Passing up deer hunt for steelhead trip
As steelhead sizes go, the two trout really weren’t XL caliber, certainly not wall-worthy nor of bragging rights class by most anglers’ reckoning.
Then again, neither is the creek much of a trout stream, not even by Steelhead Alley status, which my brook is part of, if truth be told.
What those two trout represented was an opportunity to step back and realize that every Lake Erie-migrating trout taken from every Northeast Ohio stream is a trophy. Particularly when I told myself that instead of chasing a white-tailed deer on the opening day of Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season I’d rather be plodding along the rocky bank of my tiny creek.
Oh, I had success at filling a deer tag when in early November my crossbow hooked up with a 150-pound doe. Thus it was a case of “one and done,” there being no reason to try and shoehorn more venison into a freezer stuffed with wild hog, Canada geese, some walleyes, and that doe.
Besides, my memory needed some refreshing in trying to recall the last time I played hooky from deer hunting during the gun season and sought steelhead. Years, if truth be told again.
Thing is, steelhead are the only thing I’d give up a hunting trip for.
So, I waited until early afternoon on Opening Day (and on Day Five, too, come to think of it). No point rushing it, might as well wait until the day is at its warmest and when the trout are the most active anyway, I have learned after years of fishing the stream.
Besides, the creek is off limits to all but a few anglers, which removes much of the worry regarding competition.
The creek was a little lower and a little more clear than I had hoped. Again, no matter, as the idea was to enjoy the day and hope for the best.
Surprisingly, the first hole scored a blank, producing something of a mystery. It typically is more dependable than a stopped clock being accurate twice a day.
Leaving that hole, I gingerly made my way downstream, my hip waders slowly crawling over the uneven placement of rocks, which were slicker than greased lightning.
Now the second run was a different matter. On the first cast a steelhead hit but escaped, though on the third cast the trout took the bait. And by bait I meant a spawn sack of red mesh that cocooned a dime-size dollop of trout roe.
While I am devoted (mostly) to the fly rod and hand-tied flies, for reasons I really can’t explain I start my steelhead fishing with a well-worn steelhead rod and spinning reel, spooled with 10-pound test line.
I’ve always believed in going with the heaviest line I can get away with, not the lightest. It stresses the fish less and disturbs a pool even less so. But I digress.
In any event, the 16-inch trout was beached, the spawn sack unhooked, a photo taken and the fish slid back into the water. Not before, however, the fish being admired: Perfectly fitting for the Christmas holiday season, too; the trout finished in green and red and silver with black polka dots running the length of the fish’s back.
A few casts later and the trout’s bigger brother went through the same ritual of being hooked, landed, photographed, and released.
But between the walk along the course stream bank, the standing while casting, plus the chill brought about by wind, puffy-wet snowflakes, and the cold I was nigh unto thinking I’d challenged myself, the stream, and the steelhead enough. Even a third – much larger trout that I mustered from the creek but which tossed the spawn sack/hook on a wild jump – couldn’t convince me to stick around.
It was a great day, all things being considered. Yes, the opening day of Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season was a fine kettle of fish.