Friday, December 5, 2014

Fresh Steelhead and Chunky Browns (part 2)

Fresh Steelhead and Chunky Browns (part 2)
Thanksgiving Morning
 I was up early Thanksgiving morning and started the van to warm up the insides before getting dressed. I guess it was suppose to be in the mid 20’s so I wasn’t in much of a hurry.

 I got to the creek at around 7:15 and there were already 2 vehicles parked along the road. I got my gear on and strung up my fly rod with new leader and 6lb tippet. I got a hand warmer activated in my pocket and put on a pair of gloves. After making sure I had everything else I crossed the road and headed through the woods to the creek.
  The water had cleared up nicely from yesterday and still moderately high with good flow. There were two fellows in the tubes so I didn’t want to crowd them or disturbed them. I looked down creek and there was a fisherman casting into the section I wanted to fish as my second choice. I wasn’t in the mood today to walk very far down creek being I only had a few hours to fish before heading home for a turkey dinner.

  I headed down creek and fished the inlet current that flowed in the straight section the other fellow was fishing giving him plenty of room. We struck up a conversation and he said he had already caught quite a few nice brown trout as well as steelhead this morning. He fished for about another half hour and said it was all mine before he headed down creek. This left the complete section of water to me. From a downed log against the bank to the shallow tail out down below. I began my presentation as I adjusted the weight, depth of my sucker spawn and indicator.
  The first strike I hooked up to a steelhead. I played him gingerly testing the new leader, tippet and knot strength being I lost quite a few the day before. I got him to the bank and found he took the yellow/white sucker spawn. I continued, from a good distance, casting out searching for another fish. My next fish was a nice fresh steelhead that gave me a good clean fight. That put a smile on my face when I got her to hand also.
 It wasn’t even 9:00 yet but after those two catches I was in the mood for a cigar. I pulled out a dark wrapped Obsidian. It looked and smelled potent but with the chill of the morning I was in for a strong smoke like one wanting a strong cup of coffee before the day’s chores. The light up had a toasty taste that was bold with the first few puffs. It knocked any sleep left right out of me. It seemed to smooth out some the longer I smoked it but maybe I was getting used to the blend of tobacco within.
 I was wide awake now and ready for more action. My next hook up came not too far down creek from where I was standing. I thought maybe the split shots got caught in the more shallow water but I gave a yank and to my surprise the fish jolted upstream towards the deeper section of the run. The fish stayed low, not coming to the surface as quick as the steelhead. I felt his tugging head shakes as he fought midstream not wanting to come towards me. I felt him turn and he swam down creek taking some line off the spool before swimming to my side of the creek. I backed up onto the stony bank putting a little more pressure on the rod. This must have made him angry as he headed upstream towards the middle of the creek again where he continued the tugging pulls. It wasn’t long after that I got him nearer enough to get hold of him. He was a nice size brown trout.

 I was getting pretty excited. It appeared I might have found a good pod of fish that were willing to eat.
  I continued my presentations and switched colors of sucker spawn when times got slow. The cigar was winding down to the nub but the flavor was still bold and flavorful.
  It was about 11:30 when I was planning on heading to the van originally but with the active fish I wasn’t in a hurry. Turkey dinner wasn’t till 4:30 and with the two hour drive, at the most, I still had a little more time to fish.
  Soft snowflakes started to fall as it was getting closer to noon. The indicator dipped slightly and my reaction was quick. With the hook set I felt the rod flex downward and I thought I felt a little movement on the other end. I kept the rod up knowing full well this could be a heavy fish and not a snag. The line slowly moved upstream so I reared back a little on the cork grip to give the fish a little more rod pressure. The fish turned down creek and it felt like I had a big hunk of drift wood I couldn’t stop which I knew wasn’t possible. Keeping the rod flexed into the middle the fish stayed out of vision and continued downstream without much of a battling fight. Line unwound off the spool and I tried to turn him but couldn’t budge him my way. Down creek in the tail out he finally turned away and I felt a heavy pull as the fly rod tip bounced with his thwarting tug. He swam up creek with a little more speed so I backed up to the bank while reeling in line when he allowed. It was as if he was dictating the action and all I could do was wait him out.
  When I finally had him coming towards me he surfaced showing his big brown body. He rolled in the shallow water and took some line out towards the middle of the creek. He strained not to follow the force of pressure I was putting on him as I strained to bring him towards me. With a short lifting pull of the rod rearward I started to gain the initiative and soon had him at my feet. The chunky brown trout was the biggest I’ve caught in the Erie tribs thus far. His angry look and hooked jaw told me he’s been around for awhile. I carefully unhooked the Oregon Cheese sucker spawn from his lip and watched as he swam away.
Snow started to fall a lot harder after that catch. I was debating on leaving but the past half hour the bite seemed to increase. I changed my dropper fly and continued.

