First day of June and believe it or not just a week ago there were scattering reports of some steelhead dropping back to the big pond. One evening run through the Rocky River metro park, I stopped by one hole to take a rest. I walked over and there were three steelhead mixed in with several carp, bass and carpsuckers. The water was clear and I watched them swim about. One was a large hen that reverted back to silver. The males were battled scarred and slightly darker. Hard to believe that some of these fish manage to survive the massive flood that happened several weeks ago. That evening, we had several severe thunderstorms roll through and dumped nearly 5" of rain. The Rock spilled over its banks and flooded the valley. That was evident as I took my evening run down into the park. The road was closed off to traffic. When I got down to the parkway, the river had receded slightly. The water was right at the edge of the road. In both directions farther down water covered the road. Several geese were resting on the road taking in the beautiful weather. The river was a mess and I could see the water boil as some type of fish were swimming where people walk on the trail. So much for the evening run, it would probably take a couple of days before they would open the park back to traffic.
Once the river receded, my curiosity got the better of me. I took a walk through the lower section of the park. It look like a bomb went off. Near the Rockcliffe ford, large trees, logs and branches were piled about. The surrounding woods were water logged as the river went above and over the trail. The trail is about 100' away from the river itself. I continue to walk and there lying in the water I could see a dead steelhead. I wondered how many fish succumbed to the forces of the raging waters. The water level could be determined by the number of leaves stuck in the branches. They were neatly tucked into the branches. In this section of the park, it's very flat. A serious rainfall can create massive flooding here. I've never seen the water get that high. Even though the water receded a lot, the river was still running swiftly. Whenever the river floods this bad, its course will be changed dramatically. Banks are craved out, trees removed and rocks moved about. I wondered how many pools and holes were changed.
Those steelhead I seen last week were long gone. I'm heading to the Vermilion in my new car for some catfish. I'm still getting a buzz from the new car smell. I've wondered why they don't market that scent for candles or deodorizers? It's seriously addictive. The Equinox is a joy to drive, the seats are so comfortable and the cabin quiet. I flick through the endless stations on XM to find a channel and of course I find Hair Nation - metal from the 80s. I sit back and get a dose of The Scorpions, Dokken and Maiden. I never made to the Vermilion this spring for steelhead, because I heard the fishing was terrible. The lower section of the river is a great place to fish for them. Unlike the Rock, the Vermilion has more deeper holes and meanders on its way to the lake. This morning the river was low and off color - perfect. If it was a couple months ago the side of the road would of been littered with cars and trucks. I walk down the goat hill and the forest floor is a lush layer of ferns. I started at one of the best spots for steelhead, it was a long sweeping pool that had numerous trees in the water. I took out my bag of uncooked shrimp from my pouch and tore a hunk off. The shrimp was starting to get that funky odor and the funkier the better. Shrimp is one of my favorite baits for cats. I always get a funny look from the ladies at the grocery store when they asked me how I'm going to prepare my shrimp. I tell them I use them for bait for catfish.
"How could you waste such nice shrimp on catfish?
First off, I'm not spending $18.00 a pound for them. I'll generally buy about six shrimp and it's those big juicy Brown shrimp that I prefer. Some guys I know like the cooked shrimp because it's cheaper, but I feel uncooked ones have a better scent. Before shrimp, I would use chicken livers. They were a pain as I had to tied them in spawn netting. The bag was a bloody mess as were my hands and reel. I was never a fan of night crawlers as panfish gobbled them up before a cat got a chance to find it.
A large tree is in the water and current starts to slow down after it. I cast out and get as close as I can get without getting snagged. Even though it's sunny out, cats will never refuse to pass up a juicy chunk of shrimp. Still a lot of people prefer to go out right at dusk or at night. That was evident as I could see numerous branches stuck in the mud, litter, and a still smoldering fire. The bite might be better at dusk, but the mosquitos are enough for me to pass up the offer. The lower Vermilion is infested with them. I learned the hard way one summer night as I practically ran back to my car as thousands of them chased me. Nothing happens near the tree so I let the float drift further down. The float pops and I set the hook. Cats don't fight with the ferocity of steelhead. They're more deliberate and stubborn. This one is fairly large as it refuses to come off the bottom. Out of the murkiness, I see a fat cat. It's a large female with a plump belly. A great start to the morning as I watch the fish swim away. The breeze to pick up and I notice a large number of cottonwood seeds flying through the air and landing on the water. As the line drifts through the water, it starts to collect the seed hairs. The tip of the float is covered as are sinkers. Casting is made difficult because the hairs prevent the line from shooting through the guides. It becomes more and more difficult to cast and eventually I have to cut the line to remove the seeds.
Once again, the wind starts to pick up and more seeds scatter about and land on the water. The slack water is completely covered in them. I try to pull off as much of the seeds as possible. It's starts becoming annoying as I spend more time removing the hairs than fishing. The faster moving water is where I work. So far I caught seven catfish ranging from scrappy dinks to 10 pound plus females loaded with eggs. I coming to the end of pool and it becomes more shallow. For an hour I get no takes and head to another spot. The walk through the woods is a tough one as the vegetation is thick. Also thick are the mosquitos and start to quicken the pace. I weave around trees and branches and jump over logs. I finally get down the last pool before the lake and it's practically frog water. I throw the float and wait. I wait and wait and during that time, I'm swatting mosquitos away. Nothing happens and I look at the time. It's almost noon and the sun is bearing down on me. I'm getting hungry and I use that as an excuse to go home.
On the way back I get confused as I missed the trail. I start walking back looking for the trail. The brush in some spots is so thick that I have go around it. That confuses me more and eventually I see the goat hill. I'm parched from the climb back to the car. I sweating and I wished I had some cold beer. The spawning run will last maybe a week or two. Then the big cats will mostly be gone. Dinks can get old really quick and that's when carp will spark my interest. Got to make the summer move along faster.
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