Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thawed out ..........

Obviously I have not been very good at keeping this blog up to date. Schedules have finally slowed down enough that I can sit down, crack a cold one and recall the last five months. The winter has been so long that to be honest, I would rather not think back. Instead, let’s fast forward to pre – actual – post trout opener.

My fishing has been less than stellar mainly because I have not been getting out as much as I wanted to or should have. A few trips to the south shore saw very little success for me. 

Instead, my good friends Tony and Jack each got their cherries busted on NY steelheading. That was great to see and a relief for me as I was the one whom dragged them on the long drive and bored them with fables of a Disneyland Steelhead Adventure.

The last Saturday of April marks the dreaded trout opener. This would be the weekend where you will see small populations at every known river access and bridge. The carnage and crowds have become too much for me over the last several years however with this year of not getting out much, I decided I would suck it up and face the carnival.

It would be one day after the official open that I was free to roam about. We saw two rivers and to my surprise, a stretch of water that saw very few others. In fact, one run was all ours. That was warmly welcomed as we had driven by an access and counted 33 vehicles. Jack, Tony and Rob joined me for the day and I could not ask for better friends.

When I looked at the calendar on the refrigerator, reality struck. 

There was no open squares for me to pen another steelheading outing other than making a push to fish the morning before racing home for our son’s vocal performance as part of a school commitment. 

Tony and I would decide on a very early start, with a hike in under the cover of night. 3am alarms are never well received. I almost had the nerve to call for late but Tony had already messaged me to text him when I was within 30 minutes as he was already there and had planned on catching a few winks. (sometimes it’s just easier on the family to leave when they all go to bed to avoid waking them up with rods and totes banging around). Oh well, up and at it. Large coffee and music cranked and I off.

Eyes staring at me from the fields, a few dared the crossing and failed including one raccoon I clipped. 

Several times I had to ease off the pedal as I found myself enjoying the drive a little too much. I got to Tony with five minutes to spare from our targeted time. 

Suiting up seemed to be a chore and I fumbled in the dark and contemplated whether to wear the wading jacket. As we reached the run we talked about, I was drenched. Jacket should have stayed in the tote.

Flow was great and colour, clear but with the depths created by the higher flow. We fished the green sections and found fish. I was able to coax a couple to hand but my hook to land ratio was terrible today! 

On a particular run, I waded out to just to my waist and rolled out the black and purple bunny spey to the far edge. Just as I had mended and straightened the line direction, a heavy tug almost jarred me off balance. It was a good battle. I was well into my running line. When I was able to get below her, it was a matter of seconds to slide her into the water swollen grassy edges of the river.

Another fabulous day.  I do hear the fat lady singing but I am still hopeful she will do an encore presentation.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To new beginnings. Marching On.....

It has been far too long and overdue for an entry here. I could spout off a many reasons why I have not made an entry since early October however that would be a cop out. I owe it here now to recap what was a lack lustre steelheading season.

While this new job has re-fuelled my confidence of worthiness, it has also taken away much of my time I would have normally spent on the tributaries. As I slowly rebuild the account of vacation days that allows me those timely weekday getaways, I have been steelheading when I could get away but more so, vicariously through my fellow steelheading bloggers and a few off the radar die-hards. (Thanks lads!)

Two kids heavily into competitive sports does not equate to much spare time. It is an important part of their lives at the moment and to be quite honest, I don’t like missing neither their games nor the practices. They have told me that it was okay to take a pass and to head to the river. I did so on one occasion and it did not sit well with me. My enjoyment of the river was not felt. Realizing that these opportunities were few, I compromised the situation. I made a few trips up after the morning skate as well as skipping post game celebrations at the restaurant in hopes of afternoons on abandoned stretches of my favourite runs full of chrome. And while the first part of this came to fruition, bringing fistfuls of steelhead to hand were somewhat void of the plan.

As expected, it was similar to starting over again this fall as I decided to expand my horizons. Picking up the spey technique would mean less action and more or less, practice trips, at least in the beginning it would seem to be the likelyhood. Granted I had the experience and knowledge of angling for migratories, there was is still a challenge to illicit a strike. Part of the reason for trying something new and different was that, quite honestly, centerpinning was starting to grow stagnant. I suppose having spent the last decade fishing some of the “Disneyland” tributaries south of the border as part of the routine, may have played a part in this though I do not regret one fish from any of those creeks and rivers. There are a ton of memories and adventures we still reminisce about. I did not make a single trip this season and admit, I miss the takes and landing those magnificent lake run browns along with the odd steelhead that tuned me and humbled my arrogant ass. Note, while I did have some action with the spey, they were short-lived and were great lessons in hands/eye to rod coordination. I can’t wait till spring!