  There’s nothing like hooking into a fresh run steelhead when there is lots of room for him to put on a frisky battle.
  The indicator sunk completely before I was able to react with a yank of a hook set but I gave a late yank anyhow. The fish shot upstream spun and quickly shot down creek towards more open water. I held onto the cork grip tightly as line spun off the reel with a whizzing sound. He shot out of the water, facing downstream, tugged his head away before plunging with an audible splash back into the water. He was heading towards the rippling fast current beyond the tail out. I was afraid I’d lose him. In the tail out though he swatted water about with a quick 180 and headed back up creek. I backed up reeling in line when I felt the rod tip flex downward and than upward in an instant he came out of the water twisting and turning trying to throw the hook. After the big splashing reentry I felt the line tighten again as he continued upstream. He evidently wasn’t ready to give up yet and I let him know I wasn’t going to let him rest. I pulled back on the rod when he showed signs of rest. Nearer to me he turned in the shallows and took one forceful get-a-way attempt. He was able to pull a little line off the reel before his energy subsided. He splashed and swatted at my feet.
 The snow let up and the sky brightened but it didn’t get any warmer. I was glad I stuck it out. The steelhead tore up the sucker spawn pretty bad so I tied on my last peach color sucker spawn. I was trying different methods of presentations to get another strike.
  The indicator dipped and came up before I was able to react. I yanked up late and to my surprise the line tightened and I felt the fish turn below and a swirl rose from the depth. It took off away toward the far bank and then turned down creek. My cold wet hands held tight on the grip as line peeled off the spool. He made a good run and battled well but in the end I outmatched him and got him to shore.
 My third cast after that I got snagged up. I didn’t spend too much delicate time trying to free it and the tippet broke. After breaking off I knew it was getting late and I knew I should have left an hour ago. I reeled in and headed up creek and to my van.

 At the van I quickly changed clothes and headed towards the interstate. Traffic was busy so I didn’t make up any time getting to I79. On the interstate the traffic was moderate so I set the cruise control and relaxed in the captain’s chair. From the travel humidor I took out a La Perla Habana Morado Toro and lit it up. The initial light up was a bit smokier but quickly was sucked out the slightly opened window. I started to reminisce about my two day fishing excursion. The hearty fights of the fresh steelhead and battling with the nice browns. Hunting season was now on the horizon but I’ll be back.




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Shy 6 Point and The 300


A Shy 6 Point and The 300

I got the same camping spot I had the year before for opening day of buck season here in PA. There was maybe an inch or so of snow on the ground but the weatherman predicted warmer weather throughout the weekend and for Monday for the first day of Buck. We were all sure there would be no snow on the ground come Monday.

 I got camp set up Saturday a little after 12 when my friend Jeff showed up. With a few beers, Capt. Morgan and a shot of Fireball Whisky we caught up on how our lives been going since we last seen each other. He was staying at his brother’s camp on the other side of West Hickory for buck season and decided to come over and visit. He told me he had caught a 24” walleye in the river outside his brother’s camp. He had already fillet it and asked me to join him for lunch on Sunday. I convinced him to bring the fillets over Sunday and we can fry them up on the Coleman stove. He said he would be back at 1:00.

