Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Silver

The low lying sun hid behind a train trestle and cast a deep shadow across a fast moving run on the lower Grand River this afternoon. The air temperature said September, the water temperature said November. The water flowed green through the run.

Surprised that the run was empty of anglers when I arrived, I waded through the ankle deep water, stood on a boulder the size of an ottoman and tied up a nymph and egg combination. All the things that had kept me off the water -- work, responsibilities and such -- drifted downstream.

Minnow fishermen showed up and fished the tail of the run, which had earlier been disrupted by children skipping rocks. I focused on the fast water hoping that the bridge's shade would appeal to steelhead still acclimating to the ecology of the river after spending the summer in Lake Erie. I was hoping to hook my first steelhead of the fall. Three earlier brief outings were unproductive.

After breaking off early I switched to a minnow and orange egg. I worked the run, first drifting the slower water on the inside edge and then working toward the middle. About 30 minutes into a beautiful afternoon on the water a tug reminded me what had lured me out of the office. A moment after setting the hook the fish ran 20 yards downstream, and I followed. I walked carefully across a shallow riffle and tried not to worry about losing the fish as I regained line and worked at getting leverage. With each run my nerves frayed a little more. I've caught plenty of fish. Lost even more. Landing one more isn't that important, but the first fish of the year is always special. And this fresh hunk of silver made me work for it. Eventually the large male with a fat stomach full of emerald shiners and a pink stripe along his side came into the shallow water. I pulled the orange egg from the corner of its mouth, snapped one more picture and then watched the fish swim back to the run.

A few drifts later, up in the head of the run, a slightly smaller steelhead smashed the minnow fly. I didn't worry about losing this one. And I didn't have to. She came to shore as well and a little later I headed home; thankful for a good start to another steelhead season.

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