Who Are You - Part 3

Here are some the idiots, scumbags and losers that we all run into every time out

The Low Holer- They seek out pools and holes. They silently sneak up and before you know it, you hear a float hit the water. They often try to act clueless thinking that you only need 20' of water to work with. The best way to get back at a low holer, is low hole him. You should see the look on their faces. 

The Bum - Found around some the most popular spots often looking for handouts such as hens for eggs, sacs, hooks, smokes or a fish to feed their family of eight. Prefer easy access points so they can quickly toss a fish into the trunk of their beater. They'll often use one of their kids to get fish because nobody can be an asshole to a five year old.

The Know-It-All - Loves to point how much they know about steelheading, but most of the time they catch one or two fish or nothing at all. Beside fishing, they also think they're experts at politics, sports and world events. They'll criticize others and point out the mistakes they're making. On fishing forums, they're the self appointed experts.

The Pool Hog - Loves to pull off drifts that can cover an entire zip code. Most the time they can't see the float and only when an angler screaming at them will get their attention. Some will work in teams to cover more water. They expect others to wait for them to finish their drifts. There have been times instead of cutting their line, I would rather cut their balls off.

The Motor Mouth - If the planet had a energy crisis, their mouth would save the world. You name it, they'll yack about it for hours. Some people believe they do it, so they can get rid of people from certain spots. Topics to force people away include - Dennis Kucinich, any of Cleveland's sports teams, their nagging wife, or their latest bout with hemorrhoids.

The Slob - Easy to spot on the rivers as they leave a trail of garbage - twinkie wrappers, cans of beer, the entrails of a fish, and 50 yds of line. So lazy they'll take a dump on somebody's lawn (no lie, it happened) or piss on somebody's car. So fat and out of shape they can't wander more than 50' from the parking lot.

The Tough Guy - Usually have poor social skills and are socially inept. Most of the time, they are little mouthy runts. They freak out if anybody comes 50' near them and threaten bodily harm. But when push comes to shove, they quickly back pedal and try to make amends. After fishing they go home and cry on the fishing forums about some asshole that tried to take his spot.

The Vulture - Like the scavenger they scan the rivers for action and if they see somebody hammering fish, they swoop in for scraps. Most time, they'll linger waiting for the opportunity to quickly get into the hot spot. But when they see the person coming back for their spot, they quickly take flight or wait until the last second before being chased away. 

The Cheapskate - So cheap, they walk into a run full of fish to retrieve a fly or hook, even though they have 4 dozen on them. The same goes for retrieving floats and shiners, as they'll chase it downstream and even risk drowning, because they dropped $2.50 for a float or spend $2.00 for a couple dozen shiners. They prefer to drive with others to save money on gas and deliberately forget to bring their wallets. If they buy lunch, you'll be lucky to get a Slim Jim or something from the McDonald's dollar menu.

The Grouch - A miserable, crotchy anti-social asshole that can't stand people. Their usually easy to spot as they often scowl and mutter curse words when you greet them. They hope that their awful demeanor will discourage you from fishing next them, but in most cases it backfires. They hate giving out information and usually ignore your requests. They often wished that they could pack heat.

Tale of Two Streams

Finally! We have fishable water and many here in Steelhead Alley were hoping for a large push of fish. Hit the road early for a day out east and hoped today was better than last week. I was stoked at the thought of hooking into some feisty chromers. I arrived at first light and made my way upstream.

The river had a perfect flow and color. But I was once again left scratching my head - no takers. With the water being colder, I fished the tailouts and runs with moderate flow. After a couple of hours, I had two fish. I considered myself lucky as many others were posting a shutout. I started fishing the faster pocket water and still no takers. I moved downstream and I hooked into two more fish and that was it. The two other anglers above only caught one each earlier in the morning and that was it for them. It was almost 11:00 when I walked back and several popular holes were vacant - not a good sign and the parking lot was half empty. I guess a lot of people bailed and headed to another river. With a steelheader club tourney going on, the number of people fishing on that particular would be high. I finally realized that it wasn't going to pan out here and it was on to plan B.

Arrived around noon to see only 3 cars in the lot and that usually not a great sign as most of the morning crowd called it a day because the fishing stinked. Undeterred, I figured why not? The flow and color was great and I fished a long pool below a large gravel bed. Several guys were fishing the head of the pool and slid into the midsection and on the first drift I hooked into a fresh male. It turned out to be great afternoon as I caught enough fish that I didn't even care about the multiple leaks in my waders. Even the fishing was great today, however the season so far has been a major disappointment.

A message to newbies, just because one river doesn't produce doesn't mean the others are the same. So the next time instead of going home Sunday and inflicting punishment on yourself by watching Browns drive to the next river.

Low To No Flow

Flows are often hard to come by here on the Alley. With little to no groundwater sources, some of the rivers here can go from muddy to gin clear within a matter of days after rain or snowmelt. The window for prime conditions can close quickly for the inattentive steelheader. In Ohio the window can stay open a tad longer because our rivers are larger in both size and drainage area. However, most of time, we have to contend with low and clear conditions. It can be a headache for the steelheader that is lucky to get out a few times in the season. I know many who will wait on the sidelines until the conditions are perfect. This year, many of them have resorted to sitting on the bench. 

I'm in the same situation this week as I'm stuck fishing in early November. A trip to Europe was cancelled for a variety of reasons. I tried to switched my week at work for the end of the month when conditions are more favorable. Being the low man on the totem pole, my chances for switching were dim. The policy at work is that three techs can't be off the same week. I knew one of the guys wasn't going to change because of deer season. That left me with Dave and I worked him like a politician trying to secure a last minute vote on a bill. Unfortunately, he couldn't because of family coming to town for the holidays. I was screwed. I had no choice but to accept what I was given. I was bummed. 

The Alley has been parched for most of the fall. I couldn't remember the last time to rained. I looked at the flow gauges and my heart sunk. A few registered flows in the single digits. The weather report for the entire week read - partly cloudy and temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. I wasn't going to sit at home and pout. I knew one river that would give me a fighting chance. 

