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Saturday, October 31, 2015


Slipped out for a few minutes early before all the festivities. Where last week thousands of shad swarmed was nothing but the dead and dying. Every eddy had shad either floating or slowly swimming in death circles on their side. On a small sand bar was a bald eagle feasting on the dead with another circling overhead. Managed a few small hybrids and whites where a small feeder creek ran clear into the muddy river. Today you could feel the river changing from fall towards winter...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bucket O Bait

So for a while now I've been thinking that next year I'm going to do more basic river fishing. Catch more shovelheads, more drum, do some carp fishing, and especially do more channel cat fishing. Just a week ago I was telling someone I thought big channels had more in common with big smallmouth than average to small sized smallmouth do. Well, this one spot all fall has been covered up with bait. So much that I think it's actually hurt the fishing a bit. Yeah I know all that bait is why the fish are there in the first place but it only must take minutes at most for them to stuff themselves and stop feeding. It seems like the only fish I've caught the last few days have been right at dawn or dark then they shut down. Well I'm standing there looking at hundreds and hundreds of shiners and shad everywhere and a light bulb went off in my head. Bait. Lots n lots of bait for next year. So today I'm back with a net and a bucket. 15 minutes later I'm heading home with several pounds of shad and minnows. Divided into zip lock baggies and stowed in the freezer I'm set for next summers channels.
All week the river has warmed instead of cooled but I have caught a few decent fish on clear with glitter grubs and curly shad. Which by the way do a pretty good job of looking like the shad and shiners that are so abundant.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Fall is a bittersweet time for me. I tried to use another word, bittersweet seems so overused when applied to autumn. I even went so far as to look it up and try and find a synonym that worked as well. I didn't, so bittersweet it is. The definition of bittersweet is a combination of happy and sad. Exactly the expression of how I feel about fall. There is such exquisite beauty in fall. But it is the beauty of death and dying. I crunch thru the fallen leaves and realize another summer is past, gone. You only get like eighty or ninety of those in your lifetime if your lucky. With the passing of each I feel a twinge of guilt. Did I wring every last drop of summer that our busy lives allow out of it? In midsummer I am Huck Finn along the river. Baking catfish over the fire, wading wet, summer is a grand adventure with no end in sight. One continuous thing. Fall instead is a collection of moments. Each trip a precious jewel with every trip different, every day changing. Trips in fall feel like that last piece of your favorite cake, you savor it, eating slowly knowing soon it will all be gone. But then I find an excuse to be out again the next day, like a bear sensing the coming of winter I gorge on the next moment and then the next. I can never get enough.
Even my approach to fishing itself changes. In spring and summer I take fishing trips, going to a section of river and fishing it in it's entirety, exploring each riffle, each eddy, each pool. Come fall that all changes. A days fishing becomes more like running a trapline. I might tramp thru half a mile of fallen leaves to fish one seam for an hour then drive twenty miles to stand in one spot and fish another spot for two hours. Hemmingway once said that some writers are born just to help another writer write just one sentence. I sometimes feel my whole years fishing has been just a prelude to catching just that one fish. A giant faustian bargain for that one or possibly two twenty inch smallmouth. And heaven forbid you lose a giant in October, a dukkha settles over you. What if that was the last chance, the one chance at THE fish your going to get this year?. After losing a grand fish I can become a professional melancholic. Some years I feel the need to stand up in front of the group and say, "hi I'm Steve and I'm a melancholic". Then other years the mood is different. You've caught The Fish early. Possibly several and the losing of a grand fish comes with laughter instead of heartbreak. Once or twice over the years the fish gods have smiled so much and so often that my appetite is satiated. It's fall and the fishing is good and I've proven to myself whatever it is I set out to prove when I begin the yearly quest for The One.  Twice now I've had years where I've landed a great fish and released it without measuring her. What does it matter if she was 19.5 or 20? Does it make the fish and the experience more rare or special? Just today a friend texted me describing the fight of a great fish. He described a jump then said "it landed like a log". What a great line. I never even asked how big it was, it didn't matter, it was obviously a grand fish. But those moments are few and very very far between for an obsessive like me. But no matter what my mood I do always try to give thanks. Not a ritualized contrived thanks but a simple and natural one, much like sitting beside a harvested deer for a moment to reflect on the hunt. I've been lucky to be blessed with more time to fish than anyone should ever have but I still try to fish with childish joy at just being able to be outside at such a glorious time. I remind myself that even in summers death, everywhere you look nature is planting the seeds of next years rebirth. You can see it in the antics of squirrels planting acorns, the ruttng of deer even the burrs stuck on your jeans at the end of a day. Life itself is a glorious circle. I chose to find my place it by watching the fog lift off a river at dawn, reveling in the riotous palette of autumn leaves, the sunlight reflecting like a thousand diamonds off each drop of water as a smallmouth leaps in evening sunlight. My obsession somehow grounds me, connects me back to what is true.
Right now, today, tomorrow, this week, is just about the best chance to catch The One you will have. But notice the pattern of morning frost on the leaves. How the crunch of leaves underfoot somehow makes the silence of the woods deeper. Notice the cormorants floating on the pool downstream, the steam as a deer breathes in the cold morning air across the riffle. Not only is the fishing as good as it will ever get but the whole experience of fishing is as good right now as it will ever get.

