Somebody Else Took The Day Off

There was the threat of rain on the horizon and earlier in the week and I quickly booked off Wednesday before the three stooges up front could screw me over. I told them that I had a lot of shit to do and I needed the day off. They booked it off as I had no work scheduled, so I figured what the hell - let's fish. But some in the back knew I was up to no good, as Jimmy made the "fish on" gesture and I replied "Ex-sex" and walked out grinning.

The next day me and the Dfishinfool had made plans to float down the Grand. It was the first float trip of the year for both of us and the morning was chilly and we both knew slush would be a factor further downstream. But being the hardcore steelheaders, we shrugged it off and began our quest for fish. We both felt confident, but the fish had other ideas.

The river was off color and there was a ton of anchor ice on the bottom. With every step you would sink in it and see blobs of slush come to the surface. I've always wonder if steelhead actually hold on the ice as I wouldn't dig the thought of having my gut sitting on ice for hours. Since there was anchor ice that meant the river was 31.9999999F and the fish wouldn't move for shit early in the morning probably because they froze to the bottom. We banged every hole for the first mile and managed two fish - Steelhead Alley can really spoil a person.

The big event for the lousy morning was a bald eagle that flew down the river. Over the years, I've seen bald eagles on several rivers along Steelhead Alley. We watched the eagle soar high above and it was a beautiful sight indeed. We continued to float downstream to another hot spot that holds a ton of fish during the winter. The problem was side ice prevented us from fishing the pool effectively. I proceeded in busting out sections of ice to fish the tailout as I knew that's were they were holding. The slush was a huge pain in the ass as my float or sac got hung up - I really hate slush. It wasn't until 12:00P.M when all of the crap burned off. Unfortunately we only managed 5 fish from a spot that usually yields fish by the boatload. As expected we were running out of time as Don had to be home by 3:30P.M and we had only time to hit another hole. We stopped at another pool that was much smaller but held fish all winter as farther up there was gravel. I caught a nice buck in full winter colors and 10 minutes later Don ended up catching the same fish. That the story of the day - a few fish here and there.

Even though the fishing did suck ass, it was a hell a lot better than sitting in the back starring at the clock and working on my 7th cup of coffee. I've spent so much time in the back I'm considering naming the room after me......

Winter Is Becoming a Drag........Well Maybe Not

This winter has been a miserable one, the coldest and snowiest ever since I moved here 11 years ago. Over the years, I've lost some of my Canadian hardiness in regards to cold weather. Maybe I should go back home to Sudbury and sit out on Lake Wanapitei for a weekend of ice fishing to get my Canadian cred back. There have been times when I started bitching about temps being in the 20s this winter. But this is life in Northeastern Ohio as weather can be unpredictable. One day it will be 60F and two days later there's 2' of snow. I remember one April, I was fishing in a t-shirt as it was 70F and four days later I was completely covered in snow. Earlier in the week we received some rain and it raised the streams and muddy the waters. I was pissed that the Grand went up as I was hoping to do a float down it.

With the weather being a drag, so has work. I'm tired of sitting in the back getting drunk on coffee and having the office throw me a bone or two. The number of jobs this year has been few and far between. This past Friday, I spent the entire day in the garage shooting the shit with Bob the warehouse manager. We were detailing a work truck that involved wiping the dash and taking 30 minute coffee breaks, then washing the bed and taking another extended coffee break. We made it an all day event and I took all of KC's change in the cup holder for services rendered. The weather on Friday was not the best as the wind was terrible and the temperature barely got above 32F. If it was warmer, I would of came down with the 24 steelhead flu and blow the day off.

The day finally ended and I spent the evening going through the annoying task of tying sacs. I talked to several people on what would be the game plan and it was another trip out east. As expected I checked 3 different weather reports and got 3 different results. It would be the roll of the dice as I headed out early and was the designated guinea pig. I arrived to see the river slushy as expected and I made the best of it for the time being. I received the calls and told them "take your time". The morning was sunny and this late in the winter the sun is strong enough to burn off the slush in matter of hours...........wrong. The skies clouded over and the crew arrived to challenging conditions. Before the crew showed up I managed to land 5 fish, but the fishing was tough and I was concerned that the slush wouldn't burn off until afternoon. Sure enough the slush disappeared around noon and we started to hook into a lot of fish.

As I've mentioned before about Murphy's Law #6 ( catch a hog and you forgot your camera ) and that applied this afternoon as I hooked into a monster hen. As soon as the fish boiled at the surface, Don said it was a huge fish. Sure enough I caught a glimpse of it and it was the fattest looking pig I've ever seen. I managed to get it to the bank and she had a gut that would make King Kong Bundy proud. She wasn't long but she had a ton of eggs. One of Don's friends had a scale and she weighed in at 12lbs. Luckily, Don brought his camera and took a couple of money shots. Too bad Bubba left earlier because he could of cashed in his hen for this one as he was literally scrapping the bottom of his egg jar today.

