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Saturday, May 28, 2016

The lonely part of town

Two days before I was 75 miles up another stream. A stream lined with the pristine, garnished with beautiful forest and not another human in sight. Today is a different world altogether. The refuse and detritus of modern society lay everywhere. But somehow, like always, nature finds a way.  Stunted twisted sycamores hang out over the stream. Clumps of willow sprout thru concrete rubble. A robin's nest in a shrub under a rail trestle. Milkweed and thistle thrive thru sheer tenacity in a soil composed of gravel, pieces of old brick, rebar and chunks of concrete and broken glass.
Likewise the water, rendered opaque by the evening sun, hides wildness all its own. Down there among the old pipe and twisted steel swim fish as wild at heart as Alaskan rainbows. Fish with a spirit completely undiluted by their inner city life.
I tie on a jig head, twice thru the eye then seven wraps back around itself then the tag end pushed back thru. Lick the knot and snug it down. The Trilene knot, a terribly unglamorous and commercial namefor such a solid dependable thing. How many Trilene knots have I tied, a hundred thousand maybe. Enough that I can tie the thing in the dark. On the jighead goes a three inch grub, purple with bright blue metalflake. Electric Blue I think Vic calls it.
I pause, take a deep breath and a good look around. Mystery and shadow hide the underneathof a raised track on the other bank. Is that a homeless guy sleeping off a bottle of Boone's Farm? Or a couple of old trash bags? A dead body? From here it's unclear and probably left that way. Up on the tracks two guys pass. A heavy set fellow in a too tight football jersey and one of those horrible excuses for a ball cap. The ones with the raised glittering letters and a bill as flat as the day it came out of the box from China. The other a nervous tattooed skinny guy in a wife beater with an equally offensive flat billed cap.
After they wandered on I flipped the grub upstream in an eddy formed in the lee of a huge concrete structure whose long ago purpose is lost to time.
I flipped the bail closed and grabbed the line with my free hand letting the lure sink on a tight line.
Thump, I set and was fast to a pugnacious white bass. A fish on the first cast. Bananas and a bad omen.
But not today. No giants but a few small smallmouth and white bass. The best fish ended up being a three or four shovelhead that nailed the grub and was a big smallmouth right up until it rolled up black and magically transformed into a catfish. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fishing the Clinch...

Fishing the Clinch...

I knew it was going to be one of those trips right away. You now one of those trips that seems to take on a life or at least trajectory all its own. You end up being swept along to wherever it leads you. This all became obvious waiting in line in the Pilot somewhere around Jellico. A few places ahead in line was the most beautiful girl anyone in the place had ever seen. If she wasn't the prettiest girl in Rockcastle County or Whitley or wherever she was from she was certainly prettier than any one in Ohio. And she was obviously not happy. Not happy with the tall boy in the Massey Ferguson hat right behind her. He was trying as quietly and apologetically as he could to smooth things over. And she was having none of it. Finally after paying she turned and said loud enough for everyone in the place to hear, "Billy you can just get in that little Ranger of yours and drive it straight to hell." And she walked out. Billy just kind of stood there helpless and turned to the big hairy guy in the bib overalls behind him who he obviously didn't know and said, "I love her". The giant hillbilly who looked a like an extra from Deliverance said, "Son... I don't blame you a bit"
I guess it's from stopping in strange out of the way locales at all times of the day and night on fishing trips like this but I seem to witness random weirdness like this regularly. In a small town in eastern Ohio last winter chasing hybrid stripers I found myself at the deli counter of one those beer, bait, gas and grocery stores. Behind the counter was a pretty girl making me a ham sandwich and another girl only slightly less beautiful than the prettiest girl in Tennessee. The girl looked up from my sandwich and said, "she thinks she's going to be a star". To which the other replied "well I am, Don't you think I could be a star." Dumb struck and unable to think of something witty I resorted to the truth, "I don't see how you couldn't". I got a sandwich and a"DAMMIT, do not encourage her, DO NOT encourage her" I stopped back in a few months later to find a fat lethargic girl behind the deli counter who seemed uninterested in the world at large much less making me a sandwich. I was afraid to ask in case my star was knocked up living in a trailer instead of gone to LA on a greyhound chasing her dreams.
It was supposed to be a trip for striped bass, or rockfish as everyone down there calls them. After a few days of going in baitshops or talking to other fishermen I found myself wanting to call them that as well. Supposed to be a rockfish trip except for one tiny detail, no one told the rockfish. In four days of fishing 15 to 20 hours a day I saw roughly 10 or 12 caught. All by guides in boats off of a concrete wall that I couldn't reach with my longest cast. Dave was better prepared, he came equipped with a long surf rod that almost but not quite got him out there. He ended up catching three in the four days, one of which was a dandy. Rob caught a nice one on a swimbait after about five casts in a spot I'd just got done casting from for hours. It was strange but but both Rob's fish and Dave's three all came at times when I had wandered off to take a leak or was fishing elsewhere. It was like the fishing god's didn't want me to even see a striper. Not that I didn't catch a lot of fish. Everyone caught a lot of fish. Below the dam were huge baitballs of shad. The biggest ones I've ever seen. Swirling and flowing around like tornados along the bank. Huge white bass and small hybrids would herd the minnows against the face of the dam and the surface would erupt in waves of frightened baitfish. The carnage was unbelievable like something you would see on the Nature Channel. Images of arctic skies filled with millions of birds or huge herds of wildebeest crossing a river filled with crocodiles come to mind. It was easily the most baitfish I've ever seen in forty years of river fishing by a factor of like ten. After throwing a big swimbait till your arm was about to fall off or staring at your rod tip waiting for that bite on your skipjack that never comes all you had to do was tie on a grub and jighead and catch all the white bass you ever wanted to catch to lift your spirits again. These didn't even look like our white bass, so gorged and fattened up on shad were they, they had lost their usual flatness and were round like footballs. You couldn't help but hold them out at arm's length and admire them, exclaiming over and over again, "that's the biggest white bass I've ever seen. And then five minutes later do the same thing. Mixed in were the occasional small hybrid and some big freshwater drum. And even though I couldn't catch a rockfish if I was in a bathtub with one the fish gods thought they would make up for it with blue cats. I think I ended up with more blue cats than everyone else combined. All of which I would have gladly traded for one lousy striper. Not that there is anything wrong with catfish but this lack of stripers was and is personal. As MacArthur said I shall return.
All the bait was not unnoticed by the local bird population which lead to another experience that in and of itself was worth the whole trip. Right in front of us an osprey swooped down and snatched a fish off the surface. Not a power dive into the water but just snatching the thing with it's claws in midflight. Like forty feet in front of us. It circled a bit trying to gain altitude when out of nowhere in comes an eagle. The osprey banks and twists and turn to avoid the eagle. And round and round they go in an aerial dogfight right in front of and over us. Again something straight off of the Nature Channel. speaking of wildlife my favorite sitting rock was also home to a beautiful skink. And one evening I drove over to Fort Loudon to catch some skipjacks for bait and there were like fifteen osprey there fishing. These were catching fish in steep power dives, wonderful to watch. What wonderful country east Tennessee is. If I win the powerball tomorrow and could live anywhere there's no doubt that east Tennessee would be the first place I'd buy a house

