Ugh It's Almost Over
You know when the season is coming to an end. The Indians are back in town, the robins are singing at 4:30 in the morning, my rod and reel are caked in egg spooge and my supply of salmon eggs is dwindling. The marathon started on September 9th and I see the finish line in the distance. I get a sick feeling in my stomach.
I'm generally the last one to throw in the towel. Several steelheading brothers are in full walleye mode and others are just burned out from getting up early, tying an endless supply of sacs, driving hundreds of miles and their wives have reached their limit. I agree that tying sacs starts to get old and tired. Sitting at the kitchen table working on pile of eggs and looking at the clock as midnight gets closer. I finish the last of the eggs and I look at the clock - 12:30 and I'm too wound up. This is common for me whether it's fall, winter or spring. I past the time watching TV and I start to get sleepy. I look at the clock and it's 1:30 - fuck. I stagger off to bed and the set the alarm. Within minutes, I'm out for the count or I thought.
Just as I feel I'm sinking into a deep restful sleep, the alarm blares. I squint in the dark and the clock reads 4:30. If it was the work week, I would slam the snooze button. But not when it comes to fishing. I crawl out of bed and shuffle my way down to the kitchen. I follow a procedure of brew coffee, cook eggs and bacon, toast muffins, eat food, fill mug and hit the road. All of it done in 20 minutes. It's been like that for years and I could probably do it in my sleep.
I lug everything into the Jeep. My Jeep stinks, the inside smells of wet waders. There is trash and spilled coffee on the floor mats. I don't want to even think what's under the seats. I bought it used 3 years ago after my divorce. It's been reliable but age is starting to show as there is rust on the rocker panels and doors. It looks like a meat hunter's ride and maybe this summer, I'll start shopping for a new vehicle, but that's a long way off.
With it being almost the end, I'll be out all day. No six hour trips as that would be fine back in September. I hit I-90 and it's a lonely place. With the exception of a few trucks, there is little traffic. To the east, the sky gets brighter. The clouds are a mixture of black, white and crimson. It's a little after six in the morning when I get to the river. The temperature this morning is 28F and that's a far cry from this past Thursday when the mercury hit 80F. I fished the Rock the day after it and I liken it to fishing in a bucket of piss - warm and uncomfortable. The water today was cool and inviting.
I was in the transition zone of fresh fish and ones spawned out. The fresh ones were without a blemish. They were in full spawning color and full of eggs. Their eggs were so tight when I lifted them from the water, they didn't drop one egg. As for the dropbacks, their bodies were a tale of how hard and stressful spawning is. The females bodies were ravaged and they looked so emaciated. It's a wonder how these fish can even muster the energy to fight so hard. But fight they did, with such ferocity.
Oh and I could I forget those smolts. I often have to remind myself they are the future of our fishery. Since I was fishing the lower section, I knew it would be thick with them. The ODNR generally stock smolts at the closest boat ramp. I was about a quarter mile up and I knew I would have to weed through a lot of them. All morning, I watch the float tap and tap, go under and tap several more times. Once in a while, a skipper or a dropback would hit, but the smolts were overwhelming. Enough of them that a couple of Caspian terns had a field day with them. I watched them hover over and suddenly plunge into the river. In total, I watched the pair take about 6 of them. My patience had all but worn out and I needed to make the move far, far away.
By now the sun was high and bright. If it was a month earlier, the river would be a bustling place. Not today, anglers were few and far between. It could of been the higher price of gas or the lack of fish. Whatever the reasons, it didn't matter to me. A quiet day on the Alley in April is a blessing. As expected farther up river, the number of fish dropped. I picked off stragglers in the various pools but I was spent. The few hours of sleep, the sun and hunger had sap what little energy I had left in me. A quick lunch and I was off for home. The end of the season has little fanfare. I rarely tell anybody about it. Probably because it will depress me. In a few weeks, I'll be jogging through the metro park and I'll go along the Rock. It will be an empty place. The waters quiet and still, waiting for the cool winds of fall.
I think I'm up for one more road trip.