The Raptors Bandwagon Has Emptied


The Raptors bandwagon has officially started to empty out once Kawhi Leonard announced he was heading home and signing with the LA Clippers. Last year when the Raptors traded for him, they gambled because he would be a free agent the following season. The pay off was huge as they won the championship.

An intensely private person, Leonard didn't tip his hand after the season was over whether he would stay or go. But I always suspected that he would because he stated all along that he desired to play close to home which happened to be Southern California. But what won't surprise me will the massive defection of the Raptors bandwagon fans. Without Leonard, the Raptors chances of repeating will very difficult if not impossible. For bandwagon fans that all the reason to start bailing. 

My brother who lives outside of Toronto is one of those bandwagon fans. With glee he was posting on Facebook for his love of the Raptors. With amusement I've been needling him about it

"Raptors gear I see..............interesting"

"I can't recall ever seeing you rooting for them............hmmmmm"

"There's nothing wrong with being a bandwagon fan, just come out and admit it"


"You're so of full shit, I guarantee once Leonard leaves and they suck, you'll jump ship"

I would lay on the sarcasm pretty thick and called him out. He knew he was busted. 

I've always found bandwagon fans both amusing and annoying. Ask them stats about players or past accomplishments and you'll get a blank stare or they'll stutter like Porky Pig. 

At least the Leafs will be happy as they become the ones that will garner the attention especially if they can make it out of the 1st round of the playoffs and those bandwagon Raptors fans will trade in the We The North to Leafs blue and white.

Well I found the perfect slogan for the Raptors for this upcoming season


We Went South

St Louis Blues Stanley Cup Champions???


Another hockey season has come to an end and the improbable or for some the impossible happened. The St Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games winning their first cup in franchise history. Yes, those same Blues that on January 3rd had the worst record in the league.

So how the fuck did that happened? As many stunned hockey fans and bookies in Vegas were saying out loud.

Back in January, the Blues were a mess and management was ready to blow the team up. But something happened when rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was pulled from the abyss of minor league hockey. His unflappable play sparked the Blues and they went 26-6-4 making it into the playoffs as a long shot, and I mean a long shot. Vegas had them at 250-1 winning the cup. At the beginning of the playoffs, I didn't give them any thought or a realistic chance of making it far. But they did by grinding it out and defeating the Jets, Stars, and Sharks.

That set up a cup finals with the Bruins. But there were a lot of people thought the Blues could give the Bruins a good fight. I had the Bruins winning in seven because of their depth and experience. The X factor in the series was Binnington who despite having one bad game was stellar the entire series and he single handily won game 7 stoning the Bruins numerous times. The Blues scored twice in the 1st period and I started to sense that this was going the Blues way. The Bruins had no answers until the late in the 3rd period they finally scored, but by then the game was out of reach and they Blues were going to end their 52-year drought. The Plager brothers, Bernie Ferderko, Brian Sutter, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Cujo, and even Wayne Gretzky couldn't do what a bunch of nobodies did, bring home the Stanley Cup.

So how did the Blues win it all? Looking at their roster, they don't have a superstar. Nothing really pops out. But when you examine the stats sheet a little closer, you'll notice they have four solid lines. They're a big physical team. Everybody contributed. But what they had was a stud goaltender. When a goaltender gets hot, especially in the playoffs watch out, because he can carry a team. Others will say they caught lightning in a bottle. Once in a while there's a team that sneaks in the playoffs like the 2012 LA Kings and gets hot. Everything seems to go their way from flukey goals to missed calls from the refs.

For a Leafs fan like me, it's a bitter pill to swallow. I'm a diehard that bleeds blue and white. I was a fan back when they really stunk in the 80s. Most of my friend were Habs fans and I was ridiculed. The biggest hater was my father and during the hockey season, he would constantly talk trash. At times it was unbearable. But I never wavered much like those diehard Blues fans that toughed it out over the decades. 

The closest the Leafs came to a cup was in 1992 when they were on the cusp of making to the finals. Late in the 3rd period Gretzky high sticks Doug Gilmour and it draws blood, but ref Kerry Fraser misses it and doesn't call a penalty. Me and other Leafs fans screamed at the TV. The inevitable happens as Gretzky scores and the Leafs lose 5-4. That was 27 years ago and it's still etched in my memory and my hatred for Fraser will go to my grave with me. 

I watched the cup presentation and there were some Blues fans in attendance overjoyed and crying. For many of the Blues players, this was their first cup. Ever kid from Canada dreams of hoisting it over their heads. The motley collection of players sporting playoff beards and missing teeth gleefully skated around the rink living their childhood dream. Only I wished it was the Leafs doing it.