During the fall, the fishing on the Alley tends to be better farther east. The closer to Pennsylvania, the better. From my place it's about a 90 mile drive. Monday morning I started out at Conneaut Creek and I'm greeted to a river loaded with leaves. The water was tea colored and holes black as deep space. It reminded me of the rivers of Lake Superior that I fished during my youth. That stain was enough to cloak fish in the shallow pools and holes. The river flowed lazily and meandered along the banks and lumber. There was a slight nip in the air as I hit the first spot. About half of the trees had shed themselves of leaves. In some spots, the leaves were neatly bunched up in piles in the water. The night before I tied up dime sized sacs. They contained no more than four salmon eggs. I always used the motto - when it's low, think small. If they sacs didn't work, I had beads, streamers and small nymph patterns.
I cast out and watch the float chug along. I'm using a small thin profile float. The bright red tip stands out against the white bubbles on the surface. I continue to watch move along the seam and I move it slightly as it nears the downed tree in the water. The float taps and goes under. 

"Oh no, not chubs"

I set the hook anyway and I felt a jolt. It's no chub. A loud tail slap and the water boils. The fish fights it out in the hole. I swing it over and it's a large chunky male. The river I'm fishing is stocked both by Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohio stocks the Little Manistee strain and Pennsylvania's is hodgepodge of different strains. The fish is dark in coloration, that's a dead giveaway it's a Pennsylvania steelhead. I release it and watch it dart back to its lair. Since there is nobody on the river this morning, I leisurely fish the pools and holes. There are fish, but not in big numbers. It's one or two from each spot. By the end of the day, I've caught 15 steelhead. It wasn't easy and my deep knowledge of the river certainly helped me. Tomorrow I would be fishing closer to home. 
Even the mighty Grand was reduced to a feeble flow. The Grand is the crown jewel of Ohio's steelhead streams. It has a special place in heart because the upper stretches have some the prettiest scenery. The high shale cliffs, large stands of hemlock and sycamores and miles of remote waters. Today, I'm trading in the tranquility for a former brownfield. I meet up with a couple of friends and fished the "Uniroyal" hole. The hole is located next to the former Uniroyal plant. The plant is long gone, unfortunately the surrounding property was classified as a brownfield. The soil was heavily contaminated and in 2007 the property was finally cleaned up. It was a prime piece of property right near the lake. Both Lake County Metroparks and IMG the massive sports and media conglomerate wanted it. The village decided that IMG had more to offer as they wanted to build condos (property taxes), resort (sales taxes) and hire staff to run it (income taxes). A lot of people were concerned that IMG would post the entire section. On the other side of the river, is the Paineville landfill site. Flash forward four years and the project is behind. There is construction on the lake, but the old brownfield is still undeveloped. So far nobody has said anything in regards to posting it and I hope IMG will allow anglers to fish it.

The long sweeping pool struggles to flow. During prime conditions the water comes up to my waist when I cross over. Today the water is at my knees and I cross with relative ease. We work the head of the pool and the floats immediately start to drag. We make the adjustments and I'm running 2' from the float to the sac. From the start, it's evident that the pool is far too shallow. Even at 2' the float hangs up bottom. We bail and head to the hole. Tagging along is Herb, who brought along his video camera. We arrive the hole and it's the only deep for about a mile in both directions. We're pretty sure that some fish trickled in over the weeks. By the number of footprints in the muck, the hole has been pounded hard - really hard. Undeterred we all cast out towards the opposite bank. There's enough flow that the floats can cover a lot of water. Even though the river is low, the floats are set at 7' deep. 

The skies are partly cloudy and it's a warm fall day. Herb sit on the shore and waits for the action. At first nothing is happening. We make adjustments, hoping for the right depth and presentation. Ron casts out and I follow suit farther up. I hear Ron call out

"Fish on!"

Herb jumps into action and starts recording. I can hear the commentary and then I watch my float go under. I set the hook and bellow

"Fish on! Double header"

Ron has his fish under control and I got my hands full. We get our fish towards the shore and they are the both size. Both are the typical Lake Erie steelhead. about 24" and four pounds. The hole once in a while coughs up a fish, but it's very slow and tedious. I've come to accept that my vacation week, will involve driving long distances and walking many miles to catch fish. Vacations are planned months in advance and I have no idea what the weather will be like. Suck it up and make due with what you have. 

Wee Hours and The Melt

Misery and fall steelheading often go hand in hand here on the Alley. Dealing with warm weather, low water, crowds and not enough fish to go around. After work I often stop at the lower Rocky and watch the bucket fishermen sit on their buckets and stare for hours at their floats sitting in stagnant water. I see others fishing the faster water eagerly waiting for the first fish of the season. But, I'm not there to fish. Instead I getting ready for a run. Over the past year, I dedicated myself to staying in shape. Just a couple days ago, I turned 42 years old. I made through my midlife crisis and a difficult divorce. I went from 225lbs down to 190lbs. Everytime out I run a little further. It was 2 miles, than 3, and now I'm up to 6 miles. In my 20s, the fastest I ran was from the car to the beer store when it minutes from closing. That was the dirty decade for me. I smoked, drank and fruits and vegetables were things that my body rejected. 

It's the first week of October as I wake. I squint through the blinds and and it's still dark. The temperature over the past week has dropped into the 50s. As I walk outside, I'm greeted by a nip in the air. The high for today will be in the low 50s so I wear a fleece jacket. The interstate is a lonely place and for one of the rare times, I don't have the stereo playing. I just listen to the hum of the tires. I exit the interstate and head into town. I drive down what is left of the main street. It's your typical small rust belt town - a lot of closed stores. Once upon a time, it would of been a bustling place. Today, it nothing more than a shell of its former shelf. I pull off the road and began to dress. I start to see the first glimpse of first light. I walk along the trail towards to the lower part of the river. It's hard to tell what the river looks like. I get to the spot and I can hear the faint sounds of moving water. I wait for more light and I start to feel antsy. The feeling becomes worse when I see a couple of head lamps walking down river. I know actually where they want to fish and I fear I'll get low holed. I shuffled down to make sure I had the prime spot. I start to fish in the hopes that I hook into something quick. I work the lumber along the bank and the lights get closer and I can hear the splashing as they walk. I've had several bad experiences with anglers during the early season. They get close enough that I can hear one them call out "any luck?" I squint to see how they are and reply "Nothing yet". They turned out to be a couple of decent anglers who asked if they fish near me and they do it above me. I feel a sense of relief and there are some people left would respect another angler's space. We began to chat and I found out later that they knew a couple of my friends.

