Saturday, November 29, 2008

Joke on the Water

It's almost the end of the fall season, so it was time to gather up some lieu time and go fishing with Mike. It's become my bi-annual lament that we don't get to fish together much anymore. It has something to do with being married and having *insane* twin sons (almost 3 now); but I can't quite put my finger on why so much river time has vanished "like a fart in the wind."

I'll keep working on it. I'm sure I'll figure it out. I will some day be visited by illumination. Until then me grunt. Me keep fishing!

Now, Mike and I really weren't sure where to go on this day. Should we go east? Should we go west? Things were pretty mixed up. In the west they'd gotten a fair bit of precipitation and snow melt; in the east there had been much less, but this meant that a few bigger rivers were ready to be fished. We went east.

There's no point second guessing ourselves, now. Really there's never any point in second guessing yourself when you go fishing, or have gone. You merely learn from the mistake, if it can be called that. No one can predict these fish 100% - otherwsie it wouldn't be as much fun, I guess. This season has taught me that flawlessly: there's no point invoking more pain. So many times this year, I've been to river A when I should've gone to river B. This day was to be no different, except for one thing:

Borax Eggdiyev.

"Hello I am Borax Eggdiyev. I like Roe. You like it too?"

I guess in the boring minutes between rivers, as you search for fish, your mind wanders and you come up with some odd things. No rum and no coke were involved in this quirky figment of my imagination.

More ice? sure. Thanks bud.

Oh... where was I? I am lamenting needlessly about not catching fish. We did catch some, but not that many. And the thing about fishing for Steelhead in NY rivers, where they are so heavily stocked, is that the whole point is "quantity over quality." Catching the numbers we caught on this day, anywhere in Ontario, would have been rated a very good day. So it follows that Silvio - who really wanted to come with us but was saved by fortune and had to spend a short afternoon on an Ontario river - caught the best fish of the day by a country mile.

Still, Mike and I made the best of it, and spent most of the time laughing, sharing funny stories and making up weird stuff like Borax Eggdiyev.

In the end, we caught mostly brown trout, with a couple of steelhead thrown in for good measure. At one of the rivers we visited, the one with the most fishermen, the eastern Ontario jigs turned in a very good performance. They are tied by a local friend of mine, and they are mostly white with a bit of sparkle on the body & "gunsmoke" tint on the jighead. The browns loved 'em. He gave me the one the I used, but now it looks like I'll be purchasing a few from him in earnest: or else when I lose this one, I will probably cry.

My only issue for the day is with myself. I continually underestimate the strength of my rod. At one point, after landing a brown trout, I failed to check my hook and didn't see that it was pointing upward at a 90 degree angle. I ended up missing about 4 or 5 excellent takes because of it... so ostensibly, the fish count could have been that much better! Doofus.

Tchinkwi! I hope you have like this my entry into Blog "the Average Steelheader." I liiike! Next time we eat feesh, yes?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tetralogy in Steelhead minor

I've been hopelessly remiss with my blog. Partly because I've been keeping busy, but also because since my last outing the steelhead gods haven't really been paying me much attention. I always look forward to November and the two or three trips it always affords, where 10 or more fish are landed; but this year has been different. I suppose this is why so many of us are so completely addicted to the sport of steelhead fishing: no matter how well you think you can predict your catch, nature and circumstance continually contrive against you - and the glory of a good day, when it finally comes, is only sweetened by the interlude of bad fishing.

Anyway, I've been out four times (hence the "Tetralogy") and results were mostly minor. Instead of boring any of you (whoever is still so kind and patient as to read here regularly) with four entries of nothing-going-on, I presume that a short, four part piece will better suit most appetites.

Part I : "Clear Water"

This turned out to be a day of discovery, as I fished the lower end of a nearby river, and ended up going quite a bit further downriver than I'd ever gone. The water, as the title suggests, was clear, it was slow, and it was a bit on the low side too. These are excellent conditions in which to spot fish, and I saw quite a few. In fact, one of the pools I fished must have had at least a dozen or more, but they were very skittish and avoided the very sight of my float. The wind was horrible, gusting to 50km/h at times and making each drift an exercise in patience.

