Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November's Bounty

If I have to identify one theme from the past few days, it must be parenthood. Oddly enough, that's still not the title of this entry. Let me explain.

First, this past Sunday and Monday were an excellent reminder of how plentiful the rewards of November steelhead fishing can be. Second, as spending time with my sons often prevents me from venturing out, November happens to be my own father's birth month. So, it is a positive irony that I got to share Sunday fishing with the man for whom I must have cost many fishing days myself, as a tot. This month gives me a lot to be thankful for!

But now, about the boredom. It was excessive at times, truly. It's funny how the long minutes and hours of fishless drifting tend to vanish from our fishing stories. Very few trips are without a lull, where one starts thinking about lighting another cigar, maybe sharing a beer or switching spots, making a coffee run to Tim Horton's, remembering that last month's phone bill isn't paid yet, and what did I do with the remote for the DVD player because I'd really like to find... plop! the float goes down and our mind is back; usually too late as we swing a crushed bit of bait up out of the water and into the muck on the ground behind us.

In fact, my dad almost tripped on his own feet when it happened to him Sunday morning. His floundering and near dive into a patch of wet sand is what woke me out of my reverie. He missed the hit, but it was just as well since the fish eventually did make it around to visit us. We were fishing on an eastern lake Ontario tributary, and these rivers get like that: one minute you almost believe that there never existed a single fish in the history of the river, and the next you can barely keep them off your offerings. Once the fish rolled in, dad and I managed to land over a dozen chrome bright steelhead in less than an hour and a half.

Other than the fact that we pretty much had the entire river to ourselves, thanks to our patience, the highlight was shared between a missed behemoth that would probably tilt the scales at 15lbs and the stupidest NY escapee imaginable: he was hooked and landed three times (we recognized him by the strange upward angle of his snout and the diagonal scoring on his left cheek - he also happened to be the only dark fish of the lot). I will let you guess who missed that big one. But does it really matter? Both dad and I got a good look at it, and we both held our breath until it finally got free.

Sunday was different only because I was in Western NY, by myself (all my prospective fishing partners having had other things that needed doing), on a river that has a decided advantage in mykissian quantities and therefore offered more opportunity for donut redemption.

The morning was good, the late morning and early afternoon dismal and crowded, and the late afternoon was chock full of fish. I got to resume my photographic experimentations of actual fish, instead of (as above) floats lazily bobbing, or marsh vegetation (as below). About those lovely pictures, I snapped so many of them while waiting for steelhead on Sunday, that the batteries in the camera died on our second fish. Irony?

Another marked difference between NY and Ontario tributaries is that very few of the odd, truncated mutants that are often encountered in NY are ever seen in Ontario. One of the hens I caught on Monday was not only abnormally short, but so dark as to make me believe that she might already be mating.

Finally, though I spent less time hauling in fall steelhead than I did waiting for them and wondering where they'd got to, when they did show up they were available by the gaggle. Both rivers I fished afforded me stretches of good luck of the kind where, after unhooking one fish, your next drift had barely started before you hooked yet another.

These poor fish, these second, third, fourth and fifth comers; they are unfortunate. They can't fool you as you dream of them and wander in your thoughts with glazed eyes. You are ready for them, and your reflexes are warmed up. The float pops down, and you know exactly when to strike. Your nerves are charged for action, yet you are calm. You are excited, but you are very much at ease.

You are steelhead fishing in November, enjoying rich bounty.


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