Now the they have the dubious distinction of owning the longest cup drought at 53 years and counting. I just hope they don't win it when I'm a nursing home sitting in a wheelchair drooling and unable to comprehend who the Leafs are. 

A Break From Steelheading


"Is that a friggin gar??"

I curse under my breath as I watch a couple of them cruise by me. Just the sight of them is a pretty good excuse to call it a season. A few days before a little birdie told me that a couple of guys were catching some walleyes on the lower end of the Rocky. Eager at the chance of getting some, I was a couple of days too late. By now the river was clearing and there was practically no flow. Before the arrival of the gars, the month of May was one of the wettest since 1953 and it was cool enough that late arrivals found perfect conditions and lingered after spawning. Ever since I lived here, it was one of the best late season steelheading I've ever had. I took full advantage of the fishing as many of my fellow steel headers decided to call it quits weeks ago. It was more than I needed to get it out of my system because more than often, I go into fasting mode once I toss the gear in the corner.

Summer is when I take a break from fishing. I know that sounds crazy. Nearly every person I know waits with great anticipation to head out onto the big pond for walleye, bass, or perch. Others make their annual pilgrim to Canada for lakers or pike. It's a combination of being burned out chasing steelhead since last September and I need to make up for all times that I conked out on my girlfriend after a long day on the river. 

So what do I do during the off season?

If I'm in the mood, I'll head over to the Vermilion to fish for channel cats in late May or early June. The lower Vermilion has plenty of deep holes and pools for cats to spawn in. Before making the trip, I'll go to the grocery store and haggle with one of the clerks working the seafood department asking what's the oldest shrimp on display. I often get a bewildered look when I ask and then that blank stare is gone when I tell them it's bait for catfish. With shrimp in hand, I let it stew on the counter for hours, the funkier, the better. Cats love the smell of rotting shrimp. The other available big quarry is carp. I've been dabbling in fly fishing for them, but ever since that virus swept through Lake Erie, the carp population got hit hard and there isn't as many as before. I've been spoiled by the hard-charging and violent fights of the steelhead that catfish and carp aren't quite up to the task. Call me a snob or an elitist, but my heart lies with the steelhead and I'm quite content to wait out the summer. 

Summer is when I'm the busiest with work. The last thing I want to do is be out on the water after a day being out in the field when the sun is scorching and the humidity is stifling. Most of the time I just don't have the time because I pursue my other passion which happens to be running and once steelheading season starts, I toss the sneakers into the closest. I love to run through the metropark in the evening. It releases a lot of the stress of dealing with a busy schedule. It refreshes the mind and cleanses the soul. The weekends are devoted to spending time with my significant other. She's a saint that puts up with my passion and I try to make up the time, by taking her out for dinner on a patio somewhere in Cleveland or lying on the hammock in the evening and listen to the chorus of tree frogs.

Whenever I enter my office, there's all of my gear is scattered about. The waders and jacket are hanging up. The waders need a patching job as there are several leaks that need attention. The jacket needs a wash and coating of water repellant and the cleats on my boots are worn to a nub. But, I'm procrastinating. I always do it every year. I could devote an evening to do it, but I keep telling myself that I have all summer. You would think it would be so easy, but it's not. More than often I just forget or I don't pay attention until something like my feet are freezing because that little leak has finally turned into a bigger one.

We all need a break from our passions and pursues. As much as I love steelheading, I start to get burned out and in some cases jaded from catching so many. I know my wallet takes a beating and I fret that I'm going over my mileage limit on my car's lease. Then there's the times when I loathe sitting at the table and tying sac after sac. I look at the time and it's almost midnight and I'll be on the road in five hours driving almost a 100 miles. Over the season it starts to add up.

After the 3rd week of May, I start my fasting from steelheading and when the cool winds come across Lake Erie in the fall, I start to feel that hunger come back.

Spring Steelhead

fishing Rocky River

The lifeless landscape starts to slowly awaken after a long winter. The trilliums, skunk cabbage, and bluebells are the first to poke through the forest floor. As the days get longer and warmer, the entire forest floor is a carpet of green. The willows and dogwoods are usually the first trees to sprout their leaves. Long gone is the bitter cold and waiting for the rivers to unthaw. I rejoice that the days are getting longer. But, it also signs that the season will eventually come to an end.

Spring is a time when I'm starting to get burned out by chasing steelhead. Getting up early, making the long drives out, and walking the endless miles to sate my appetite for them. My SUV reeks of musty waders and boots. The floor is littered with wrappers from the endless supply of protein bars I've eaten. It needs a good cleaning and detox when I finally call it quits which honestly I can never give an answer. Trips are often close to home as I really don't have the energy to make the drive to Conneaut or Ashtabula. I'm content fishing the Rock after work. There's always plenty of room because the majority of anglers are raking the redds. Yes, I hate the practice of flossing fish. But, it certainly frees up a lot of spots.

