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
Reese's peanut butter cups
fried chicken
cheese sticks
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. 

But he leaves with a black mark in regards to the Zach Smith scandal. I thought he handled it poorly and it was more ammo for his critics who often called him Urban Liar. Was he perfect? No. 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. 


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.