 Saturday evening I heated up some venison chili and sat by the fire with a beer. Already the snow was beginning to melt. I finished the night with a Pinar del Rio Reserve Limitada. Wasn’t bad for a cigar I never heard of.

 Sunday morning I was up early and got a tarp up over the table in case of rain. I had the stove out ready for lunch. By now the snow was gone. I put on my camo coat and binoculars and was heading up the hill to do some scouting.
 Though I didn’t see any deer I did come across some feeding areas that looked promising. I was back at camp by 12:30 and Jeff rolled in at 1:00. He heated up the oil and fried the fresh walleye for lunch. With a can of Bush’s Beans and Molson Golden it turned out to be a great lunch while we listened to the Steeler game.
  After he left I piddled around and got things ready for the big hunt on Monday. Around 7 I grilled some venison chops. I wasn’t really that hungry but I wanted to get to bed early. A toasted everything bagel went well with the chops. After one last beer and a Sosa Vintage stogie sitting by the fire did me in.
 Monday morning I was up early at 5:00am. It had rained overnight so I figured it might be not so noisy walking in the woods. I already had everything ready so it didn’t take me much time to get a move on. After a quick breakfast I got my gear on, fanny pack with lunch and hot seat. I slung the 300 Savage over my shoulder and with my flashlight guided my way up the hill.
  I didn’t have any particular place picked out to sit the morning. With no snow it would have been hard to find the spot in the pitch blackness anyhow. I headed up the hill where I felt I was able to see the saddle to my right and into the dense woods to my left. I loaded my rifle, sat down, got pretty cozy and waited for morning light.
  I watched the headlights down below as hunters were on their way to their lucky spots. I heard no vehicle doors slam so I figured I’d be the only one on this mountain side again. I listened to the wind blow through the bare tree tops as the braches rattled together on the heavier gusts. The wind whisked through the pines which is how the term ‘Whispering Pines’ got its origin by the soft sound that is made.
 As morning gradually lit up the forest I looked over the area and listened for any movement. Once light enough I looked through my Weaver scope making sure there were no problems. The hunt was on!
  About an hour went by when I got my first glance of some deer. I happen to look up the hill and seen two deer moving through the woods. I couldn’t get a visual on them through the scope but they didn’t seem to be moving as if in danger. I learned, through experience, that sometimes a buck will follow behind. I waited a good 20 minutes before moving up to where the deer crossed. Though it had rained overnight the leaves were still a bit crunchy as were the dried sticks and branches that laid beneath them. I moved slowly stopping a second or two before proceeding further. I also learned that where deer cross in the morning without being spooked there’s a good chance other deer or the same deer may use the trail later in the day. I moved leaves away from the base of a tree, above the trail, and decided to set for a while before moving. It wasn’t long before I seen movement down in the saddle some 150 yards away or so..
  I shouldered the lever action and scoped out the area. Down in the branchy and blow down area I saw antlers curving out front of the deer’s head. I couldn’t see its body at all but with the saplings, brush and distance between us I wouldn’t have attempted a shot. Besides that I couldn’t see how many points were on the moving buck.

Where I hunt in the Allegheny National Forest management area an antler deer has to have at least 3 tines on one side of the rack, including brow tines, to be legal to shoot in antler deer season.