On my last outing, I chose to wander back to one of my favorite sections. Normally I prefer to fish this section alone as it brings me so much peace and zenquility that even talking to myself, ruins its healing powers. However, Nardi had been putting on clinics on my iPhone with his recaps. A few weeks prior, we had mis-timed a trip and fished borderline conditions. It was not so much a mis-timing as it was more along the lines that this particular day was the only day I had. On that trip, I had one take from a big fresh fish that tore up and down and across the river, finally bending out the hook and giving it back to me. Tony was willing to make a go of it with me on that day even though he could have stayed home as he was hitting the river the next day. For that I was grateful for his friendship and was keen on getting out again with him. We made plans a few days later and when morning came, I found myself sharing a favorite section with my good friend, who just happens to be a great angler. Tony struck first. I was around the corner working a seam when I heard him “whoop” it up out loud. At first I thought he had gone for a swim trying to get to some remote part a drift so I busted through some brush to see him arced up high with a fresh tail desperately pushing for the opposite way. Great fish.

We would go fish-less for another hour and ventured half a kilometer downstream before I trotted my float to the tail end of a wintering hole. Nardi was retying a new rig after a courageous attempt to hit a small pocket under an uprooted tree about to fall into the river. As I held back and inched the float along, the take was subtle. A micro bob of the float followed by a slight move to the right triggered me to set the hook. Like most, it was not happy to be fooled. There were a few moments where she had the advantage on me as I was cuffed with tree limbs above me and no more real estate to chase on. Luckily she gave up sooner than expected and pretty well slid herself into the flooded grass.

That was a few weeks ago. Since then, the schedule had become fuller and Christmas was starting to stress me out. I decided that I needed to take care of things around the house and prepare for the one season that truly makes everyone happy. I still had fishing on the brain but there was no decent day in the forecast that matched my availability for one more chance at some 2013 steelhead so........ ice fishing it was. 

The day was long and Cook’s Bay did not produced what I had hoped for. There were many fish but less than a dozen keeper size perch through the ice for the several kilometers of slush we traveled through by foot on a 14 hour day. My body was drained and my mind was numb.

Here’s to 2013. Here’s to more trips and many bent rods for stories to share. Salute!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A New Song

Since my last excursion out for some Lake Ontario salmon, I have not had much time to make an entry to this blog. Embarking on a new career means I am no longer free to travel about chasing steel when the rivers are most prime. Instead, I have dug out the old and am back to being a " weekend warrior". That's is okay by me. Family is first and if that means working during the week, so be it.

With a new change, I am still determined to find peace and zenquility on the river. Over the past few years, I have become complacent and confident to the point that first light was a rare sight for me.

I was still guiding fish to hand but not having to get up at those ungodly hours of the morning.

Well now that has all changed. Changed back to the way it all began. Hitting the access with plenty of time to finish my coffee, I cranked a few more tunes before I fumbled my way in the dark. No one was around except maybe the Wendigo.

First few hours were great but when the walking dead started to show up, that was the sign my time on the river was up. As I walked back out and past the crowds that hovered over the runs I had already frothed, I got some odd looks and comments as to why I was cutting out so soon.

                               " Too nice of a day to spend in waders with no fish around "................

Monday, September 9, 2013

Another season to kick off ..........

Its not the picture of serenity one looks forward to when they go fishing. Driving from one urban forest to another concrete jungle felt more like work than anything else. I grew tired of river bass and resident trout early this summer. With starting a new job next week, I got a little tensed up that I would be a weekend warrior again come this fall, winter and next spring. There were very few options for this week.

I was more or less hoping to get the spey rod out and swing for some fresh cohos and early steelhead but when driving over the river and arriving at the access, neither the cons or crowds would make today a spey day.

The river had clouded up overnight as I was expecting it to be near clear based on some information I received from a good friend. It was actually a perfect colour to keep hidden from the fish though they could not hide themselves too well. I am not fond of sharing runs and pools but its salmon and is to be expected. I slipped into the tail end of three other anglers. It turned out to be a pleasant decision as they were all friends and had been hammering fish before I got there. All had river etiquette which made fighting those big ugly mudsharks much more enjoyable.

In a few more weeks, they will be all done and some real shiny treasures will be coming in. There will be a spey day yet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spey It

It won't be long. Soon the days will be cooler and the rivers will see the return of chrome. I started tying spey style patterns this weekend. Its a start and these " mini" intruders are just me trying to figure out the steps to tying these things.

I think I saw a leaf change colour......nope, never mind. Just wishin.......

