This was the first voyage of the S.S Bubba and the captain was excited to break in his boat. This was the perfect weekend to do a float as it was another Saturday of elbows and assholes. I dropped my Jeep off 4 miles downstream from our starting point and as we rolled in we could see 15 vehicles in the lot across the river and it was wasn't even daylight. We went down the check list - rods, bait, food, beer and we shoved off. As Bubba sat in his boat, it groaned and protested. It was smaller than the boat I had and I feared as we floated down river Bubba was going to slowly sink especially after lunch. Aside from that, I really pumped for a great day of fishing.
Floating during the spring is very effective crowd control and that was evident as we had to weave around several anglers fishing the first set of riffles. Over the past couple of weeks me and others have commented that this was the most people we've seen fishing in recent memory. As we made our way downstream, I could see and hear the herds of anglers racing to get down river. As we approached the bend, this was the first test for the S.S Bubba as there was a set of rapids. Luckily the river was low, but the rapids ran very close to the bank and there were a couple of large sycamores in the water, not to mention about 10 guys fishing the length of the rapids. I scooted through quickly and turned back to see Bubba bounce off the first tree. I didn't hear any loud popping noise or a Mayday distress.
Prior to launching, I had a game plan and we were going to blow through the first 2 miles of water as its been pounded beyond belief. Most if not all of the fish had finished spawning and I knew of several large pools below gravel beds that held droppies. We made it to the first pool which is massive by Steelhead Alley standards - nearly a 100yd. In the winter it's chock full of fish and during the spring spawned out fish drop back for a smoke. It turned out to a be a bust as I managed to hook into 2 fish and Bubba was wearing a skunk. As we fished I watched 2 guys walk downstream and started to fish a spot that I wanted. I mentioned to Bubba that we could fish between them and if we didn't get any action and next spot was the pool along the cliffs.
Then we started down towards the "club". This a section on the Grand were the assholes come out in full force during the spring. The club is the Slovenian club and they have property on the river and this section is loaded with gravel. I know a guide who has permission and I've heard the landowner himself tell us that he doesn't mind people fishing it. The road to the river is private and that is posted. It's a two mile walk from the dam so a lot of anglers rarely walk down. But that doesn't stop some of the club members that try to act like the club enforcer. I've had a couple of them try to kick me out and I simply tell them the owner's name and the discussion is over. But there are the dickheads that don't seem to get it.
Today it was some guy casting spoons off the bank and he wasn't wearing waders. Just before we could get the rods off the boats, he walked over and told us that the section was posted. I said I had permission and continued to untie my rod. He then said he was the landowner and I looked and said
"Spare me your bullshit and take a hike"
He just stood there with this stunned look on his face as we walked to fish a hole. Obviously his plan backfired because he didn't confront us.
We worked the hole and I watched 4 guys drift by - fuck. I watched them drift downstream and they pasted over a pool that I wanted to fish. But I knew where they were heading and I wasn't thrilled at the thought of it. The hole didn't produce that much action and we were ready to launch when a father and son drifted by - fuck. The next pool started to produce some decent number of fish and we were contend on camping out there until we cleaned it out.
The place I want to fish was still another mile away and I feared that it would resemble the Rocky River's Rockcliffe ford on a Saturday afternoon. But I didn't want to race down river only to have our trip cut short because after that spot we were about 1/2 mile from the hauling out. I could see the father and son fishing a set of riffles that holds a lot of spawning fish due to the large amount of gravel. We went around them and parked downstream. This was the spot that I wanted to break in my new fly rod as the river is fast and shallow. This was a rod that replaced my 11'3" Redington as I broke it fighting a monster carp last August and only two weeks ago did I finally send it out. To my dismay, Redington had discontinued the model as it was perfect for Lake Erie steelheading and I had to settle for the standard 10' rod. As expected we saw a lot of empty redds and only a couple of males that showed late for the party. We worked the entire the area and Bubba briefly had one on. We had lunch and watched the 3 guys in the canoe, their buddy in the kayak, one hillbilly in a canoe and his buddy in a kayak, father and son and their two buddies go by - fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck. Maybe I'll look into having a couple of torpedoes mounted on the sides on the boat, strategically dropping mines in the water or pulling out a favorite from Donnie Beaver's playbook - piano wire across the river.
We shoved off and I could see in the distance that the spot we wanted to fish was occupied by all except for the 3 guys in the canoe and other in the kayak. All of them were fishing the faster water and I noticed nobody was fishing the pool below. This spot has a ton of gravel and in the spring it has an obscene number of fish. There are so many redds it resembled a mine field. This pool had dropback written all over it and we got the pins raring to go. Bubba was fishing further down and it was difficult section to fish due to all of the slack water in front of us. I moved up to the head and stood on a gravel bar. On the first drift, the float got slammed and the fish turned and burned - a typical droppie. I corralled the fish and it was a spawned out hen. I motioned Bubba to move up to where I was. Then it was like somebody rang the dinner bell as we started to hook up left, right and center. When I released a fish, he was hooking into one and it was like for over an hour - non stop. We joked that we wouldn't have the energy to paddle back. It was one spawned hen after another and by the time it was said and done we landed over 20 fish. All of them were hens except for one male. That's how many hens were spawning in those riffles last week and any fly fishermen stumbling on that probably blew his load.
We ended up having one of the best days of the season. The S.S Bubba survived its maiden voyage, Bubba was sold on floating and wanted to do another. We decided to end the day on a good note and lazily paddled back having a ice cold brew. Staring tomorrow it's five days until vacation..........
The theme of the title was Bubba's hulking mass slowly disappearing into the morning mist and my periodic ADD episodes as I missed setting the hook or getting distracted. This is the time of the year when winter steelheading is coming to an end and spring is arriving. The past couple of days have been blistering hot compared to the frigid temperatures last week and today was no exception as the temps were in the high 60s. When that happens it means one thing - the attack of fairweather fishermen.
Fairweather fishermen are easy to spot, like a hooker on downtown street. They can be a easy target for the hardcore steelheader, but I find them usually harmless. Most if not all are not capable of walking past 100yds from the parking lot and usually fish water that never hold fish. But, we knew the hardcores would be out in full force and we had to be a step ahead.
Being the eternal optimist, I thought we would have a banner day. The rivers were in prime condition and the temperatures were in the 60s. It turned out to be a trifecta of misery as we struggled finding fish at the three rivers we fished. We fished fast water, slow water, shallow, deep, lumber, pocket water, tailouts and heads. We knew the fish were there, but they seemed unwilling to cooperate. When we decided to hit another river and you know when the fishing was bad when the easy access spots are vacant at 9:30A.M on a Saturday.
We drove farther east and were hoping that the threat of rain was just a threat, as Sunday was going to be a washout. We arrived to see that the ice was gone, but there was a ton of it littering the banks. Due to the warmer weather and cold water, there was fog on the river. The water was primed and knew where to find fish. But, it turned out to be one fish here and there. We plugged away and decided to go to head west. We arrived to prime conditions - dark green water and partly cloudy. Once again, the fishing was tough and Bubba shook off the skunk with a spawned out hen.
The tough day was the result of a coming cold front and that many of the fish had spawned in the previous days and seeked out the deeper holes to rest. With the rain tomorrow, I'm sure a lot of the PA steelhead in Ohio's tribs will high tailing it back to the lake and the Manistees will start pushing upstream. Either way there is excellent fishing to be had for the next couple of months and watch out for the suckers!