 The last I seen of him was his back as he was gradually heading up hill and away. I could have taken a chance and try to catch up with him but with no snow, crunchy forest floor and he was already a good piece off I knew better of it. He wasn’t spooked by any means so I planned on coming back later to maybe get an edge.
  I slowly hunted my way, in the other direction, towards where I got my buck last year. To make a long story short I did come across two doe where I kicked up 5 deer from there beds during turkey season. I hunted a good hour in that location before slowly hunting my way back to the area I hunted in the morning. I was up above where I seen the buck but I knew I wasn’t too far away. I came across an area that was torn up by the hooves of feeding deer. I figured this might be a good place to sit the evening in case Mr. Buck decides to come back for a snack. I picked out a big tree to sit next to. When I cleared out a spot at the base of the tree I found a couple of good sized acorns. This gave me a little more confidence that this area was a pretty good spot to sit and wait.
  Time went by as I cautiously turned my head on occasion to look for any sign of deer movement. I was facing down hill but only could see about 70 yards right in front of me before the ridge dropped. To my right I was able to see quite a distance through the dense forest in spots. To my left, 50 yards or so, 3 big blow downs covered the ground so any deer coming my way would have to go around them. Behind me was pretty open up to the next bench so it didn’t take long to scour the area once I turned my head around.

I was sitting peacefully as a slight cold breeze would come up the valley and blow in my face occasionally. It got to be deathly quiet with just a gust of wind that rattled the bare branches. I had my parka zipped up to my chin with my fingerless mittens on keeping my hands warm from the chill. On occasion a tall tree would rub and creak against another. And then to my right, down hill…
  ...I caught movement and seen that familiar brown color body walking down, to what looked like a narrow old grown up, logging trail. I shifted my body to my right. I saw tines sticking out forward from the buck’s head. His body was in full view some 130 yards away. As soon as the bucks head got behind a tree I shouldered the 300 Savage and waited. I had my scope focused on just this side of the tree. His forward tines was the first I seen and then his head. I fingered the safe back on the lever action. He was down hill, looking forward, gradually walking unaware of the danger. I let him get about 100 yards down hill from me. The crosshairs met his left shoulder and I squeezed the trigger. The 300 boomed breaking the hour of silence. Through the scope the buck dropped instantly as the 150 grain pointed soft point found its mark. I heard his grunts as he scrambled into the brushy blow downs never being able to get to his feet. I had him!
  Scoping his whereabouts I saw no movement. I stood up, with my rifle on safe, and unzipped my orange parka. After snapping on my fanny pack I slowly made my way down towards him.
  I found him dead as a door knob a few feet from where my bullet struck him. I had aimed for his shoulder but I seen blood across his spine above his shoulders. Maybe I flinched off hand but close enough it was a mortal hit. The drag was all downhill from there. At 3:30pm buck season was over!
 At camp I found a fellow to help me lift the buck in the same tree I hung my 8 point in last year. This year it was a 17” outside spread buck that hung in the tree. 3 legal points on one side and a 2 point ‘Y’ on the other with a brow tine shy of an inch.
I offered the guy a beer, which helped me with the buck, and we talked a bit. After he left I mixed a Captain Morgan and Dr. Pepper and got a fire going. I lit up the Coleman stove and heated up some Haluski. After dinner and dishes I sat down next to the campfire. There I relaxed and enjoyed a Rocky Patel Vintage Cameroon and my last Leinenkugel Snowdrift Vanilla Porter.

2 bucks two years straight, 1 shot one kill each. The ol’ model-99f 300 Savage lever action still puts them down!

 Tuesday morning I slept in. It was a little after 8 am and I heard the weatherman say it was 22 degrees. It sure was cold outside. I drank a Frappuccino while I cleaned up camp and put things back into the van. I left the camp sight a little cleaner than I found it. I’m sure I’ll be back again, maybe as early as April to fish the trout stream.

The buck took the back seat of course.
I drove down the narrow road and came to the stop sign at rte. 666. I took out an Alec Bradley Family Blend cigar and lit the foot. The flavor was smooth and tasteful. I turned left up 666 and took the long way home.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fresh Steelhead and Chunky Browns (part 1)

Fresh Steelhead and Chunky Browns (Part 1)
 I got a call from my friend Donny, from up near Erie, that the snow melt brought in a fresh run of fish into the Lake Erie tributaries. I had the day off Wednesday and told him I’d be able to fish Wednesday and Thanksgiving morning. I met him at 7:30 am in the morning and we drove up to the creek. We parked the vehicles about a mile apart and fished down stream to one of the waiting vehicle. We had about 6 hours to fish.
  It was a chilly morning, maybe 35 degrees at tops. It wasn’t a summer picnic! The water was lightly cloudy so no fish were visible but the water was up for ideal conditions for those who like fishing in slightly stained water.
  Donny was simply amazing. He’s a guide on the Erie tribs as well as a charter captain out on the lake. It was fun watching him steelhead fish. He knows where the fish hold in the water conditions, high or low, and finds the color they prefer. He caught steelhead and a brown trout through the stretch of water, almost at every place he cast into.