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Executioner...

So I'm walking thru work and Gerry calls me over. He glances furtively around and then says softly, "I bought you something".
Uh, Whut?
"I bought you something"  Only a tiny bit louder. Still glancing around suspiciously.
Uh, Okay
"It's the twitching lure..."
Uh, Whut?
"The twitching lure..."
He then proceeds to tell me it's a revolutionary lure that experts say catches too many fish. Sure enough, he shows me their website. It says...

"Rechargeable Twitching Lures are the first rechargeable, electronic lures with the genetic secret to catching fish: Vibra-Strike Technology. Your Rechargeable Twitching Lure flashes and twitches to mimic the movements of a wounded bait fish. This triggers the DNA-programming in fish that has signaled them to strike since prehistoric times. Fish can’t resist the twitching action because it triggers their DNA. They bite whether they’re hungry or not"

With Twitch, you can throw all your old lures away. It’s just that easy!

Rechargeable Twitching Lure Features

  • Vibra-Strike Technology Triggers Genetic DNA Programmed Instinct to Strike
  • Charges in Minutes
  • Lights Up in the Dark
  • Twitches, Flashes & Buzzes in Water to Mimic Wounded Bait Fish
  • Hand-Painted Top-Quality Lure
  • Sharpest Mustad® Hooks
  • Works for Day or Night Fishing, Lake, Stream and Surf
And on and on. And it's on the internet so it's got to be true. They can't put anything on the internet that's not true I think.

So now I just don't know quite what to do. Tomorrow I'm leaving for several days of serious fishing down in the mountains of Tennessee with four or five hardcore fishermen. It hardly seems fair if I catch a fish every cast. But I only have two twitching lures, not enough to share.  (Gerry said they were buy one for $19.99 and get the second one free, only $6.99 shipping and handling per lure) And the ad also said you could catch a fish literally every cast. Do I really want to catch a huge striper every cast? Would that even be fun? Could my back take the strain?  And the river is full of huge muskellunge. Would it even be safe to be around the water with these huge toothy fish driven into a frenzy by the twitching lures Vibra strike technology?  After all, the particular models Gerry purchased are called the executioner. I took them home and hooked up the usb charger and the first is charging even as I write this. But the moral, ethical, and conservation dilemmas. I mean even if I can control myself what happens if Rob Orr or Dan Andrews or one of the other guys of questionable character along on this trip sees the deadly effectiveness of the twitching lure?? After all it triggers the DNA programming in fish that have caused them to strike since prehistoric times. Damn you Gerry and your incredible rechargeable twitching flashing lure with vibra trike technology. What to do, what to do.

When I get back from the mountains I'll let you know what happened.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Little Miami Fly Fishing

If your interested in flyfishing you should attend one of the monthly meetings of the Buckeye United Fly Fishers. It costs nothing to attend and hang out for a couple hours with some dedicated fly fishermen. Let me tell you some of these guys are amazing and have fished all over the world. And there are some world class tyers in the group as well. The next meeting is Wednesday, May 11th at VOA park. It's probably too late to register for the dinner but there's a cash bar and they would love for anyone to come out and talk fishing. I'm guessing there's usually around 75 to 100 guys there so there's lots of fishing talk going on. This Wednesday I'll be putting on a presentation on Southwestern Ohio stream fishing with an emphasis on the Little Miami River and a bit on the Great Miami River watershed as well.

6:00 Social Hour & Cash Bar
6:45 Dinner
7:30 Program

From I-75 (3 exits north of I 275) Take the Tylersville exit and go East then turn Left on to Cox Road. Then right on VOA Drive.
Left on first drive and follow road to Lodge

Ronald Reagan Lodge, 7850 VOA Park Drive, West Chester, OH 45069

The last few days in pictures...