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Monday, April 28, 2014

The river and the rain, An epic adventure

I pushed the kayak away from the bank at my friends house leaving the baggage of regular life on the bank for a couple days. Little did I know what a trip I was going to end up having. I lazily traveled downstream drifting as much as paddling. The little kayak was loaded like Fred Sanford's pickup truck anyways, it was probably best to take it slow the few miles down to my camping spot for the night. I stopped a few times to halfheartedly fish but only had a six inch smallmouth to show for it by the time I made camp. Camp was a big rock bar facing a couple hundred yards of some of the best fishing I know. Having all day, I decided to put off making camp and headed straight for the water. On my second cast I caught another six inch fish and was wondering if it was going to be one of those kinds of trips. About a minute later something thumped my swimbait and bore deep pulling line off the reel. A big channelcat I was sure. It got out into a swift run of water and used the current also putting up a great fight. Finally I got it into the eddy and it rolled up giving me a good look. It was a big smallmouth. It didn't jump at all though most fish this trip did. It just made great runs each a bit shorter than the next till I closed my hand on the lip of a 19.25 inch smallie. What a start!

I fished the rest of the day catching five more. Plus two small channel catfish. But one more fish was a hefty 18 inch fish that fought even bigger.

With evening fast approaching I headed back to make camp. While I tinkered around putting up the tent I threw out some doughball on a heavier rod equipped with a baitrunner. With rain due I'd brought along a small backpacking tent.

As I began to gather driftwood for the nights fire the baitrunner began to purr. I set the hook into what seemed like a compact car. The fish just slowly and steadily began to cross the river. I began to wade after, the rod bent into a D shape. For some reason the fish swam across and into a spot of slack water and just sort of drug me up and down the bank for quite a while. Finally I was able to beach it on a gravel bank.

Finishing camp I sat by the fire enjoying the night and catching a few smaller carp.

After a wonderful night spent mostly by the fire. It began to rain at daylight. As I gathered my things for another day smallmouth fishing the baitrunner sang again.

Setting out I walked ten minutes downstream to a deep run that had rock and boulders all along one side. As I lifted the rod after the first cast a small bass swiped at my swimbait. I just dropped in down and jigged it up and down and blam A ten inch smallie smacked it. In steady rain over the course of a long soggy morning I caught a couple largemouth, a spotted bass, a white bass and ten or twelve smallmouth. The rain quit and I headed back to camp for lunch. After lunch I waded back into the river in front of camp. In the good water. Over the next couple hours the river raised a few inches and colored up slightly and the fishing took off like a rocket. Unbelievable Canadian shield lake quality fishing. I remember catching an 18 inch fish on one cast and a 17 inch fish on the next. Then a 7 or 8 inch fish and in a few casts another 17 inch fish. All on a three inch swimbait. What River Rock's website calls green pumpkin with pearl. I'd waded across a run and realized the river was coming up. I found a stick and waded back. With heavy weather in the last forecast I'd heard a few days back and a ways to go in the yak before getting out I reluctantly headed back. I think every inch of my body was wrinkled from the rain and river. It was the kind of trip dreams are made of...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Toys...

I picked up a new rod today at Queen City Outdoors in Goshen. Most of last year my most used rod was a Vendetta by Abu Garcia. I really like the action of this rod but it had a quirk I found really annoying. Over the course of a long day fishing the ring holding the reel in place would work loose. I ended up cutting a three inch piece of electrical tape to hold it in place. Other than that it was a great rod comparable to top end rods costing 40 or 50 bucks more. Well long story short last fall I broke it. No big fish story it just broke in the middle during a cast. So ever since I've been kinda in the market for a new rod. Don't misunderstand I have fishing rods in half the corners of my house but not that perfect river rod. Well today I got one I think is pretty close for the kind of fishing I do. It's made by the Timeless Fishing Rod Company. A local company that assembles premium parts into a super high quality but affordable rod using stuff like St Croix and MHX blanks with Pac Bay, REC, Etc., components. In other words top drawer stuff. Mine comes with low profile guides which I've never used. That will be interesting. Nine of them BTW, like I said its a quality product. I'll get back with you after using it extensively on a two day float coming up in a couple days.