 We met up with a young man named Mario whom we come across quite often. He hooked into quite a few also as we fished down towards my van.
I on the other hand?….
  I’m not sure if it’s the pressure fishing with others, stubbornness to maybe not use the same fly as the others are catching fish on hoping I got a better offering, or not staying in one spot long enough to adjust my weight, length of tippet out or indicator distance correctly not knowing the water level. I’m always afraid of breaking off going too deep and having to retie the frustrating tandem flies. I did hook up a number of times but didn’t bring any to hand. The leader snapped or the tippet broke, unraveled or the hook just came loose. I had some fish that felt heavy but never even got them to the surface to see them.
  We split up around 3:00 as Donny had to leave. Mario and I drove up creek and kind of went our own separate ways along the creek section we just fished.
There are many train tracks that run through Erie. Where they cross the tributaries they are built on cement block foundations which are arched tunnels over the creeks. These tunnels run long enough that the center gets fairly dark enough that a flashlight is handy to have if you need to retie a hook to the tippet. There is a narrow walkway on each side to fish off of. The tunnels got to be nicknamed tubes by the fishermen. The depth isn’t overly deep but one only knows. Fish hold in these tubes quite heavy at times depending on water conditions.
 I got to the tubes and the two fellows that were there earlier, when we passed by earlier, were gone. I tied on the flies I wanted to use before entering the tubes. I made my way almost half way through and cast out the tandem sucker spawns into the dark waters. I was able to see my indicator, with the light coming in from both sides of the tubes, but couldn’t tell the depth.
  Throughout the next couple of hours, fishing inside the tubes, I managed at least 8 hook ups only getting three to hand. If I would have had a net I would have gotten more. The walkway inside is above the water level so it’s awkward trying to get a hold of the squirming big fish and lift him to the walkway before the hook comes loose or the tippet hit’s the cement walkway, frays and breaks.
 Mario stopped back before he left and let me know he hooked up four times down creek but didn’t get any to hand. I fished another half hour before it was too difficult to see my indicator in the tubes. I cast out a few times down from the tubes without a strike so I called it quits and headed to the van.
Tomorrow was another day. I figured the water should clear up more though the depth should stay pretty much the same to make it perfect conditions for me.
Thanksgiving morning I was right…..
(To be continued)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Slow Day Steelhead Fishing

