Thursday, January 29, 2009
Once upon a time Morin and I had never been to New York.
We'd heard the stories...
Rivers black with fish....you could walk across them.....a fish on every drift...
But there is nothing like a good fish story.
I can't remember the circumstances surrounding our first trip. I know it was fueled somewhat from a FF.Net thread rife with fish porn...and to be shamefully honest it was surely inspired at least in part by a roe shortage.
I don't think either of us can kill a fish from our river but ...and I sincerely hope this doesn't offend anyone, it is not that much of a strain on my conscience for me to take a fish from a river which it,
A. Has ZERO chance of spawning in
B. Has Mutant Hatchery origins
C. It is part of a push of fish that is literally so thick that most of the fish have no place to hide
I don't believe that even with the outlandish trip that we had that we would've thrown over our little trib unless the conditions there were crap as well.
It seems to me that everything was flooded.
The Oak is a tailwater fishery that has the wonderful reputation of never being blown.
It also has the reputation of being the premier Lake Run Brown Trout fishery in the world. The roe from these fish was also rumoured to have magical properties that even Steelies with Lock-Jaw could not resist
How do these things get started??
Regardless...To make a long story short we did keep a fish and the Brown Trout roe does work.....but so does the roe we buy from the hatchery...
Mostly what works is a well presented bait and some patience.
So Morin and I drive through the night against ridiculous howling winds and sideways rain. We arrive at the river with little hope of water clarity or the chance of a drift that is even remotely presentable.
In this regard the Oak is a wonderful place. It is for the most part well shielded from the wind and even with the water on the high side had more clarity than even I could've hoped for.
We started fishing right at sun-up. There were quite a few people but it couldn't really be classified as a circus.
Unsure of where to begin we just sauntered up to the waters edge and lobbed one in.
The float didn't make it 2 ft.
This went on for two days.
I have never been around fishing that easy before.
The bite would taper off somewhat but with a quick change of location it would pick up again with the same intensity.
Oddly enough most of the fish were Steelies.
The big rains of the previous week seemed to have ushered in some ultra fresh fish and we'd timed it just right.
Landing fish at the Oak is a real trick. It is my only gripe about the place. The trees line the rivers edge making it almost impossible to move with a fish.
Brian found one little sweet spot on the river where the rather swift current broke around some submerged timber.
The Steelhead were stacked in there and we took turns losing fish from that location for about 2 hrs. LOL
It was pretty hard to walk down with a fish as the water was at least waist deep and really trucking so we would put as much pressure on them as we'd dared and if the fish wouldn't turn we'd be re-rigging.
This is where I hooked #5...The Largest Steelhead of My Life.
Brian had lost interest in the mission impossible run and had just disappeared around the bend upstream when I set up on one that I knew was special.
Now here I am up to my waist in fast moving water bracing myself against a submerged log and this thing comes out of the water about ten feet from me.
I don't mind taking my time with a fish and for the first little while the big fella just sounded out in front of me....if anyting it was heading up stream.
Just when I had considered the possibility that I may get lucky and beach it right there the fish made another outstanding leap, turned and headed down stream at the speed of sound.
Oh well...fuck it...
I am going after it.
So as my float reel is still spinning in my hand I am trying to climb over the giant log that the current has me wedged against while trying not to lose my balance and end up floating downstream!
I finally caught up with the fish in a section that was quite a bit slower about 60 yards downstream. This little area was occupied with two fishermen who were shocked to see me wading downstream in a river that was unwadable.
One was a guide and the other his client.
(BTW...who the fuck hires a guide on a river that gives up 50 fish a day?)
I think they were a little pissed at me.
"Sorry guys"..."this one has some shoulders and I had to chase it a bit"
Just then the fish breached and everybody in sight gave a collective "HOLY SHIT".
In the calmer water it didn't take me long to turn it and when it finally slid in to the bank I just about fell over.