Dropbacks are my primary target. After spawning, they're lean and mean. They'll aggressively hit any offering you throw out at them. Despite looking famished and beaten up, they fight incredibly hard. They'll rip off line with relative ease. Many times I have had drop backs launch themselves out of the water and recklessly charge downstream.

With the days getting longer, I can now make the trips out east after work. But spring brings unpredictable weather along Steelhead Alley. Temperatures one day can be in the 40s and a couple of days later rocket into the 70s or even the 80s. With wild fluctuations, that usually means thunderstorms. Severe storms can quickly turn a lazy flowing river into a torrent of raging muddy waters. One river that is susceptible to unpredictable weather is the Grand. I've seen in past years, the Grand going the entire spring unfished because the river could never make down to fishable levels. It would tease us as the level would gradually go down. At times it was so slow, it was maddening

"She might fish in a couple of days.............I hope"

I would be frothing at the mouth at the number of fish to be had. But, then a storm would dump rain and she would go out of her banks and another week was shot.

Knowing that my window of fishing would be closing for the Grand, I made the trip out after work. My home river was low and the resident fish were beyond beaten up either by spawning or repeatedly being caught. With my unpredictable work schedule, I was hoping to finish at three so I could beat the traffic heading out of Cleveland. It turned out I left work at four, but the flow of traffic heading to Lake County was steady without any delays. The weather report was calling for rain later tonight and there was enough that it probably blow the Grand out for the rest of the season.

Rocky River metropark

When it comes to fishing dropbacks, I'll head to sections that have gravel. They tend to linger off the beds and recuperate. I arrive at one of the metro parks and as I head down to the river I see a couple of fish in the feeder creek. The creek is barely six feet wide and gin clear. They bolt for cover under a downed tree. It's not a far walk and I see the mud littered with footprints. The feeder creek barely makes to the river. The water here is cleaner as the two bodies of water meet. The Grand with its clay-based stain meeting the clear waters of the two feeder creeks. The two mix the water into a light tea colored stain. The bottom of the river is mostly rocks mixed with gravel. It's a prime spawning spot and a magnet for spey fishermen as the river is wide enough and fast flowing for them to swing their streamers.

I see a cluster of anglers fishing the shallows, there's plenty of open water downstream. I walk past a couple of them and wade halfway out. The river is flowing at a good rate as the water here is well oxygenated. Dropbacks prefer slower deeper water, but there's isn't any here. From knowledge, I know that dropbacks will hang near the high bank. The speed of the bubbles is a dead giveaway. I adjust the float and pull out a pink uncured salmon egg. They've been tearing up salmon eggs for the past few weeks and it doesn't take long to hook into the first fish. The float gets ripped under fast and I set the hook. The fish surges and the fight is over quickly as the fish tosses the hook. I make some more adjustments and I feather the float back to have the sac is in front. Another lighting fast take and the fish tosses the hook. The flow is strong enough that it often tears the hook out. I continue to lose fish as I'm either too fast or too slow setting the hook. But I really don't care, because I don't want to stress the fish and secondly I lost my hemostats.

I continue to shuffle down working the lumber and I have another take and this time I have a solid hook up. The fish launches itself out of the water numerous times. With 8 pound test, I quickly muscle it in. The fish turns out to be small spawned out hen. She has all the signs of spawning. Worn out tail, scars on her belly and of course a couple flies stuck on her. I pull the flies out and quickly let her go. I make my way farther down and pick off some fish. It doesn't seem there's a lot of fish here. It's been a major complaint this season that the numbers are off and the size of the fish have been small. There's been plenty of bitching about this latest strain of steelhead that Ohio has been stocking. We all fell in love with the large brutish Manistees for several years. But then the state switched to the Chambers Creek and Ganaraska strains. The newest strain was generally 22" to 26" in length and anything over 30" was extremely rare. I can't remember the last time I caught a fish over 30". We have our theories and I suspect that the numbers are low and the size of the fish smaller is the result of a lack of forage out in the lake. This season, I haven't seen one emerald shiner in the streams. Usually, in the fall or the spring, massive schools of them head into the lower sections. You can blame the gazillion zebra mussels that compete with the shiners for food. Also there's a record number of walleye in the lake now. That 1-2 combination is enough to knockout the current shiner population. Those record numbers of walleye also have a hankering for smolts.

