Sunday, October 01, 2006

First Chrome

Somehow, the Steelhead gods must have found it amusing to grant me my wish.

It was uttered thus, at about 10 o'clock on Sunday morning: "This sucks. All I want is one fish. Just one fish."

I can imagine some Loki-type deity responding, Ok... if you'd been just a little more patient, we were going to grant you 10 fish or so from 11 O'clock on... but, since you insist. Fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," insert "Q" here.

I visited three eastern Lake Ontario tributaries, today, each at a different stage with regards to the salmonid fall migration, and each having behaved quite differently to the 5mm of rain we had last night. It stands to reason, then that the larger of the three, and the one most sensitive to precipitation, would be where I ultimately received my gift from the gods.

At the first two tributaries, all I really got were messages from the animal spirits sent by the Steelhead gods themselves. The pensive egret said "valiant average steelheader, nay! cast thy tackle over these waters no longer! eastward lies thy boon!" The three ducks agreed. When I went further eastward, where to my great chagrin the water in the river was too low & the surf in the lake far too high, the two-headed swan said "unimpressive tosser of balsa sticks," (swans are more imperious, and somewhat haughty) "angle thou here if thou wilst. 'Twould amuse me to witness thy futility..." But I thought the egret & the three ducks too sincere to have sent me to this place, so further east I went.

By now, I should just call it "My pier," or to amuse some of my friends, "My peer" - the same place I've written about twice previously. Yes, I arrived at "My peer" (peer, not pier, haha); to witness pandemonium. Large boots were flying out of the water everywhere. Bottom bongers were having a heyday (those who were in fact bottom bonging) and/or uttering growls of dismay whenever the fish got off. Large boils dotted the surface of the water, haphazardly, and every now and then a chinook salmon, variously shaded with mating colours, would fly out and land with a splash.

But here and there, a staccato splash, or boil, would occur. Smaller, quicker, and somehow more timoroulsy voracious than the big lento kabooms of the chinooks. Something was out there, that by its surface activity could be read as being at once actively feeding, and accutely aware of its enormous, dangerous and territorial cousin: there were steelhead off My peer.

Anyhow, I began alternately to drift roe and jigs for them. But either they were too spread out, not yet in enough numbers, being chased around by the boots, or all of the above; because, they didn't seem interested at all. About an hour went by. Finally, feeling quite discouraged with the way things were going, I intoned my little prayer to the Gods. One fish. Just one fish.

Moments later, they complied.

The float hesitated, then zipped downward with such force that it nearly splashed. I knew immediately, upon setting the hook, that it was a steelhead. A chinook, when it's hooked, will usually make a big splash, or shake around a little, decide it's probably in danger, point its nose in one direction and blast its way there. They're like a jumbo jet: big, heavy, lumbering, powerful. A steelhead, on the other hand, is like a Spitfire. Wheeling, diving, climbing, yawing, and just as capable of pulling out a long, wicked run. This one did not disappoint. He shook his head madly when he felt the hook, leapt at least six times, ran twice and even attemped at one point - or so it seemed - to rub the line off on the cement of My peer.

He's the lovely 30-something incher who graces this post, in the caption above. Seconds later, he was back in the water, and I wish him luck in his endeavours and in his romantic pursuits.

The last thing I have to say, in deference to the Steelhead Gods, is that I am happy with my day - though by no means content. When is a steelheader ever content? When fishing. Otherwise, we spend a good chunk of our time planning our adventures, watching the weather and guessing what has been decreed for today, for tomorrow, for the next day...

But I humbly thank the Steelhead gods for my one fish. He is magnificent, and the gift of his apparition made my day!

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