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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And so it begins .....

I am getting used to this……. showing up late to the river, missing first light, being 11th in line looking for a parking spot. It’s not that I think I have to be the first there or that I will miss out on that window of opportunity where the fish simply turn on and will thrash at a bare hook. The sound of the am alarm sparks the old ticker and I am sitting up like a jack-in-the-box. Then I sink back into the warm cozy comforter and moulded pillow contemplating just how much more time I can afford before I have to get moving. There seems to always be some event happening the night before that keeps me up later than I should when there is an early start to the day ahead.
Last night was no different. Our son’s competitive hockey season has come to an end. Coach had a final skate with the team splitting them up and playing a fun 3 on 3. Afterwards we had gathered for some pizza and nachos. I finally excused myself from the festivities around 11pm. By the time I got home and settled in, it was near midnight. I always think it that it will be fine. There are always Red Bulls or 5-hour shots if need be though more and more, one should really stay away from that stuff.
Traffic on the road was lighter but not the case at the access. I knew I would not have pole position however rolling up to a parade of trucks and small imports; the day was not looking grand. At the bottom of the path, it was a toss-up on whether to veer right or left. I went for the most productive pool I frequent. Of course, three others were occupying the real estate I wanted so I settled for the inside seam on the opposite side of the river. At least I was alone here. It was not really producing as I watched several bent rods and photo sessions across from me.
You do the math and figure that if these three were together, chances are they all came in one vehicle which meant the others must be scattered at the other spots. Most likely, good sections above and below would be occupied so I buckled down and started making adjustments and changing up presentations. Just when action had come to a lull, my float slipped under. A decent fresh fish determined to take me down through the tail out and into the rapids. I will admit, I love using 8lb tippets with the CTS 13.6. It’s really not fair. It was a quick turn back upstream followed with an effortless slide to the bank.    

Just when the water was looking to clear up, it seemed to go off. I could have pounded the drifts, change up to a searching leader set up but I don’t enjoy off colour water nor do I fish with that type of presentation anymore. I had picked up another fish and lost the same amount up to now. The wind was bitter and my face and finger tips were tingling despite the Buffs and wool flip ups. How much was another fish worth and did I really need any more satisfaction?

When I sit back and think about the last outing ( as I often do), regardless of the conditions and whether I hooked up with fish,  to be able to recoup and regroup at the river’s edge is something I will never take for granted.

Friday, March 8, 2013

High Bank

Back in 2006, I was young and determined to winter steelhead. This capture shows the ice build up along the banks. The rods in the picture do not show just how crazy this was. Over six feet high and possibly greater in some spots. Walking a hundred yards over this ice to get to the river, we said it would be the last time we would do so. It would not take much to bust you up if you were to fall through a weak point.

Not the brightest thing to be doing but after all these years,I went steelheading today despite having that gut feeling the year round open section of the river would have little to offer. A wise steelheader told me long ago that 10% of the water holds 90% of the fish. Somewhat similar, this available section at this time of the year has about that amount of productive drifts.

The sun was to make an appearance but it never showed. The air temps were still comfortable but not warm enough to run the reel gloveless. That metal is still very cold and sucks the energy from your hands and fingers.

The river, low and clear.

We started off slow, continued along the morning very slowly and the ending was as slow as molasses. I did not hit a fish until 11-ish...... and it was a sucker. Perfect. Are they coming in now? Admittedly, with nothing happenning, part of me was hoping for a few more suckers just to put a bend in the rod.

I adjusted the shot pattern  (to something totally opposite from what I had been running all morning), switch to a  4lb leader and put the float into the same seam I had been working for the past 30 mins. Recall I mentioned that there is not much productive water in the section and we had reached the upper limit of legal real estate to fish on. Wouldn't you know, my float shoots under. I set the rod back hard. There was a violent pounding on my rod tip, line zig zagging through the water cutting the surface up. It bolted up past me and into some big rocks. I could feel the line rubbing against the stones' edge as I stretched out with one arm while braking the reel, trying to steer it out. When I did get it back into the main current, the fish rolled me like an crocodile. The frayed fluorocarbon gave way.There was nothing more after that.