I continue to plug away as I pick off some fish until I finally reach the end of the line. The river here is too shallow to hold fish. I cross over and fish another section below the cliffs. I bemoan this spot because, in past years, it held a lot of dropbacks because it was deeper. Today, debris has filled it in and altered the flow. This is life along Steelhead Alley. Mud banks get dug out and gravel and sand move about. It's a constant relearning the rivers. We all share stories of about our favorite holes and pools. But over time we find new ones. Last month I stumbled onto it and found it held a lot of fish. Due to the gravel and rocks above, the river turned slightly and dug out a channel along the bank. The flow was ideal and the depth was enough to conceal fish.

There were plenty of dropbacks here and it was a mix of acrobatics leaps and sizzling runs. I check the time and it's past 6:30, I have about another hour, but there's rain heading my way. I cross over and fish another spot. This is also new as when they rebuilt the train trestle and removed all of the lumber and the support stands. Now the river has flattened out. I cast into sections that flow around the numerous rocks in the water. I have two more fish fall for pink sacs and I catch the first male. Just like the females, they show the rigors of spawning. In the past, I've caught some large males sporting nasty wounds from fighting with other males of equal size. This smaller male had some sores but not from fighting as he would be severely wounded if he did get caught in the jaws of the dominant male.

Rocky River metropark

As expected there's no fresh fish caught, probably because I'm farther upriver. Late arrivals often spawn at the first gravel they find. The fish I caught last fall, probably spawned weeks or even last year. Whatever the case, they're long gone. When the rivers swell, they lazily ride back to the lake. But it's still late April and there's always the last minute spawners that sneak into the rivers. I wouldn't be shocked if there were still fish in the rivers well into May. As long as the weather stays cool and the waters don't warm up too fast. By now most of the steelheaders I know, have stowed the gear away for the season. Only the diehards remain out, fishing until the very last days. For me, the true sign that the steelhead season is over is when the gars start showing up on the lower sections. By then the waters are too warm and the steelhead will retreat the depths of Lake Erie. There they eventually return to their silver color and roam the vast distances in the lake seeking food to replenish the lost weight. Only until the days start getting shorter do they start to come back to the rivers.

The skies are getting dark and the wind is whipping around. I check the weather and I can see the rain just west of me. The entire western part of the state is covered in dark green and yellows on the rain band. I have a feeling that it enough to blow the river out and who knows when I'll get another chance to fish the Grand. There was another spot that I wanted to fish, but there isn't enough time, it will be dark soon. As I walk back, I see that everyone is gone. The rain starts to pelt me as I walk up the feeder creek. I undress quickly and the rain falling harder. It's almost dark when I get on I-90 and head back to Rocky River. The ride is quiet as the only sound is the wipers and the rain. It's a time to unwind. This will be most likely to be my last trip to the Grand.

In another week it will be May and I'm sure there will be fish. My supply of eggs is getting low as I have just enough to get me through until the bait shop gets salmon eggs in October. There have been times when I can't resist and I'll break out a pack of eggs.

"Just one more trip"

Famous last words from a diehard

As I said, the weather is so unpredictable. Next month can be cool and the conditions might be enough to keep some of the fish in the rivers. But that also means the state will be stocking smolts and I'm very reluctant to fish because I don't want to harm the next generation.

But my passion is too strong and I'll fish to the bitter end and curse the sight of the gars.

Big Change A Coming


Last month I went for my physical and specifically for my cholesterol. Two years ago was the first time I ever had it tested. That's when my father passed away and his health most of his life was a mess. Even though he was a phys ed teacher, he was a two pack a day smoker, meat and potatoes, and the only exercise he did was when he played golf. During the winter he was a permanent fixture either on the couch or in front of his computer. Heart disease runs my family and I'm at the age now where I have to watch it. When I got the results, my cholesterol was elevated, but nothing to freak out about.

The doctor told me to eat healthy and exercise. The exercise was the easiest part. Eating healthy? I have an insatiable appetite rivaling that of a famished Tasmanian devil. I tried to eat healthy, but I often resorted to hitting the hot buffet at the local grocery store. After a day of fishing, I would hit McDonalds and get a couple small cheeseburgers. I never like to cook, because I was either too tired after work or I would rather fish. I made good money, so I could afford to eat out and I did, a lot. Sometimes it was healthy and other times, not so healthy. It was maddening as I was stuck at 200 pounds and my gut wasn't getting flat. But, that was on me as I didn't have the willpower.

A couple of weeks later and the results are in - my bad cholesterol is still elevated. I wasn't surprised, but I was when the doctor prescribed me Lipitor. Bad enough I'm taking Flomax because my prostate is ballooning and I got tired of peeing on the hour. I messaged the doctor and told her I would rather do the lifestyle changes before taking a drug. She agreed and I set an appointment in November to see if those changes helped.