In all I managed four fish. Two of them were on the small side, and the other two were quite a bit bigger. The biggest was a 9lb male who chose a most inopportune time to take my jig. I happened to be cursing the wind at the time, because it had caused a good length of line to simply coil off my reel. For whatever reason, I looked up from the developing mess to see my float well underwater. Grasping the tangle in one hand, I set the hook, then frantically fumbled away at the loose line - which almost magically straightened, allowing me to fight the fish.

He fought hard and long, and he showed me that the pool he'd been hooked in was quite deep: at least 9 feet, and possibly more. He dove down a couple of times, and both times I had to haul him out.

After the battle, he paused for a quick picture, and then he was gone.

I was disappointed with only catching four fish, but I should have known better...

Part II "Defeat in the North"

Does the title give it away? What turned out to be my only full day of fishing so far this fall, also happened to be my worst day in a long long time. The only saving grace was that I got to spend a good part of the day with my brother-in-law (cum brother-in-steelheading) Richard. Richard is always a cheerful and engaging companion, and we tend to laugh a lot whenever we get out together.

We fished two Georgian Bay rivers together, from sun-up til noon - to no avail. It appears that we had arrived too late after the recent rains to even see many fish caught. The wind was relatively calm, but the surf was so intense that fishing in the lake - the only spot likely to hold many fresh chromers - was out of the question.

After noon, once I had parted ways with Richard (we both opted to hit rivers closer to home) I finally got the chance to take a look at a stretch of the Nottawasaga river that I'd always wanted to visit. The water here was also low, however, and I managed only a small parr.

I also managed a beer, and a couple of mildly interesting pictures of fall vegetation.

Walking back to the car, through a forest of mature hardwoods, I made a mental note to bring my father there some day. He will love it if only to take a walk in the woods. Certainly, it offered a pleasant end to my fruitless day.

Part III : "Too much Rain"

You bet! My rain-starved rivers finally received a burst of precipitation that, for once, exceeded the local forecast. More than 30mm must have fallen as all the rivers, even those that clear fastest, were blown for the entire day. In that sense, it was lucky that the only time I could head out to fish was in the afternoon. At least, some of the more likely streams could descend a little.

My first likely spot turned out to be completely mud-choked. Luckily, I met up with my friend René at that spot. He was there with a couple of friends, and we exchanged some tips and tricks, and they advised me that their day was pretty much over: the water was just too dirty.

After they left, I was still undecided, as I thought I might be able to find productive water regardless. I did, but barely. One of our nearby rivers offers quite a stretch of in-season water, and my hunch, that the upper end might be marginally fishable, was correct. It was still pretty dirty, but there seemed to be about 8" or so of visibility. Enough to give it a try.

There must have been quite a few fish up there. I actually kicked one accidentally, while crossing in a shallow section of the river. It spurred me on, anyway, and I targeted mostly the slack water and a few of the slower seams I came across.

Finally, my float went down gently, and I had something on. It didn't fight all that hard, but it had some heft - maybe 2lbs? maybe 1 and a 1/2? I caught a flash of purple on its corselet as it splashed at the surface, and saw that I had hooked a brown trout.

It was a lovely little specimen. I took a few quick pictures, then left. It was getting close to 4pm, and I wanted to give Laura a bit of a break by getting home earlier than expected.

She was happy to see me, and so were the boys :).

Part IV "Emerald Waters"

This tetralogy ends where it began, at the same river, fishing the deep pools of its lower end. This time, I walked as far as I could, almost right down to the lake. It was a goodly walk, and I did it only because the fishing was horrendously and inexplicably slow!

Again, I managed a few fish, a small one and a big one - but the cornoccupia that I still eagerly await did not materialise. I think, under normal circumstances, that I would have been quite elated with catching a couple of fish, and narrowly missing another, on most days - because that is often all one can expect of this river. But it being late November, and exactly the right amount of time after a heavy rainfall, I was perplexed and frustrated at not finding even a fraction of the numbers I expected and had hoped to find.