When I got home, I threw the 4lb leader into my fishing locker. Fat chance it will see light any time soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Third Time's the Charm

We have been talkng about it for several years but the work/home schedule had never worked out. Over the last few weeks, I made some effort to get on Jack's schedule to get him on the ice for the first time. The previous two times, the weather dashed our hopes. This third attempt was almost done in as well. My wife was unexpectedly notified at the last moment by her employer expecting her to be in Cambridge the very day Jack and I were making ice fishing plans. We thought about hitting up Simcoe for lake trout and whitefish in the morning with the fallback "guarantee" for perch if we did not fare well early on.

Local it was. Being a cherry busting trip for Jack, I wanted to ensure he got action. With my son able to wrestle up a few days earlier, it was obvious that we should return to the same ice grounds. With a comfortable start to the day ( 9am-ish), we got to the pond. I was fairly certain it had not lost any ice, just the snow on top having truned to slush. I was close, the snow was a thin layer but there was not much slush. It was pure H2o on top of the ice!! It was gonna be one wet day if we were clumsy and not mindful of things.

Jack set up with the flasher and immediately marked fish on the bottom two feet of the column. He got a hit shortly after adjusting to the depth but he had that steelheader hook set which usually rips the jig right out. I drilled my hole about seven yards away and found them along bottom as well. Trick for me was that I had on a smaller jig. We quickly switched Jack over. That was the ticket. He was " on like Donkey Kong" the rest of the day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's time ..........

Raising your children is may be the biggest of challenges any parent will face in life.  The more one reads up on this, the greater this may seem to be. They say nurses and doctors can be the worst people when it comes to the health of their own. Because of their knowledge and experiences, they can be overly cautious and preventative, some to an OCD level. We (my wife and I) try to give our kids the best we can afford and I am not just referring to this as financially but also to that of sacrificing a little more personally so they are happy.  A happy disposition can open up positive learning and creativity in them.
Brandon has been asking me for close to two years to take him ice fishing. I had not felt he was ready from all perspectives. Many dads almost force fishing on their children and some kids will take to it while with others, they end up disliking it into adulthood. This past Saturday I finally decided he was ready to take to the ice. He began to show a real interest in fishing over the summer, casting stick baits and drifting worms to smallmouth.

Gung ho he was. So much so that he had the sled down the hill and making his way along the path to the ice before I could zip up my float suit. As I gave him the safety protocol, he only questioned the ice once. We assured him that he would not be allowed out until we confirmed there was at least a six inch thickness of ice. I went out first and checked it.
He soon followed, pulling with all he could. The recent snow storm blanketed the pond and we were shin high. It’s good to know there is a new gear mule on the scene.

When we reached “the spot”, I immediately punched a hole and dropped a jig and wax worm to the bottom for him. A second rod was set up just in case. He wanted to use the flasher.

Who was I to deny such enthusiasm! 

With a quick tutorial, he picked it up with little hesitation. It was like a video game to him. As I drilled a second hole (about 10 yards away), he was putting a bend in the short rod.

He had just iced his first fish, ever. As I took a capture for the memories, I think the grin on my face was as large as his.

For the next little while, he would switch between rods and holes running and gunning for those panfish. There was even a bit of light cursing each time he would miss the bite or lose one on the way up.

There were a few instances where he reeled so hard, I thought for sure there would be burst bladders hanging out of the mouth or just a set of fish lips on the end of the jig.

Introducing something of which we are passionate about to our children requires tremendous patience and effort. One would be foolish to assume they will automatically like it or pick it up right away.
While the fish under us were moving around in pods and many of them having lock-jaw, the focus on what to do with him became a spontaneously different task. I was not quite prepared for this and eventually frustration and boredom deflated him and watching a colored screen and jigging had lost its appeal.

