Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good morning

As I sat watching the shadows in the moonlit pool, awaiting daybreak, I pondered that having forgotten my camera at home yet again might not be such a big deal. The shadows that I was watching were not mere shadows, but dark Chinooks chasing one another in the tail-out of a pool. The water in the pool was far, far clearer than what I had expected to find. After Friday's and Saturday's precipitation, I was pretty sure that there would be quite a bit of colour to the water. But now as the moon shone I saw not only the black, frolicking Chinooks but the white gravel underneath them: "Low and Gin Clear," words of doom for any Steelhead fisherman.

It was also my luck to be sharing this prestigious bit of low, clear river with six or seven local fellows, some of whom had waded over in their running shoes and were already flinging their bobbers at the elusive shades, cursing when they turned out to be logs. The honour of the quick flick at the end of every 8 foot drift is ubiquitous, and I hear it practiced around me in the gloaming. But when my float goes under and a chrome flash is seen, cigarettes drop from mouths agape, the whites of eyes glow like stars. Language erupts that is all "he just had one on," and nothing like "that was a nice one, bud," no acknowledging the stranger who just lost a fish and showed you that they are present. And so, soon, there is my float and about four others hovering over the short pool, and the evidence of my folly is now complete. I can't take the fishing pressure, myself; I start down the river well before the sun breaks the horizon.

A full hour of doubt elapses, as I work my way down closer to where my car is parked. What should I do? There are other options than here, and certainly the water must have better colour elsewhere. I am indecisive, so I keep fishing. I get into a rhythm, despite the low flow, the shallow current and my pessimism. I reach a straight section of river that I've never fished before and spot what looks like a deeper drift, but it's hard to tell from the angle at which I begin to fish through it. I don't know it yet, but there's a straight line down the middle of this pool. Drift six inches to the right, and your hook digs itself into a wiry stump, but drift six inches to the left and; the float goes down. It is not the expected snag, at least. But it's a Chinook. The heavy, powerful headshakes are telltale. I consider snapping off, then the fish leaps - big bright chrome Steelhead! She fights me up and then far down to the end of the drift, where I finally tail her and get to admire her rosy blush and her bright flanks like freshly minted nickel. She goes approximately eight pounds, and after a short breather sitting comfortably in the current, she smashes at me with her tail, a big boil and she's gone.

Less than an hour later, two good pan-sized trout also fall to my wares, and I almost succumb to the desire to eat them... but I don't. A Chinook also grabs my bait, but I have no interest in disturbing him so I snap my line off as soon as I get a good look at him. But all I can think about is that first Steelhead.

It's funny how one fish can sometimes make your day. Or rather, what that one fish can do to your day is what's worth considering. Later in the afternoon, I will catch three more fish, two of which are bigger than the gorgeous hen from the early morning, respectively weighing in at 10 and 12 pounds. The 10 pounder will leap five, six or seven times and attempt a little tail-walk before he is finally subdued, and the 12 pounder will take me about fifteen minutes to land and he will bend the 13ft Frontier as I have never seen it bend; but the beauty of the first fish, the unexpectedness of her, and the mythical time of day when I caught her, all leave a deeper mark. One fish turned my whole day around, magically going from unmitigated disaster to jubilant success.

I haven't smiled like that for a fish in a long time.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First Fall Chrome 2007

I was wisely counseled not to start my 2007 fall season where I eventually foolishly went anyway. What is it with rash individuals that they must always be so stubborn? Anyway, it was off to Steelhead Alley that I went, with Richard in tow and very much in the game, last Saturday morning.

We arrived at our destination in good time, and early. But what met our eyes, as the sun rose, was not a river but what now looked more like a series of stagnant meres connected by dust-choked rivulets... It seems that the southern shore of Lake Erie, known for its temperamental, spate-driven rivers has been very hard hit by this summer's drought, and water levels are nowhere near what they should be. Later in the day, we would meet a gaggle of pennsylvania steelheaders, looking for all the world like shipwreck victims washed up on barren shores. They had a forlorn, regretful set to their shoulders, doubtful of their chrome fortune.