The sun has broken the horizon and I can see the water is off color. Being so close to the lake, we watch the water level go up and down. I watch the float gradually come to a halt when it hits the slack water. Eventually the water starts to recede and the current starts to move faster. In a jar are my precious eggs. These are eggs from last season and I'm down to three packs at home. I'm waiting for my supply of fresh salmon eggs from Michigan. I use a hot pink sac and cast out towards the lumber. I pull back the float and ride the bubble line. About 15 yards down, I watch it tap and go under. I set the hook and feel the hard run of a fresh fish. The fish erupts from the water and cartwheels through the air. The charges downstream and I quickly apply the pressure. The fight is intense but brief. The fish near the gravel bank and the two others nod with agreement - a fine fish. It's a large hen, that is completely silver with the steel blue back. She more than likely came in a few days as the river cooled enough. She and the others wait in the lower stretches for the next rainfall to make the migration far upstream. I release her and feel her bolt for the deeper water. The other anglers and me hook into several more fish. After several hours it became evident that the fish were not in the mood. I left and thanked the anglers for an enjoyable morning and wished them luck. I scouted upstream and in many spots I didn't see any fish and several anglers walked back to their cars disgusted. The river was far too low and any fish to be this far upstream. On the way back home, I stop by a couple of other rivers and it was the same - low, low and lower. The weather forecast for the upcoming week shows no signs of rain. Tomorrow, I spending a rare Sunday at home and looking forward to going to a restaurant in Lakewood with my girlfriend.

My other favorite thing beside steelheading is I'm a foodie. I hate eating at chains and I prefer to seek out the small and quaint diners and restaurants scattered through out Northeastern Ohio. One place I've wanted to dine at is the Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood. It's considered one of Cleveland's most hip joints to eat at. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network's - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Man vs Food. The place has received rave reviews for the creative grill cheese sandwiches. People often wait more than 2 hours to get a table at the place. I've been trying for months to go, but the long wait has discouraged me.

We debated whether to go because I thought it would be packed as the Browns were playing. It turned out that the place was busy but not packed. I guess Browns fans can't go 30 minutes without eating or they would rather consume cheap beer at Harry Buffalos. The hostess told me the chairs at the bar are fair game, so I decided to wait. After 25 minutes, I watched an older couple getting ready to leave. I strategically got myself in position to grab the two chairs. As soon as they got their fat asses off, both me and my girlfriend swept in. We were handed the menus and they were glued to the back of a old Kinks album and it was full of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and I couldn't decide on what to get.

After debating I picked the Hot Italian. It was loaded with chicken, grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic and provolone. The sandwich was gut busting at best as it came with fries and slaw. It turned out to be one of the best grilled sandwiches I've had. It was 4 loud belches in my book and I would definitely recommend to everybody.

Goose Egg

Early fall can get to the hardcore steelheader. After a long summer laid off, the shorter days and cooler nights get them stirring. The leaves start turning color and there is slight nip in the morning. But being at southernmost range of these magnificent fish, we are often forced to wait until late October and November before we start seeing any major number of fish. This year, summer still persist much to the chagrin of many. Somewhere out in the depths of Lake Erie, some steelhead patiently wait for the cool rains that will beckon them to come in. But for the time being, we must also wait patiently. The heat still persists and there is no rain in sight. 

 The Alley is still parched from a hot and dry summer. The streams are low and filthy looking. The brownish hue is a far cry from the brilliant emerald green colors of winter. The streams are stagnant not the place for trout. The streams out in Pennsylvania are so low, that fish wouldn't be able to make it in. Reports of fish are few and far between. I start to look at other options and one of them is fishing off the breakwall. 

There are numerous breakwalls near the mouths of several rivers. The Grand, Conneaut, and Ashtabula are ones that have public access. It was cool and grey day. Just a month ago the beach was packed with people swimming and tanning. Today, the beach is largely quiet except for a few walking along the beach looking for beach glass. The surrounding woods are full of birds, resting from their journey across the lake. The small park is an important resting and feeding place for migrants. The wind has kept the midges down. During the fall, the number of midges hatching from the lake can be staggering. Entire trees and rocks are covered in them. As I walk along, clouds of them swirl about. I swat them away and hold my breath as I don't want to inhale them. I can see many birds jumping from branch to branch, feeding as they expended a lot of energy crossing Lake Erie. Some of these migrants probably came from the boreal forests of Ontario and are slowly making their way to either Central or South America. 

The wind was blowing out of the northwest and from the top of the breakwall, I can see the water is very murky on the lake. The inner bay leading to the mouth of the Grand River is slightly off color, but fishable. Fishing the harbor in early fall can be a gamble as fish are few and far between. I stand on a large rock and rummage through the tackle box. The box mostly contains spoons that are either Cleos or K.O wobblers. I use a scuffed up silver and green cleo and start the long grueling process of casting out. There will be the chance that a fish is in the vicinity of your lure. The dingy water makes it that more tougher. I chucked and chucked until I couldn't chuck anymore. I didn't such much get a sniff of steelhead and that was expected. Walking back, I could see dark clouds over the lake. Many of the cottonwoods in the park were starting to shed their leaves. It will be a matter of time. 

Low Water

I hate low water. I hate it when I can see straight to the bottom and see no fish. If there is fish, most likely they have their eyes trained on me. There can be a pod of 10 fish and some of them are pigs. They hang off the bottom, lazily riding the current. Some of them even engage in a game of tag. But once you appear, they're on edge. They start to move about getting closer to any cover available. Your tempted to toss a single egg or a small fly at them. You think you can outsmart them. You give it the old college try and you FAIL. The fish ignore your offering. Some will taunt you by making a half hearted swipe and at the last second swim away. This is low water fishing at its finest. 