The 'guide' said it went 15 lbs easy but he was drunk.
He was kind enough to tape it for me and take these terrible photographs...
Where the hell were you?????
Anyway..fishy went just over 32" in length.
Fresh clean fish without a mark glittering in the sunshine...
Nice fish anywhere and it dwarfed anything else we caught on that trip.
I think that I shut 'er down after that. Morin couldn't be dragged from the river...because he is deeply disturbed.
Finally as dark settled we hit THE BLACK NORTH for some of the greatest french fries I have ever tasted and beer.
Day two was almost as productive but nothing will ever compare to the magic of that first day.
I catch myself occasionally relating my NY story to people who I can tell just can't believe it.
I had Advanced Taxidermy do me up a very nice replica mount of my #5 fish. They didn't have much to go on and the girth is a little on the thick side. This fish was more like a torpedo than a tank but whenever I look at it I remember that day.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Was it 2003 or 2004???
I don't even like thinking about it so I am not going to double check,
Either way It is amazing to me how much time has passed and how much of my life has changed.
I work for the government and for the most part am very proud of what I do ....but like any federal institution my place of employment is a giant clusterfuck..
I realize this now after having been through the fire so to speak.
In 2003 I accepted a position at the public trough. The new job would mean a substantial increase in pay and the shift work would also mean that I would have a ton of time off midweek to fish.
Law enforcement for me seemed like a bit of a stretch at the time but surprise surprise ...looking at it now ... I seem to have a knack for it and for the most part I enjoy what I do.
Not many people can honestly say that and in this day and age I realize just how very lucky I am to just have a friggin job!
Part of the condition of my employment was that I successfully complete a 9 week government training program...
...a program with an extremely bad reputation.
9 weeks away from the family in the middle of nowhere....if I fail anything I am out on my ass and the job goes bye bye...
They escort you from the premises and put you on a plane...Thanks for coming out
Ella was 2 months old when I left.
I am the sole source of family income...try that on for size.
I do not travel well and I hate being away from my family even overnight not to mention I had been removed from a formal educational setting by about 13 yrs.
Obviously I was successful but this
was far and away the worst experience of my life...(interestingly enough the second worst was another type of government training???)
Well anyway...enough of that..
On top of the misery of being away the Philistines had the audacity to send me for training through OCT/NOV/DEC....heartless....
The only good thing was that the workload was so heavy nobody really had time to pine for things.
Halfway through the program I thankfully took advantage of a travel weekend.
I believe it was a three day reprieve?
It is funny how the memory is fuzzy...almost like repression.
I don't fly well and chose to drive home on my breaks....all 9hrs.
I remember tearing up when I saw the lights from the chemical valley from the highway....ah Home Sweet Home!!!
I had never failed anything in my life and I am not shy on confidence but the Fed Gov is a wild card and I was stressed out.
I don't know how we managed to swing it but Morin and I got out fishing on that weekend and I will remember that day for the rest of my life.
I don't know what kind of company I was for my friend that day. My heart was aching and the thought of returning to that hell hole of a college was a constant that was almost impossible to shake...but fuck them...that is just what we did.
We caught a lot of fish that day...and like a gift from Heaven ...or wherever..the river was surprisingly quiet.
This fish was the final fish of the day and while to many people it may only appear mediocre .. to me ...because of the circumstances it was monumental.
A beautiful strong clean fish from home....that would carry me through the hellish dirty weeks to come.
I made it...fuck them.
I need that river.
..and friends aren't too bad either I suppose.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Today I tore myself away from my Tiger Woods Golf and from the winter blues that have been choking the life out of me and hit the ice again with Morin and crew..
Fresh air sunshine and family fun.
Just the little pick me up I needed.
Here is Owen with a Lunker...lol
I had to beg him to hold it on his own.
The first thing he did when he got home was run and tell his mom about the giant fish that he caught...
