Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2 1/2 Days of Christmas

2 ½ Days of Christmas

  I was left to fend for myself again this year for Christmas so why not go fishing?

Christmas Day 12/25/14
 When I arrived at Elk Creek Christmas morning, around 8:30am, I found that the water was muddy. There were two other vehicles in the small parking area so I figured I wasn’t going to be the only one crazy enough to give it a try. I mean I drove almost two hours to get here so I had nothing else planned. The temperature was in the mid 30’s so I dressed extra warm.
 Down at the creek the water was running on the high side but good flow and maybe a few inches of visibility from the surface. I waded my way down creek where I caught steelhead before. I knew that during the cold winter months the fish are usually lethargic and don’t move to go after food. You practically have to put your offering right in front of their noses. If I can find where a pod might be holding I might just get something in front of their mouths to maybe hook into at least one.
 They say that during muddy conditions a dark fly is a better choice. I’m not all that completely convinced of this but I started with a bead head peach sucker spawn with chartreuse sparkle spawn as a dropper. By 9:30am I hadn’t had a hit yet but I had a La Perla Morado between my teeth while fighting off the stiff gusts of wind and below 40 degree weather. I was on a treasure hunt and just hadn’t found any treasure yet. I was changing my bottom fly often and covered the area pretty well. I just knew they were there but couldn’t get a bite.

 My one cast put the indicator and sucker spawn in the slower current between two rolling waves of faster current. I held the rod high and this kept the indicator not moving so fast keeping my offerings down and slowly drifting beneath. The indicator finally dropped below and I lifted the rod higher, with authority, for a hook set. I knew I had something fishy right off as I felt the line tighten and slowly pull away. Once in the stronger current the fish headed down creek and the struggle with the treasure was on.
 He put up a good battle and I succeeded in getting a good size brown trout to the bank.

 This put a smile on my face and gave me a little more confidence. I hooked up three more times by 1:00 only getting 1 small brown trout to hand. The water was cleaning up some but still was quite dirty. I decided to drive up creek in hopes of clearer water.

 I parked along the roadway without another vehicle in sight. Here too I had caught a few steelhead earlier in the season. I got my gear on again and headed to the creek. The water was a bit clearer and I was sure the steelhead had a better chance of seeing my fly in this section. Down creek I hooked into two fish briefly but the hook set wasn’t enough to keep the fish on for very long. I lit up a cigar and waded the shallow water down creek further.

 I spotted a few steelhead out from a down tree along the bank in about two feet of water. I tempted the fish and finally got a good hook set with a sucker spawn. The fish put up a battle, thrashing around, trying to get to the down tree. With 6x tippet I was able to keep him away from the tree and forced him midstream. I backed up towards shore and got him coming towards me. The nice size steelhead put another smile on my face as I watched him swim out of sight.

 I fished till it got dark without another bite. At the van I changed clothes and it was nice to get some warmth in my body from the heated van.
 I headed to my friends house in Lake City where he offered me some leftover Christmas dinner. He decided to join me for Fridays outing.
 Donny is a charter captain as well as a stream guide on the tributaries. He knows where the steelhead hold up in dirty water so I was glad he decided to come along. 

Friday 12/26/14
 Waking me up, in my van, before it was even light wasn’t what I expected though. He said he figured the creeks would get crowded with other fishermen but I wasn’t all the sure about it. I was a little slow getting my gear on before we headed out. He parked his vehicle up creek and, in my vehicle, drove down creek some to a spot where we’d start. To my surprise he was right. There were already quite a few people already along the creek. We fished the bottom section, without any strikes, before starting our way wading and fishing up creek.
 It was a cold brisk fishing experience where occasionally we’d hook up with a steelhead now and then. We also came across many more fishermen in likely spots Donny said fish usually hold up. When we got to his truck we only had caught a couple of steelhead each. The sun was out by then, which warmed things up a bit, but the wind kept up keeping a cold brisk wind which kept bare skin still quite cold.