Both fish, actually, came from spots where you might not normally expect them to be. This leads me to believe that they might have been scattered a little. When I left the river, I noted that many locals were arriving: perhaps they fared better than I did - if the fish were scattered and out of the pools all day, it would explain why I didn't do so well; and if they dropped into the deeper water at the end of the day, well, ..... oh well. Not my day!

At least, I got some nice pictures on this day. The smaller fish posed for me with just enough sunlight to give his scales a slight emerald sheen, and the larger hen was extremely fresh; she hit my offering with decisive aplomb, leaving me with no doubt. And she fought beautifully. She leapt, zigged, zagged, spun, dove, ran, ran again, leapt again and ran again. I had to let the rod do its work, hope that the hook held (it practically dropped out once I got her to shore) and gave her line when I needed to.

The last thing to happen to me before I left was to see my float go down, even more decisively, only to have the roe bag torn off on the hook set. I had to duck to avoid hitting myself in the head with the bullet-like float!

Coda : "Way she goes"

To quote Ray, Ricky's father on "The Trailer Park Boys": that's the way she goes. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't.

The season will be winding down, shortly. There are roughly 10 cm of snow outside right now, and a small warming trend is forecast for next week. Soon, the cold will snap itself in, and it will be a long wait til Spring.

A long wait, and maybe time enough to see the silver lining - or the "chrome" lining; at least I was out fishing. It's better to do something you love and fail, than to succeed at something else that you hate doing!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Periodic Continual Temporary Insanity

My wife says that I'm crazy steelhead. She says chromer that I have one foot in reality fishing and another in the rivers with steelhead the Steelhead. She doesn't rainbow even understand trout how much I give up roebag to be with her jigs. jigs and floats. Every Spring rainintheforecast and every fall gottacallMike she says the same thing steelhead: "you fish" chromer chromer chromer "too much!" Which is not true steelhead, and I can prove it fishing. And when floatdown I do in fact prove it fishon she tells me instead that I steelhead think too much fishing about fishing. I don't know rod&reel where she gets theriverisready these crazy ideas. I might steelhead think a little bit too fishing much about it in steelhead October chromer and November fishon. And maybe again in hookset March, April steelhead and May huge chromer. split shot. pro-cure. But thinking about it steelhead too much? Whatever fishing!!!

I don't think castanddrift so!



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cold Wind, 20, the Keystone Steelheader and a Fat Cigar

This evening, as I sat eeking out the last couple of hours of an eventless late shift, I was hit with a revelation. Fishing restores the mind. Yesterday, I went fishing all day. And today, no matter what the situation at the office, no matter what the emergency or the emerging political circumstance, my thoughts were clear, unencumbered by stress or fear.

For a long time, I thought that this happened only to people like myself who love fishing so much. But now I think it’s bigger than that. I think that fishing is good for anyone who tries it for a day, especially if fish are caught. The unhurried appreciation of time that fishing affords, in the context of a skill that one may learn at one’s own pace; in the presence of unfettered daylight, the sounds of water and wind, the earthy smell of falling leaves – all these things have been etched in the memory our genes, and they remind us and reconnect us to the deep wellspring of nature and the simple and pure joy of being alive.

But as usual, I am starting at the end. Yesterday morning, with the sun yet to rise, in the cool gloaming by the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, no such convenient wisdom was going through my head. Where are the fish? is all that I was asking at that point. The waves were terribly high and the sound of their crashing obliterated any other semblance of peace that the morning might hold. The gale-force winds that were forecast had as yet not entered the stage.

Finally, as the light grew brighter, the float gently rocked and popped, and I knew my first fish was.... gone. I’d had an extra large at Tim’s... don’t know why I missed that... should be awake by now... The float jiggled again, and this time I made no mistake. Still ensconced in darkness, the fish was probably as sleepy as I was. It did not fight too hard, which made for an easy release.

In the next hour or two, I caught three more. The last one was especially spirited, and my arm was quite sore after I finally brought it to shore. A quick picture or two of its lovely pearlescent raiment, and then it was back to the river. Suddenly, as though someone had flicked a switch, the wind started to roll in. Its cold searching fingers crept into my collar, down my back, through my own fingers. Soon, it was howling. I think it was the door of the seasons opening, Autumn slowly and surely engaging its metamorphosis into Winter.