There may be hope for that kid yet...and me.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Well hate is a strong word...after all it is fishing..
I suppose I should say that I dislike it...
I prefer a nice slow braided meandering flow of about 4- 5 ft tops in its deepest spots..
I like it boulder strewn with pockets ripe for the picking.
This is the water that I really came into my own on and it is the water that I have the most confidence on.
This fish...#7...was a BIG water fish...THE BIGGEST WATER I suppose...I can't think of any bigger.
A river Legendary for its strength.
The Almighty NIAGARA
I remember hearing a tale about a drift boat being sucked right under in one of its swirling whirlpools...could've been made up but after fishing the river and seeing it up close...very believable regardless.
I think I've fished it maybe 3 times now but the first trip will always stand out in my memory.
The Niagara Gorge is really very beautiful in the fall and I had no idea that it even existed.
Unfortunately the words Niagara Falls have always conjured up feelings of disgust for me...
Wax Museums..sleazy motels...and cheap tourism...
Not to mention the Casino.
I had read about the fishing but could never bring myself to make a run.
Well Morin talked me into it.
He talks me into a lot of shit.
During a horrible low water spell early one season we loaded up the car and took a run at the big water.
What an experience. Nothing at all like I'd expected.
We had no idea where to begin so we just 'winged it'...come to think of it we have had very good luck at winging it.
Well the word was that it was early for Steelhead but the river was thick with salmon.
We had a very funny experience where a GIANT Chinook was washed up onto the beach where we were rigging up and the the violent river just took it right back out again.
We each caught a lot of fish ...mostly Coho and King salmon with a beauty of a Brown thrown in for good measure but it wasn't until the end of the day that we hooked any Steelhead.
13 ft of line under the float, thrown out about as far as you can toss that madness and just hope for the best ...that was the MO...completely weird....but it worked.
Finesse fishing this is not.
I knew it was a Steelie the minute it was hooked because it just went wild.
On that river all you can do is put as much pressure on them as possible and pray...NICE.
Well just when I thought my arms were going to fall off this beauty came surfing in on a wave. It hung around just long enough for a photo and then we sent him back into that swirling mess of a river.
If I was a fish I would surely prefer a fall run up the Bighead.
Great fish #7
..and It stands out in my memory just because it was the first on a crazy river that still intimidates me a wee bit.
At any given time on this day the river would rise or fall about 4 ft within about an hour.
At one point when we weren't paying attention some of the stuff we'd left about 15 ft from shore just about got washed away during a river surge.
The fact that there is such quality fishing tucked right in the armpit of Ontario appeals to my sense of the absurd and this is my trophy.
A river that deserves another few trips but who knows when...and man what a hike out.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The rivers set up beautifully early on and stayed that way almost without exception until the close of the year.
The fish were unusually large and there were lots of them.
I will never forget it....ever.
2006 will be the measuring stick for all seasons to come.
I wasn't around for the golden years of the '80's but if they compared to the 2006 season it must've really been something.
Some days that season you'd just leave the river thinking almost that maybe you'd dreamt it.
Number 8 on my list is a Steelie from 2006.
There were a lot of really great fish caught that season and any number of them could've found there way onto here but this Brute of a fish is one that I come back to most frequently.
This fish was caught Dec 17th on what looks like a relatively mild day.
It came on a day when both Brian and I caught a lot of fish.
I remember fighting it.
It stayed deep for a while and neither of us knew just how big it was but my shoulders were burning. Even in that cold water those fish are impressive...
They just don't quit.
It was a really cool fish...very healthy looking...and in the picture I look really happy.
I almost didn't recognize myself with a smile.
It would be nice if that kind of happiness came in a pill because I could use some right now.
Anyway ..that was a standout fish on a standout season and when I look back through my 2006 shots ..that is the picture that kind of symbolizes all of it for me.
This one was an 'Oinker'..for me anyway.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this picture will be one of the pictures that I will bore people with at the old folks home in between games of Euchre and pinching the nurses asses...if I live that long.