Anyway, despite the conditions that first met us in the morning, we bravely set bait to hook, and it is our good fortune that a number of fine specimens had indeed braved the unnaturally low water levels and were present to accept our offerings. But our luck would not last, as it turns out. A high wind, gusting to 45kmh started rising at about 10am, followed by a high pressure front - effectively ending our fun for most of the day. The wind blew so hard at times that it kicked up mini maelstroms of dust, and our floats were often blown back upriver, against the feeble "current."

Richard managed to find the hot button at the very end of the day, landing the fine hen in the caption below. But most of the rest of the time was spent smoking cigars, drinking beer, eating lunch and granola bars, making jokes; and brainstorming cost-cutting measures for our home economies, by planning amendments to our wives' and toddlers' diets, shifting them strictly to barley and corn (number 1 and 2 respectively on the calory per dollar ratio scale).

No fun whatsoever (when I announced the new diet to Laura the next day..hmmph! women!).


Monday, October 08, 2007

Huron River, Michigan

It's been a while since I wrote something significant about fishing. It won't be much longer, I swear.

Meanwhile, I took my entire little contingent on a trip to the Huron River, near Ann Arbor Michigan, last week. Well, not exactly. The Huron River was more of a side trip. We actually went to see Dr. Richard Solomon M.D. as a unit, for the benefit of Isaac. More on the Huron River follows, below.

We have heard about a lot of different therapies for children with autism, and Dr. Solomon was referred to us as one of the best in "play" therapy. We wanted to see him in order to get a different point of view as to what we should be doing for Isaac now, as well as how we could best apply play therapy to Isaac - and we wanted to hear about it from a proponent of that therapy, as there seem to be so few of them here in Canada.

The visit to Dr. Solomon's office did not disappoint, and I believe that it will prove to be a turning point for us in our battle with autism. Many things about the consultation impressed me, not least of which was the efficiency with which an information-packed two hours were conducted. We learned a good deal that I won't recount here, lest I start chapter one of a new book on the subject. At this point in our fight with Isaac's condition, we are well educated; but Dr. Solomon managed to shed light on many facets of our child's difficulties as well as teach us what we really needed to know: how can we, his parents and those who love him the most, best help him. No matter the challenges that lie ahead, sometimes all one needs to get underway is a clear road ahead. This is what Dr. Solomon helped us with most last week, and in my view it is a gift beyond estimation.

Now, about that river. It turns out that the Doctor himself is somewhat of a trout and bass fisherman - another trait that marks him as an intelligent man. But I'm not sure that he's aware of what he has almost right on his doorstep. The Huron River is a huge warm water river, that is stocked with roughly 35000 steelhead yearly, and it is known mostly for its spring run. I would have loved to have sampled it in October, nonetheless, but my passing there was so short that my interest needed to be mostly professional. I am pretty certain that what steelhead are in the river at this moment have not gotten very far up river, and I was as far is it is possible for them to go. In May, there should be throngs of them, but in this extended August I would not be bothered to rig up for mere ghosts of anticipation.

The stretch of river that I visited was deep and mostly slow. It flows rather somnolently in long bends over a weedy bottom, which looks to be a mix of sand and gravel - although it was difficult for me to tell, as the water was somewhat stained from a recent rain. Now and again, a riffle or two show up and the river dives into a pool. And its banks are heavily wooded, so that I would not suggest tackling it without your waders. In fact, in the lower stretches, boats are de rigueur for serious numbers anglers.

Beyond this, my observations are that there are a lot more deciduous trees in southern Michigan than what is commonly observed around Toronto and points north. And they are much larger, too. I used to live in Windsor, Ontario, so long ago now that I'd forgotten that oak and chestnuts trees could get so big. The area also seems to benefit from warmer weather, a later fall and an earlier spring, which would account for the size of its trees.

We have a return appointment with Dr. Solomon in February, so I may just pack my gear and bring it with me at that time. We will see. I hope I will!

Finally, here are a few more of the pictures I took during our visit to the Huron. Enjoy!