I endured several hours of this nonsense, getting rained on and snowed on, alternating hands on the rod to warm them one at a time, while I continued fishing. At times, the wind was so strong that I had to lean forward when I walked against it, and I had to take my rod apart or have to control the wild contortions that the pugilistic gusts imparted on it. In all, I visited 4 more tributaries, essentially touring my “back yard” to get an idea of what was going on with each one. I survived to announce “not much” – yet – in the way of fish. They are all mostly low and clear, although the recent rain did give them all a measure of colour.

At one point in the afternoon, I almost pulled the plug and went home. There was a long stretch with no fish, and the wind was finally starting to make me go mad. I had visions of roe bags in birdsnests. What was that all about? Boredom makes you do funny things. I was getting pretty frustrated. Then, as I followed the bank of one of the rivers, I almost stepped on a little baby. I picked him up to examine him, make sure he was ok, take a picture. He was ok, but he seemed almost as dejected as I was. Small wonder, given the circumstances. I put him back where I found him and was on my way.

Finally, with an ending that seems to be repeating itself, the creek nearest to home – and also the smallest that I visited today – provided the biggest surprise. But it also must have made me look like a true-blooded idiot. Let me explain.

To achieve the level of bufoonery that I did, first: light a nice big cigar (that one of your considerate co-workers brought back to you from Cancun ... note the irony of lighting such a beauty on such a day as this). Then, as you are lighting it, start drifting. Flick your lighter several times, in your attempt to light this cigar. It’s a bit on the big side, and the wind is playing havoc with the flame, so keep trying. Finally light the cigar. Put the lighter in your pocket. Oh my god! Where’s my float? Set the hook, and behold a large fish. It is so large and the creek is so small that, every time she shatters the surface, she seems to grow. Before you get a good look at her, you’ve thoroughly drenched your eyes in smoke and she looks like 40lbs jumping around like that. She takes you down-stream and you pull her back up. You think “aha! she’s only about 8lbs, and looks like she’s almost...” SPLASH! Now, she has jumped up and landed in a logjam. She slips through the logs, with your hook and line in tow, and you are now cursing because you had this fish dead to rights. You curse again because a puff of smoke just got into your left eye. OUCH that stings. But it’s a brand new “Schtoaggie” and you don’t want to spit it out. You persevere. The fish is pulling away madly up river. Your line goes across the river, down through the log jam, then zags more than 90 degrees to veer upriver. Farther upriver now. You pull on the line, like an idiot, amazed at the strength of your mainline. It’s not breaking and the fish slowly comes back down. Now it’s under the log pile. You are going crazy anyway, with the smoke in your face, the wind howling this big fish beaten but out of reach, you decide to wade across to the logjam. Mistake? The fish seeing the giant legs of some unknown bloodthirsty intruder speeds away again and the tip of your rod virtually slams against the wood. You back-reel furiously, you let it run loose. You try this ridiculous "loogan" cha-cha several times until you finally get close enough to push and pull at some these logs and lo! one of them gives you about a half inch through which to squeeze your tired line. Jubilant, you move back to shore. You realize ....b- b- b- brrrrrrr I forgot to strap the cuffs shut on my jacket and now there is water down my back! You curse. You pull on the line. It’s still stuck. You go back in, you reach down deep along your line and find the obstruction, pull it all out; amazingly it drops into the depth and your line is free. You go back to shore. You get a fresh spill down your back, because you are an idiot (not you.... me...) You quickly now do up your cuff. The fish is loose. She is very tired and so are you. She pulls away down river and you follow. You kneel to lower your profile as much as to keep your rod tip from banging around in the overhanging branches. You wrestle now, and so does she, your shoulder says “uncle” and finally you have the fish by the tail. She is gorgeous. She is full of the symbolism of battle, of bounty, of life, of Joy.