This is the biggest change I will make. I made a huge one 25 years ago when I gave up smoking. This time I'll have to give up

ice cream
cupcakes
Reese's peanut butter cups
fried chicken
fries
cheese sticks
pizza
chips
burgers
bacon
chicken nuggets
mac and cheese

That was my comfort food and I was always guilty of cheating

"Oh one burger and fries won't kill me"

But the cheating happened more and more. I would come back to the office straving and I would see the box of pizza sitting on the back table and I would snatch one or two pieces. It started to add up and that's the reason why my weight got stuck and my cholesterol was still elevated. Something had to give, because I didn't want to be on statins for the rest of my life.

My fridge today would repulse the old me from 20 years ago. It's full of fruit and veggies, chia pudding, coconut milk, avocados, range free eggs, and organic chicken breasts. In the pantry are almonds, steel cut oatmeal, and almond flour. I'll have to resist the temptation when one of the guys at work brings back a pizza or the one girls up front brings in cupcakes. I'll have to grin and bear it or just run out of the office after work.

So far this week, I've been packing lunch. It's a chicken salad with peppers and avocados, chia pudding and blueberries, and a couple apples. It will be interesting this upcoming season when I go fishing with the guys because their eating habits are atrocious. It's McDonald's or those raunchy Speedway burritos. I would starve if I didn't pack a lunch.

I will have to be very, very disciplined. It's so easy to fall off the wagon. The devil on my shoulder will be flicked off when I looking at the menu. Put a large sundae in front of me? I won't flinch, I'll just push away. No breaking into a cold sweat. If there's no one about me, once I go all in, I'm committed 100%

All I know is I'm going to lose weight, guaranteed. Oh but I forgot, I have to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. Isn't it fun turning 50!!

Weather Junkie


Weather and fishing go hand in hand. As a youngster, I remember hearing the old sayings when comes about fishing and weather patterns

Wind out the east the fish bite the least

Wind out the west, fish bite best


Wind out of the north, don't venture forth


Wind of the south, blows the bait into the fishes mouth


But for some of us it becomes an obsession especially during the steelhead season. I fall into the compulsive weather junkie category. During the season especially days before the weekend or my vacation, I constantly check the weather much to the amusement of my girlfriend. But she doesn't understand and I'm not the only one afflicted with it, far from it.

I break into a sweat when I see there's rain coming for the upcoming weekend. I pull the phone out and check the report 

Showers this evening, becoming a steady rain overnight. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch

I'll play the radar and click on the future tracking. There's a path of yellow and dark green that will pass right over us. Every few hours, I'll update the report in the hope that the chance of rain diminishes. This will play out over the next day as I try to predict to where I should fish. The smaller streams tend to blow out quickly, while the Grand might a day to blow out. I fret about whether should I pull some eggs out because every junkie knows that the weather reporting is as accurate as me filling out my NCAA men's basketball bracket.

Periods of rain throughout the day. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall near a quarter inch 

A little better, but I continue to analyze the path of the rain. I check the hourly totals to see how much will fall. Of course it doesn't help that I have a couple weather apps on my phone and most of the time, the two of them have conflicting reports adding to the stress. Christ, I'm so fucking pathetic.

But there's a reason behind why I do it, because I consider myself the savvy steelheader
( even though my girlfriend thinks I'm neurotic ) because I diligently monitor both real time and projected weather patterns. It all boils down that I want the best chance of hooking into fish. Because the weather along the Alley can be chaotic whether it's October, January, or April. I've witness wild swings in temperatures going from the 60s and a few days later dropping into the 30s. I've seen 2' of snow only to be completely gone in a matter of a week. Streams freezing over, thawing, and refreezing in a month.

The junkie knows that frigid overnight temperatures usually spells slush in the morning. Why bother getting up at the crack of dawn only see a river clogged with it. I'll sleep in and wait for the afternoon. The same can be said in late fall when there's a front coming through gusting winds will litter the stream with leaves. Or if the temperatures for the upcoming weekend are be sunny and in the upper 60s, I'll head upstream and fish the remote sections because I don't want to deal with the army of fair weather fishermen. Back when I had my Jeep I often made the drive out east when lake effect snow were in forecast because I knew a lot of anglers wouldn't even dare make the drive out. Sadly my Jeep succumbed to father rust and today I have a crossover that isn't quite up to the task of tearing through a foot of snow.

Every stream along the Alley has their "sweet spot" some clear within a matter of days and others take a week. When everything blows out after a rainfall, I have a good idea where to go. There's been times albeit rare that I had to resort to ditch fishing. But I tell anglers new to steelheading that there's always somewhere to fish along the Alley.