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Small Windows of Opportunity

There has been little, or shall I say not enough, time spent fishing. Something or someone takes precedence to the river. To the point that it ( time to fish) has become a last minute call. Just the other night, I received a call from Jack during the UFC162 gathering. Nine hours later, Jack and I were floating a pond trying to net as many bass as we could in the four hour window we had. Though there were not fistfuls to slime our hands, this particular fish was a result of a good call by Jack.

The other evening I had some time to myself. Granted, I could have done more work around the house but it was sweltering out, even at 6pm. The rest of the family had slid over to the mall which meant I could grab the spey and get in a few hours of practice. Of course, there was one big dark cloud, filled with thunder and lighting, in amongst a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds all around. I decided on a bridge access to the river and spent an hour under it. It was high enough off the water that I could practice casting and avoid the storm cloud. There were a few moments that made me stop and question what I was doing. Not a drop of rain fell. It was cool to be outside under a storm. It reminded me of my youth, playing outside and on the porch during storms.

When the cloud past, I ventured downstream to work on fly presentation a little more. Near dusk, there were a handful of players willing to hit the streamer on the swing, confirming that I am on the right track.

As the action began, daylight was closing. It was still above 30c out and I was not interested in wading upstream in the dark back to the bridge. Drenched in sweat and in need of some rehydration, I sat on the bank for a few minutes to enjoy the moment. The family should go to the mall more often.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Way of the Spey

When I first saw spey anglers on the Maitland River, I was amazed at how fluid and smooth they were casting. Knowing nothing about it, I thought as beautiful as it was that the line looped across the river, it seemd like a lot of work to get the fly out there. I was a single hander at the time and fairly new to it still. I was not quite sold on the effectiveness of it for salmon and steelhead. I was getting more into the centerpin scene.

Fast forward to today, centerpinning will still and as I see it, always be the primary method for migratories but I have reached a point in all these years of chasing chrome that numbers are no longer the true reason I target steelhead. I understand from all the research and conversing with those that spey only, that my fish to hook ratio may decrease if I took up the way of the spey. I am good with that knowing that at the times when I feel the need for some self-affirmation of banking some decent numbers of fish, there is always the centerpin to fall back on, not that it would be a guarantee as there is no such a thing in fishing.

There is much to learn and I have all summer to practice. Hopefully this fall, I will be ready to take on a few of those freight train powered strikes as the fly swings across the tailout.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Grand Day

As much as I enjoy fishing alone, there are a few good anglers that sharing a day with can be more rewarding than solitude itself.  I can still find that solitude and moments to think. I can also celebrate a good fish or turn to a friend for confirmation that the fish I just blew could have been a personal best.
This morning, there was a lot of time to and ponder, dream and plan. I was into a ninety minute drive to meet up with Nardi ( to fling some fur and feathers.  Receiving a text the night before of a small change in plans, I would be arriving hours before him. I had decided that I would fish a few different runs and leave our planned waters alone until we were both there.
Getting there was quick or at least it felt so. As I looked through the trees to get a sneak peak at the river, I stopped mid-step. I saw stained water and heard the river flowing louder than the normal level. At the river’s edge, I sorted through the flybox and picked out the biggest nymph I had. I had recalled the ledges and chutes that cut down through the middle of the river and followed the slack blindly with each step. 
I was able to perch atop a bigger boulder and in half a dozen drifts, had my first swipe.  A good rip but I suspect the fly was either moving too fast or the visibility, being all of 10”, was causing more reaction strikes than dashes of calculated feeding. 
And it was as if the switch was flipped and the bugs began to drop down and the fish were looking up with a keen interest. Fish were rising all around me, some very violent while others just plucked wings off the surface. I kept the hare’s ear on and began to take fish on the swing and on the lift.
Technology makes me chuckle inside. While I leave the city to get away and not to be disturbed, I feel I must always be connected. I received a text … “I am here. You up or down stream?”   
We stayed a bit, casting to risers but decided that we should book to the area we originally planned out. There were two groups of guides out and of course, we were bookended by them on the same stretch. They were far enough away but you could still see them and occasionally hear voices. Tony was diligent on working a seam and hooked up right away. I was fortunate to swing through the tailout and picked up a fish for a double header.

I decided to move down and fish above the guided anglers, nowhere close to intruding in or on where they were plying.
I am sure the guide was not pleased as two of his clients moved up after a few dips of my net. I smiled, and pointed to where I was drifting and gave them thumbs up and moved back up to join Tony.

Nardi had just landed a very nice fish. Hopefully he will post it on his blog.

We worked the run some more and both got into a big fish however as a grand curse, I lost mine in the fast water and Tony’s came unbuttoned at my feet.

