10.27 a dud

I should have known better but the inertia of tying up eggsacks from the night before carried me through. The forecast went from a "slight chance" of rain to "RAIN"... the outlook was not good. The rivers were just dropping to a fishable level and I figured if I drove far enough east I could outrun the saturated sponge that was coming to blow the rivers out for another week.

When I got out of the truck the river looked good enough, stained, with a heavy flow. I should be able to get some fish. There were fish to be had, but things just weren't "right" Most of my fish came out of the same hole and that was it. nothing more. A fishless desert.

I fished on a friday both because I have the day off and I knew it was going to rain. In the morning conditions were perfect: overcast, cool, no wind. Some guys swear by overcast skies for steelhead, I can take them or leave them. For me the biggest advantage of overcast skies is being able to see your float better with less glare on the water. After a few hours on the water, and a few fish to make it at least worth the effort the skies opened up, and the rains began to fall. I was home in a little over three hours but my gear is still drying out.

Salmon River, 10/13-10/16

The only bad thing about taking the 8 hour drive to the Salmon river is the trip through Canada. Having to cross through customs is the trade-off for wanting to get there faster, I leave Ann Arbor at 9pm and intend to be knee deep by sunup.

When I crossed into Lewiston the snows began, light at first, until I hit the heart of the surprise early lake effect snow band. I had to stay in 4 wheel drive for almost 2 hours, and 40mph was only possible between squalls and where the plows had been, otherwise I-90 was a single track slow trudge through the whiteout. I'd have gotten pictures but frankly I was too freaked out to take my hands off the wheel long enough to dig out the camera. This was the first snow I have driven through for the season, and was the worst snow I have driven through to date. By the time I made Rochester it disappeared like the blizzard I had left to my west never even existed.

By noon I'll be a walking zombie unless the fishing keeps me motivated enough to fish until dark. Today I was motivated, and for the next three days the fishing remained everything I dream about when I'm fishing in Ohio or not fishing at all.

I met up with two of my friends Dae and Josh. Josh was first to meet me down on the water where I had already landed 2 fish. They were the powerful fish I remembered, in fact, they fought a little harder than I had recalled. It wasn't even 8am by the time I had lost my first submarine, and I was just settling into that fishing mode where your mind clears of everything but the river and the fish.

We worked our way up and down about 2 miles of river. The fish this time of year are known for their aggression, but they are not stacked into the wintering holes. The best way to fish this time of year is to cover a lot of water, usually we would hook 2 or 3 fish within a half hour and then things would slow down. Off to the next hole we would go...wash...rinse..repeat. Man I love this river!

The beauty of steelhead fishing on the salmon river is that it is very difficult to read where the good holding water is. Fish will hold in unknown spots and dropoffs that are all but impossible to see amid it's roaring currents. This is fast water, a west coast river planted on the east coast. It's steelhead take full advantage of the currents, and to land them you are often faced with the question of whether or not to chase then down though slippery, rocky rivers, risking both life, limb, and overpriced fishing equipment. Adrenaline.

Dae served as camp cook. We stayed with 2 other friends, Johnny and Andrea who also guide on the salmon river. They've helped me immensely with the learning curve that this river is famous for, and I'd probably still be stumbling along fishless and frustrated if it weren't for their guidance. I also like to drop by their website www.nyfishtales.com when I'm not actually there. Most trips they'll come out and fish with us, but things have been real busy in Pulaski with salmon season (and early steelhead) in full swing. Between working other jobs and guiding they had little time. But were more than happy to hang out with us back at the "steelhead camp" and have a few drinks before getting to bed early for another long day on the water.

Above is a prime example of Dae's cooking. Meat. Red Meat. Rare. Bad for the arteries, but good for fueling the fire after you've walked 5 miles, fought a bunch of bright steelhead and stumbled over every rock in the river. I had a protein coma, and fell asleep promptly.

The next two days on the river were repeats fishwise of the first. The weather became unpredictable however, in the classic upstate New York fall sense: clouds were constantly rolling off of lake Ontario, pouring rain, wind, ice, and sometimes a break would result in some sunshine...All in one day, sometimes the cycle would repeat itself several times in one day. We actually got chased off by a random hailstorm at the end of our second day fishing, but by the time we go to our cars, the sun had come back out. In the winter, it's just snow, either lots of snow, or a little, more wind or less wind driving it. This is lake effect country where on interstate 81 north of Syracuse there's big reflectors along the shoulder of the road that are over 6 feet tall to assist unlucky drivers heading through the lake effect snow machine.

I hope to be back in a few weeks. At the very latest I'll be up for Thanksgiving. Hopefully there will be better driving but just as many fish. For now it's schoolwork and maybe a weekend trip to Ohio. A large part of me still remains back in New York walking the banks of the Salmon River. If all works as planned for me it will be my home water in a few more years, instead of just my "home away from home".

Northeast Ohio 10/7

This was a trip that was supposed to happen the day before, and I was worried that the conditions were not going to be in my favor, since I was trying to hit higher, dirtier water, and this creek clears pretty fast. In short, I was fine. The fishing was excellent, and there were plenty of steelhead to be had.

Earlier in the season I'm having to make the longer trek to northeast ohio to try and intercept Pennsylvania fish which are fall runners. fishing near the PA border will generally win you more fish, but everyone else knows this too, so as a result you're going to have to deal with more fisherman.

There were a few spurts of crowds, but one of the best things about fishing Ohio is the ability I have to cover a lot of water, and get away from people. Most of the people are camping out at the big holes where the fish have been pounded and the action is slow at best.