We headed up creek a short piece, from where he parked his truck, upstream from the bridge.
 The water rippled with waves along the shallower wide section that emptied into a deeper pool. There was a ledge that dropped deep, on the far side a good piece away from the far bank. It was hard to see the ledge but we both had fished this section before so we kind of knew about where the ledge was in the tinted water. Donny crossed down creek and worked the ledge from the far bank as I stayed on the near side and worked the riffling water that flowed into the deeper pool.
 With sucker spawn and articulated nymphs we worked the water and finally came up with some good hook sets and added a few more fish to our numbers. We were both surprised that the steelhead we caught were all fresh fish and not the drop backs that have been in there for a month or so.

 Donny said the day before Christmas there was a warm spell and the fishing was great. He figured the warm spell might have gotten the fish that have been in the water for months to drop back to the lake. I didn’t doubt him a bit.
 We not only caught a few small frisky fresh Jacks but also caught some good size steelhead that battled like an early fall/winter run. They didn’t breakwater above the surface but many took line spinning off the reel with good runs.

 After a bit we took off to find another section to fish. Everywhere Donny took us there were plenty of vehicles and it wasn’t worth trying to fish the crowds. He drove us back to my van and said he had enough. There was still plenty of daylight left and I told him I was going to head back up to where we did well above the bridge. I also told him I’d stop back at his place if I decided not to head to my daughters house.

 I parked in the parking lot, where we had parked his truck earlier. There were still quite a few vehicles in the lot but I noticed no one was fishing the section above the bridge. I quickly got my gear together and headed up creek.
 The water was clearing and I was able to see the ledge on the far side. I lit up an Alec Bradley Tempus and the cigar was a pleasant medium body smoke. Kind of surprised me how smooth it was but then again it wasn’t a cheap cigar.
  I was fishing alone covering the area, from the rippling water to a distance down creek into the deeper water. It was like someone turned the fish light on and the steelhead were more responsive.

 My tandem sucker spawn fell up creek, into the rippling water, where I mended upstream to make sure of a good drift. The flies and indicator entered the mouth of the deep pool, near the ledge, and the indicator stopped briefly and the moment it dipped I yanked for a hook set. Sure enough the line tightened instantly and I held on for a wild ride. The steelhead shook the line beneath and headed downstream along the ledge tugging and pulling. Line shot out from the spinning reel spool as I put the butt section of the rod in my gut for leverage. He turned down creek and battled beneath keeping his distance from me. When he started to swim up creek I reeled in line onto the large arbor and was careful backing up towards the bank. He did a couple of spinning maneuvers in the deeper section, just down from the rippling current, before taking off again down creek. I kept pressure on him and soon he was tired enough whereas I got him to come nearer to me. The steelhead had some nice light color to her telling me this fish wasn’t an old moldy.

 After my third catch all of a sudden I noticed two other fishermen were fishing down creek from me but leaving me plenty of distance to keep working the area. Some of the bites were so subtle that it was hard to tell if I had a bite being the indicator was constantly bobbing on the wavy current. I constantly had to keep my eye on the indicator and didn’t pay much attention to the fellows down from me so I didn’t know if they were catching anything or not.
 At times I seen a fish roll beneath, when I yanked, failing to get a good hook set. Other times I’d get a good hook set that developed into some good fish verses fisherman battles.

 I caught a few small Jacks in between the nicer bigger fish.
 A fisherman walked towards me and stood between me and the other two fishermen. He was crowding me a bit but I wasn’t changing my drifts. He was evidently experienced enough to follow my lead and not get in my way so I wasn’t displeasured.
 I switched my dropper often and often enough I’d hook into another fish. It was like different fish wanted something different on the menu and I had the right offering at times
 I cast up creek into the riffling water and guided the drift along the rippling current with the rod held out and high not wanting to catch bottom in the shallower water. The indicator flushed down creek and sunk before it got to the deeper pool. I yanked upward and felt a sweeping pull that took the line cross creek. I saw the disturbance in the shallower water as it turned down creek with motoring force. I had a lot of loose line between my line hand and spool, expecting that the free drift would take me down into the deep but this fish fooled me taking my offering in the shallow section. I kept tension on the line as he circled just down from the shallow water in the deep. There was still line between my line hand and spool so I didn’t dare leave go and try to reel in line to let him fight the reel drag yet. He took off towards the ledge and I let tension line slip through my cold fingers. He headed down creek and finally the line tightened to the reel. With the drag now in the battle with the fish I was beginning to think I had the upper hand. From down creek he headed right towards me. I reeled in line as fast as I could looking behind me occasionally as I backed up not wanting to trip over the exposed boulders around me. The line went limp and drooped down in front of me. I was sure I lost the fish so I started to reel in. The guy beside me was watching me battle with the steelhead also and I’m sure he also thought I lost the connection. When I got line into the reel the line tightened with tension and I realized the steelhead was still on just beyond my feet. He took off again like a bullet back into the riffling water heading downstream towards the ledge. I held the rod high and let him take line. In the deeper section again I put some more pressure on him and was more careful backing towards the bank. He fought the whole way to my feet.