Taking the day off tomorrow as another clipper is moving through and the temps won't make it out of the 20s. Many of the rivers are still off color, but the flow is great and there are many fresh fish to be had.

Valentine's Is For Suckers

No Valentine's love letters, boxes of chocolates, thong underwear or a naked girl in bed for me. I was on the road before the crack of dawn pumped for some real fishing. After the annual late winter thaw all of the rivers blew out and flushed the ice out. Most of Steelhead Alley's streams were high and muddy. Considering I've been fishing plan B for several weeks, I was chomping at the bit for some river action. I knew of one stream that would be fishable in my book. It had been some time since I woke up really early in the morning and I struggled to get out of bed. A steaming cup of coffee and listening to Rush's Permanent Waves got me going.

With it being Valentine's Day and high water, I knew I wouldn't have much trouble finding spots to fish. Most of the hubbies would be spending the day buttering up the old lady for a day pass tomorrow. I arrived later then usual as the roads were a little slick this morning and it didn't matter as I was the first person pull in. A short walk to the river and I noticed the level was slightly high and off color, but definitely fishable. Whenever water is that high and muddy, I run tandems and the sacs are super-sized to compensate for the lack of visibility and gives me more scent.

It didn't take long to hit the first fish of the morning - a motley looking male. With it being this late in winter, most of the fish were very dark, battered looking and some probably got grinded by the chunks of ice flowing downstream. At the tailout, I noticed a couple of fresh redds and it's a matter of time before these fish are on the gravel. The action was decent, considering the conditions I was fishing in, no light takes and many were hard takedowns. I caught several large hens ready to burst and one started to drop eggs when I lifted her back into the water.

The highlight of the morning was when I thought I snagged bottom. I pulled and nothing moved, I continued to pull and I was right to give the mighty tug when the line started to move. The fish started to move upstream and I knew I has something big on the other end. For 15 minutes I tried to pull it off the bottom and it continued to swim out into the current. At first I thought I foul hooked it and I finally got it to the surface and it was a large nasty looking male, I'm talking Frankenfish. He was heavily kyped with a massive head and had a thick upper body. He was definitely over 10lbs and was probably going to be the top dog on the redds. After fishing out that spot, I moved downstream and hit several more spots. The fishing was more tough as the water was higher than what I'm use to. I couldn't locate the shale ledges and the wind made drifting hard. I only managed another fish and I couldn't complain as I hit double digits and had most the river to myself.

My exercising has paid off as I actually made it back without huffing and puffing. Not once did my shoulder and back bother me. On the way home, I drove over both the Grand and Chagrin Rivers. The Grand is still over its banks and will more than likely take a week before things settle down. The Chagrin was dropping, but the water is very muddy. I think by early next week everything should fish and we don't have to worry about -5F days anymore. Before you know it, we'll all be getting in as much fishing as possible before the fish are gone.

Speaking of suckers, pretty soon the run of suckers will start in a couple of weeks. Every steelheader knows that suckers can clog up some of the best steelhead pools and it can be a non-stop snagfest.

Ice Removal

Amazing what one day of warm weather can do. Yesterday over a 100 fishermen got stranded out on Lake Erie when a 8 mile floe broke loose and started to drift. The event made national news and many of the anglers were heavily criticized for their actions as most knew strong south winds were going to push the ice out. I remember the same happening on Lake Simcoe many years ago when the armed forces had go out and air lift people out.

Today many of the local streams have blown out and the lower sections are clogged with major ice jams. I took this short video of the ice jam on the Rocky River. The lower section is loaded with ice and the mouth is still clogged. The end result is the ice has started to pile up. In the video, the ice is at level with the bank and the river is about 20' down. When I arrived the ice wasn't moving and then I heard trees on the opposite bank starting to crack. Then it was a battle of attrition with the river and the ice at the mouth. The ice started to protest and groan. The momentum started to shift and the ice gradually started move. Then the ice pack started to grind and bulldoze its way down. Trees snapped like twigs and banks got gouged out. Whenever the ice eventually busted free, I'm the riffles along the cliffs were gone as the ice scoured the bottom flat and clean. 

It might take a while before the rivers are fishable as there is plenty of snow in the woods to keep the run-off going for the rest of the week. The ice has also scoured the banks and dumped a lot of sediment into the river. On the bright side, we won't be seeing bitterly cold weather in the near future.