The streams along the Alley are notorious for low water. Most of the streams here have little to no sources of groundwater. The Alley's streams rely on rain and snow melt for their sources of water. Streams in Pennsylvania can go from a raging torrent to low and clear in matter of days. Some of the smallest streams have short drainages and drop like if somebody flushed the toilet. I've fished the Elk many times just a couple of days after a rainfall. The creek is off color and I'll shove a stick into the water. Within an hour the water has dropped an inch. By the end of the day it can drop several inches. The window for prime conditions depends on where you fish. It can last a couple of days on the Elk or Walnut or over a week on the Grand or Catt. But overall, we mostly have to contend fishing low and clear, especially in the fall. 

I read an article in the Cleveland paper about this summer being one of the hottest on record. With the heat also came very little rain and if it did rain, it came down in micro monsoons. The Alley is parched and begging for rain. September comes and I'm getting anxious for the upcoming season. We receive rain, only to see the parched earth suck up like a sponge. The rivers barely go up and become a mud slow flow that you see in the deep South. Within days, the rivers go back to low and clear. Any fish that make it into the low stretches often retreat back to the lake. 

Several of mine friends are more than happy to see the low rivers, because it gives them more time on the big pond to load the freezer more with perch and walleye. For the lowly landlubber like me, steel is the only fish I really chase after. Instead of pouting or sitting on the couch, I'l make the drive out. I would rather get skunked than do house-chores. I decide to take a road trip out east to see what's shaking. I bring along the spinning rod in case I want to chuck spoons off the breakwall or at the mouths of one of the creeks. It's just too nice to be holed up in the house. 

I arrive at one river and it's extremely low. From the bridge, I see can make out the shale bottom. I can see the ledges and small cuts in the bottom. During prime conditions, fish often hug or hide themselves in these places. From my vantage point, I see no fish. Rocks are exposed and I can see the high water mark, the river is 3 feet lower. The wind whips across the stream, it looks so lifeless. 

This makes it a perfect opportunity to scout out some holes. It's warm enough that I don't even bother to put on waders. I have an old pair of sneakers and shorts. I walk along the stream and come to one popular hole. Where I'm standing during the winter months, I would be in knee deep water. Instead the rocks are dry and the stream is about 5 feet away from me. I look into the riffle for any signs of fish, there is none. I walk above the bank and look into the water, no signs of life. It's another favorite spot of mine, a large sweeping pool. The bottom is littered with rocks. The current hugs along the bank and there are several trees that have fallen into the water. I scan around the trees and see no activity. There are fish but I suspect they are way downstream in the slower deep water. I spend most of the morning stopping at several spots making mental notes and taking pictures with my camera.  I've noticed several spots have changed in depth due to high water and the movement of gravel. 

No fish for me today. The lake is too rough to fish. I stop at a farmer's market on the way back to the highway. I buy several bags of corn, peppers, zucchini, squash, and apples. It's warm enough that I drive home with the window down. Doesn't feel like mid September as the trees are still green and there isn't any hint that fall is around the corner. I drive over another river and I glance over. I can see plenty rocks out the water. The rain will come, it's only a matter of time.

The Season Is Almost Upon Us

All of the things on my "honey to do" list have not been complete. After a long day of work, I have no energy. I flop myself on the couch and watch the ballgame. Excuse after excuse comes out of my mouth. 

"I have all summer, stop ragging on me"

Then days start getting shorter and the nights cooler. I start to stir and fidget in my home. I could do those things on the list. But I need to make sure I have everything for the upcoming season. I write a list - hooks, sinkers, floats, new boots, and waders. There might even be a chance of going to Michigan for salmon. I walk by all of the junk that should of been organized weeks ago. My how time flies. 

I wander into the basement and look for my equipment. The equipment is in the corner, covered in dust and cobwebs. I dusted off the rods, reels, waders and jackets. Everything is in order and I wander to the kitchen. I look into the fridge searching for my eggs. I open the bag and they are in good condition. But the freezer is packed, I must make room for my eggs. What can I toss or eat? I still feel restless and anxious. I look on the computer and check the weather reports for rain and stream conditions. I call friends that I haven't seen in months - we are all restless. I start to go to bed early, the weather channel is always on, buddies call during supper.

The season is almost upon us.

New Ohio Record

Jason Brooks of Tallmadge, Ohio caught the fish of a lifetime on June 25 when he hooked into a monster steelhead. They were 17 miles offshore and when they landed it. They knew it could be a potential state record and quickly raced back to the marina. The closest tackle shop was Erie Outfitters and the shop had a certified scale. The fish was placed on it and registered at 21.3lbs besting the old record of 20.97lbs caught off the Conneaut harbor back in 1996. An hour later, Fisheries Supervisor Phil Hillman of the Division of Wildlife checked the fish and declared it a steelhead, not a salmon. The fish measured 38" and some wonder if this hog ever made upstream this past season.

Looks like the dude got his unicorn........

Take Off To The Great White North

The Memorial weekend was fast approaching and that meant a well deserved trip back to the Great White North. Sadly, the fishing gear was going to be left at home. It has been almost 3 years since I've seen my mum, brother, grandmother and other relatives. Trying to cram that all into the long weekend, would of made it impossible to wet a line. But, it would been nice to pin for some walleye at Stobie Dam or going to Pumphouse Creek for some brook trout. Only if I had more time.

Before heading up to Sudbury, I spent Thursday night and Friday in Toronto. It was a continuation of the last trip as I ran out of time. The night before I went out with some old friends from college. Today, the weather was beautiful and a couple friends took the Friday off and we bar hopped soaking up the sun and drinking on the patio at different pubs in the heart of downtown. It was great day of reminiscing about the good ole days. It brought back a lot of memories as I was a former resident of the city some twenty odd years ago. It was a fun place for a single man in his twenties. 

