Monday, October 30, 2006

Lazy Monday Afternoon

When it rains, it pours. Such was the case this past weekend with the rivers in my area receiving 30-40 mm of precipitation. Gale force winds approaching 90 km/h made fishing impossible; but that didn't stop me from taking a walk with rod in hand along a nearby stream yesterday. With water the colour of mud and the banks flooded, let's just say, "it was great just being out there".

Today, with a few hours to spare in the afternoon, I decided to take a leisurely drive to some of my favourite Eastern Lake Ontario tributaries. To my surprise, they were in stellar shape. With limited time, I went straight to a few spots that have always treated me well in the past, and today, they did not disappoint.

Addendum - Nov 2, 2006: Due to a relatively busy schedule this week, I never really had the opportunity to complete this entry until now. Allow me to continue, if you please. . .

Let me start with a little background of the Eastern Lake Ontario tributaries. The "East" is unique in that there are a series of well known streams within throwing distance of one another. These streams comprise Duffins Creek, Oshawa Creek, Bowmanville Creek, Wilmot Creek, and the Ganaraska River (of course there are others, but I will leave some of it to your own exploration). All are relatively small flows, averaging 3-6 metres across, but don't let their small size fool you. These streams breed some of the largest wild Salmonids in the Great Lakes.

The beauty of fishing this area is that each river reacts in its own unique way to what the weather has to throw at them. If one river isn't fishing well, all you have to do is hop in the car and drive a couple kilometres to the next. I liken it to a strip-mall for fishing. As with any shopping centre, one must pay the price of convenience. If what you're looking for is solitude where your only company is the sights, sounds and the beauty of nature, you should look elsewhere, as most of the Eastern tributaries meander through townships, and under major highways, roads and railways.

During my afternoon at the "mall", I stopped at 3 rivers, and found fish in all of them, but was only able to entice fish in 2. All were incredibly charged, leaping at every opportunity, and with each leap I crossed my fingers in hopes that I would still be connected upon each landing. Their chrome silver sides were magnificent; the opportunity to hold such wild beauty for a moment left me smiling ear to ear.

This is my kind of shopping. . .

The beauty is so hypnotic that sometimes it's hard to let go

Friday, October 27, 2006

Finally. . .A Day of Fishing

Today, I decided to put aside my busy schedule and dedicate it to a day of Steelheading. If you have been reading up to this point, you are aware that as of October 26th, I haven't yet been blessed with the good fortune of landing a Steelhead of this fall. Although they arrived in my local rivers earlier this season than in years past (at least those in recent memory - which isn't long) and most everyone that I know has already battled a multitude of them, I have remained in the company of skunks. Had I been forever cursed with Fisherman's Law? Had the Steelhead finally surpassed my mediocre level of wit and charm? - Likely.

Today, I set out to find some answers to these burning questions. After much contemplation and consultation with a good soul that must have felt pity on me, I decided to tackle once again the unmerciful Nottawasaga River, but this time I was to explore parts my eyes had never before seen. My consultant had me driving my new car through farmer's fields, private property, dirt roads and steep, narrow inclines, but all I could think about were the steelhead waiting for me. The Nottawasaga was as unforgiving as ever, as she attempted to foil my mission with her steep muddy gradients, timber strewn banks, and dense foliage. But today, I was unstoppable, and today, what lay before me, was my first Steelhead of the season.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Mad Fisherman has Company

It seems I'm not the only Mad one around here. The Mad Fishicist speaks of life, love, and Steelheading. His words are poetic and eccentric (he may even be more mad that I) at the same time. He appears to have an infinite wealth of literary quotations. Certainly a blog worth visiting.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fisherman's Law

Why is it that the best time to fish is when you're unable to? I don't know how many times I've excitedly made my way to the river to have someone tell me that I should have been there yesterday. Too many times have I been sitting here in my office focused on work, when an email arrives to inform me that I should be at the river NOW - nothing ruins a day faster - no longer can I think about work - no way can I do what I'm thinking about. I am left paralyzed.

This occurrence is far too common, and I therefore must call it the "Fisherman's Law" (although I wonder if Murphy was a fisherman?).

Such is the case once again. The volatile weather in Southern Ontario over the past week has prompted very healthy runs of Steelhead into virtually all rivers in the area, which has prompted very healthy fishing reports of many fish being caught.

And once again, Fisherman's Law has reared its ugly head, and I will once again miss this early season wingding.

photo courtesy of Wallacio

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

In between visiting dealers, reading reviews, and calling insurance companies about a new vehicle, I was able to escape yesterday to resume my quest for that first steelhead of the season (although some of my fellow Ontario bloggers have already beaten me to it).

The destination was the Nottawasaga River. The "Notty" is a beautiful river most notably during this time of year when the colours of autumn complement her from all angles. It is a relatively large system with its headwaters starting in the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine. 122 or so kilometres and 4 tributaries (Boyne, Pine, Mad, Bear) later, it will take you to the mouth where it flows into Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) in the town of Wasaga Beach. Jeff and I were on the road by 5:00am to arrive at the river just before first light.

