A Return to Rivers

When I was younger rivers were where I spent my summers. I lived within a short walking distance to one of Ohio’s greatest river and took full advantage. It was my testing grounds. It was where I cast my first lure and caught my first smallmouth.

 

As I got into kayak fishing the added freedom  and mobility lead me away from these rivers, I found myself fishing larger lakes and far off places. From Ohio to Tennessee I traveled, fishing tournaments big and small. While I still find the competition and comradery of tournament fishing to be a blast. I found that at the end of last year I was feeling over extended and stressed because of it. I had so many places I wanted to go and so many commitments I ultimately was unable to meet. This year I swore this wouldn’t be an issue but as the season has gotten into full swing I’ve found the pull of doing more and going farther is back. Fishing is supposed to relieve stress not cause it, I needed a reset. A return to rivers would be just that. No money, no far away lakes, just good friends and excellent fishing. The trip that ensued was one I will never forget!  

Trip Prep 

The choice was easy going back to my childhood playground, The Grand River here in North East Ohio. Miles and miles of wild river flowing into Lake Erie. I put feelers out to a couple friends and my buddy Ben hit back saying “absolutely” so the wheels were put in motion. We decided on a long stretch of secluded river just shy of 18 miles. To make it manageable and with the remoteness and lack of take outs this would be a 2 day trip. The Local Metropark has a couple campsites along the river for just this reason.  The next issue was the weather, the weekend before the trip a strong line of storms dumped inches of water on the state. For a week I studied river gauges watching them spike and then begin a slow decent. 

DAY 1 

  As I arrived at the put in Friday I was extremely anxious, the river hadn’t dropped as far as I’d hoped and looked a little high and muddy. Even with conditions less than ideal spirits were high as we loaded dry bag after dry bag into the yaks for the journey. Ben’s optimism was a big boost as I stared at the chocolate colored water. “We’re gonna get em” he continued to say even though he’d never laid eyes on this river before. We pushed off and were hurdled down river quickly and my fears began to materialize. But as we rounded the bend and laid eyes on the massive cliffs lining the river all the anxiety and stress went out the window. The sheer beauty of these cliff faces are breath taking and I found myself throughout the trip just stopping to take it all in. After pausing for a few minutes I began refocusing and pulling into a backwater eddy’s. After working a spinnerbait through a couple I finally hooked up! Casting the spinner at clumps of submerged grass an acrobatic 14 inch Smallie slammed it, fighting well above his weight class. 

Most of the day went the same, fishing flooded grass in the back of eddy’s. Fish ranging in size from 13-16 inches were plentiful. Around noonwith a bright sun high in the sky I pulled into a large eddy off some extremely swift current. I cast at a small submerged log right in the middle of the eddy when my bait just stopped. A hook set that would make KVD proud followed and it was off to the races! I had a good one but to my surprise as the fish surfaced and was edged into my net it wasn’t what I expected. This fish was green and fat!  With an average depth of about 2-3 feet with rapids and swift current I could not believe a Largemouth this big would call this place home.  

 The River was now noticeably dropping as the late afternoon sun remained high in the sky. All of the sudden I could hear yelling in the eddy behind me, I couldn’t paddle back up stream through the strong rapids, so I hopped out of the yak and started wading back up stream. Then I heard Ben again and this time I could make out “ITS A GOOD ONE!” as I came over the spit of dry  ground between us, there he was holding up a beauty of a smallmouth. Measuring in at 19 inches it was the biggest of the trip so far! We continued downstream  hitting every eddy that all seemed to hold fish. At this point in the day the spinner bite was slowing and I switched to wacky rig 4 inch 412bait co. stick bait. The bite picked up as the sun started to get low with about a mile left to go to camp we were flying high and taking in the scenery.  

Several eagles that seemed to be following us all day long lead the way leap frogging ahead of us as we went. We came to a very old bridge and decided to spend some time on it. I casted my spinner along the concrete pylons for about 10 minutes before switching back to the wacky rig, with the second cast on the wacky rig I felt a tap tap. I set the hook hard and the rod just stopped, line began screaming off the reel I yelled to Ben in what must have sounded like a gitty little girl ” I got one! I got one! I got one!” but alas it wasn’t meant to be as the big Smallie shot high into the air and threw my hook. I was disappointed but it was hard to stay mad after the day we’d had. We finished paddling the last half mile or so to camping laughing and reminiscing about the day’s events. We had spent 10 hours and just under 9 miles on the river and as we pulled into camp we were ready to do it all over again! 

To Be Continued… 

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