Slow Day Steelhead Fishing
…but the cigar was good!
 I woke up comfortably late. I hunted all day Saturday and didn’t want to get out from under the warm sleeping bag in the bed of the van this Sunday morning. Besides, who is going to be on the water this early in the freezing weather?
  On the way up north the snow was more plentiful but the roads were clear and dry. Nearer to Erie a neon sign, outside a place of business, read 26 degrees! By the time I got to the east side creek, about 8:30am, there was already a line of vehicles parked along the roadway. So much for the freezing weather keeping the steelhead fishermen away.
  I bundled up in layers of warm clothes and put on my Yukon cap. After stringing up the fly rod I greased the rod eyes, leader and a long section of fly line to keep from freezing with lip balm. I pocketed some good cigars and made sure I had everything I needed before slinging the sling pack over my shoulder. Through the snow I walked and then trudged down the hardened muddy path through the woods to the creek.
  I found the water low and gin clear. I walked a short bit upstream and two guys were fishing a deeper flow of water before it spilled over a ledge of shale. I decided to head down creek to a few holes I knew that always held fish and hopefully seeing a few along the way.
  The morning was brisk and still awakening as shadows shaded the creek banks from the hidden rising sun. Tree branches were covered with snow as was the ground except for the worn path made by fishermen.
 I took my time wading downstream looking for oblong shapes above the stony and shale creek bed. My search was fruitless along the shallows and pocket waters along the banks as no steelhead were found. I came across 5 fellows, around the first bend, fishing a deep pool of water that the shallows emptied into. From the bank I searched the outflow, down from the last fisherman, but again couldn’t spot a fish.
  Down creek I came across two fishermen fishing another deeper pool. One of them fished the head of the pool where the tumbling water spilled into a wide deep section. The other fished the water as it settled around the bend in the much clearer and shallower water no more than about 3 feet. Down from him I got an eyeball on a couple of oblong shapes and caught sight of a steelhead swimming down creek from the deep hole. I took a stand, at an acceptable distance from the other fishermen, and staked a claim.
 I started with a trusty streamer gently letting it drift in the vicinity of fish. The cliff, on the other side of the bank, shaded the water hampering visibility of my drifting offering. Without any takes I knotted on a sucker spawn with another sucker spawn dropper under an indicator. I noticed when the indicator started to drift towards the steelhead they moved away from it. I took the indicator off and, though they didn’t take my imitations, they weren’t as wary of my offerings. I went through my fly boxes and showed them different shades and even nymphs to no avail. After a good hour I only had seen the two other fishermen hook up once each. By now the ash gray sky now reflected more light that lit up any darkness upon the water. I did notice a couple more steelhead along the shallow run but they too weren’t interested. I lit up a Connecticut Yankee Churchill and headed down creek to search for steel.
  I was quite a distance down creek before I came across a couple of steelhead in a deep runoff near an uproot. The one scooted in the deeper water near the uproot while the other held tight a little further down as I approached. I flashed a streamer in their area but they didn’t appear to be that rambunctious to chase and eat it. Down creek a little further two guys were fishing a nice deep pool that ran along a submerged deadfall. I stood on the bank and enjoyed my cigar while watching them. For the short time I watched they each got one hook up a piece with only one looking to be a fair hook. Neither got the steelhead to the bank. I dared not to go any further down creek and headed back up at a leisurely stroll.
  Stopping, before the two guys where I fished earlier, I was able too see a few more steelhead in the backend of the run. The stub of my cigar was starting to get heavy on the draw so I dashed it out in the creek and stuffed it in my sling pack. I knotted on a sucker spawn with a nymph dropper and began again to try to get one to bite. I spent about 45 minutes trying every different color sucker spawn, streamer and nymph without a take before the two other gentlemen decided to take off. As soon as they left I took claim up in the mouth where the choppy current emptied into the deep pool, with force, before flowing against the cliff bank and turning down creek to my right.
  It took time as I adjusted my indicator, weight and length of leader trying to learn how the differences of current acted before me.
  About 15 minutes passed by before a young man took a stand just down from me. He laid his noodle rod on the ground and took out a jar. I asked him what he was using and he replied “brown trout eggs.” It didn’t take long before he said he missed a take and it wasn’t long after that he was playing a nice steelhead. After taking a picture for him and his steelhead, I asked what color he got it on, he said orange and opened the jar to show me the different colors of egg sacks he had tied with the trout eggs inside. One thing a fly guy with imitations can’t produce and that is the scent of his imitations. Being that I was fishing in the faster current it shouldn’t matter as much.
 I already had an Oregon cheese color sucker spawn on so I immediately knotted on a beaded orange sucker spawn for a dropper. After a couple of drifts I didn’t like the way the indicator reacted with the fast cross currents so I took it off. A couple deep drifts after that and I felt the sudden strike and had my first steelhead of the day on a tight line.
  He rose, from the deepest part of the pool, and turned away towards the shallows near the cliff edge. I had the drag set light so when he turned down creek I eased the rod back and double clicked the drag knob for a little more tension on the mid arbor. Once the rod flexed, with more tension on the line, he rose again, gave a few surface slashes and turned back upstream. My cold red hands gripped the cork handle without much feeling though I could feel the adrenaline pumping warmth through my body. At the mouth I wasn’t sure he was going to run the gauntlet of trying to swim into the fast choppy current before him so I arced the rod tip downstream and forced him away. After an ensuing battle in the deep pool the second time I got him nearer to me he was more cooperative. I backed up on the snowy bank and he flopped along the shallows trying to right himself.