One my favorite things is exploring restaurants, bistros and diners whenever I'm another city or town. I called two friends from high school who happened to live right off the waterfront for dinner. For the evening, we decided to go to a fancy steakhouse for a nice dinner. The place was called Harbour Sixty located near the Air Canada Center. The building was once the Harbour Commission and was built back in the early 20th century. Walking in it was beautifully decorated, the type of place to impress a lady and get her in the sack later on. We were seated at our table and before I opened the menu, I listened to our Euro-trash waiter babble about the specials. Forget the specials! Bring me a cold one and juicy steak stacked with mushrooms and smothered in onions!! Once I opened the menu, my jaw almost hit the floor. A 20 ounce porterhouse for a $100.00 - holy shit! Kobe beef at market price - $200.00! and $9.00 for a Molson Canadian! What the fuck I was getting myself into and thank god I wasn't picking up the tab. The real kicker was the wine list and it was as a thick as the Toronto phone book. One of the items on the list was a bottle of wine from France listed for over $1700.00, for that amount I expected it came with a nice women and room for the evening. 

I asked if they knew this place was that expensive. They said it was best steak house in the city. Fuck the wallet, call in the Brinks truck. We all looked at one another, debating whether we should bail sneaking one by one out the door. We all made good money and I knew this would never happen again - never. My $52.00 ribeye came out and that was it, it wasn't really seasoned nor was it grilled, it was pan seared. Seriously? who the hell pan sears a steak? I guess I didn't pay attention to the menu as sides were extras and I wasn't going to pay $9.00 for a baked potato. The fucking place was a rip off and I looked over at the other table. Three couples who practically ordered the left side of the menu. I didn't even want to know how much the bill would, probably more than I made in month. 

To make a long story short, I was pissed and I washed down the bitter taste in my mouth with my $9.00 warm bottle of beer. The desserts came and it was really heavy as to was the bill at $152.00, because I bought the drinks and desserts. Then add in almost $20.00 in taxes. I didn't blame Francois or Pierre or whatever the fuck his name was. He was pleasant and prompt so I tipped accordingly. The final bill with tip was $174.00 and with the lousy exchange rate I saved $3.00.........should of went to the Keg. We ended bar hopping and roared with laughter about the time when we messed with hookers on Yonge Street, chasing skirt at Kool Haus, and how miserable life is after 40. I didn't hit the sack until almost three in the morning. 

I woke early Saturday morning and hit the road for Sudbury. Most of Toronto was still sleeping or nursing hangovers. I was dead tired and groggy. I wasn't looking forward to the four hour drive north. Timmy Horton's coffee hit the spot as I got my second wind. As I headed north on highway 400, the landscape changed from surburbia and rolling farmlands to the rocks and forests of the Canadian Shield. Highway 69 was no more as the 400 was four lanes all the way to Parry Sound. As kid it was a two lane road and during the weekends the traffic was horrible. The winding road and rock cuts made it one of the most dangerous roads in Canada. 

I was making good time and decided to stop at the French River for some pictures. I strolled on the bridge and stood there for a while taking in the scenery and the fresh air. It was so quiet as the only sounds was the wind blowing through the pines and odd bird song. It was back on the road and I knew I was close to Sudbury as the trees started to get smaller and the rocks bigger. As I got closer to the city, I called Mum to tell her that I was about 30 minutes away. I arrived at my aunt and uncle's house and it was nice to see everybody. 

Both my parents who lived in the area for over 40 years. Three years ago, they decided to move to British Columbia to be closer to their grandchildren. Mom looked good and my brother on the hand has become more and more bizarre in regards to his tattoos. His latest one is located on his neck. I've heard my sister bitched over the years about them and last Christmas she ragged on him some more. My brother of course loves to push her buttons. Personally, I would never get a tattoo and his body is plastered with them. But I love him and he's harmless as most of his friends understand that he marches to a different beat and doesn't give a shit what anybody else says.

We spent the morning driving around Sudbury and still hasn't changed much - the roads are still terrible, downtown is still seedy, the Coulson and Ledo hotels are still around catering to the scum and none of my friends I grew up with don't live there anymore. All of that was the constant reminder that when I finished high school, I wanted to get as far away as possible.

The house I grew up in - a stunning piece of architecture

Saturday afternoon we drove to my home town of Chelmsford or as the French pronounced it "Chemsfurd" is your typical small Northern Ontario shithole - a whole lot of nothing. For the record, I hated living there and I couldn't wait to escape. The fishing was the only thing that kept me from going insane. It was a 2 stop light town nestled in the middle of the Sudbury basin. It was as boring as it could be - no mall, a couple of lousy bars, an outdated arena and a bowling alley, but we did have an KFC! As a teenager, I remember is walking the streets aimlessly bored to death. Once I got my driver's licence, it made life more bearable as I was able to go to the bright lights of Sudbury on weekends. But once I finished high school, I went to college in Southern Ontario and never looked back. 

The last time I was back there was in 1998 when my parents sold the house I grew up in. I didn't shed a tear for the dump. It was built by the mining companies and they obviously had no clue on how to construct a house for a family. It was too small as I had to share my room with my younger brother. The kitchen was a joke and we had no central air. We stopped to take pictures and my mother noticed Mr. Daigleman working on his truck. They are the only family left on the street as everybody else packed up once the kids were gone. We chatted with Jack and Eleanor for a while. 

We drove down main street and some of the businesses I remember as a kid were still there. Chew's restaurant was still open as they were the only Chinese family in town and to come to think of it were the only non white family in town. We came to intersection of Errington and Main Streets and there was the largest building in the town, Saint Joseph's church. It was one of the first building built back in 1896 when Chelmsford was a rail outpost. Further down near the tracks was that dive, the Algoma Hotel. How on earth that place survived was beyond me. We crossed over Whitson Creek and as a kid, we use to snag white suckers from above the bridge. That's were we lived when my dad started teaching. We were on the outskirts, but the surrounding bush and creek was my playground. I remember bringing home a bucket full of garter snakes and my mother freaking out. Despite being "across" the creek, most of the people living there were young families. Today, the neighborhood looked so run down. We pointed out the houses that former friends use to live in. We continued the tour up Edward Street and one house caught my attention, the White's. They were family friends ever since my parents moved there in the late 60s. We lived close by when I was in elementary school. I was stunned to see that old car still parked in the same place, right under the pine tree. That car never moved for 43 years. My mother laughed and said "Your right, her husband never moved it" Damn thing probably would of fell apart if moved. Then there was Chelmsford High School, another place I loathed. Nothing like going to the same school that your father teaches at and having to listen to all of the crap of how much of a big asshole he was. Most of those complaints came from the slackers and stoners. I only kept in contact with a few people from school, but in most part a lot of people I knew, left for big cities and bigger dreams. 

