The wait was finally over during the past weekend when I caught the first steelhead of the season. It came on November 7th just before first light and it was one of those "it's about friggin time" moments. The wait was more about the lack of rain and warmer than usual weather than anything. The rivers blew out way back in early September which felt more like a distant memory. Back then I wasn't concerned because I figured ( how naive ) that we would get more rain. It turned out that we waited for weeks and weeks and weeks.
To make matters worse, the salmon runs in both Michigan and New York were absolutely dismal. In my freezer I had about two pounds of eggs left. It was a case of break only in emergency. I called the bait shop and the owner would give the grim news.
"Sorry dude no eggs"
Shit, shit, shit. In past years, he would have buckets full of eggs and my freezer would be crammed full of them. Finally, I cracked in late October and pulled out some eggs. I had to get out before I went insane. I carefully thawed them out and I actually counted out every single eggs putting exactly six per netting. I gingerly handled them like if they were made of nitro glycerin. I broke out in a sweat as I gently wound the netting and tied on the thread. I winced if pulled too hard and breathed a sigh of relief when the thread broke. I placed one precious spawn sac after another on the newspaper. It was so pathetic.
I drove out east and it was Conneaut or bust. I knew the crick was barely flowing and probably had the clarity of a bottle of gin. I had to get out as no fish in October was unacceptable. Last year it was the first time I didn't catch a fish in the month of September. Now I was under incredible pressure not to post a goose egg for this month. I arrived at the creek at first light and there was seven cars parked along the road. I dressed and started to walk upstream where I could see everybody piled into the two favorite spots. I crossed over and the riffle was reduced to a barely audible babble. The deeper water had a nice dark tea color so I had at least a fighting chance.
I started to work the holes and lumber and didn't so much get a nibble even from my biggest nemesis - the creek chub. I started to head upstream and I continued to grind away and I watched another angler head up. I ignored him as he passed by I carefully watched him out the corner of my eye. I had a couple more spots to hit upstream. I quickly reeled in and started to skirt along the trees. But the fat bastard spotted me and started to head upstream. He had a large start and I watched him huff and puff. I knew where he was heading. Thoughts start going through my head
Launch a rock at his head and hopefully it knocks him out
Just start running and maybe he'll keel over from a heart attack
Wishful thinking and then I him see stop at the spot
That's what I get for dicking around in that one spot. But at least there's another larger pool above ripe for the picking. I start working the pool and it becomes obvious that there's isn't any fish in it. Upstream I see a clan of anglers at the train tressel bridge. They probably banged the hole since first light. Then I see them pack up and head downstream. They pass by and I start to head up. It's worth a shot as I'm thinking maybe they're green at fishing for steelhead. The water is so low that I can walk across and stand on the bridge support. I can see the shale ledge and I beat the hole like it owes me money. Nothing absolutely nothing. I'm convinced there's at least one fish in there. To add insult to injury, I see the other angler downstream land a fish in the spot I wanted to fish - shit.
I eventually give up and I'm resigned that I'm going to have my first fishless October. As I walk back, I see one of the clan's member fighting a fish in one of my favorite spots - assholes. The drive home felt longer than usual.
October turns to November and I'm heading out to the Grand with the gang. We're all pumped because we all share something in common - no fish for the new season. I haven't heard anything about the Grand but it's worth a shot because everything else is barely trickling. The wind is cold and the sky is a dark gray. It's first light and we take position at the head of the run. The river is slightly off color and I work my section. It doesn't take long to shake off the rust as I watch the float go under hard. I set the hook and a skipper flies out of the water - finally! It almost six months since I last felt the rod tug. For the next few hours we start getting into fish and some of the large and full of piss and vinegar. The action is furious as the others farther downstream were probably kicking themselves in the ass for not fishing further upstream. The stragglers start walking in but by then its too late - the bite shut off and all three of us end up landing close to 30 fish.
We end the morning eating lunch at some Painesville dive not too far up the road. My stomach doesn't give a damn, it wants food. I wolf down a monster club sandwich and wash it down with some of the most god awful coffee. The wait was well worth it and I can laugh about after the fact of how I worried over nothing. Was November too long? Yes for a hardcore junkie like me. But there's times where certain factors are out of our control. We just have to wait it out.