Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I am quite remiss, I know.

Really, what I would like to do with this blog is to add more updates more often. But there's a problem with being an “average” fisherman. When you are an expert, by definition, you are familiar and that means that you partake in the activity often. Expertise in fishing isn’t garnered by sitting around on the couch, playing captive games of “Temple Run” for the perseverant pleasure of one’s special needs son, or getting nailed in the groin playing mini-sticks with his more agile brother. No, instead expertise is earned through hours spent on the water, discovering the secrets of the fish. Commensurate with this, the more hours you spend fishing the more you have to write about. And when you also happen to own a fishing blog, then you can live the dream of populating that space more often.

That is if you don’t also regularly engage in procrastination, which is one of my many qualities. Procrastination, and the general lassitude which  has descended on me from the first weather report that advertised that our opener might as well find all our little streams filled with gin and transported to Cancun. Don’t get me wrong. Like anyone else, I find a river of gin in Cancun a very attractive proposition; just not when the river is an eastern Lake Ontario tributary, actually in Ontario. No gin, no Cancun, no bikinis, no pool-side drinks - and no fish.


Yes, I exaggerate. But only a little, and if anything I appreciate the little ironies of the past two years almost as much as the fishing. Predictions for
last year were dour. Water was low. No snow in the winter. No rain for almost a month before the opener. Logic dictated the fishing would be poor at best. What happened? It rained generously just before opener, and again during the first week after opener, resulting in a mass exodus of extremely well recovered and almost chrome-bright drop back steelhead which, for those lucky enough to be present, provided a short span of days within which the fishing was almost unnaturally abundant. This year? Lots of snow in the winter (more in the space of 3 days in January than in the all of the previous winter); lots of rain in the Spring. High, happy rivers and a late run – it augured magnificently. There were still fish running the river 2 days before the opener, fer lardssake! Then, the clouds disappeared, the bright blue sky and golden sun of mid-summer floated aloft, and the waters cleared and the fish cleared out. The water table was quite high and healthy this year, so the fish seemed to finish spawning in a hurry and zipped back out into the lake none the worse for wear. 

How prophetic that Solopaddler himself advised me to temper my enthusiasm when, back in March, I slavered over the possibilities of this year’s opener. I very clearly recall his words. “It only takes one or two days in the twenties to chase ‘em all out,” he said. I think, in the end, it was more like 5 or 6 days, at least one of which was in the thirties. Thank God for those little cryopaks that kept the beer cold!

Still, I have to partially blame my general lack of success on the emotional discomfiture brought about by these horrid steelheading conditions.
My own eagerness thermometer goes down, when the other one goes up too far. In my experience, 20+ is too much. I’m like a steelhead that way, because too much heat makes me somnolent and unresponsive. Lots of other fishermen seemed to be having a good time, basking in the sun if not in fish.

In fact, I don't remember much of what we did... I have a vague memory of fishing an active morning with Khalid and Oliver, where I lucked out and tapped a good vein, going 1 for 9 or so on some pretty exciting and vivacious steelhead. Then I seem to recall that the day got hot, and somehow there appeared a few dozen pounds of lead in my boots, my tongue turned to wood and my bones got stuck. Did I catch anything else that day? I might have. There's an echo in there as of a wooly bugger that got crunched by another frenetic fish. 

I know that both Khalid and Oliver fared much better than I did, overall. Khalid got into decent numbers of fish every day that he went out, and when Oliver joined us later in the season - when the weather cooled and delivered a goodly rain; he beat us both. It was nice to see my friend hit a productive channel in a churning stretch of river, and the way he manhandled some of those fish belied his trade; energetic steelhead would make a mad dash downstream in the heavy current, only to be winched out like tinseled tether balls to lay stunned on the bank.

But for me, personally, whether it was something else happening in my life or something about this year's fishing, but the fire went out of me and is only now just starting to spark itself up again. I must admit that my exciting if not amazingly productive overnight trips to the Salmon and the Saugeen rendered our local tribs somewhat more humdrum and less exotic. As beautiful as our fish are, there is something to be said for fishing them out of a river too wide and powerful to cross in waders, versus the little creeks and trickles that are so ubiquitous out here... 

Even now, I feel a certain lassitude. I think I've been working on this thing for at least a week now, and - just like the spring season that preceded it - I don't really know where it's going. Blah blah blah; oh! is that a piece of lint in my navel?

As I write this, the big green thugs are starting to work their way into the rivers. As usual, the summer has managed to dry everything up - even though July had a record for rain; and the rivers in some places are mere rivulets, meandering through parched gravel and cracked mud. 

If fate hadn't intervened, I was going to get up early tomorrow to see what kind of salmonid trouble I might get myself into. But broken parasols, as it turns out, are an antithesis to next-day fishing. 

Oh well.