We drove to Onaping Falls or as the Americans called it O-naping Falls. Highway 144 still felt like a logging road. We stopped at the A.J Jackson lookout at the High Falls on the Onaping River. Jackson was a member of the Group of Seven artists and painted the falls. High Falls was one of my favorite places to see as a child and I have fond memories of us stopping there on the way to Windy Lake Provincial Park or to pick blueberries. 

Later in the day it was back to my Aunt's for dinner. We always use to have Christmas dinner there. The highlight of Christmas was how shit faced Uncle Bob was going to be. He was a French Canadian version of Archie Bunker. He was a miner and my father couldn't stand him. He would always bust my mother's chops for being British and my old man for being too uptight. But could he drink and it was often. Once he retired, my aunt use to drop him off at the Mine Hall and he'd drink all day - nearly everyday. Surprisingly, he was sober today. But that didn't stop him from his rant about the strike at the mine. Bob was a staunch union guy and called the Brazilian owned company Vale - a bunch of wetbacks and vowed they'll never bust the union. He went on and on and my Aunt told him to give it a rest. Then he asked if I became a Yankee yet. I told him I was still thinking about it. He peppered me with questions about life in the states and he told me about how strange people in Florida were. Then he started on brother with his tattoos. He examined him and asked if he had one on his dick. Once again my aunt glared at him and that was it. It was a great dinner and the evening was spent having a coffee. I retired early as it was going to be a long 9 hour drive home.

I left Monday morning after a big breakfast with everybody. Gave hugs and wishes to all and I started my long journey home. I drove along Regent Street to get to highway 69 and I looked at the city. The only people left in Sudbury were my grandmother, aunt and uncle. All of them were getting up there in years. I wondered if this would be the last time I would see Sudbury. I was born and raised there, but I knew I could never live there. It was still a mining town that went through the cycles of bust and boom. I moved back briefly after my second tour of college, but I had bigger plans for me and headed west. I turned onto highway 69 and drove south. In the rear view mirror, the Superstack - the icon of Sudbury started to get smaller and smaller, then it disappeared. The trees and lakes eventually gave way to farmland and then vast metropolis of Toronto. The traffic at the border was packed as many were returning home from the long weekend. I was asked the standard questions and the officer gave back my green card. It was almost dark as I could see the lights of Cleveland in the distance, I was glad to be finally home.

The Fish Are Done and So Am I

Last week wrapped up one of the worst seasons and I mean the worst season in the 12 years since I've been here in the Alley. It was a perfect storm of dismal numbers, rotten weather and epic bitching. The beginning of the season was punctuated by little to no rain for weeks on end. Babbling riffles were reduced to silence and the several pools I fished, I would of needed a motor for my float because there was no flow. For several months, I practically wore out my boots to catch decent numbers of fish, but I catch them I did. "Frustrating" and "fuck this" and "this fucking blows" were words used over and over. To add insult to injury, all of the streams froze over for an extended period of time. The power plant saved me from going insane. Spring was on the horizon and I was hoping for renewal and redemption. It was a monumental disappointment. Just like autumn, we barely got any rain. 

The numbers most of us hoped for never materialized and many of my brothers were bummed. Some of them tossed the gear into the basement and hauled out the boat for walleye. I can't blame them, I would of done the same. Many of the upper sections were devoid of fish and it was mid-April. The last trip out was was no different as some of my favorite holes coughed up some fish but no where the numbers of past seasons. Even the best gravel beds on the lower sections didn't have a lot of fish. Rewind to last season and there were plenty of fish to be had in May. What a difference one season can make. Last entry in my journal was littered with curse words and the number two. That's how many fish I caught. 

Conspiracy theories ran wild. There had to be somebody or something to blame. I just figured that we were due for a bad year. It happens all the time when it comes to fishing. It doesn't matter whether it's steelhead, walleye, perch or pike. But, this season was exceptional terrible. I stowed the gear away and patiently waited for autumn. I would still see some fishing, refusing to throw in the towel. Suckers for punishment? I guess but why bother telling them. Let them figure it out. 

Steelhead Alley Swing

The Alley has experienced weather that many expect in July than early April. That's the perfect time for swinging. Once upon a time, I fly fished for steelhead when I lived in Canada. Pinning at the time was a craft done by a handful of people. The rivers and streams of Northern Ontario were deep and swift. They were tailored made for sink tips and swinging. But I found the Alley's slower moving streams better suited to float fishing. But I still love to pull out the fly rod for time to time. This past season we've seen lower than usual numbers of fish and I was curious to see how of them had spawned prior. I knew where all of the prime spawning areas were and how many fish would be dropping back? Who knows.

The water temperature was probably in the low 60s and that's pushing into the upper limits for steelhead. Every year, I see the bottom of streams littered with fish that died because some angler decided to hot dog or failed to properly revive the fish. When these fish are on gravel they're vulnerable because of being caught over and over. Spawning itself is a stressful event and I can't imagine being flossed or snagged over and over. The fish that make it unmolested seek the deeper holes and pool to rest and prepare for the trip back to Lake Erie. Dropbacks are often aggressive and swinging large streamers often entice this fish to hit with a vengeance. 

It was still dark when I arrived at the upper section of the river. The surrounding woods were full of bird songs. I could make out the familiar songs of robins, sparrows, cardinals, wrens and the gobbling of turkeys. It was a easy walk along the trail and after 30 minutes I arrived at my destination. There was enough light when I arrived so I walked up to the riffle to see if any fish were on gravel. I really didn't see anything moving. But this spot is very popular with guides. Guiding on the Alley is a chess game especially in the spring. Many of them look for the best gravel beds to put clients on easy fish. This spot is very popular but there are better spots farther up. I knew I would have this spot for a while. 

