fools, but I was taking the same chance as I was going to try my luck off the mouth.
The waves on the lake were not very high except for the odd roller. It was far more shallow, no more than 3' deep. I waded into the lake and I could see the water was clear. I kept wading and it was still shallow. I fired off a long cast and it didn't take long for the spoon to hit bottom. I wasn't comfortable wading farther out as several rollers almost knocked me over. I worked my way towards the mouth the water was deeper and had enough color to give fish cover. I worked the entire section and ended up with nothing. In fact the people fishing the mouth never got a single take all morning.
I had to remind myself that it's only mid September, still early yet, but I never pass up the opportunity to get in some time on the water after a long summer.