It is May 21 and rumor has it there are still steelhead trout (like the one to the right) still in the Rocky River on the West Side of Cleveland. I consider the Rocky my home river, and I must say I'm a little surprised the fish are still around. I'm still awaiting a first-hand report, but an otherwise trusted source (of course, that means when he's not talking about fishing) left a text message this morning about 6 a.m. to let me know that he was on his way to the lower river. Sadly, I was on my way to the family room to get some pre-work work done on a Power Point presentation. I haven't heard back from the source, but I just may have to go look for myself. Yes, I know I said I was done with the Rocky, but I'm never really done when it comes to steelhead.
The text message also reminded me how much fishing for steelhead in the Great Lakes has changed since I landed my first one more than 20 years ago in the Lester River in Duluth, Minnesota. In today's instant information everywhere world it is easy to find out where to fish and when. Many lament these developments, but for those of us who consider every moment not spent fishing to be wasted, these technologicial advancements are heaven-sent. Time spent wandering and wondering is wasted time. The water missed will never flow by again. Instant information means I spend more time fishing. And that's a good thing.
A part of me regrets that I fish with a cell phone in my wading jacket, but my fishing friends appreciate it, and I appreciate it when they can let me know if they're into fish. (I do keep the phone on vibrate to minimize its intrusion into nature.) We used to tell stories of our fishing success after the fact, when it couldn't do anyone any good -- that's called bragging. Now, if we come across a nice pod of fish, we can call our friends and encourage them to join in the fun. That's called being nice. And if I really want to be alone, I can leave the phone in the car. I did that a few times this year, but I felt a little guilty. Like I was cheating on my friends by not being available to give them the straight scoop.
I know that my perspective isn't shared by many fishermen. It is more common for anglers to guard their knowledge and prevent information from flowing as freely as our rivers. But I'm an information junkie off the stream, so I figure I should be one on the stream, too. Others worry that the free flow of fishing information will only lead to crowds and lost secret spots. I believe there is no such thing as a secret spot in Steelhead Alley. I certainly have my favorite spots, and they tend not to attract a lot of traffic. I don't broadcast their locations on the internet, but I also am not shy about sharing them with fellow anglers. I am trying to return the favor that so many anglers have provided to me over the years. Yes, I enjoy "finding" a new spot through exploration, but time on the river is so precious that I'll take every piece of information I can find.
And even though I'm usually fishing within an hour's drive of more than 4 million people, more often than not I find myself alone on large stretches of water. Lake Erie's Steelhead Alley increases in popularity every year, but I have no problem finding the quiet, lonely spots that first drew me to trout fishing. That I can find solitude a mere 15 minutes from my downtown office remains the most attractive feature of my job.