The Push

The push that many were eagerly awaiting finally happened. I never doubted that they would come. They always do. Waiting patiently for the right conditions. As expected they come in unannounced under the cover of darkness or murky water. What made this push special was it happened before my vacation week. With colder weather for the following week, meant I could get away with sleeping in. In my youth, I would have been on the water in the dark, waiting for the faint signs of first light. I still love to hit the river at first light, but there are times when hitting it later in the morning can still pay off.

After 15 years of living in the states, I have lost my Canadian hardiness. I squeal at the thought of fishing in 20-degree weather. As a teenager, I would go cross country skiing when it was -20C and doing the 10-mile loop with no complaints. Sunday morning, I fished for only an hour because of the cold. I bitched the entire time, complained about the wind, ice on the guides and the fish being jerks. That was enough, looking to seek refuge under a blanket and guzzled a bowl of Joe's Deli chicken matzo ball soup. The day would be spent watching football. 

Monday morning,  the wind is moaning and groaning. I peek out under the flannel sheets and look at the time. I bury my head into the pillow and muttered I'm too old for this shit. The warm embrace of the sheets refuse to let me go and I go back to sleep. Eventually, I gather enough energy to pull myself out of the bed. My feet touch the hardwood floors and it sends chills up my spine. I gingerly tip toe to the kitchen and fire up the stove. I dunk eggs, bacon and hash browns into the pan. The coffee maker is gurgling away. I peek out the window and the large oak next to the carport is being whipped around. The temperature outside is 28F with a wind chill of 12F. I wolf down the food and fill up the mug. I dress and it's nothing but fleece. Long underwear, shirt, pants, and jacket. Instead on my Toronto Maple Leafs cap, it's a black toque. I'm completely dressed in black from head to toe and with my scruffy appearance, I could be mistaken for a burglar.

Walking outside the wind is blustery. I barely notice it as I load everything into the Jeep. Rush hour is long gone and I'm making a good time driving out east. The hot topic on the sports radio is another weekly bitching about the latest Browns loss. They rant and rave. I can take about 10 minutes of it and turn off the radio. Crossing over one river, I glance over to see it clogged in slush. No concern, resuming my journey east. 

Arriving at the Grand and there isn't a car at the first spot. It's mid morning and I hit a faithful old spot. The high cliffs and bend give me relief from the wind. The water is a light tea stain, the flow perfect and there's no slush. Bends, slicks and tailouts are on the menu. I fish the bend and work the inner edge. Watching the float chug along and it stops dead in its tracks and slowly goes under - a cold water take. After setting the hook, the fish starts bulldog along the bottom. The surface boils and it's a typical Lake Erie steelhead - 25" and four pounds. A male in his winter colors. Rosy red cheeks, charcoal on his belly and kyped jaw. A few shots from the camera and I gently release him. Working the pool, I pick off several more fish until reaching the end of it. I'm satisfied with the results. Looking at the time, I want to hit another productive spot.

Just like the last spot, there isn't a soul. It's another long sweeping pool that eventually flattens out all the way to another deep hole. It's a pinner's wet dream. The time of the year doesn't matter, it's always loaded with fish. I cross over and start shuffling downstream. Because the pool is so long, I'll often walk the float down until I start hooking into fish. The depth is uniform about 3' deep with rocks scattered along the bottom. Because of the current and the colder water, my gut tells me to fish further down. I continue to walk with the float until I see it pop and go under. I set the hook and I feel a frenzied run - a skipper. Then I start working the tail end and I have my hands full with fresh fish. The majority of them were skippers, but I battled several large adults. It was fast and furious as most of these fish probably haven't seen a sac or fly. If this pool had fish, I was frothing at the mouth thinking about the one further downstream. I start to walk and once I make it around the bend, I'm blasted by the wind. It's roaring upstream and I see waves. I give it the old college try and turns out to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions. The wind the line off the reel and I can't mend the line. The float resembles one of those marine buoys you see in the North Atlantic going up and down. The wind chill is frigid as my fingers go numb. I bail after 30 minutes and decide that tomorrow will be better as the wind is to die down. I head back up and spank some more fish. 

Eventually, I run out of bait and daylight. It's starting to get dark once I'm off the river. It turns out to be a monster push on this particular river. I want to make the most of this, because eventually these fish will get pounded on. I'll be here early tomorrow as the temperatures are to be in the mid-30s. Then it will get cold again for Wednesday and Turkey Day. As for Black Friday, I'll be buried under the sheets as the rivers will be a zoo. It's been like that for years. Besides me getting a workout so is my wallet as I fill up the Jeep and I'll be piling on the mileage this week.