We shared some great conversation and laughs along with some homemade sandwiches Tony had brought, finishing the break with some chocolates from Newcastle which my wife brought back from across the pond. Sharing time with a good friend on a riverbank is something that cannot be bought nor replaced.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The steelhead have pretty much returned to the lakes. My spring season was nothing short of useless. I did not get out much and on those trips I did, very few fish were brought to hand. I was in Ohio the same weekend trout opener coincided. Since then, there has been more soccer pitches than river banks and as such, I was in need of some river therapy. It does the soul good to walk a trout stream and take in all the sights, sounds and smells that nature offers. How is cleanses and refreshes one’s well-being and clears the stress. It is here that I do my best thinking.
When I got to the access, there was only one other vehicle. I touched the hood and notice it was still warm. Hopefully  (presumably) he went up stream which would leave two of my favorite runs waiting for my arrival. Sure enough, that was the case. I carefully slipped across the river above the intended lie and crept along the bushline. As always, I stood back and watched to see what if anything, was happening. There was a few sporadic surface slashing but with no bugs in the air, I had to presume they were chasing the emergers or the tumblers loosened from their grips on the rocks. I paused and stared deeper to witness flashes of fish.
I tyed on a beaded caddis nymph pattern and placed it well up into the head of the riffles. As I mended and followed the fly pass in front, I started to look down a few feet further to where I anticipated they may strike. The line shot out away from me. It was a hard take that was instinctively met with a pull back of the line and a simultaneous lift of the rod.
My first resident brown of this season. Not big but definitely a second year fish. If not for its average size, it did use the current to its advantage unlike the first year stockers that flip and shake and try to move in two directions at the same time.
The morning was starting out nicely. A few more to hand plus missing several others. I stopped when I reached the tailout and sat back along a raised portion of the bank.
I checked my fly and found that it needed to be retired and a fresh clone put on.

As I was about to open the flybox, the sipping of a very decent fish caught the corner of my eye. I watched a bit more as it rose consistently across and down from me. It was obvious. Put away the nymph and tye on a dry pattern. I strained a bit to figure out which pattern and more importantly, the size. I decided on a #18 BWO. I made a few casts away from the fish before gaining the confidence to place a cast to it. It was textbook. Placed about 3 feet upstream, it drifted without line drag right into the heart of where the rising was taking place. The take was so subtle that the drag from the current had made the line taut so I lifted and set the hook. There was an explosion from the shallow edges. Within seconds the fish was in the main current and pulling heavily. And as quickly as this all took place, the release was even quicker. I suspect my 2lb tippet was frayed from nymphing or that the fish was well over three.
I kept fishing the top for the rest of the morning. There was plenty of action to keep me busy but they were all stocker sized gems that had incredible spots and colours.

I didn’t do as much thinking as I wanted to or that I usual do when I come here.

Then again, maybe a few fish and the solitude was all I really needed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Desperate and Determined

There has been little to write about. I have done very little fishing. Appointments seem to take place on the days I had decided to fish. For much of the past few weeks, either the rivers had risen to unfishable levels or the winds were so high, it was really not worth the effort.
I had been out a few times with very limited success. There were more suckers than trout to hand. On one outing, the wind was gusting hard making the 13’ rod heavy and eventually, my shoulder waved the white flag.
It is a few days before the traditional opener. I will be at a soccer tournament in Ohio and missing all the fun.  I am actually glad there is an excuse for me to not fish this weekend. The crowds, the illegal angling techniques and the overall experience is something I have grown out of. In recent years, I would have been packing the steelhead gear away by now. Having enough of it, the 4wt flyrod and resident trout would take over however; there hasn’t been much steelheading this spring.
I really, really wanted to wet a line. So much that I took the long drive south of the border hoping that there may be some cleaned up dropbacks to play around with. Instead, fish were paired up and the ones I did hook were still beaten up and not the attractive chrome we all adore and chase. I did not take any pictures until this last fish of the day. I had trotted a white bugger pattern down along a skinny chute and at the end of it; I started to swing it to the slack flat below. As the fly began to slide out of the main current and rise from the drag and hold back, an extremely aggressive charge came ripping across. A big swirl, water exploding off the surface. The fish moved back into the main current before I reached the end of my hookset. It seemed like a good fish. I was running an 8lb lead on a 10lb shot line to Fireline Crystal which is virtually, unbreakable. The battle was short. What came to hand was one very unattractive male that clearly has had a rough go at it. If he recovers to full chrome sides with a white belly, I will be at awe with Mother Nature. It reminded me of an episode of “The Walking Dead”.

I’ll give it a week to let the crowds dissipate. The rivers are still cold and higher than normal. Hopefully the fish will hang about and rejuvenate for when I hit my favorite runs.