But who's kiddin who??
I can't imagine another season like it...and I don't think that Morin has ever been the same.
Great day and great fish.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Number 9 is the first trout that I have caught on a fly of my own creation... which is a big deal for any fisherman...as it very well should be.
The circumstances surrounding this great little fish are also special.
This was a winter fish...a fish from the outflows. As a matter of fact the date on the photo is Jan 20th so this would've taken place right around this time of year.
The dead of winter..
The 'Outflows' are where the petrochemical industry dumps warm water into the freezing cold St Clair river. After becoming a 'Sarnia Trout Guy' it didn't take me long to find out about them.
Although apparently they are not as good as they used to be (a common..and very suspect fishy theme)they still give up fish from time to time and I don't need much.
The most important thing they give me is an excuse to get out of the house in the winter.
My friend Jason had given me the 411 on the fishing the discharges. At the time there were only two or three that were accessible to the public and sadly now there are none...DAMNED FENCES!!!
Obviously the really good ones were the ones you couldn't get at.
Jason used to fuel my imagination with stories involving breaking the ice free at the boat launch and positioning a car topper right over the outflow trout water.
"A Brown trout on every cast"....
Browns have always been neat to me.
I faintly remember my old man bringing a Brown Trout home one day and the excitement that went with it. I was about 5 years old at the time. It seemed to have stuck with me.
So down to the Chemical Valley I would go and flail away.
Spawn never seemed to work and it took me a long time...for whatever reason ...to get onto minnows.
The first little Brown came on a spinner.
A Black Double Loon spinner.
Oh the Magic of that moment. I could barely catch my breath.
I remember thinking while looking at my first beached Brown ..'The spots are right ...but this fish isn't Brown at all' ...Beautiful Silver...with that butterscotch back. Those open water fish are really spectacular. As Chrome as any October Steelie.
That fish almost made the list. That was a special moment. First Brown...and more importantly...the first fish I ever released.
Because these fish wouldn't eat spawn and because the water they chose to swim in was really warm we kicked around the idea that fly-fishing with nymphs might be the answer.
Field and Stream it is not...LOL
So here is the fly that I created.
So armed with my new creation, 5 wt Bass Pro fly rod and a healthy dose of beginners luck off I go.
I arrived that day to a fisherman leaving....which always sucks ass.
I had run into this dude before and we'd developed a bit of a comraderie about this madness. All he had for me was a shake of the head and gloom. "You should've stayed in bed young man. No fish."
Oh well... I think that in my heart of hearts I didn't really believe that I was going to catch anything anyway and I carried on.
I hadn't strung up yet and I was glad that this other fisherman hadn't seen my flyrod or I would've felt like an ass.
So I hit the water ....make a few false casts and lob it into the flow. I mended the line ..just like I'd read about..(books...no internet back then for me) and let the outflow carry it out to the river...
First drift and there it is...
The first thing I did was look over my shoulder now hoping someone had seen this ...
Friday, January 16, 2009
The return to employment is looming and I am sure that the next three weeks are going to speed by because of it.
I just heard on the news that it is like - 40 with the wind chill.
Both Owen and Ella are at school and Kim just took Avery for a visit at her mothers just because they haven't been out of the house for 4 days.lol
How to beat the winter blues...???
Well, today I blew the dust off my old fishing albums and took a walk down memory lane. I did this with the hopes of throwing together a top ten fish list that I could post on here. I have always been a bit of a shutter bug but leaning heavily toward sentiment and nostalgia rather then art.
As a matter of fact I am a terrible photographer...some of my greatest moments can only be confirmed now by badly framed blurry pics..some with fish scales on the lens..
That is probably as it should be.
A fisherman's memory should never be too vivid and to quote John Gierach..."You should never let the truth interfere with a good fish story"
This is something that I have never done...to my credit...
