Somewhere in the tangled energies of steelhead fishing fever, there is the catalyst of self destruction. And when this volatile trigger is depressed, though accidentally, it is always a good thing if friendlier, more wholesome forces are at hand.
It was 6am. Or I think the alarm clock read "6:02am." This took a second or two, to sink in. In fact, it was supposed to say "3:35am." Oh no! I slept in! J.P. was supposed to be here at 4am, and we were supposed to be an hour away from our chosen destination by now. Noooooo! In the beffudled madness that ensued, I managed to pull on some long-johns, get my feet into some socks and rush almost head-long out onto my wet driveway where; miraculously, he was still waiting for me. This is the quality of the man: that he could not bring himself to wake up all the inhabitants of the house, for the foolishness of just one of them.
Now, in hindsight, I know what I did not do. I did not check to make sure that the little dot, which signifies "alarm is on," was lit. That's all. In my unthinking hurry to get fishing, I forgot to merely observe the simplest, yet most important detail which would have meant more fish for both of us. Build a better mouse trap (i.e. use more alarms) or pay attention: either way, it was an embarrassing first for me, on the first truly "epic" steelheading trip that my friend was going to experience.
Of course he laughed at me, and by 6:15am his positive energy had us hurtling eastward, in time to catch the first hour of sunlight on a favourite estuary. But I already knew what the result would be. By now, I've fished my little eastern Lake Ontario tributaries enough to know when they will hold good numbers of fish, and when they will not. I knew quite well that most of the steelhead in these systems were either upstream, spawning in protected waters, or already pushed out of the rivers by the recent, moderate rainfall.
But again, Jean-Pierre's energy proved our salvation. He didn't mind the difficult conditions in the slightest. He was very happy to be out, fishing together and learning a new discipline, as well as several new fishing spots. So we hopped from creek to creek, fishing one that was clearing and lowering, fishing another that was still quite high and dirty, fishing another that was low and clear... Wherever we could, we did some extra walking and scouted for the open season to come.
The comedic highlight of the day, other than my confused wake-up routine, was feeding time for a rather large, recovering hen. She was resting her approximately 35" length, close to surface, on the upriver side of a bridge, in waters that will not be open to fishing before April 24th. I was waiting for J.P. to join me, munching on a granola bar, and I decided that this magnificent specimen, who was swimming right beneath me, might also be in need of sustenance. I pulled a fresh roe bag from a container and idly let it drop. At first, she seemed a little spooked. She zigged, then zagged. Then, as if catching the scent of the offering, she dove quickly to retrieve the bag; only to spit it once she got to the surface.
This made me laugh and I called J.P. to hurry up and come see. When he arrived, I tossed a couple more roe bags, one at a time. The fish gobbled them without hesitation. And, below her, some of her peers were getting the drift & seemed to want to get into the action as well. But, even though they were also large, she was the biggest, and her influence held sway. I couldn't help but talk to this fish, and chuckle gleefully, as she ate her lunch along with us. I stopped at five roe bags, though, as I was afraid that too much tule in the stomach might not be a good thing...
Unbelievably, on the last river that we visited, I caught a nice sized drop-back female. It was close to the end of the day, as it always seems to be with me when this sort of thing happens, and I was swinging a white "René" jig through a well-known pool. When the float dropped, I thought I'd gotten tangled in a log or a rock. But setting the hook proved otherwise. She had not wasted much movement in the capture of my offering, but she had nearly engulfed it. She was freshly off the redds and took a while to revive. My hands were numb from the cold water, when she finally thrust herself away, back into the deep green.
I cannot remember the last time that a fishing trip with such abysmal results left me with a feeling of such unbridled excitement. Any fishing trip with Jean-Pierre would prove interesting and entertaining, but a steelheading trip is beyond compare. I find myself looking forward to the opening season with renewed enthusiasm, because I hope we get the chance to find - and actually catch - some trout together. I will enjoy taking his picture, when he lands his first one!