 I took a break and dried my hands as best I could. In my coat pocket I pulled out an Obsidian Torpedo and lit the end of the barrel. The medium/full cigar brought an exclamation to my taste buds. With its well packed filler tobacco I knew I was in for a long hearty smoke.

 As we fished I noticed the young man beside me appeared to be having a hard time getting a good hook set. I noticed a couple of times he had a fish on only to lose it within several seconds. It was hard to tell if a fish took my offering but I kept an eye on my line pulling back on any sign of a take. He was definitely getting more takes than me but I continued without getting upset.
  I caught a flash near the bank just down creek between both of us. There was a pocket of deep water just before a layer of shale along our side of the bank. The riffling water made the fish hard for me to see but the discoloration, upon the creek bed, made me pretty sure he was in there.
  I moved further away from the bank and took in line. I made a loop cast in front of me with a short mend and than extended the rod out in front of me. I watched the 2 sucker spawn flow with the soft current to where I noticed the flash. The fly line dipped unnaturally so I quickly lifted the rod for a hook set. The fish took off down creek like the Roadrunner escaping from Wile E. Coyote, only with a line attached. It didn’t take long for me to bring in the fresh slender young jack to the bank that maybe went 19.”
 My last catch was just waiting to happen. I began to see more steelhead moving around in the deep pool. Occasionally a couple would swim up, from down below, hold in the shallow water near the bank and set for awhile before swimming off. I kept drifting the two sucker spawns about in the tricky currents. I added another split shot to get my offering down deeper risking it getting caught up on the uneven bed of rocks and shale. I had my stogie between my teeth blowing smoke as it feathered away in the slight chilling breeze. My ear flaps were down as the air seemed to get colder. I held the rod out with my cold right hand following the sucker spawn, as it tumbled, watching for any sudden movement of my fly line.
  I felt the heavy take and pictured a steelhead grabbing the spawn as it swiftly tumbled in the current. I gave an extra pulling heave for the hook set. (Not sure if I was surprised or just an instinct reaction when I wasn’t expecting such a hard take.) The steelhead continued swimming up towards the mouth of the run before it tugged a couple of times and turned downstream with force and gaining momentum. The young man brought his line in just in time before the steelhead crossed his path. I had the rod up keeping as much line out of the water as she took tensioned line off the reel. She suddenly stopped, rose with a twist and headed back upstream. She fought with headshaking tugs as she swam along the far edge as I reeled in line. Once I got her across from me she was in the deepest part of the run. She struggled beneath a bit before I was able to get her to swim towards me.

 The evening light turned to complete darkness as I traveled down the roadway. I was about halfway home, from the 90 mile one way trip, listening to the van radio in the comfort of my captain’s chair. I was warm, smiling, with a Corojo Cigarillo between my lips.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zombies, Chrome and Browns

Zombies, Chromes and Browns
Halloween Weekend 2014

 When a friend asks me if I want to go fishing out of state and I can get the time off I’ll consider it. When he tells me the cost is fair, the drive is less than 4 hours from home and the fishing should be great for big brown trout, I’m in!

 Being that I’ve been cut back to 4 days a week I took a vacation day to coincide with my day off and weekend which gave me a 4 day vacation. We headed to New York from Erie Pa. thursday morning about 2:00 am expecting to arrive at Oak Orchard River NY around 5:45 am.