After a quick skim of my pics I realized something that surprised me a bit.
The more memorable fish weren't necessarily the biggest..
Freud be damned.
I suppose the list reflects more of a top ten fishy moments...which is really what it is all about anyway.
There are some pics I'd run across of big beautiful fish that I am holding with the obligatory idiots grin and for the life of me I cannot recall catching them...
They are probably Morins..lol
Some fish have significance and some are cool because they represent a triumph over adversity...usually the weather...or my incompetence.
I was surprised also that I started fishing for these fish right about the time I got married...which was....sigh....10 years ago. Getting married was by far the best decision I have ever made. I love my wife as much now as then and my kids are a blessing...but judging by the way I have changed in the pictures....these years have been hard on me.
Any hoo...with out further adoooo....
This isn't my first Steelie....but it might as well be. I know that I had caught a couple of wee dinks before this but this was my first real fish and I will never forget the show. The right fin clip I believe at the time signified a Michigan stray. The fact that this one obviously came home with me could be the reason that the Michigan fish are so mean to me now.
This fish found its way up the Sauble river to Sauble falls where it was bested by this RUBE before you and his 11 ft bright yellow fibreglass Eagleclaw.
God... I am smiling as I type this...what a POS...
I can still picture us fumbling with the LANDING NET...probably purchased at Canadian Tire...The River Sages on the other side probably laughed themselves silly that day.
I missed the take because the sun was in my eyes and I had lost sight of my float. I lifted up on the rod at the end of my drift and the drag on my Abu Garcia spinning reel just started singing.
I had never had a fish take drag on me before.lol
I turned to Jason as this fished headed downstream and said "Now what?"
I have mentioned before that I miss that innocence.
A good friend of mine introduced me to Steelhead fishing shortly after I was married...so doing the math.. I suppose I have been at this shit for right around a decade. That seems like a long time but with the sickness comes the full knowledge that there are a finite amount of fall seasons ahead of us and we need to savour each of them.
Jason and I used to drive up to Sauble Falls every chance that we'd get.
I didn't know Brian then.
We'd probably drive by him on our way past the 9 Mile.
I can just picture him down there in full combat mode with those guys standing on each others shoulders..."Fish coming down...."
I can't even remember the kind of freedom that I used to have ...must've had back then.
Maybe we become better fishermen because we have less time.
...anyway... in my mind I always consider this my first real Steelhead.
There is number ten
The fish that started it all....
...complete with rubber Canadian Tire brand waders..which probably leaked like a sieve.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I know that one of the vistors to my little online fishing world raises a family in Alaska.
This time of the year he must chuckle at the Great Lakes Knuckleheads when we complain about the hardships of our winter.....
But this is where I vent...
Today it is colder out than it has been in 3 years according to the News...and I feel trapped.
I feel bad for the brethren that live in the States along the Great Lakes....I mean....weather permitting they could still fish. This cold snap must be particularly frustrating to them.
I understand and respect the logic behind closing the season here to protect the spawning fish...but couldn't they just give us another couple of weeks!!!!??????
I couldn't help but notice that the river set up beautifully about a week after Christmas.
I had commented on Gregs BLOG that we are indeed "All in this together" and was reminded immediately upon typing it of Robert Deniros character in that Movie BRAZIL.
That movie was whacky. lol
Gotta love Terry Gilliam.
Actually movies that are a little left of center are a great way to help deal with the winter blues.
I watched 'Burn After Reading' yesterday with my wife.
I fell on the floor laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks during the scene at the end when John Malkovich's character chases the owner of 'Hardbodies' into the street and murders him with a hatchet...alla Raskolnikov ...
"You represent the league of Morons"...."You are one of the Morons I have been fighting against my whole life...and today...I WIN!!"LOL
My wife almost called the police...lol
Has anyone ever made movies as good as the Coen bros???
I may watch it again today.
It is probably a good thing that I am going back to work.
