Everybody dreads the grind. The times when you walk endless miles, trudging through the water, climbing over downed trees and pounding the water hard from first light to sunset. Your back, legs, and feet are killing you. At times, you've wondered if it's really worth it. That's what it's been like for the past several years, grinding it out whether it's in my backyard - the Rock or the streams way out east. It's times like this the truly separate the boys from men.
So far this season, I've logged a lot of miles on the water. The Alley is one of the most heavily stocked streams in the lower 48 states, but don't let the high number of fish stocked fool you. It hasn't been easy for me and my steelheading brethren. Sitting at one hole is a complete waste of time, but not passing up a small piece of pocket water. That's part of the grind, working every section of water and hoping for something.
That's what it was like during my vacation. What I thought was fishing a section of the river and catching decent numbers of fish, keeping me content. But that was wishful thinking, it was walking through the woods or getting the car and drive from location to the next. It didn't matter if I was out east or close to home - I had to grind it out.
I'm one the Grand at first light and it still feels like October instead of late November. We received rain over the weekend and it bumped the water up, but it didn't blow it out. The river is still high as that's evident as I cross over. I feel the current push me downstream as I cross over. I dig my boots into the gravel bottom as I force my across. The river is stained and I set my sights on the section downstream. With the heavier flow, I don't expect that much company coming over.
Just three days before me and a friend had to grind it out on the same river. However, rising waters and the "Game" made it a quick trip. The ole faithful spot has never let me down but in recent years its been either feast or famine. I start the process of working the section, making adjustments and trying different colored sacs. I do however, noticed several gulls swooping down and snatching shiners from the eddy on the opposite side. But, the water is too dirty for jigs. I look up stream I see a couple anglers that decided standing along the shore was a better idea. After 20 minutes or so, I hook into the first fish, which not surprisingly is a skipper. Skippers have a been the norm all season long as they made up the majority of fish caught.
I continue to grind and I start breaking the water down to grids. I works as I pluck a couple more fish out and then I start to slowly shuffle downstream, grinding out the pool until I know that I gave my 100%. I slowly trudge through the water and mumble to myself, whether I made the right decision or not. The grind can make the even the best second guess themselves.
Through out the morning, I grind it out in several locations. I remember watching the Deadliest Catch and there was an episode of a crew grinding it for cod. They endless hauled up traps and dropped them and repeat it over and over. Ever spot its the same, work the run, work the hole or work the pool. I methodical work the spot and I pick off some more fish. It's getting closer to noon and my stomach is grumbling. I open a protein bar and eat, I'm not even close to being done.
I head further up river and walk down into a small valley. It's a large sweeping run that spills into a long pool that runs along a cliff and eventually tails out. I'll be here for at least an hour I tell myself. Today, I'm glad I'm fishing solo, because I don't know if the guys could handle me constantly moving from spot to spot. I start at the head of the run and drift the float downstream, hugging along the seam. I shuffle down as I slowly drift that seam. I see the large rock in the middle of the run and I know there should be a fish. That spot has never let me down in the past. I make a slight adjustment as the run starts to get shallow. The float drifts at a leisurely pace and I watch it go under. I set the hook and watch a bright silver fish leap from the water. I walk back towards the shore and beach the fish. A decent sized hen without a blemish on her. I pop the hook and gently push her back into the water. She slowly swims off at first then with a burst of energy, she bolts for the deeper water. I walk further down to the pool and I start working that until I run into the tail end and I have nothing to show for.
I look at the time and it's almost four. In about an hour it will start getting dark. Then I have to deal with rush hour traffic coming out of Cleveland. I walk back and I feel the effects of the grind. My back is sore, my legs feel heavy, and my shoulders feel stiff. My efforts paid off as I caught a decent number of fish. Most people would of thrown in the towel before lunch time. Full days of fishing are few and far between for me, so I make the most of it.
As I get closer to Cleveland, I see the brake lights of cars and trucks ahead near Deadman's curve, there I'll start the grind on the way home.