But we all know that predicting the weather isn't an exact science. I don't know how many times I got burned because I thought everything would be blown out for the weekend only to see the storms shifted south or north or not enough rain fell. So I'll have to wake up at four in the morning and hastily tie eggs. Other times I take a day off in advance and I'm driving a 100 miles into Pennsylvania because everything in Ohio is blown out and I also have to shell out money for a fishing license, because the storm that was supposed to miss us decided to park itself over Northeastern Ohio and dump a ton of rain. 

The things we'll do just catch some fish.

Fishing Gear

Kingpin Imperial 475 model

An angler's gear defines him. I see guys on the rivers sporting the most expensive set up running over a $1000.00 in some cases. Others have equipment that looks like it was abandon at the river's edge. But, there's a collection of stories or memories attached to every single of them. It could be that trip to Northern Canada, Florida, or one of the local streams. It could be that fish of a lifetime caught 20 years ago, or the one that got away. I have plenty stories and memories with my gear going back over 15 years. Some of my reels and rods have been replaced and others are tucked away in a closest.

I have a collection of old rods and reels in my place. Some have been in there for years. I could sell them, but I have a special attachment to them. One of them is a John Milner Kingfisher that I purchased from Ebay along with a Raven float rod and collection of floats. I got a great deal as I paid $220.00 for the entire setup. That was close to 15 years ago when centerpinning started taking off along the Alley. The reel was a bushing model that I eventually found out wasn't ideal for the lazy flowing rivers found in Ohio. It was trail and error and a lot of bird's nests as I tried to master the casting it. But eventually I got the hang of it, but I what I needed was a bearing type reel.

I ended up purchasing a Bob James and it was a impulse buy because it was on sale for $250.00. It was beautifully crafted with the nickel silver spokes and the ingenious reel tension screw. However, it did have one major flaw which I overlooked, it was the placement of the handles. They were at the edge of the reel. With a centerpin there's no drag and in my case, I use my fingers to slow it down. What happened was the handles would bang into my fingers. I tried using my palm, but I never liked it. Also the clicker was at a odd position and many times I would accidentally engage it while fighting a fish. After a season, I ended up selling it to some naive kid, but I took a lost selling it for $100.00


John Milner Kingfisher bushing reel

This time I did my homework and I bought a reel specifically made for the Great Lakes steelheader. This one was Kingpin Series II and it was my first big time purchase as I shelled out over $500.00 for the best British engineered reel at the time. It was main reel for many years until the next generation of the Kingpin came out and the lighter and thinner 475 model. The weight difference was noticeable compared to the old one. To this date it's been my primary reel and I haven't even thought of getting another one. It's performed flawlessly and withstood my punishment.

As for my rods, I had some pretty useless ones at first. They were cheap and often broke because they could handle my abuse. The Raven rod I got from Ebay was a IM8 model and it was too stiff and heavy. I often joked that I could us it for pole vaulting. After a long day my shoulder paid the price. I sold that to another naive newbie. Being done with inferior quality, I laid out the cash and got the Excalibur of float rods, the G Loomis GLX. For $580.00, it was worth every penny. It was so light that I never had issues with my shoulder anymore.

As legend has it, King Arthur broke his Excalibur. Today I'm on my third one. The first one I broke the tip as I whacked it too hard on the water trying to get the ice off the top guides. They sent me a replacement section for $40.00. The second one was when I fell down a bank and the rod hit a rock. Little I did I know at the time I cracked the blank and eventually one outing I caught a snag and the rod snap right above the handle. G Loomis shipped me a brand rod for $120.00 and in the four years I've caught a ton of fish with it. The other rod is my Raven IM6 model which is my backup rod and I've had nothing but problems with it. I've had it break 5 times mostly at the top because the rod can't handle heavy loads and I've noticed it breaks when the temperature is really cold. Right now it's in the closest as I broke the mid section when I tried to beach a large fish. I haven't decided if I want to spend the money to fix again or just chuck it. My only other back up rod is a $40.00 one I bought for my girlfriend's son. He's only used it once and that was over 3 years ago.


Kingpin Series 2 reel

Buried deep in the recesses of my closest are my fly rods and reels. I have a Redington 7W and a Teton reel. I also have a Redington reel that I used in Michigan over 10 years ago and after a week of epic fights with some surly Kings, the drag got fried. Other than making a great paperweight, it's pretty well useless. The Okuma 10W I bought for $50.00 got blown up on the second last day when I got freight trained by a huge fish. I can't remember when I last used the fly rod as I was swayed to the darkside of float fishing and never looked back. I have been dabbling fly fishing for carp, but I really never have or wanted to make time fishing in the summer as the Rock can be a grotesque mess of algae and smelly mud. Will I sell my fly rod and reel? Probably not as you never know I might eventually get bored of float fishing, but that's a big maybe.