It was getting dark as I was trying for one more hook up. The other fellows had left the creek as I fished alone again. I didn’t hook up again before it got too dark that I had a hard time seeing my indicator in the shadows from the cliff and trees above the far bank. I headed out and headed for Donny’s house.

Saturday 12/27/14
 The next morning I was only going to fish till 10:00am. I had a family get together at my mom’s house to celebrate her birthday and exchange gifts. Donny decided to fish with me instead of going hunting.

 I had brought along my Wonderod fiberglass rod and decided to fish it for the few hours I had in the morning. I attached the Allen large arbor to the rear locking seat and strung up the line through the small rod eyes. It was just breaking daylight when we got to the creek and there were already two guys in the water waiting for enough light to fish. We waded across creek and headed upstream where Donny thought we would get into some more fish. The water had cleared up nicely but it was still too dark in the deep water I was fishing to see any fish. I positioned myself in the shallows, out from the bank, and started tying on my offerings. I heard a splash in the tunnel and knew Donny had a fish on. I worked the pool of deep water in front of me hoping for a hook up also.
 Got one I called out as I lifted the hook set with a good yank upward. I caught the steelhead right where the current entered the tunnel. He put on a good fight circling and trying to shake the hook as Donny came out of the tunnel to see me bring it in.

 We both continued to fish the deep section flowing in towards the tunnel. The fish didn’t want to cooperate and we went fishless for some time. We switched offerings often but weren’t getting any better results.

 I cast upstream into the wavy water that flowed above the slate bottom. From there the slate ledge drops off into the deeper pool before quickly flowing along the wall and into the tunnel. I must have some how got the right mend or drift. I watched as the indicator flowed just beyond the ledge when it dropped below the surface quickly. I, just as quickly, yanked the rod back to my right. The line tightened and the fish tugged and then struggled down creek deeper as it went. The fiberglass rod flexed deeply as if I had on a whale. Line slipped out of the reel as the rod flexed and bounced with every tug and head-shake the fish jolted with. He took to the opening of the tunnel and kept deep trying to force the initiative. I tightened the reel drag some and then gripped the cork grip with both hands. I held the rod securely letting the fish fight the pressure of the flexible rod without fear he was going to break the 6lb tippet. After exerting a lot of energy he came subsurface near the tunnel entrance and Donny said it was a brown trout. I wasn’t too sure because I couldn’t see any darkness of its sides that older browns get. Donny was closer to it so I didn’t question him. The trout dove deep and swam up creek in the deeper pool along the wall. I kept the rod back and soon the force and current pressure was too fierce for him to fight against. He circled around towards me and with tail slashing reluctantly came towards me. Sure enough I caught a nice size brown.

   After that we shown them a bunch of patterns but the fish didn’t want to cooperate and we didn‘t catch another. I did keep my promise and we left the stream at 10:00am and headed back to Donny’s.

 After a hot shower I headed to my mom’s house for the Christmas get together. With a RP Vintage 2003 Cameroon in my mouth I took Rte 18 south relaxing in the captains chair thinking about the past few days. Not a stellar performance but fishing with a good friend I haven’t seen for awhile always makes the time spent a little more special! I did make one stop on the way at Conneaut Cellars for a couple bottles of wine.

Merry Christmas and all have a Happy New Year!


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 branches 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.