But you curse again. You just noticed that the pin has fallen off your reel! Without the pin, the screw that keeps the spool secure to the backplate, your reel is useless and you can't fish anymore! You don’t panic like you did back in spring 2006, though. This time, you calmly put your rod down behind you and photograph the life force that you are holding by the tail. You cradle her and admire her while she revives. Soon, she’s off, and as the mud settles you see a shiny object just beside your knee. You reach down to pick up your pin. You give thanks as you push it deep into one of your pockets. Without looking, and as the cold starts to creep into your bones, you reach back behind yourself to pick up your rod.

Your hand squeezes only water.

You don’t even have the nerve to curse, now. It’s like being in an accident. You are in shock/denial. You turn around to look. The rod and reel are gone. No footprints on shore, so there was no thief. You begin to feel faint. The mud is still swirling a little. You wait til it clears. You still don’t see the “twins rod”, the one you won on the day your boys were born. You start scraping through the mud like a mad explorer looking for treasure in the sand. You feel around frantically. You call yourself names. If I am someone else watching you do this, I start laughing. But no such luck. Where did it go?

I finally risk standing up, knowing that my first footstep could snap the blank, should the rod have somehow sunk into the mud. I look around, I proceed as cautiously as possible. There it is. Twenty yards downriver, my gear has gone and entangled itself in another logjam. I am thankful again. I retrieve the rod, rince out the reel. Look around one last time. Ouch!

I had forgotten the cigar! It was still lit and had burned down right to the nub.

Twenty minutes later, I was at home with two two-year-olds hanging on me with smiles.

A little more than twenty hours later, I compose this entry and take a moment to agree with my wife who says wisely “you’re funniest when you’re not trying.”

If you just read this whole thing, ain’t THAT the truth!



Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Slow Sunrise

Last Sunday, I spent the morning looking at the sunrise. It was nice. I almost forgot that I was actually there to fish, since I hardly saw anything bearing a resemblance to one of those. I did see a fly catcher, who decided my rod would make a lovely perch for a few minutes. He sat there taunting me "go ahead, take a pic, make my day..." But he flew off just as I pressed the "on" button on my camera. Punk.

I had a nice chat with one of the other guys who was there, like me, just to drown a few salmon eggs and wonder at the calmness of the lake. You rarely see it this calm, this time of year.

Finally, I decided to head back home. When you have twins, radar kicks in at around
2 1/2 year old. They're 2 years and 9 months now. I had a definite feeling that they were running wild.

It had been a nice morning, but devoid of fish. A wise man knows when to cut his losses...


Friday, October 03, 2008

Lieber Zueri

view from the minster bridge @ zurich switzerland Copyright Toni_V

st.peterCopyright Toni_V

in my memories
sitting on
a buttress outside Sankt
Peterskirche on a damp evening
listening to Chopin
Nocturnes tinkling
from someone's open window
to mix their melancholy notes
with the cool drizzle my
City still surrounds
me and

Muesch halt echli uufpasse, mir fahred jetz wider ab!Copyright Toni_V

i can
summon the metallic
sound and bell
of the No.7 as it rumbles
through Wollishofen not
the new rubberized digital copies
but the masterpieces with
the wooden seats the polite
riders their quiet

window with a fine viewCopyrightToni_V

i can take a walk
over Muensterbrueck and sit
by the fountain wherefrom
only the medieval stone
work can be seen all
around where on
Sundays mostly
one hears only the murmur of Limmat
and the mournful bells
of Grossmuenster, Fraumuenster, and
all the others in the distance
tolling a constant peaceful
neverending echo of proclamation
and demure worship

münsterbrücke @ zurich switzerlandCopyright Toni_V

some days
i am Frederick’s alter ego
for his was exile from
his birthright
where i am exiled to
the bitter country
of my birth which
eats its own slowly

Copyright Toni_V

so far from the
beautiful communitas
of Zueri uuf die See
Zurich on the lake singing
to me like
a woman sings and
teaching me the fallacy of
inheritance – that where one was
born does not imply
who or what one
will love nor
how deep
the loss

Oof! It took me much longer to write this than it looks. I had to recode a lot of this entry manually, and I switched images several times.

