Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Equinox Chronicles

Part I - Late March

From four, the tale dropped to three, then two, then finally just one: me. Richard, Chess and Oliver had all removed themselves from the upcoming trip, one at time. And it was a near thing for me too, since I ended up having to sacrifice most of the morning for a sick boy with the flu. But as it turned out I'd be able to spend first light and then the afternoon, chasing Steelhead on nearby streams, thanks to Laura.

The conditions seemed as though they would be ideal, so I went to bed in a fair degree of excitement that night. I slept, though a little on edge...

4:49am - Through the thick veils of sleep
I hear something. It's not my alarm. It's my cell phone. Sleepily I wonder who could be texting me so early and I fall back asleep.

5:30am - The alarm rings and now I get up; like a shot, ready to go. I check my phone to see who texted me. It was Oliver. "Hey bud. I'm up early. Now I'm wishing I would have gone. How's the river?"

5:55am - I respond, "Still not too late :). Not there yet, but the graph spiked really high. So it could all be for naught. Pulling on my waders now and should be fishing in 30 minutes."

6:14am - Oliver: "So you're not going to where you said you were going?"

6:15am - Oliver: "Good luck with it!"

6:21am - Oliver: "Let me know how it looks. I'm super curious!"

6:44am - Me: "Standing in the river now, watching the sun rise. Waiting to see what the water colour's like..."

6:50am - Oliver: "Cool! Wish I was there..."

Less than fifteen minutes later, any reader more perspicacious than I am (which is not hard to imagine) will already have anticipated the fact that the sounds I heard behind me, of some impertinent angler intent on destroying the quiet stillness of the morning, were made by none other than Oliver himself! I was happy and sad, surprised and disappointed all at once. Happy to see my friend, sad that I wouldn't be able to spend the whole day with him, disappointed for him that he'd made such a long trek for possibly only a very short time together, and of course surprised to see him there. I was a little hopeful that we'd get a chance to fish together later in the day, but I knew he'd probably have to leave before I got free again.

The air had kept a small tinge of winter, but it was very still. From where we fished, we could see the lake spreading out its vast mirror to the quickening sunrise. Smoke from a cigar curled up around my hat brim as we spoke quietly, anticipating the coming successes of the season ahead - and even in the gloaming before the full light of day we were somewhat surprised that no rod anywhere had yet indicated the presence of some unwary fish.

By 8am, I had to leave, and we were in wait-and-see mode as to whether Oliver would still be around, by the time my Mr. Mom shift ended. There isn't much to tell other than that, while I cleaned up the house and kept my cub warm and attended to, Oliver hopped from creek to creek in search of any kind of bite. I finally did manage to catch up with him on the far eastern portion of my home range. We had enough time to share a smoke together, attempt to catch fish as we and other fishermen stared wistfully at the blue horizon of Lake Ontario, and as usual share good conversation and quality time together.  

Part II - Early April

Little less than a week later, it was Bill's turn to pay me a visit. We planned to fish on the Sunday, so we expected to meet some fairly serious fishing pressure, which is not generally as bad on weekdays. Mind you, when I was a lad, weekdays, the rivers were usually pretty much deserted... *sigh*.

Bill and I met up in the parking lot, arriving almost at the same time. Being close to home, I had already donned my apparel and was ready to go, so I went down to the river first - ahead of the rest of the gathering crowd - to make sure that one of my favorite spots at least would be ours for the morning.

I can never get enough of quiet Great Lakes mornings. Taken in contrast to the enormous roar and foam of the Lake when in storm, still mornings - with a baby's breath no more powerful than any wisp you might encounter in your living room - seem almost miraculous; hushed as they are, with only the cries of far off gulls and the gentle tinkle of wavelets on the rocky shore entwining in a never ending and calming music, just within hearing.  It is a murmur so gentle that it seems to accentuate the silence rather than break it. Even the most brazen and loud-spoken angler seems to revere it; and if someone laughs, it simply gets rolled up in the cottoned air becoming part of the overall andante, the morning "berceuse" that it is our rare privilege to experience.

However, this wondrously late Spring would deliver no greater piscatorial success to Bill and I, than it had previously to Oliver and I. It seemed that a curse might have descended upon me somehow, and I was bringing bad luck to my friends. As I finish this up, with the opener getting closer and closer, I hope this unlucky trend is discontinued shortly.

Part III - Mid April

In retrospect, I can see that timing was at once more difficult and important than usual. There were precious few days where the water temperatures were high enough for fish to actually be active enough to bite; and I missed all of those. When waters were high, there was still a good deal of run-off, which in turn meant that waters ran cold - too cold for fish to actively feed or jump, but evidently not cold enough for them to trickle slowly up-river and up into the safe zones.

I could not ask for better proof of this than the results of this past weekend.
On Easter Saturday, I went out for a quick morning foray and found the usual haunts mostly devoid of anglers as well as their quarry. I did manage to locate at least one fish, probably a 5 or 6 pound steelhead, which twisted and pulled and yanked itself free in a little over 30 seconds of battle - the silver of its sides had glinted beautifully in the green water, lit with sunrise as it was. Though I saw another pair of fish hooked by other anglers, we mostly just flossed water. And the tale was the same from everyone; everywhere they'd been, the anglers were present but the steelhead were not.

As nature delivered two warm days back to back, the answer became gloriously obvious. It seems that the trout have been trickling their way up river, even through the heaviest of the thaw, and they'd been waiting just below dams for the water to warm up enough to allow them to leap and finish their upstream journeys. They came in droves, sometimes five and six at a time, attempting to conquer waterfalls and dams.

Time for blogging has run out; time for getting ready is short!

Part IV - End April (TBD)