  Standing in a cold river knee to thigh deep in the pitch darkness waiting for the first signs of daylight plays with my sanity. The only reason to do such a thing is to claim a section so other fishermen don’t take it. We ended up arriving a little later than expected and there wasn’t enough space, between other fishermen, to fit in so we separated. Out of six, four of us waded up river through the darkness.
  Some may wonder what we do or what goes on in our brain as we stand there waiting for daybreak. Like I said it plays with my sanity.
  Small red and white lights glow out in the water from headlamps or along the shore line like evil eyes in the darkness. There is nothing to fear though as they are just other humans waiting in the darkness for the same reasoning. Time tics on as small conversations stir up, muffled by the distance that carries the chatter along the river. A flicker of a cigarette or cigar is seen as more car headlights appear moving down the dirt road that leads to the parking area along the water.
  As daylight appears you can hear rustling in coat pockets, vests and fishing packs. There’s splashing of folks wading from the bank to ’their’ spot in the river. Soon after you can hear the plops from heavy lead bell sinkers hitting the water surface being used to get the offerings down to the bottom of the river bed.
  My target, with my 8 weight fly rod, is the big brown trout that hug the bottom. Fishing for these, in the river, is like trying to find a hidden treasure in a dungeon. The biggest threats are the Zombies, the sharp toothed creature that inhibit the river cistern.
 What Zombies you might ask? The King Salmon that roam the waters. You find them dead along the banks and shallows rotting as their flesh peal away, some putrid white from decay. Occasionally you’ll see a ’floater’. One bloated drifting with the current, buggy eyed and helpless, and a sure sign of death. The ones to watch out for are the ’living’, unless you like spending lots of time battling these 26” to 40” and up ogres, disrupting other fishermen, along the river. These Zombies that still have enough strength to survive. Those that will take you into your backing by sure weight than bully strength. Sores upon their skin like open festered wounds. These sharp toothed creatures I try to avoid as they waver in the current, wallow in the shallows or swim in small groups causing havoc if caught. More than likely it will be by accident than by their hunger. Even this late in the season there are still odds you might bring in a decent one.

Gary with a big King Salmon
 If you’re in the right place at the right time you might hook into a river Steelhead or even a Coho Salmon. It will rip line off the reel faster and longer than any freshwater fish I have caught. They may torpedo out of the water at any time exposing their shiny chrome sides before splashing down through the surface water. They will give you a run for your money with incomparable maneuvers trying to free themselves from the hook.
Donny with a Coho Salmon

 Than there are the New York Brown trout, the treasures of the river. They come in many different sizes and colors. This time of the season they appear to be plentiful but hooking into one isn’t as easy as one might think. I don’t think they attack out of curiosity or playfulness like a rainbow or brook trout. I believe it’s more out of hunger. They come to the river, I’m told, for dropped eggs of the spawning Kings and Steelhead. If you just so happen to be in their area during their hunger spell and have the right food offering, be it natural or imitation, you should have some fun.

 I find they battle deep, avoiding the surface, with pure force and might than agility or speed. The bigger ones tend to alligator roll soon after they are caught sometimes causing tangled lines around their fins or even broken tippets. They battle and never willing to give up. When you think you have one tired out they’ll be looking for some logs, submerged branches or a sharp angled rock to brush against. If everything goes right, you outplay him, out maneuver him and outsmart him, you will relish the rewards!

 Randy with his Brown Trout

 Out of the four days we spent fishing the river Saturday was my best outing of number of fish. We had been fishing for at least a couple of hours in the early morning with only Donny hooking up a couple of times. I lit a short cigar and verbally told myself when I finish it I was going to move. It was about ¾ the way smoked when I got my first bump. After that it was hook up after hook up with challenging battles which ended with some nice fish to hand as well as some missed opportunities.

 Sunday, by the time we cleaned up the cottage and got to the river, was miserably crowded. People were lined up within rod lengths of each other. The 4 of us split up and searched for a spot to wet a line without breathing down some ones neck. The only claim to fame I can report was a nice steelhead that gave me a heck of a fight.

A great weekend was had by all.