Speaking of which, I owe a great deal to Toni_V for giving me permission to use his images from his photostream on Flickr. I accidentally ran across his work when googling shots of Zurich for one of my friends, and I was deeply moved and inspired by it. The very artful use of colour in his photography is to me very similar to memory and dream; where is your happy place? what colour is it? Toni's presentation of the city through HDR photography, capturing hues that are not possible in the drabness of real life, evoke fable and myth - one almost feels that a knight or an 18th century noble will come turning round a corner.

I'm not sure I like my poem very much... but it's what came out when I saw these photos. Longing, I suppose, more than anything else; for a place that is not only far away but, to me, lost in time. To the Zurich I learned to know and love, I can never go back.

If you have time, go to Toni_V's photostream and check out his collections. There are some truly stunning pictures there.

... and by all means, click on the pictures above to see the full size versions. The thumbnails don't do them justice.

Toni...Ich danke dir wider viel mals!


Friday, September 05, 2008

Fun with the little ones

Three AmigosIt's nice to finally have something to write about and have the time to write it (barely). Given our unusual child-rearing responsibilities, I guess Laura and I should stop imagining that we might some day have oodles of time in which to relax. Dream on! The more things change, the more they stay the same; so time is always at a premium.

Luckily, some things don't change that much - i.e. passion for fishing - otherwise this blog would already be in the dust. Nevertheless, I have to be more selective these days in how I spend my time, and it has certainly reduced the number of entries I will be able to post here. But spending a Saturday on a boat with my brother in-law, two of his daughters and my son Samuel, qualifies as time well spent. So that's what I did last week, and I'm glad to take a few moments to tell you about it.

One word: chaos. Or in other words, absolute, loveable, Sisterscrazy, funny, giggly, fishie-thrashing, wormy-wiggley, goofy, loud, let me reel this in, let me reel that in, can you put on another worm, she did this, he did that, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, let's go tubing, let's go fishing (etc...) chaos! It was two adults vs. three kids, and I can't say that the two adults had the advantage at any point in time.

We all shared good luck, though: the fishing was incredibly easy, and the fisher-people were easily delighted by their success. Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass, all very little and very spunky, literally filled the boat. No need to anchor the boat, just drift with the gentle breeze & throw out a few lines rigged with jig & worm, on a lake that is roughly 22 feet at its deepest. The action rarely slowed down, but at one point I was lucky that it did.

Only one time during tLipping a Smalliehe whole day did my brother in-law and myself have the fishing all to ourselves. That blissful moment lasted barely two minutes when it was shattered by a heavy thump at the end of my line. It's been a long time since I fished with a closed reel on a 4.5 ft fiberglass rod, so I immediately understood that though it felt like a salmon, it was very likely not one. Not up here in the Kawarthas!

Once the kids realized that "papa" or "unco Paul" had something substantial at the end of his line, the atmosphere in the boat became positively tense and expectant. It was silence, blessed silence - and I had the big oBig Walleyene on! ...Must be payback for all the fishing I missed this summer! I didn't have much doubt as to what it was, because it didn't really run or try to jump, although it was heavy and gave the little reel everything it could handle. It might have been a carp, but when I finally pulled it up to where we could see it, the white splash at the bottom of the tail, and the golden sheen on its side belied a Walleye. The biggest I've caught, actually.

The oohs and aahs from the children were a nice experience, after that. And when they saw the giFun on the Tubeant in the net, they all wanted to touch it. "Watch out for the teeth," I said. "Well, do we let it go or bring it home to Gramma?" The unanimous choice was that Gramma should get to enjoy one of her favourite meals: fresh, pan-fried Walleye! So a lesson ensued regarding how to kill a fish humanely, since we couldn't leave it on the stringer if we were going to be tubing later on. We laid the fish on ice, closed the cooler lid and chucked the tube in the water.

Sam with his big bassIn the end, I was proud of my son, for liking the tube as much
as his older cousins and for getting over his squeemishness when it comes to touching the fishies. The little Largemouth Bass was a pretty good choice, too. It was a great way to spend what will go down as a memorable day for all of us. Samuel might be the only one with memory issues later on. He's not quite three yet... Do you remember anything from before you were three?