Sunday, December 17, 2006

The River is Greener on My Side

Despite a very late night, I set my alarm to get me up in time to make it to my home river just before first light. With only a couple hours of sleep and a few moments of discombobulation upon rising, I made it to my favourite stretch of water well before the sun or anyone else. Within the first few drifts in this particular pool, an attentive Steelhead would almost always find my offering. Today, these first few drifts went unnoticed as did the next, and the next. As the sun made its seemingly late appearance, so did other fisherman, and within minutes, it was no longer just me, the river and its inhabitants. I gathered my line and abandoned this pool that was no longer mine. I decided to fish a few areas that I haven't touched for quite some time, and I once again found solitude and a new appreciation for my home waters. In the past, I have unfairly overlooked this fine water with the illusion that the grass (in this case the river) is always greener on the other side. Today, I had an epiphany of sorts, and realized how beautiful this river really was. Things on my side are pretty darned green too.

The Steelhead were particularly witty and elusive today, which required me to be a little more witty than I usual am to find them. It turned out that Fisherman's Law had raised it unwelcome head once again, as from conversation with a few friendly comrades, "I should have been there yesterday"; yet I left the river this morning smiling (it seems I'm doing this a lot lately), satisfied and grateful for another day on water.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

In the Company of an Old Friend

Thursday (December 13th) I was to meet up with an old friend. We had never met, but we had bantered about in the electronic world of cyperspace for years. This old friend was none other than fellow blogger and fly fishing/centrepinning hybrid, SD from Chasing Silver.

On SD's blog, he refers to himself as ". . .one of the most despised people on related forum boards. . . " yet he is a class act and a rich encyclopedia of knowledge. He blew my mind as he spoke of his vast collection of fishing artifacts from the past and his knowledge of all things in the world of fishing gear was impressive. It was a true pleasure to talk fishing with him. I even had the opportunity to try out a prototype centrepin and float rod that he is sampling for a couple manufacturers - that was cool!

Unfortunately, his fishing time was limited and the fish were uncooperative, but sometimes the fries are just as good without the gravy. Next time we'll do some fishing.

As he made his way home, I continued my efforts Westward, and was able to find some prime water holding a good number of fish. As it was late in the day, this well trodden area had been thoroughly fished prior to my arrival, but I managed to negotiate a tug-of-war with one spunky male.

The best part of this stop, though, was chatting it up with an older retired gentleman who has as much passion for the sport as I. His 35 or so year head start showed as he pulled 2 lovely specimens from under my nose. I was thrilled to watch this man fight these fish wearing an ear-to-ear smile as if each one was his first. I want to be just like that when I grow up.

Friday, December 15, 2006

10 Days of Famine; the world in the eyes of a fishing addict

It had been 10 days since my last drift. After living out these 10 days, I have concluded that this is how long it takes for a fishing addict to reach the point where he begins to risk his health and welfare if not given the opportunity to wet a line quick.

Trout frolic and play in his dreams, leaping and rising to even the clumsiest of presentations. He awakens each day and his wife asks who the "beautiful female" is that he "caught and released". Driving over streams on the way to work becomes an increasingly dangerous task, as he hits the brakes at highway speeds and does a 180 degree rotation of the head to prolong his short glimpse of paradise. The work on his desk begins to accumulate as he takes every unsupervised opportunity to read, correspond, and view anything fishy. His Pavlovian response to any finned stimuli becomes increasingly excessive to the point where the use of electronic equipment becomes a hazard.

After 10 days, a fisherman is at the apex of withdrawal. If you see your friend, neighbour, coworker, or pharmacist going through these tell tale signs, get him to a river, stat!

I was astute enough this Wednesday to recognize some of these symptoms and was able to make a self-diagnosis. After an early afternoon meeting, I packed the car and rushed myself to the river. Thank goodness there was still some daylight, so it wasn't too late. The river sped angrily from the recent days' precipitation, and it had closed its curtains on the sun's rays as it held silt and debris in suspension. Yet the moment my line touched its surface, I had felt resuscitation; blood began to flow, and my lungs let in the fresh, unrecycled air. Paradise and I met again. With each cast upstream, and each drift downstream, my silly grin grew. A big male Steelhead noticed my homecoming, and greeted me on the end of my line, twisting, running, tails-slapping in celebration. I followed him downstream where he finally came to lay before me. He was the largest and most beautiful fish I had seen this fall. I reveled in his beauty, thanked him for the warm welcome, and shook his caudal wrist before his return into the mysterious.

By then I had fully recovered, and my silly grin had grown ear to ear. With no camera or phone to share the moment, I will have to keep this one burned on my brain for only I to enjoy.

This time, all I have to share of this experience are my words, and I hope this time, my words paint the vivid picture still in the forefront of my mind.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bone Chilling Temperatures, Wind Burned Skin, and Light Flurries - what more could one ask for?

This past weekend was a typical one for me - lots of life's engagements, and very little left for fishing. But as I have said before, if there is a will to fish, with some creativity, there is always a way.

2 days after 2 days of heavy rain, Jeff and I found ourselves at the mouth of an Eastern tributary. It was mid-morning on Sunday, and parked cars were strewn all about the access point. I wasn't surprised considering this was one of the only fishable systems in the area. Contrary to better judgement, we robotically got out of the car and pulled on our gear.

Fishermen lined the banks with their weapons pointing into the sky at 45 degrees, and in unison, they batted their reels and cast again upstream. There are few activities where you'll find grown men work in such synchronicity. Contrary to better judgement, Jeff and I robotically stepped in line and joined in on this ballet. On a good day, this synchronicity would be interrupted by thrashing head-shakes and aerials of the leaping bars of chrome, but it was not to happen this Sunday. The bitter, unrelenting breath of Lake Ontario billowed on our faces, and the river's glass surface remained unbroken.

We finally came to our senses and made our way upstream, where the river meanders through a valley and is canopied with trees on both sides. As expected, we arrived to find more cars and their correponding fishermen. Each conspicuous spot was already occupied and flogged by 1-3 fishermen; but as always, the further we walked from an access point, the thinner the crowds became. Knowing that all of the pools had been previously fished, I concentrated on the fast riffles and pocket water where fish would inevitably seek shelter from the trampling, flogging, and splashing of the unstealthy. Fish were very aggressive in this inconspicuous holding water, usually striking on the first drift; whereas fish holding in slow deep pools, although plentiful, would not touch the most delicate presentation.

Despite the cold water temperature, and even colder air temperature, the fish were energetic and spirited, and full of colour. It's always rewarding to find fish in areas overlooked.

With bone chilling temperatures, wind burned skin, and light flurries, there was only one more thing we could have asked for - Hungry fish. . .and we got that too.