I also got today a bunch of my favorite smalljaw lure. The River Rock Striker. In the past I used their four inch Striker in pools as the best shiner imitation Ive ever used. Their website calls it 3.75 but it's the same size as everyone elses 4 inch swimbait.
The deal is when you get the thing in the water it just comes alive. Ever watch Larry Dahlberg's Hunt for Big Fish TV show? He throws this big giant homemade swimbait for muskies and saltwater fish and striper and a hundred other giant fish. Well I'd watch that show and think that big giant lure looks more alive than anything I've ever seen. Not crazy wacky action but lots of realistic fishy looking action. Well the first time I saw a Striker in action I realized I'd finally found that real action in a normal sized lure. Well this year they now have a small one the size of my three inch grubs I throw to imitate darters and smaller minnows. I'm super super excited to throw these this year. As great as the grub has been for me, my all time most productive lure for sure, the Striker just looks better in the water. And a big mondo size to throw at Stripers and (ssshh, don't tell) big shovelheads. Remember how my buddy Dan and I have found a pattern of catching big catfish on lures at night? Well I think this big mondo striker will be perfect for that. But more on that some other time. The regular Striker will get some hard use in the next few days hunting big smallmouth.

Monday, April 21, 2014

At Last

I was beginning to think this day would never get here. But finally at last. Today I finally got my hands on for the first time the published version of my book, The Little Miami River. Now just have to sign 2000 more...It will probably seem a bit more real by the time I get that done.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A monster river fish

So A lot of people have some sort of lucky totem. Maybe they wear their lucky shirt fishing or carry a lucky rabbits foot. Well let me tell ya, I am a walking talking lucky rabbits foot for Dan. It seems like everytime we go fishing he catches a Fish Ohio Fish. And today was no exception. Ive seen him catch fish ohio saugsfish, even watched him catch two fish ohio shovelheads on lures within 15 minutes of each other. The guy flat out catches big fish and is such a good guy your rooting for him to catch another one. He's simply a fine river fisherman. Well anyways, we met on the GMR right at daylight. Dan could only fish an hour or two while I had most of the day. Right away I hooked a big fish that bored upstream and down. Too much fish for my bass tackle. Probably a big buffalo or shovel. Ill never know cause it pulled off long before I ever had a prayer of seeing it. Dan shows up and we stand fishing this eddy visiting and passing time. Boom Boom he catches a couple pretty smallmouth on a chartreuse grub. I finally start to catch a few, meanwhile Dan is looking like Bill Dance fishing his own private pond. I try a few other things but every time I do Dan catches another so I finally just tie on a grub and start catching them regularly too. Then thump and Dan's rod bends double. But it's not fighting like a smallmouth. A buffalo? Dan wonders out loud that it might be a carp. When up rolls this giant bass. A largemouth! A big Largemouth in the river is thrashing around out there. But nothing crazy happens. Dan calmly lands the fish, I lip it. And out comes the tape measure. 21 inches and shaped like the circus fat lady. When you look at the picture remember that Dan is like 8 feet tall and bigfoot is scared of him. What I'm saying is Dan is a vary big man and that fish still looks big.
It's an absolute horse to come out of the river. It's way up on my list of most impressive fish I've seen considering where he caught it.

Then after a few more smallmouth Dan has to leave so I walk out with him and try another three places. Kind of river hopping my way home. Almost everywhere I found that had slack water or an eddy right up against fast water held smallmouth. I caught them pretty steady all day, 90 percent of them coming on a chartreuse 3' grub. It was a perfect day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A day in the woods

We started off with a walk in the woods along the LMR with my granddaughter Kally. The woods this time of year I find really fascinating with all kinds of little plants you wont find the rest of the year. These are called spring ephemerals. The idea is to pop up flowers, grow, and start setting seed before the trees overhead leaf out and shade the understory. So these guys are raring to go and are the first things you'll run into this time of the year. Everywhere this trip we found Dutchman's breeches. The flowers hang off a droopy arching stem and I guess reminded people of little pants hanging out on the line to dry.