Today was a little different than most of my experiences in ohio because I couldn't pin down a color that the fish were taking regularly. A lot of times there will be a certain color that the fish want over everything else (usually the color you are almost out of). But with today's bright sunshine accuracy was more important than color. Most of my fish came from under trees, against cut banks, and open spots covered with shade. It worked over and over and was pretty fun. I could come to a hole that had little structure and would normally produce if it were overcast and do nothing, and walk 100 yards to find some decent structure (shade) in a marginal hole and there'd be a fish there.

I spent much of the day trying to pull fish out of places I'm not supposed to. I concentrated on small cuts that were shaded but otherwise didn't provide much cover. there were fish here! Other holes that had the structure needed a perfect cast and I lost a lot of rigs trying to get closer than I should. This is probably the closest that steelhead fishing will come to bass fishing, where I'm pulling hot fish out of downed trees, and banging my rod on the bottom of the stream because of the side pressure necessary to keep the fish from snapping you off. Pretty neat.

Next weekend I'll be on the salmon river. Word has it there's some early season silver males in there of the large to very large variety. This is a trip I've been planning for a few months since I always like to make a mid-october trip for pure silver. These are my favorite steelhead of the year to catch. The early runs on the salmon river are perfect silver turbocharged rockets. Sure, winter fishing is great without the crowds, but for pure thrills, try hooking a 15lb chrome buck on a cool october day. The water will still be warmer and the fish are coming straight out of deep water in the lake, they don't usually sit in the estuary but bolt straight in. they have blue-black backs, and perfect silver sides, and not even a hint of pink on their gill plates. They are a different fish, and you become quickly aware of that difference when you loose 100 yards of line as fast as you can shout out an obscenity or two. That's the lure of October chrome.


Eggsacks. The fish like to eat them, but I hate to tie them. I've got a good 200 tied up and ready to go for tomorrow morning. 200 is probably enough to fish 3 days, but you can never, ever have enough eggsacks. (or eggs for that matter)

I've bribed myself with an experimental salmon dish. It involves pineapple, a charcoal grill, and butter. We'll see. It sure looks good. I've got a good ole standby glaze to keep the funky pineapple salmon company in there.

Ok, a little more on eggsacks. They are best tied with exactly 350ml of strong whiskey in your body, that makes both the tedium and the smell easier to stand. Actually, the smell isn't that bad, but since I'm in the trade it doesn't bother me. The whiskey is helpful but completely optional. Morning coffee works, as well as grilled salmon, which was tonight's substance of choice.

This is B+ grade salmon skein, September 2006 vintage, harvested from the Big Manistee. The product was well cared for, chilled, the eggs were then carefully scraped and placed on cure. The mealy/fishy/pungent/acrid smell is punctuated by hints of vanilla and hyssop.

I tie three kinds of eggsacks. Small, Large, and Mongo. All of them have their place, but I've found it's not a scientific as you might think. In ohio, you fish big sacks when the water is dirty, and small sacks when the water is clean. Tomorrow I'm going to fish clean water, and maybe some dirty water. I have a lot of both, and my fingers stink like salmon poot.

What is a fish pig?

What is a fish pig?

The term is one I recently picked up while fishing the Salmon River with a few good friends. There are probably a few different classes of fish pigs, some are good (as in tolerable) some are not.
Their common tie is an obsession for the fish they chase. From this writing until probably early spring, the fish I am referring to are steelhead.

A fish pig cannot get enough, he's a one-track-mind-hell bound for the next fish, and I know all too well this mindset. A good fish pig is the one that is all fishing, all the time, they'll talk your ears off about rivers, fish, water flows, weather, snow, and just about anything else they'll encounter from the time they wake up until their line goes tight with their own version of the White Whale. A bad pig is exactly the same, but they are the one's to watch out for, they are the one's that lose their minds when the conditions are right, forget common courtesy, act competitive, and otherwise make asses out of themselves. All fish pigs have been on both sides, in one way or another. Myself included.
From this point forward however, you won't be hearing too much more about what I've just discussed. I'm just trying to put the title of this blog into context. I'm taken away when I fish rivers, and for me time on the water is a controlled obsession, a parallel universe that wants to sweep me away despite my obligations. As time went on I've learned that the people you meet and the places you go are probably even better than the fish. Even steelhead! That is where the recovery began, and continues, but will never be complete. There's always going to be days and weeks that the fishing is so good it will cut me off from everything but the rivers and the fish. It's the in-between times (school, work, family), back in reality, where I can reflect on the fishing, and laugh at it all.

Steelhead are probably the best fish for discussing a fishing obsession. They have a notorious cult following of frozen fisherman chasing them from river to river, state to state. They live in extreme environments, you'll likely encounter numbing cold, wind, snow, high water, and just about everything else Mother Nature can throw at you. If you are obsessed, you'll love absolutely all of it, and you'll ask for more.

I think this has been explained by psychologists as cognitive dissonance. The more pain/crap/money/etc. you go though in search of something, the closer a bond you feel to it. That's a one sentence defenition by a non-psychologist, keep that in mind. But applied to a steelhead fisherman, it fits. You wake up in the morning, it's snowing blinding white. Your hung over (yesterday was a good day, so you celebrated) and your buddy is rushing you to go. You down 2 quick cups of coffee and fumble out into the moring cold. There's no where else you'd rather be.

My chosen forum is the New York tributaries to Lake Ontario, the Salmon River being the Holy of Holies of steelheading for me. But you're going to hear more about fishing in Ohio and Michigan since Michigan is home until I finish school and find a job in Syracuse to complete my obsession.

This is going to be an attempt at cataloging a season of steelhead fishing. I normally fish weekly, but that schedule is subject to change where obligations call louder than the rivers do. In addition, there aspects of a steelhead season besides standing in a river fishing, I'll be discussing those as well.