Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fishing in January - A Fisherman's Delight

Before entering the Holiday Season, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to escape the confines of the festivities to stand along the riverbank and frolic in the company of my finned friends. My premonitions were correct.

There was no time for fishing. For the first time in months, I behaved like a normal human being and spent quality time with my loved ones, undisturbed with thoughts of sneaking off in ungodly hours of the morning to play tug-of-war with bars of chrome. . . and strangely, I was content.

But of course, this feeling was short-lived. This past weekend, after over 20 days of abstinence, it was time to fish!

Dave and I had been bantering about the week prior as to where the best venue for my homecoming would be. After a latter part of the week fraught with heavy precipitation, it was decided that we would venture south of the border to Elk Creek, in Erie, Pennsylvania. We would be accompanied by Mike B, and his friend Richard. Still in the midst of REM sleep, we set out on our adventure at 4:30 am.

Most of the ride in was done in darkness, but as the sun began to make its appearance, we passed by a billboard for the Fireworks and Karate Supplies store - I sat there wondering why I never thought of such a concept.

After stopping by B.A.C Bait (where one could buy "Noodle Rods and Egg Sacks") to pick up our licenses we arrived at the parking lot to find very few other vehicles. Dave thought the river was on the muddy side but he took comfort in the fact that Elk Creek drops and clears quickly. Our plan was to start at the river's mouth and work our way up upstream. We began drifting where lake met river; our floats meandering towards the lazy incoming waves. The point where the Elk pays tribute to Lake Erie near the break of dawn was a site to behold - beautiful.

Shortly after the first few drifts, in unorthodox fashion, Richard took the honours of enticing the first fish by inadvertently dangling his line within feet of where he stood while making adjustments to his reel. After a few spirited runs, the fish came to hand and I was surprised to see that it was a battered and bruised post spawn female. As I was told, the Elk is stocked with a domestic strain of Rainbow Trout that spawns in the fall.

As we moved upstream, Dave managed to find a pod of fish and played tug-of-war with them for a little while. I snickered and continued upstream. It wasn't until mid-day where the action began to heat up and the fish finally welcomed this stranger with a tug on the end of his line; another drop-back but I was content nonetheless. The fish continued to cooperate and wherever Mike B decided to toss his line, fish seemed to seek it out.

Richard hooked into another fish, which took him on an epic battle downstream. He disappeared around the bend and we would not see him again until the end of the day. I had visions of a giant Steelhead carrying Richard into the depths of Lake Erie, but as it turned out, he landed the fish and decided to spend the rest of the day at the mouth, where he would catch another; this time a dime bright hen. Meanwhile upstream, Dave found a pod of very aggressive fresh-from-the-lake fish and for a little while he resembled a line-worker pulling fresh bars of chrome from the conveyor belt.

I was unsuccessful at finding any fresh fish but continued to be entertained by the drop-backs.

As we continued on, the sun made its ark from one horizon to the other, the water began to clear and drop as Dave had predicted, and it was time to start the long journey home.

Dave and Mike thought this was a slow day for the Elk. A day like this would have been a banner day where I'm from in terms of numbers. Where I'm from, a few wild, untamed fish would have me grinning from ear-to-ear. The Elk Creek is all about catching large numbers of hatchery raised fish. Both types of fishing has its place in a Steelheader's repertoire and the Elk was indeed a delight to discover and fish with a great bunch of guys.

This unseasonably mild winter weather is a fisherman's dream come true, but I'm covertly hoping for winter to finally set in to provide the hard protective layer over the abode of our finned friends as they rest up for the "main event" in a few months.

All photos courtesy of Mike B. Thanks Mike.