Last season, me and a friend drifted the upper section and there was a lot of boat traffic. Luckily we were fishing for droppies so we didn't have to compete for space. At this spot, we ended up catching over 20 fish - all spawned out hens. The gravel upstream resembled a mine field. This morning I only seen a couple dug out beds. The Alley can be bust or boom depending what river your on. One year the riffles are choked with fish and others your lucky to see a handful of them. The rivers are always changing so constant scouting is a must. 

I tied on a large white zonker onto a 10 pound tippet. With water this warmer, I wanted a furious but brief battle. I position myself at the head of the run. The river splits around a small island and most of the fish dropback into there. I did a roll cast and let the sink tip drop. I could feel it bounce along the bottom and then I felt several taps then a take. I set the hook and felt a surge. The fish erupted from the water and danced about. It was an intense battle but with a heavy tippet I ended the fight quickly. It was a spawned out hen as her body had several wounds on her tail, probably from digging out beds. I quickly released her and she bolted for the hole. I moved back to the top of the run and started swing further out. The tip settled and rolled along the bottom. This time the take was more violent. The rod slammed and the fished bolted downstream. My trusty Teton reel screamed as I loosen the drag. I steered the fish into the slack water. It was a large male, probably over 10 pounds. He was a beautiful specimen - rosy red cheeks, heavily kyped and of course sporting several flies stuck on his back, tail and belly. I pulled a total of 6 flies from him. 

It was early morning when I decided to see if fish were on gravel. The water was still slightly off color and all I seen were suckers - a lot of them. I strained to see the large hulking shadows of the males or a plume of mud done be a hen digging out gravel. I only seen two males jockeying for position. That meant most of the fish here were done spawning. I resumed to swinging the entire pool and I only managed three more fish. The sun starting creeping higher and then I could see a drift boat in the distance. It was only 10:30 in the morning. Either the fishing higher up was terrible or the spot was packed. I was leaning more to the latter. I could see the guide's expression and it was of worry because he figured I must of worked the fish over. He never got a chance to ask me because I was already hitting the trail for other water downstream.

It turned out to an exercise of futility as I never got so much as a bump all the way back the bridge. By then I was burnt and parched from the heat. I was drained of what little energy I had left. With it being this late in the year, I'm usually burned out from the fishing and it doesn't take much for me to walk away from the river. That's what I did as I rolled into the gas station and bought the biggest bottle of water. It was enough to last the hour ride back home. The morning was fun even though it was brief.

Sick My Ass

A terrible week for me as I struggled to rid myself of a nasty bug. This tenacious little bastard has made my life miserable. When it comes to being sick, I'll tough it out as my sick days are strictly designated for fishing. I rested the entire day to give my body a chance to recover. Bundled in blankets, I still hacked and wheezed. I never moved off the couch and drifted off into a deep sleep. The alarm in the kitchen quietly chimed announcing it was time for a day of fishing. I still felt groggy with a slight headache. I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I was pale and haggard looking. I thought to myself, it's only one day and dress warmly - you're a tough guy. I popped two Tylenol, eat breakfast and hit the road. 

My battle with the bug was coming close to an end. He would be vanquished from my body. The coffee did wonders as I felt a surge of energy. The thoughts of a good day of fishing was giving me a rush of adrenaline. No stinking cold was going to keep me on the sidelines. I exit the freeway and it was a brief drive through suburbia. The McMansions gave way to the long winding roads and surrounding forest of the metro park. I pulled in to see a group of anglers suiting up. It didn't take much thought to where they would be fishing. They eyed me as I pulled out the gear and once they caught sight of the centerpin, they went back to talking amongst themselves. They felt I would be competing for spots. Generally fly fishermen feel more at ease whenever they see one using a pin. I fish water that they never would try attempting. 

I was well dressed for the elements and I had my flask of whiskey to give a spark whenever I felt the need for it. The walk to the river helped loosen and rid my lungs of phlegm. The river was slightly up and I passed the group of anglers that clustered at the first hole. I suspected that they never fished this section of the river. I proceeded to cross over and I looked back and all of them had there eyes trained on me. They were waiting to see if I would plunge into a unknown hole. At 6'0 tall, the water came up to my waist, but the bottom was all gravel and the current wasn't terribly strong. Once over, I knew the others would eventually cross over. 

First spot was the yapping dog hole. Nearly every time I fished this spot, I'm greeted by the most obnoxious dogs. They won't stop barking until you leave. They never shut up and their owner never seems to care. After a while it becomes unbearable and there have been times when I left despite the good fishing. After 10 minutes my head starts to pound. I'm tempted to pick up a rock and fling across the pool. It's almost nine in the morning and you would think the owner would stick his hear outside and tell them shut up - no. The guy probably hates anglers, but the nice tax abatement from the county for preserving riverine habitat is too good to give up. Houses here start at $700,000 and well into the millions. 

The yapping dog hole surrender four nice fish and I'm off to the next spot. The cold crisp air seems to help unclog my head. Still its a miserable morning with dark grey skies. Spring seems so far away. The water temperature is in the low 40s and some fish might of started to spawn. I examine one gravel bed and I don't notice any redds. The fish are probably lying in the pools and holes, waiting for the sun to come out and warm the water. 

The next pool I'm fishing starts to yield fish and that makes the aches feel a whole better. A little victory swig and I feel the slow burn of the whiskey. So far this morning I haven't anybody and I'm perfectly fine with that. It's a good thing that the river isn't high because times my legs feel rubbery. Another gravel bed and no fish. The pool above use to be a great spot, but over the years, it started to fill in and has become nothing more than a sandy bottom. But, I will toss a sac to see if anybody's home. After 20 minutes, I have no takers. 

I hit the last spot because I don't have the energy. It's another of my money holes and on the second drift, I have a hard take down. I watch a large fresh hen come to the surface and she immediately bolts downstream. She doesn't go that far as I steer her onto the rocks. A bright silver hen and when I lift her, I notice her stomach is tight. If she had some color, I'll bet as soon as I lifted her, she would be spitting eggs. It will probably take a couple of weeks before the eggs start to loosen. 

