Sen. George V. Voinovich had just a little time to kill. Not much, however.
But it was a shame that he wasn't able to slay another 30 minutes. That's how long it took before the steelhead of the Chagrin River decided to up and start hitting Monday morning.
In all likelihood Monday was going to be the last day for steelheading by my brother, Rich, and myself. Time to move on to other fish species, like carp, catfish and crappie.
Sen. Voinovich wanted one last trout try, too. So did my son-in-law, Gabe Rathe, of Knoxville, Tenn.
So the date was selected by Voinovich's tight schedule and Gabe's visit.
However, the steelhead had other things on their minds, like migrating back to Lake Erie after spawning. The river at Lake Metroparks' Chagrin River Park was nearly deserted of trout. Only the day before Rich and our older brother, Terry, had seen a slew of steelhead in this same stretch.
The pickings were slim on Monday; at least when we started around 7 a.m.
After an hour Rich had taken three fish and Gabe one, neither the Senator nor myself had hooked - let alone - taken any trout.
Voinovich gave his respects and said he could get some things accomplished on his wife's "honey-do" list. So he took his leave and promised that we'd get together later this year for some farm pond bass fishing.
Rich, Gabe and I were left as the remnent group. Along with a few pods of trout that became more active as the morning wore on.
It was hardly fast and furious work but the fish did come. Mostly older models that had become worn down by the constant assault of the river and spawning. These were the veterans and they carried their medals in the broken fins and open sores.
I managed to catch five or six trout, the fish caught on a variety of flies, mostly Otter egg patterns but also a couple of fish taken with sucker spawn patterns. Hot pink or purple, as I now recall.
Gabe was becoming frustrated. He's already taken a minor dunking along with hooking a few upper classmen steelhead. These fish had taken graduate lessons in escaping, however, and foiled Gabe's intent to land them.
Yet Gabe persisted, never wavering or quiting. His second fish was bigger than the first and measured perhaps 18 inches. And he wanted more and bigger game.
But Gabe saved the best for the last, even as he had his family to cheer him on. His wife (my daughter, Rebecca) and their four children (Grace, Hope, Nehemiah and Elija and I thank you for asking) along with my wife (Bev) had the followed the trail down to the creek. There, they stood on the bank to encourage Gabe on.
It is not often one gets a cheering section, especially one so large. Gabe did, though, and took full advantage of the audience.
He hooked fair and square a fresh-run hen steelhead, maybe the last of its kind of the season. The fish first streaked toward the far shore and then made a leap.
Gabe carefully played the trout, which was eased into the shallows where I was able to pounce on the wet, slimy critter. All 10 pounds and 29 1/2 inches of her.
The angler said as much that this was the biggest trout he'd ever caught, a real Fish Ohio trophy that will earn him a pin.
There was no need to keep fishing for steelhead, not when the children were all eager to catch some bluegills on their own.
Besides, nothing more could be accomplished. Gabe caught a truly remarkable fish at the curtain call of the steelhead fishing season. And he did it with his family for an audience; a tremendous ego-booster and best way to become a hero.
Had we quit early and given in then not much of this story could have been told. It just shows you that patience is a virtue when it comes to life in general and fishing in particular.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn