Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hard times for steelheaders, better days ahead though

The wind bent the water’s surface, curling the top into ruffles that rocked the foam plastic float.

Darn, once again I was foiled by the Winter-That-Won’t-Die.

Only the day before the sun had shone, the small Grand River tributary had retreated to well within its banks and the air held a decidedly “springish” hint to it.

Best of all the water’s color was a liquid green to which all steelhead anglers swoon over. This is the best sign that the waters have ripened to the point where an angler can pluck a trout or two.

And I did, too, by tossing an orange-colored spawn sack into the current just off the edge of the seam. Sure enough, a steelhead took the offering; a hen (female) that decided the best approach to escape was to run up, down and even out of the creek.

“Not to worry,” I said to the fish, “I’ll only let you go anyway.”

Though the trout was still three inches shy of being a Fish Ohio qualifying candidate she did represent my first stream steelhead of the year.

The scouting mission wasn’t so much to wallop the trout but to determine if a trip with some more elbow room time-wise was appropriate.

My sense was that the stream would be ideal the next day. By then, however, instead of a shrinking creek I came up to a stream swelling again with the seasonally allergy of snow melt coupled with another round of showers.

I could not even cross the creek to fish my favorite pool so I left that to my good steelhead fishing friend, Bob Ashley of Mentor.

Bob worked the hole for about 10 minutes and while that might not seem like much to a non-angler the reality is something different. Ten minutes is ample enough duration to see if the fish are biting on this small Grand River tributary. Any more time and you are, well, just wasting time.

The problem was the creek was on the rise. A stream on the rise usually includes discoloration, changes in temperature and increased stream flow.

All of these things are stressors that trout - or most any other fish species for that matter - seek to avoid by hunkering down and avoiding extracurricular activity.

I much rather fish the drop when the water begins to clear and the fish are moving into their more reliable spawning/holding patterns.

Of course the day is coming when the bugs will start buzzing and the birds will begin their home-range testimonials. That is when the winds also will tame and the sun starts to shine with enthusiasm; so much so that one again hears off in the distance the sounds of lawn mowers mowing and children gleefully giggling in fine puppy-fashion.

I’ll know then that the steelhead will be about their genetic business, nasty enough to hate a fly rolling past their spawning nests, or “redds.”

Then you’ll find me on the stream, forgetful of the hard weather times behind me and mindful of the blessings that lie at my wader tips.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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