Sunday, March 10, 2013

Birthday Steel

It's just a speck in this picture, but the bald eagle over the
Rocky brought a touch of wilderness to the
Emerald Necklace on Sunday.
After a frustrating day out east yesterday fishing with friends (the fishing was frustrating, not the friends), I fished my home water after an afternoon hike with my wife. After she headed to the store to prepare my birthday meal, I drove downstream to a spot where we had seen a few fish while hiking. Today's near 70-degree temps attracted large crowds of hikers, bikers, joggers and kids throwing stones into the Rocky. The riffle I chose was far enough from the trail as to not attract stone throwers, and although a few folks probably had fished it earlier in the day, by 4:30 this stretch of river was empty except for a red tail hawk, a bald eagle and several steelhead trout.

This is why I love fishing the Rocky River. It attracts huge crowds, yet offers solitude. It is minutes from downtown, yet is wild. Aldo Leopold observed that there are those who can live without wild things and those who cannot. I am the latter, yet I live in suburbia. I know the Emerald Necklace is a long way, in miles and in content from Leopold's beloved Sand County, but that I can find wild things here is a testimony to the wisdom of William Stinchcomb and a reflection of nature's resilience.

As the sun sank to the west, small aggressive male trout were chasing each other behind the active females. I landed 3 like-sized steelies swinging a size 8 minnow fly through the riffles behind the spawning fish. The fish struck the fly hard as it swung through the two-feet deep water. Later, while fishing a deeper run a steelhead crushed the fly and quickly ran downstream and I chased after it. The hefty female had no interest in heading back upstream and the high bank didn't offer any good spots to land the fish. The fish headed towards a tree with many branches hanging in the water. Unable to turn the fish I pointed the rod downstream and hoped the line would slide through the hundreds of finger-width branches dangling in the water without getting snagged. The technique worked, but the fish used the slack line to race farther downstream. I chased after it again. After a few more minutes I was able to tail the fish and cradle her in the slow water long enough to pull the hook from the corner of her mouth before releasing her.

Thank you for the wonderful birthday present Mr. Stinchcomb.

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