We also found bloodroot blooming even before the leaves had uncurled fully. Bloodroot gets its name from the bright red sap inside the root that looks like blood. This sap will burn you and was used in old time remedies for warts or skin tags even melinoma. But can result in serious scarring if not done properly. The FDA has prosecuted practitioners for carrying out this remedy. Bloodroot is very big with practitioners of magic and witchcraft. Supposedly you put a piece of dried root in alcohol let it soak and drink a shot. Supposedly it, umm, well, makes things work better if your a guy. Bloodroot carried and spread around the house in voodoo is used as a hex breaker and to avoid negative energy and bad luck. Also if you fear someone is trying to break up your marriage, put some dried bloodroot into yours and your spouse's pillows. Its also used by burning it to negate bad juu juu.

Up higher on the hill we began to find large patches of ramps and a very cool plant. Trout Lily.

Trout lily is so named because in the southern mountains it is a sign that the time has come to catch trout. The corm of trout lily is edible. Some believe that wounds will be healed if the plant is soaked in cold water, then removed and wrapped it in cloth and applied to a wound or bruise. It is left there until the bundle is warm, and then removed and buried in a muddy place.
According to legend native Americans would chew up leaves and then spit them on whatever waters they were going to fish to ensure good luck.

Back off the trail we found some frogs in a little pond. Several small frogs were around the edges and still seemed a bit lethargic in the cool water. I took a snapshot of this guy then managed to catch him in my hands. He jumped out then, causing Kally to scream and run. His next big jump was right at her causing even more panic, it was pretty awesome!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some spring bassin

today I went bassing in a gravel pit. After a couple hours with absolutely no luck I was bumming pretty good. I tried jigs, grubs, various soft plastics all with no luck. I finally tied on a suspending minnow. Being a cheap bastard I'd rigged these myself. Last spring Wallyworld had boxes of rebel minnows for sale at a $1.50. So I replaced the trebles with bigger ones and wrapped the forward treble with lead wire. Voila, a suspending minnow plug that doesn't cost nine dollars.A couple jerks to get it down and I let it set. Then a very slow retrieve with more setting than moving. Whack a pound or largemouth hits it. First cast after two hours catching nothing on anything else! I'd like to say they hammered it every cast but they did hit every ten minutes or so. Nothing big, just decent fish. A big improvement over the rest of what's been so far a slow spring.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Superfoods, the Sauk Sea and fungi.

With the river too high to fish but the day being close to perfect I decided to head to the woods to see if the ramps were up. What are ramps you say? Ramps or wild leeks are the first wild food that pops up every spring. So where do you find this wonder food? In moist woodlands and in shady hollows and creeks. Good wildflower and ginseng woods are usually good places to find ramps. Among the first plants to emerge in spring, ramps let you get back in the woods before turkey hunting season or even before the start of morel hunting season. In good woods, patches of ramps show up as islands of green in an otherwise sea of early season brown. As spring wears on and trees leaf out ramps begin to yellow and die back. As the leaves yellow and die a smooth stalk appears with a small purplish tip. After the leaves have completely died back this tip opens into a small globe of delicate flowers. This stalk then bears small seeds and then dies. In my experience you can, if you know what to look for, still find ramps in late summer and fall by looking carefully for this dried stalk which stands even when dead. But by then the ramp bulb is very very strong, too strong for my tastes. For me early spring is the time to gather ramps. Besides, the leaves themselves are as usefull as the bulbs. You can use the leaves green in salads. Or gather them and fill the dehydrator with them for later use. We usually use a big mason jar full of dried leaves every year as seasoning. Almost everything that's grilled at my house gets sprinkled with dried ramps. Chicken, venison steaks, zucchini and squash all taste better grilled when liberally sprinkled with a pinch or two of ramps. A baked potato is better when slathered in butter and sprinkled with dried ramps too.
The classic meal for ramp lovers is fried potatoes and ramps. Fry your potatoes till they are just about to start to brown and then throw in about half as many ramps as potatoes and brown both. Simply the best fried taters you will ever have. Want a dip that's actually good for you? Make ramp hummus with a cup of chick peas thrown in the food processor with a heaping spoonfull of chopped ramps and a spoonfull of chili powder. A great campfire meal is ramps and mushrooms sauteed in butter. The bulbs can also be dried like the leaves and added to soups or added to anything that could use a strong garlicy flavor. Or as Pulitzer Prize nominated food writer Jane Snow once described it, "like fried green onions with a dash of funky feet". Ramps were called chicagou in the language of native tribes and local abundance gave the city of Chicago it's name. The name ramps is one of the many dialectical variants of the English word ramson, a common name of the European leek.