Some moments from the last couple weeks I cherish:

A popper that bounces off a boulder arcs a foot thru the air and is struck simultaneously as it hits the water. Surely that fish tracked it thru the air.

A little glance structure or current guiding wall that had such a steady stream of shad pouring over it that every few minutes one would flop out on the wall itself and you could capture them by hand. Which I did with two, hooking them and then lobbing them out and letting them sweep back down on a tight line. One caught a channel and one caught a hybrid. It was a perfect moment.

Arriving at a hole right after daylight to watch a flock of mallards wheel overhead as a dozen cormorants ran across the surface in a panic liftoff.

Another morning walking up to the river and having a hybrid chase bait almost right at my feet. I underhand out a grub and have the rod almost torn from my hand as it strikes four feet from the rod tip.

Seeing a shovelhead in gin clear water looking like a prehistoric sea monster.

Coasting along on the kayak as a beaver passed twenty feet away going the other way.

Wierdness...A river grass carp

Visited the Middletown Dam on the Great Miami to take some photos. In midmorning this time of year if its a sunny day you sometimes get a rainbow. So of course I brought a rod along and ended up catching this guy.

 Never having caught any of the weird invasive carps I was sure it was an Asian carp but turns out it's some kind of grass carp. Hooked him snugly right under its lower lip so I don't know if tried to eat my grub or that's just where I happened to snare it. Quite a surprise tho...

20" smallmouth bass

I found out it's hard as heck to get the fish to pose with the ruler and still release it before it's half dead but I think you can tell that it was 20 holding the tape to end of the fishes snout with its mouth closed. They don't want to shut their mouth and pinch their tail while you use your hands to work the camera :)
Last fish of the day right before dark on a clear with gold flake three inch grub. Water was 56. Love the colors on this girl, I think it's just about the prettiest fish of the year.

Monday, October 5, 2015

just a wonderful trip

(fine print/ disclaimer...This was on of the best trips I've ever had in a river around here, some of it's going to sound like bull but it's not)

After telling my granddaughter her bedtime story and tucking her in, I left her Mamaw's capable hands and headed to the river.  It was going on eleven before I got to my spot. I'll let ya in on a secret that for some reason you just don't hear much about. hybrids love the night. If you have a spot you can catch a couple in during the day odds are you can catch  half a dozen at night. Well this spot was just about my best numbers spot for hybrids and tonight the weather, time of year, karma and lord knows what else combined to turn hybrid fishing into something akin to springtime crappie fishing, Well if crappies were two feet long and fought like possessed demons I guess. I honestly lost track of how many I caught which is probably a good thing no one would believe it anyways, I did catch at least 15 or 20 that were the size of this guy or bigger I guess.

My lil point and shoot that Ive carried for years and years finally kicked the bucket and it took me half the night to figure out how to take a decent night shot with the other one. I ended up throwing most away. They looked pretty much like these and worse.

Somehow a photo that went off when I miss set the timer actually took a clear photo. It's goofy but at least you can see how the fish were running size wise. I cropped out the close up of my butt.
By about three or four in the morning I was pretty whipped. The farmer that owns the land here has an open faced barn that's stuffed full of bales of straw. I set the phone alarm for six and crawled up between some bales of straw and took a fishing nap. The hybrids were waiting when I got up and were still scruffling with each other to hit my curly shad. I also landed this guy...

I actually landed it before I realized it wasn't a shovelhead but instead a huge channel, one of the years best fish.
Downstream of here the river makes a huge bend curving back on itself for well over a mile, so much so that a half mile walk straight behind you across a giant field gets you well over a mile downstream as the river flows. And down here was a huge deep hole I've been thinking of as a wintering hole for smallmouth all summer. So right after first light I headed out.
Dan, Dave and I call most fishing spots by a sort of alphabet shorthand. One spot might be call WD while another UG or even something more descriptive like the Death Riffle. Anything to keep it's real name secret in case of a conversation overheard or a text miss sent. Well Dave had named this big wintering hole the A Hole. (after the name of a nearby landmark of course)
I fished for quite some time without finding the fish. I was standing throwing a grub into a fast shoot out in front of me when I noticed a little calmer spot of water in the riffle off to my left. I made a little underhand pitch cast and let the grub sweep into the little eddy. Wham fish on. And then another, and another. Last week I took some seniors from a retirement home fishing and I'm thinking the fish gods were pleased because they were more than generous today, Again I lost track but I'd say twenty smallmouth is probably close with the biggest a bit over 19".  I think that's either 7 or 8 this year that's been within an inch of the magic 20 but no go again. But if this is the way the fish gods are going to tease me about it I'm okay with that.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

jacket weather...

Actually todays best fish didn't get it's photo taken. I'm guessing 18"+. I hooked it in the roof of the mouth on a three inch grub on a standard 1/4 ounce ball head jighead. The hook popped out easily enough but the fish started bleeding like a stuck pig. Very strange as it was hooked nowhere near the gills. Rather than stress it any more I released it immediately. All fish were on a smoke metalflake grub including the channel and the shovel. The shovelhead hit in about three feet of water in a chute of water that was zooming along, no way you could have stood up in it. Needless to say in the swift water on 8lb line the shovelhead was a blast.