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!


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