Lets check out some facts. Ramps are the ultimate superfood. No pesticides ever... heck most ramps grow in ground that has never even been cultivated for anything ...ever. This is a big deal since farmers harvest crops and in removing them thus take trace minerals trapped in the plants out of the soil, while in the woodland habitats that ramps grow in, nutrients are recycled in a loop and are not depleted. Let's look in more detail at ramps nutritional value.

Wild leeks are high in antioxidants. Ramps have a high Total Polyphenol Content (TPC) which is the way foods are graded on their antioxidant capability. Ramps are higher than tomatoes and red bell peppers and carrots. These polyphenols are considered active cancer fighting agents. Ramps help support brain function and development because they contain choline which is a used as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Adequate amounts of choline in the diet have been shown to support proper cognitive function and facilitate learning in adults and children. Ramps or wild leeks help prevent high blood pressure and stroke because they contain folate which is an essential B vitamin that keeps our bodies levels of homocysteine in check. Homocysteine is a protein found in the blood that contributes to atherosclerosis when it is in high amounts.
Being closely related to garlic, ramps contain the same sulphur compounds including kaempferol. Kaempferol works to protect the lining of the blood vessels against damage while supporting the liver in elimination of cholesterol. Ramps have basically all the well known health benifits of garlic or onions without the danger of pestacides and mineral depletion.
Ramps are an excellent source of vitamin A (immune-supportive) and vitamin K (anti-inflammatory). They are very good source of manganese as well as vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Ramps are also a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, calcium, and copper; enzyme-generating molybdenum; and potassium. Ramps are rich in the B9 vitamin known as folate (folic acid), thus helping the body build new cells and keeping the blood healthy so that it can oxygenate the body. Everyone needs folate in their diet, but it is doubly important for woman who are pregnant. By eating folate-rich ramps, women can prevent some birth defects such as problems associated with the baby's spine (spina bifida) and brain (encephalitis).
Ramps are also a great source of potassium, a mineral that balances the body's pH and water levels and contributes to muscle growth, brain function and nervous system stability. Potassium also plays an important role in the body's metabolic rate and is critical for proper functioning of cells, tissues and organs. Besides their basic nutritional benefits, eating a mess of ramps also aids the body in certain medicinal ways. Ramps have natural antiseptic properties, which help the body fight infection, as well as laxative benefits. Ramps also help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol blood levels. Ramps reduce the risk of prostate, colon and ovarian cancer and contain diuretic and anti-arthritic properties.

While walking out I found a horn coral fossil in the creek running thru the hollow the ramps were growing in. Horn corals are fossils of when Ohio was covered by an ancient sea called the Sauk Sea during the Ordovician Period, which if I remember right was like 400 million years ago!

I also snapped a photo of some cool lichen growing on a tree trunk.

Lichens are actually two different life forms that combine to help each other an algae and a fungus. The fungus helps the algae by retaining water while the algae performs that miracle of miracles, photosynthesis. Or as the great lichenologist Trevor Goward once said: Lichens are a case of fungi that have discovered agriculture. How cool is that?? That's also why lichens are always happy because on the inside they are always a fun guy. (sorry couldn't resist) And believe it or not but deer, flying squirrels, and voles also use lichens as an important food. I remember once watching a doe out of a treestand feed on lichens covering a downed tree top. At the time I thought it might be rare behavior but it turns out it's just business as usual for whitetails.