Taking breaks in the pop up got old. Add to this, his hands were cold from having his gloves off, the slime that started to dry and harden and his feet were chilling uncomfortably, it was time to call it a successful outing.  As I packed up, Brandon filled in the holes we had drilled.

He pulled the gear back along the path we came out, all the way to the bottom of the hill. I was very impressed and proud of him on this day. I think part of me was patting myself on the back for deciding to commit to make this work out the best I could. He never once talked sports, of his hockey playoffs or how his soccer team will fare this summer. For a few hours, most of what engulfs his daily life was not present. He didn’t even pull out his iPod.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

90 minutes

Not sure why we decided to go icing on one, if not the coldest day of 2013 thus far. I think somewhere in this mass above my shoulders there was a thought that it would be cool to be first on the ice right after the recent warm spell that made most bodies of water unsafe to ice fish.  It was what, -26 with the windchill today? Forget who in their right minds would stand outside on top of frozen water in these conditions, why is the real question here.
During the first hole we drilled, a three way pressure crack popped out in different directions before we could get through to water.  I sprung like a mongoose avoiding a lunging snake and two-stepped ten feet back.  The ice was no more than four inches at best. It didn’t look like we should be fishing on this stuff but we decided to move further over to test another spot. What would make us think the ice was any better seemed illogical and if true, unnerving as to just how unpredictable ice formation can be.
I had a different ice scooper with me. One that did not have a measurement on it so I hand measured the thickness. It was five inches. Go figure it was better so we moved over more and repeated the test. It was also a good five. Now my hand is red and really feeling wintery. Where did common sense go when I decided to take off my glove off deserves no answer.
We lasted only 90 minutes out there. Why would anyone go through all this only to wimp out in such a short time?
It’s what we do in the winter while we wait for the rivers to become ideal for steelheading again. It’s fun to see fish on the flasher. It’s like playing a video game. See the fish come in, dangle the offering to them, make them move for it and trigger them to strike.

The Rolling Rock, burgers and wings were instrumental in bringing us back up to normal body temps.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Got Ice?

I sit here looking out the window. With all this rain melting the driveway black, I am thinking of rivers and steelhead though just a few days ago, I was on the phone to Brad whilst standing in the tackle shop.

" You need anything while I'm here?"

Brad's reply made me chuckle out loud.

" Nope. I still have some of the stuff I bought last year, still in the package!"

I was in for new auger blades but could not help picking up a few tungsten jigs. Apparently they are the latest thing. They look identical to the lead painted ones I was using last winter but these are smaller and heavier. When it comes to ice fishing for perch and panfish, I am a big fan of small presentations. Maramooska's are my favorite, down to a #18 - #20 hook. The only downside is that I need to use shot on the line to get the jig down. These new tungsten jigs resemble the same jighead shape as the Maramooska but are weighted enough that I only need to send it down the hole. Having no shot on the line heightens the sensitivity.

Safe ice, from a personal comfort level, around here is scarce at the moment. The ice seemed still in its early stages so while there was good fishing to be had up on Cooks or down at Mitchell's, I was not willing to make those longer drives just yet. Instead, a local pond would have set up as thick as those farther away. I text'd Brad and told him to come by the house after 9am and we would head over to check out the ice conditions.

" Bring an ice rod with you just in case. "

When we arrived, we were alone though boot and sled tracks on the pond proved we were not only the first nor the stupid ones eager to ice fish. A slow shimmy with the rope in hand " in case", we followed the tracks to some pre-drilled holes. It was all solid so we popped a fresh one. Three inches of solid good black ice with another inch of white unstable ice encrusted on top.

Not what I consider 100% comfortable. We moved in away from the main channel of the pond and punch a few more holes and started jigging.

There wasn't much expectations of icing let alone getting into fish however, five hours later, I called it a day as I wanted to surprise my son at school and pick him up so he did not have to take the school bus home.

I don't think this weather we are currently having will do the ice fishing anglers any favors. Looks like the 13' rod will need to come out of hibernation next week.