You think I would be happy and proud of my gear, but I have this indifference to them. I toss them in the back of my SUV. I don't gasp whenever I drop my reel on the rocks. I basically treat my gear like that because I can afford it. If you looked at my gear, you would thought I found it in a dumpster. All of my centerpin reels are covered with nicks and scratches. That's a testament of how much I fish for steelhead. The same can be said about my Loomis rod. The cork is filthy, the guides have grooves in them, and blank is coated with whatever it came in contact with. Personally I don't think gear should be all nice and shiny. That's for the vain crowd. By the time the last steelhead have left the rivers, I'll start the long process of scrubbing off all that crap that has accumulated since last September.

Everybody's fishing gear will eventually wear out. Some of us don't hesitate and go out and buy more. But guys like me, don't like to part with a faithful old friend. I can see myself on the river when I'm in my 80s fishing with my Kingpin as the newest generation of steelheaders will see the old man fishing with a relic from the early part of the 21st century.

Poison Sumac

There's plenty of hazards when fishing. Slipping on rocks and twisting an ankle, getting a hook in your hand, getting shot at during deer hunting season or getting a nasty case of poison sumac. Every decade or so, I get some bout of poison ivy. The last time was in Salmon River, New York back in 2005. I'm surprised that I don't get it more often as I recklessly charge through the woods. Leaves of three, leave them be? Good luck spotting that in the dark. Now add posion sumac to the list.
blisters from poison sumac

Innocent looking, nothing to worry about right? Just a few blisters, it should go away eventually.

rash from poison sumac

Uh oh, this is getting worse. I had to go to the drugstore to stock up on calamine lotion, cotton balls, Benadryl and gauze wrapping. It started to itch like a mother.

rash from poison sumac

Holy shit, this is getting nasty. Now I'm googling for remedies and any ideas on how to stop it from spreading. Luckily I had some apple cider vinegar in the cupboard. My bedroom reeks of it. The vinegar does the trick in relieving the itching and drying out the blisters. As for the rash only time will heal it.

rash from poison sumac

You would think that I poured acid on my skin. This is just my forearm. I also had it on my chest as I didn't wash after fishing and napped when I got home. I probably tucked my forearm under my chest. I was lucky that it was a rash and not a festering mess of blisters. Then throw in my histamine attack and right side of my chest is blotchy red. My poor girlfriend won't touch me.
poison sumac bush

Here's my antagonist - Toxicodendron vernix. This rotten plant that gave me over two weeks of lousy sleep, endless applications of apple cider vinegar, nightly doses of Benadryl, and the nastiest blisters that I've ever had. Three week later my wrist is almost back to normal as there a small hint of red. My chest is getting better as the blotches are barely noticeable. Just this past weekend I was on Conneaut Creek and was shocked see that it grows all along it. For years I've walked right through it, thinking it was just sumac. While not everyone is allergic as I am, just be careful out there. 

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer

My lasting image of Urban Meyer was late in the 4th quarter against Michigan. The Buckeyes had pulled off the huge upset of the Wolverines. The score was 62-39 with a little over a minute left to play. They were 1st and goal and fans were egging Urban to score again. The camera pans at Meyer and you can clearly see him thinking about it. Fox analyst Joe Klatt comments

"Does he go the Woody Hayes route?"

I, the ghost of Woody, and many fans were hoping he would score and go for the two point conversion that would have made the score 70-39. Much to the fans chagrin, Urban showed some mercy against his arch-rival and instead instructed his quarterback Dwayne Haskins to take a knee and run the clock out. The game ended and he was a perfect 7-0 against Michigan and winning another Big Ten East title. Jim Harbaugh runs off the field cursing under his breath that Urban once again got the better of him. The fans stormed the field and little did they know it would be his last game at the Shoe. 

After winning the Big Ten Championship, Urban announced that he was retiring after the Rose Bowl. The cyst inside his brain was causing too much pain as a result of the stress he endured over the years. This past season was one of the worst during his time at Ohio State. The suspension for the first three games because of his handling of the Zach Smith domestic abuse allegations and his team playing like shit all season long. He once retired from Florida because health related stress, but this time he said it would be for good. 

When Meyer was hired in 2012, Ohio State was in a dark place. Jim Tressel had resigned in disgrace and the program had its first losing season since 1988. They were hit with sanctions and banned from postseason play. Urban took a team that had nothing to play for and went 12-0. He turned the Buckeyes into a juggernaut that the Big Ten had never seen before. He brought respectability back to the conference that was once seen as inferior. He recruited nationally and started to mold his team into the one that won two national championships at Florida. Gone was "Tressel Ball" and in its place was an SEC team built for speed and offensive firepower. All that fruition came together in 2014 when he won his 3rd national title. 