After 6 hours of fishing and a few missed hits by weary passerbys, we were ready to go home with our tails between our legs. It wasn't until the last 10 minutes of fishing that I finally connected to something. That something turned out to be an angry dime bright Steelhead in the 7-8lb range. At this point in the day, I was trying to cover as much water as possible by making 50 metre drifts (not recommended). It just so happened that the fish took my offering at the very end of one of them. I lazily lifted my rod and it immediately began to bounce as the Steelhead shook its head in disbelief (I was also in disbelief). Before I had time to deliberately set the hook, the fish took a determined run, rolled on the surface, performed a series of tailslaps as if to say, "thanks for trying", and threw the hook back at me. That was the only encounter I would have with this magnificent creature this day. All that time and effort invested for that one moment, and to loose it on a poor hookset has made me even more determined and "mad" ( read "insane") than before. But that's fishing for you.

I'm consistently being told that a fail-proof method of alleviating this condition is to visit a Western New York tributary where common side effects are sore arms, silly grins and feelings of euphoria. I may just have to try it as I'm all for naturopathic alternatives.

The Perfect FUV?

My recent search for the perfect fishing automobile (my wife is obviously looking for other features in a car) has precluded me from wetting a line lately. After months of keeping my eyes and ears close to the automobile market in search of "the one", we've finally decided on the Toyota RAV4. Aside from its 4WD capabilities, it can tow 3500 pounds just in case. With lots of room to store the gear and good ground clearance I should be able to get to those hard to reach places. Although I'm going to miss my Integra GS-R immensely, it never faired very well off-road.

After considering fuel economy, and utility, I think I've come close to finding the perfect FUV (Fishing Utility Vehicle), although I'm curious to hear the opinions of others. Comments are welcome.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dodged by the Silver Bullet

early fall steelhead

This past week, Mother Nature has wept into our rivers and streams a significant amount precipitation, which precipitated me to take a couple days off in search of my first Steelhead of the season.

After 2 days of logging extensive numbers on the odometer and pedometer in exploration of 4 different rivers, my reconnaissance mission yielded many Kings (albeit very fresh-from-the-lake and aggressive), and a few ghostly shadows of Steelhead moving through; however, it did not accomplish what I had set out to do. The season has been a strange one so far. Kings were in the rivers in big numbers by Labour Day weekend, and Coho were right behind them. I had hoped that this peculiarity would continue by urging a big Steelhead push into our north shore Lake Ontario rivers before October. I guess I'll just have to wait a little longer.

Last week, Tom Chandler from Trout Underground had asked what drives the avid Steelheader to such lengths and bodily abuse by nature's unmerciful winter rath in search of this fish.

". . .while I steelhead from time to time . . . I'm still curious as to what drives the people that do it all the time (besides hard liquor, of course)".

Seeing that I am left with nothing to do but wait for the first significant arrival of early Steelhead, I'll take this opportunity to try to put the answer to this question into words.

It's a frigid mid-December morning, and the warmth of a down duvet and the comfort of bed is the only sane place to be. Yet here I stand, at the riverbank on top of frozen earth, and a light dusting of snow that crunches and squeaks with each step. The only sound around me is the gentle meandering of the emerald green water. There are no sounds of life anywhere except my steamy breaths, and the repositioning of my feet, as any sane creature is in their abode sheltered from all of which I have voluntarily exposed myself to - my hands white, and fingers stiff barely able to tie a knot; my lips chapped, and eyelashes frozen; the biting cold wind finding every weakness in my multi-layered outfit.

I stand before a deep dark pool - its glass surface disturbed only by my 4 gram balsa float following the seam's path near the far bank. I give my centrepin reel a spin, and it silently pulls my line from the end of the drift, and I lay it again gently at the top of the pool. The float is once again en route to following the same path, when suddenly, it is pulled below the surface by something from the river's mysterious depths and surface tension quickly fills the void where the float once was. I lift the rod with deliberation, and the once glass surface erupts in explosive headshakes. The creature quickly dives deep into the depths of emerald, turns and accelerates; this time clearing the water's surface that separates her world from mine. She makes her first appearance in the terrestrial world in astounding fashion, as she somersaults and blindingly reflects the sunlight unlike anything else around me. The colourless world of the leafless trees and snow covered earth is suddenly complemented with iridescentt hues of pink, purple, gun-metal, and dime bright silver. She does this again, and again, each one nonetheless extraordinary than the one preceding it. My fingers pressed against the spool of my centrepin innately adjust their pressure on it, with each twist, turn, run, and leap. Strangely, I am cold no more. The stars must have been aligned in a favourable way, as I'm lucky enough to stay connected to this one; many have left me sitting on the cold bank weeping.

She has had quite a journey to meet me here at this spot on this day. As a young fry, she frolicked and played in this very stream, feeding on invertebrates and dodging creatures wanting to predate her. As she grew older, she began feeding on larger forage sources and she became predator. She outgrew her natal home, smolted and made her way to the great expansive Lake Ontario where she traveled great distances and great depths in search of food and comfort. 3 years later, her focus changes and on a wet fall day, she makes her way back to the stream where she was born to repeat the circle of life.

And here we meet. This creature has been places I'll never be and has seen things I'll never see. To touch something so wild, so determined, so beautiful. . . is simply divine.