Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ice, Steel, Baldy and Woody

As I walked down to the river, the only tracks in the snow were from the squirrels; a good sign. I live within an hour's drive of 4 million people but I prefer to fish alone. And I'm blessed to do so on a regular basis.

The sun made a rare appearance in February and warmed the air temperature near 32, but the the bank. I pushed them into the current and slowly I was able to clear the pool of enough ice to swing. The ice flows groaned and cracked as they headed over the rapids below the pool.
morning had started out at a crisp 18 degrees so the pool was lined with ice. The ice shelf extended half way to the far bank at about the middle of the pool. Tough to swing a fly through an iced up pool. The ice sagged and broke under my weight as I walked off the bank. I had to break through about five feet of ice to get to flowing water. As I busted through the ice, large cracks extended out and large chunks broke free from

I waited for the pool to settle and then headed back to the head to begin swinging a Kevin Feenstra Grape Fruit Head Leech through the pool. Feenstra says he likes to use this fly whenever snow is on the ground. I agree. Branches from a sycamore tree hang over the pool. The tree's trunk is nearly split in half. Some day soon I will walk to the pool and find the tree submerged in the pool. Then I will need to find another place to fish. But for now I just have to keep my spey rod out and fly of the branches as I set up my cast.

The water flows smooth and green past the 100-foot high cliffs on the far side. Ice chunks cascade down the cliff, sending two mallards scurrying for safety. Step, swing, step.

As I near the middle of the pool the ice extends farther out. As I contemplate breaking more ice, I feel a pull on my fly as it dangles at the end of the drift. Sometimes a steelhead will hit the fly and drop it. Sometimes the fish will hit the fly and keep going. This one kept going. He stripped off about 10 feet of line before I could set the hook. He burst onto the surface when I pulled back on him. He then ran right at me, producing enough slack in the line to make me wonder if he had thrown the hook. He hadn't. Instead, he swam under the ice shelf. Using the leverage of the long rod I pulled him out and finally coaxed him into the net. I put the net on the ice shelf and snapped a quick picture. In the picture, the fish's head is buried in the net. Oh well, I know what he looked like.

The hook popped out before I could remove it and the fish slid out of the net and back into the pool.

A few minutes later a bald eagle glided toward me from the north, cruising over the tree tops. He ignored my plea to land in a tree so that we could watch each other fish. I turned and watched him follow the river's path south. A pileated woodpecker gave his Woody laugh from his perch behind me on the bank. The bird sat in the branches of a large vine that wound half way up an even bigger
sycamore. Growing up, I used to hike the woods of the Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin and listen for the pileated pecking away at hollow trees. Their racket would echo through the forest, but rarely would I see one in its red-headed glory. They are less shy in Ohio. This one seemed to enjoy laughing at me.

I didn't mind. I was laughing too.

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