I am thinking that as a project to beat the Doldrums I will assemble a top ten fish list...
Might be kind of fun.
Anyways...hang in there folks....
I was about to say Spring is right around the corner...BUT IT ISN'T
Here is an actual picture of the beach just down the street from where I live in Brights Grove..
Almost looks like you could walk across to Michigan.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Jeff has one of these Jet boats that he uses to fish the Muskegon River. The Muskegon River is an awesome river with tons of big healthy fish that are full of piss but the river isn't one that is waded easily....At least that is the word on the street. I can understand now after fishing the river out of Jeffs boat that fishing it from a boat is really the only way to go. With his boat we were able to cover tons of water in a very short period of time and I was very surprised to find that we could even fish out of his boat comfortably with the float rods. Christ...Morin even brought his 15fter.
Brian got one legit 30 incher that really put on a show.
Friday, January 02, 2009
Well the hangover has finally lifted and the haze has cleared...well at least cleared to the status quo.
We never did get that final fish in.
She was an angry river for most of the season and it was only fitting that the season would end with a flooding that was the worst seen in 30 years.
I hope the fishies had the sense to make a B-line for the lake.
Here I am flogging the water for the last time this season...
Maybe I would've toughed it out a bit longer if I'd thought that it was the last drift of the year...
It always manages to sneak up on ya and I suppose without getting too melodramatic or morbid we never know when that last drift will be do we?
I am glad the holidays are over. The kids were great and I love how happy the holidays make them. I have got good kids...really good kids and they deserve to be happy and I am really grateful that I am able to provide a decent life for them. That makes me feel good and Chrsitmas is a way for Kim and I to celebrate that together...but I can only sustain the warm and fuzzy for so long before it starts to wear me out.
I had one too many dinner parties last night.
Enough is enough.
During dinner last night my Father in Law informed me that The Bluewater Anglers were going to be purchasing eggs for the hatchery this year.
Apparently the collection up at Owen Sound and Thornbury didn't go so well.
I couldn't care less really...in my darkest moments I believe that their misguided efforts amount to little more than environmental terrorism...
He then went on to tell me that they were going to supplement the Salmon plantings with a type of trout that he had never heard of.
"It has a funny name in front of it"
Gerry is a good guy but a fish nerd he is not. lol
Being suddenly stimulated by a somewhat interesting turn in the conversation I roused myself from my drunken stupor and start firing names of fish at him.
He stopped me at Skamania.
"Yeah that could be it..I know it wasn't a Steelhead or a Salmon"
My Brother in Law piped up and informed us that a Skamania is half salmon and half trout.
Good to know.
These are the guys who are running our local hatchery....honestly.
I love the guy...dearly...but geez.
I received an email from him today that clarified it.
It wasn't Steelhead or Salmon ...it was Ganaraska Trout....ever heard of it?
These types of things make me depressed.
So it looks like the club instead of stocking their usual bunch of Kings are going to be dropping in Ganaraska Strain Steelhead...along with some Browns that the MNR is selling them.
I am not sure how to feel about this but I am sure they will have a higher rate of survival than the starving Tules....I just hope they don't screw up our river.
We used to get a mix of MI fish that would show up in the fall and they were quite a bit of fun. They always made for a nice guilt free bonk on the head for roe in the spring as well.
Who knows maybe the fishing will be good under the bridge again here in Sarnia?
Speaking of which the Philistines at Nova have locked me out of the Outflows this winter.
I have tried to get that Shitrat Morin to pull some strings for me ....but I think he is one of them...
...Of course it gives him a much stronger argument for the purchase of NR licenses this winter....
Come to think of it maybe he put the fence up??!!!!!!
I have added a new BLOGGER buddy to the Blog roll...
Its a new one and it looks like it is going to be interesting.
At the very least his writing has made me thankful to be returning to work this winter instead of searching for work....
Good luck out there Brother..