Meyer was a driven coach who obsessed over the finest details. I lost count the number of times he blew a gasket over a penalty or a missed assignment. Over time it started to take a toll on him. The cyst inside his brain would cause severe headaches whenever he was stressed out. It had been going on for several years, but a lot people didn't know about it. I never knew about the condition until this season. I just remember watching him hunched over, grabbing his head, and looking anguished. He old and worn out. There was something not quite right about him. 

His last game would be in Pasadena as they were playing Washington in the Rose Bowl. It was fitting because Meyer had never been to the Rose Bowl. They favored to win, but they didn't make it easy as they almost blew the game winning 28-23. He walked into the sunset with an 82-9 record at Ohio State. He left huge shoes to fill for new head coach Ryan Day. 

The big black cloud hanging over him is the Zach Smith scandal. During his time at Florida mny of his players ran afoul with the police. I thought he handled the Smith affair poorly and it was more ammo for his critics who often called him Urban Liar. Was he perfect? Absolutely not. He had his moments as there were times when I groused and bitched that he was far too loyal to JT Barrett. He also picked the worst time to lay an egg against a team he should have thrashed soundly. That cost him a chance of making it to the playoffs. There were times I thought he was too conservative in play calling and also cost another chance of making it to the playoffs. Then there were questionable coaching hires such as Tim Beck, promoting Ed Warriner to offensive coordinator, Greg Studrawa, and worst of all Bill Davis. 

But it was masterful coaching job in 2014 that will leave a lasting impression on Buckeye fans. He took a team that went through a lot at the beginning of the season and had its share of highs and lows. They were underdogs in the playoffs and they pulled off two of the biggest victories in Ohio State history. How he didn't win coach of the year is mind boggling. 

His retirement don't come as a surprise to me. Urban was a very intense coach. He demanded perfection from his players and coaches. Coaches like him often have a short life expectancy as they're prone to burning out. As expected many are saying this just another short term retirement as Meyer will begin to feel better and the competitive urge will be too strong for him ignore. Some think he'll wait when a big time program is looking for new coach. Personally, I think he's done. The cyst can't be removed, his extended family is too important, and his age is a factor now. He's made his mark in college football as one of the greatest. He has nothing left to prove and Harbaugh's chance for beating him is gone forever. 

50


October 3rd and I'm looking in the mirror.

"I'm 50 years old today"

I look at my reflection and I see the same guy from 10 years ago just with a little more grey but nicely textured with my brown hair. I still fool a lot of people when it comes to guessing my age. Physically, I'm probably in the best shape in my life. Long gone is the overweight couch potato of 20 years ago. I haven't smoked since 1994 and I rarely drink anymore. I'm 195 pounds and I could use some more chiseling in the gym. I guess I consider myself lucky for someone that is now a half century old.

When it comes to fishing, I still possess that youthful eagerness that I had in my teens. Leaping out of bed at five in the morning. My face lights up whenever I see the river. I fish the pools and runs hard. At the end of the day, I'm one of the last guys off the river. But, there's those signs that I'm getting older. I have to use bigger floats to see them better. At the end of the day my back is sore and I'll hit the sack quickly much to my girlfriend's chagrin. 

More and more of my fishing trips are often by myself now. The older guys I fish with wouldn't be able to keep up. Father time has taken a toll on them whether it's bad knees, failing eyesight or being out of shape. They're content fishing the closest spot to the parking lot. My passion is just too strong. As long as I'm physically able to do it, I can't see myself stopping. 

But over the years, I seen the older anglers gradually disappear on my home waters. I know some by name and others by face. Some have passed away and others can no longer physically do it. It makes you take stock that we can't stop time. That's why I take my health so seriously now. 

We all deal differently when it comes to age. Some bemoan getting older, others embrace it, and others see it was just a number and go about their business. The unexpected death of my father a couple years ago has made me realize that time is precious and be taken away at a moments notice. There's plenty I want to do, but at times I do feel a sense of urgency. Back in my 20s I had no thought of the future. I had no responsibility or worries. Turning 50 was so far away as it was an after thought. 

Like most people, I have a lot of good, bad, and really bad experiences in my life. The worst ones were the most trying and I wondered if I could recover from them. I weathered them and I came out stronger. In fact, each event has given me renewed appreciation for my life and the inspiration to keep exploring, learning, and growing. I feel it's a never ending process.

There's plenty I want to do and I'm going to do it. Next year, my girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Italy, I want to write a book, and run in a marathon. Turning 50 was just another milestone and I'm ready for another decade of adventures.