It's almost noon and I'm over double digits. My stomach starts growling and I need to pop a couple more Tylenol. I head back and pass the group of anglers who are still camped out at the first hole. I'm not in the mood to strike up a conservation and I quickly slip by them. There are too engrossed with their drifts and I hit the trail - my stomach is demanding food. Even though I'm in a metropark, it's takes all but 8 minutes to go up the hill and to the nearest fast food joint. I gooble down a cheeseburger and some fries and its back down to the park. I go farther upstream to another pool and park by the field. The burger and fries did the trick and I feel a hop in my stride. The pool is vacant, but I do wonder if it was worked over in the morning. I managed to pop a couple of nice males and that was it. 

A 14 fish day keeps the doctor away. My body feels chilled and I stop for a coffee. The first sip immediately warms me up. I take my time driving home and 40 minutes later I'm home. My head is clogged up and I apply some Vick's. I lie on the bed and I'm out within five minutes. Amazing what a good day of fishing can do. 

Green Eggs

Eggs can make or break a day and I learned that during the past two days. Winter's grasp on the Alley has finally weakened. All of the rivers were free of ice. Since I had nothing scheduled at work for Friday, it was the perfect excuse to come up the 24 hour flu. You couldn't ask for a better day as the river was slightly stained and the temperatures were to be in the low 60s. 

Conneaut was a bustling place this morning when I rolled in. I watched a group of anglers heading upstream. I took that as the cue to go downstream. I wasn't going to be raking gravel, instead I was after staging fish. I walked along the tracks and I looked over to see a guide with three clients working the gravel. I look down from them and the pool was all mine. I slipped down the hill and quietly walked on the opposite side of the island. I avoided detection and started at the head of the pool. 

This pool can be a killer in the spring. At times fish can stack in there like sardines. In the spring it's mostly skippers and you practically have to club them off the sacs. It turned out to be like that morning - lights out. I started piling up numbers like crazy and those scrappy little skippers kept my hands full. The problem was I started to run low on bait. I forgot my fly box home. It was a little after noon when I ran out of bait. I was bummed because I felt I could had a banner day. I called Bubba and gave him two thumbs up and told him to go overboard with tying sacs tonight. 

Late spring is when I start running low on eggs. Some times I'll keep a couple of steelhead hens for eggs and give the fish to one of my co workers. So far this spring, I haven't caught a decent sized hen, plus I felt I had enough eggs in the freezer. When I go home I pulled the largest pack of eggs to thaw out. The eggs inside were a little loose and over the winter it must of leaked. I shrugged and figured it wasn't too much to worry about........d'oh.

Me and Bubba drove out in the wee hours and arrived when it was still dark. Nobody had pulled yet and we quickly dressed. We reached the pool and camped out waiting for the first light. In 45 minutes, there was enough light to see the floats. Bubba started getting into fish and I didn't. I popped the container open and sniffed, nothing objectionable. I started to make adjustments and still nothing. I was perplexed and starting to get annoyed. He couldn't keep them off the hook and I was posting a goose egg. He was serving them T-bone and I was offering pig slop. I knew I had funky eggs and immediately toss them. I did have some gulp minnows with me and I managed to toss the skunk off my neck.

But that's what happens when you use uncured eggs. I swear by them and I rarely cure them. Cured eggs do work as Bubba was using them and he was hammering them. He took pity on me a shared his eggs. I was more than happy for him as he doesn't fish as often as me. The action for him was fast and furious and he eventually ran out of bait.

When I got home I examined all of the remaining packs in the freezer and all of them were sealed tight. I had enough to get me through April. 

The Golden Goal

The past Olympics has been the best hockey I've seen in recent memory. I rank it up there with the 87 Canada Cup, 2005 World Juniors and the 2002 Olympics. There is something about tournaments when you have one shot to win the game and you better bring your A game ( the Russians thought it was a best of seven). Before the games, I didn't bother to predict who would win, because it’s a crap shot as 6 teams could pull off winning the gold. Having a hot goalie or lines firing on all cylinders more than likely won the gold. 

Canada was loaded from top to bottom and had the deepest team. The pressure was on them as they would be playing in front of their countrymen. During the last games in Torino, Canada was a huge disappointment. They expected to bring home the gold, but it never happened as the team struggled throughout the tournament. The lowest point was the shocking loss to the Swiss as they got shut out. The Swiss team was mostly comprised of ex pros who never panned out in the NHL. It was a huge upset that sent the country reeling. After that defeat, the Canadians were stunned and they barely put up a fight against the Russians. The end result was they came home without a medal. During those games, Sidney Crosby was left off the team. It's one of those annoying things that Hockey Canada does -  veterans need apply only. As Sidney sat at home, another young superstar in Russian Alex Ovechkin skate circles around the Canadians. The Canadian brass got the message loud and clear - Sid must be on the team.

As expected the Canadians pounded the Norwegians and the annoying Swiss were next. It was revenge for Canada. Once again the Swiss gave the Canadians fits and I thought it’s deja vu all over again as the game was still tied after overtime. You could of cut the suspense with a knife and I was practically choking the remote during the shoot out, when Sid finally nailed the game. Huge breath of relief was heard across the country

The next opponent were the Americans and they had a much younger team. Many picked them as the fourth best team and the potential dark horse. Much to my chagrin, the Canadians got out played and probably took them lightly. Since it was still early in the tournament, Canada took the loss with a pinch of salt. 

It wasn’t the end of the world and people forget that at the Salt Lake games, Canada lost to the Swedes, barely beat the Germans and tied the Czechs. Gretzky gave the famous "us against the world" speech and the team responded by winning the remaining games and the gold. The next game the Canadians destroyed the Germans and pummeled the Russians - so much for panic. The Slovaks made it an interesting game and Canada moved in the gold medal and it was revenge. I felt fairly confident that Canada would win because it was on our home turf.

The Canadians scored first and then the Americans tied it and the game went back and forth. The crowd at the rink was going crazy as we were 25 seconds away from winning the gold when Zach Parise the son of a Canadian NHLer tied the game. You could drop a pin as the crowd was stunned. It was sudden death overtime, four on four. The entire country was on edge as nobody moved from the couch or bar stool. After 12 minutes, it was all over as  Sid fired the puck through the 5 hole and placed himself in Canadian hockey lore. He’ll never have to pay for meal in Canada for the rest of his life and I wouldn’t be surprised if they put his face on the $20.00 bill.