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!