Tuesday, December 8, 2015

November Rain?

 Play this video while you read this post.
"Cause nothin' lasts forever Even cold November rain"

  Great song, perhaps a little sentimental for GNR but I like it anyways. What I'm not so crazy about is how dry October and November really were. The idiot box keeps telling me that we are currently experiencing the warmest and driest autumn in recorded history for this part of the country. Good news for the average joe on the street but a blow to the head for those of us who planned on fishing the local rivers until freeze up. 

   A little catch up is in order before I continue on this theme, Back in mid February, at the height of the Simcoe ice fishing season, my cat-like reflexes failed me and I tried to open a new hole with the back of my head. A hundred yards away Tackle Shop looked over and thought I was staring down a hole trying to locate fish, when in reality I was passed out on my back for close to 10 minutes. I have little recollection of the rest of the day and for the next six weeks I was laid out with a constant headache, nausea, vertigo and worst of all... no fishing. I've fully recovered since then with no ill effects other than some tenderness at the back of my head. I've fully recovered since then with no ill effects other than some tenderness at the back of my head. 

   I'd regained my footing in early spring, and although, not steady enough to tackle the river for the spring run of steel, I was ready and able to do some carp fishing in my local ponds. One day in early May I spotted a familiar splash of orange I'd been chasing for several seasons. This flashy old-timer had refused all my offerings in the past and on this day I decided to lay low and wait until he made his way along the shore to where I was sitting and droped a crawler right in front of him at rods length. Who knew it would be that easy?

  I still get a good laugh when I think of the locals standing on their balconies overlooking the pond, scratching their heads in confusion as to what I might be doing, and seriously asking "Are there really fish in there", once again proving my theory that the average person has no idea what's in their own backyard. Too bad for them...good for me and mine!

   I didn't get to go on as many road trips this year as usual so my addiction was satisfied locally. The bass pond I'd found last year had a family of beavers take up residence in the early spring and although I appreciate seeing them, particularly in an urban environment, their presence drastically altered the water chemistry causing huge mats of floating algae to form, thus forcing a change in tactics from pitching "hardware" to "software". When I first found the spot a year ago September, fan casting the few access points with 3" floating Rapalas, small Mepps, Beetle-spins with a white twister grub and top water poppers produced several afternoons with fish counts nearing triple digits!

   By mid summer this year, access to open water had all but disappeared so rubber baits came heavily into play, wacky worms, craws and frogs dragged across the mats and allowed to fall into the pockets. Catches were far reduced from last year but far more exciting, as any of you would agree, trying to wrestle a 5lb largemouth out of thick weeds with a 5.5ft ultra-lite and 4lb braid is extremely challenging and just a bit ridiculous.

I sometimes think Treefrog couldn't catch a cold, but he does have his days.
   A couple "youngsters" who live in the same house expressed interest in the sport, and although they'd never fished before, they quickly picked up the nuances of fishing "slop". I can't speak for them but I never get tired of witnessing the astonished sense of accomplishment as that first fish is landed.
Jamie's first of many for the day.
Dave could catch them but was too squeamish to handle them.
Ironically sitting atop a box of  topwater poppers and frogs.
    As mentioned earlier, this year has mostly been a stay at home affair, partially because of the expense of travelling hundreds of miles for a  day out and also because TS had to sell his boat. There were a few trips to the east end of the Trent Severn Waterway this summer where a few notable catches were made; The Russian's first open water musky in Rosedale,

   Tackleshop's person best musky on the Scugog River using the ever present five of diamonds,

    and my first ever multi-walleye day below dam #6 in Frankford, using a Stike King spinner bait. Sorry no pictures...I ate them!

   So here we are, almost caught up, and with a good variety of fish porn on display. Rain, rain, go away, come back another day. NOT! It didn't occurred to me until mid September that I hadn't even glanced at my fly rod or tying bench in almost a year. In a flurry of activity I quickly restocked my collection of egg patterns and made the journey, by mountain bike, over to the Rouge River every few days in anticipation of intercepting the fall run of Pacific salmon.

   All through September and October the river ran extremely low and clear, making the locating of fish easy but difficult to sneak up on. A few came to hand, a few others regained their freedom through break offs. Here are some shots from my backyard over the last few months. Note that some are from Little Rouge Creek, where fishing is prohibited this time of year.

This buck went straight into the smoker


Photographing fish on a redd

Little Rouge Creek 

   I've complained about the low water levels but the one positive point with the weather this fall was the unheard of ability to comfortably wet wade right up to late October. With the salmon season coming to it's end and decomposing on the river bank, I turned my sights on honing my near non existent trout fishing skills. I hate to admit that I've no fly fishing acquaintances to learn from and that reading up on tactics make little difference in my approach. I learn mostly through trial and error.

   It took a while but eventually it dawned on me that what worked on those giant swimmers, (casting upstream with a heavily weighted egg) wouldn't work well on trout. My set up would drift down, line first, scaring any wary fish, and any bites I would get would probably go undetected. One solution would be to use a strike indicator to allow for a more vertical presentation, but I've always hated casting them. I sat beside the river with a bottle of water and a smoke, trying to wrap my mind around this problem. I understood these fish sit just off the current, moving inches to sip at passing eggs, but when living in Lake Ontario prey mostly on bait fish. A plan started to come together.

   I tied on a clouser minnow, cast down and across the current, and on the second drift nearly had the rod ripped from my hands. I was amazed at the savagery of the strike from the 24 inch rainbow that came to hand a minute later. Less than an hour later I hooked into a slightly larger brown trout that broke me off as it tail walked across the run. It would have been a much simpler process getting to this point if I'd actually read all those articles I'd read.

   Not surprising, but I'm still "suffering" from two problems; low, clear water and inexperience. It's too late for November rains, but with my vow to hit the river weekly until Christmas, perhaps inexperience will fade as an excuse. Oh...and I've started a new fly box, I'm currently working on wet hackles.

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