Until We Meet Again

No fanfare, no special event or announcement. The last outing of the year has always been that. I stirred out bed and had the same - bacon and eggs with a mug of coffee for the road.  I walked out into the dark and got in the Jeep. The musty smell of wet waders and boots was a constant reminder that I must clean it after the season. In a odd way, I'll miss that smell. I rarely every get a good night sleep before an outing, it been like that for years. I stumble if I'm still feeling the effects of bar hopping in Tremont or the Warehouse district. The strong mug of coffee and the Tragically Hip keep me on the straight and narrow. I start to feel energized. 

It was first light when I walked the along river. The last high water was a distant memory as the river struggled to flow. A kingfisher darted across the river chattering as it flew above the water. The robins were in full chorus as they ushered in the morning. The majority of maples and box elders were in full color. All signs that the season is winding down. Some of the fish are long gone, while others didn't want to leave the comforts of the river patiently waiting for the rains to gradually push them back into the lake. 

Even though the river was very low, there was enough flow that I could see where the pockets of deep water. Some where in those pockets were the last remaining fish. I touched the water and I feel it was much cooler. By now it was light enough that I could see the river was slightly tannic but I could make out rocks and other structures. 

I started to work the pool, casting into the bubble lines. Downstream I heard a fish smack the surface. After 20 minutes I had no takers. I continued to methodical work the water and made slight adjustments to the shots. There was no speed fishing today - not on the last trip.    Even though I was fishing the urban stretches, it felt so surreal and quiet. I watched the float slowly move along the bubble line and it started to tap slowly. There and then I knew it was a fish slowly taking the sac and I promptly set the hook. The fish took with a surge and broke the surface. A loud slap and a hard turn upstream. I gingerly applied pressure to the reel being mindful that I using 6 pound tippet. I could see a large hen come to the surface. A truly beautiful fish without a blemish on her body

I found a pod of fish that were in playful mood, aggressively hitting both sacs and gulp minnows with recklessly abandon. I started to feel that I didn't want the season to come to an end. I was having too much fun, but I eventually it would to come to an end. The wind started to gust as the day progressed as did the heat. By early afternoon, it was 70F and the wind made it feel hotter. 

It wasn't the cold that chased me off, it was the heat. I had my fill and when I changed out my gear I pulled out a cold bottle of Great Lakes Dortmunder and quenched my thirst. I sat on the back of the Jeep reflecting the past season. It was a hell of a lot better than the last. But soon enough it will be time to chase carp and maybe spend a couple times on the big pond perching. That will make the summer go a little faster. 

Miles To Go

The most dedicated steelheader will do anything to catch fish and one of them is walk endless miles in search of them. Today was a day like that. The river was at its lowest for the season and nearly of all of the fish in it were done spawning. No easy pickings like in December or early March. The last rain event was a distant memory. But whenever the river is at its lowest, the fish can be easy to find, especially for the steelheader that knows the river like the back of his hand. 

The river was very tame almost lazy in nature. She flowed so quietly as even the faster water only gurgled, barely noticeable. Only when she's low does she reveal her secrets. I could make out shale ledges and rocks scattered along the bottom. It's very rare to see the river like that. I scanned the river downstream looking for structure that would hold a couple of dropbacks. First thing was weeding out the chubs as they had a ravenous appetite for uncured steelhead eggs. 

I continued further down into areas that even I and others rarely venture into. The footprints of humans were gradually replaced by deer, raccoon and coyotes. I found more fish but I had reached the limited on how far I wanted to walk. But I wanted to walk more to see what lied ahead. If I was younger, I would pushed myself to go a little further. But I told the kid in myself to take it easy as my knees and back could only take so much. I turned and started to walking back and headed farther downstream. The old man knew what he was doing. 

The next spot, I walked along a feeder creek I could see right to the bottom of the deepest holes. I looked into the massive pile of downed trees that clogged the creek. A large snapping turtle was sitting on the bottom patiently waiting for a chub to swim nearby. I didn't see one steelhead. The clear water of the creek flowed into the murkier river as I crossed with relative ease. More distance to go as I thought to myself. The skies turned grey and the wind  whipped over the cliffs and down towards the river. As it was upstream, I started the process of weeding out the chubs. Eventually, I started getting into some steelhead. Including one male that sported the wounds worthy of a gladiator. 

But deep water was few and far between. Dropbacks especially when the water is cooler often take their time heading back to the lake. Nobody knows how far they travel. One day they're there and the next they're gone. It was back on the road, covering more miles as I made into the urban stretches. I started to see more people and there wasn't a lot of happy faces. Many were frustrated with the lack of fish.

The skies started to part and the sun came out. The river had a strong tea color that filtered out the sun and somewhere in that murk, I knew fish were lying in wait. Unlike the smaller fish caught upstream, these fish were much larger and full of vigor. They were in playful mood as I had my hands full. I gingerly played these fish on light line and I watch several leap and thrash about catching the attention of anglers downstream. All of them had changed back to the beautiful silver. The only blemish on them was the red sores on the bottom caudal fins and bellies. 

I covered a lot of water and road today. It was late afternoon as I changed and my feet were thankful that they were no longer trapped in my boots. I stretch as I felt my back and knees loosen. It was a quiet drive home as I reflected on the day I had. Hard to believe that the first fish of the season was caught 8 months ago on a beautiful late September morning. I traveled a lot of miles and I have more to go.