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Piscatorial Opportunity

 

Originally Published in

Country Anglin' Outdoor Guide
July/August 2005


by Joseph D. Cornwall
 

The golden flashes of the fish’s flanks were subtle in the late afternoon sun. The clear current of the creek braided in on itself as it careened off the midstream boulder. The bottom showed a clear saddle shape, a trail of egg-sized rocks marking the center of the flow. Several twelve to fourteen-inch fish were feeding on nymphs just inches above the bottom.

Although I could clearly see that the fish were feeding, there was no guarantee that I’d be able to get one to take my fly. I’d crawled into a position where the sun was over my right shoulder and my silhouette was masked by the streamside brush just feet behind me. Despite these precautions, with the water low and clear I’d have only one shot. And if I lined even one fish it was certain that the whole pod would spook. Even more, I had to get the line into the drift lane, get the nymph down and present it drag-free. It was a tall order – a real challenge.

The little 2wt. rod flexed deeply as I made a very high steeple cast to clear the brush behind me. One false cast to measure distance, made carefully to the left side of the feeding pod, and I committed to the act. The line and furled leader rolled straight about four feet above the surface of the stream. As the line started to settle to the water’s surface I moved the rod sharply to the left, executing a mend cast that would give me enough slack to get the required drag-free drift. The size 16 caddis pupa settled quickly to the bottom. I held my breath as the drift began.

Seconds later I saw the flash. The delicate, silvery-white of the fish’s mouth showed clearly as it inhaled the tiny feathered fraud. I lifted the rod and the line came tight. Everything stopped for a second as the fish took stock of this new situation, this bug that bit back. The adrenaline rushed as the first run of the beast took it upstream through the feeding pod, wakes blasting this way and that as the tiny pool emptied its contents of dining gamesters. The line flowed from my hand till it came tight to the reel. The fish turned and took the battle downstream. Minutes later I slipped my net under a foot of beautiful, wild white sucker.

I wasn’t on a trout stream, and the sucker wasn’t a mistake. It was exactly what I’d come for. And the best part was I didn’t have to come far. In fact I was parked just minutes from my house, enjoying an hour of before-dinner fishing, at a creek that no one ever fishes. With a little creativity and the desire to fish no-matter-what, you’ll find such thrills are close to you wherever you are! One of Ohio’s least utilized fisheries is its plethora of “rough” fish. It is a well-kept secret and I’m relying on you, dear reader, to help me keep it that way.

I love fishing, no surprise there. Beyond that, I love seeing what is living in my local flows. I love getting closer to nature, losing myself in the mystery that is flowing water. I can’t put it any better than Corey Geving, webmaster of a great site, www.roughfish.com, who said “I just love fishing too much to limit myself to just trout fishing, or just walleye fishing, or just carp fishing, or whatever. If there are carp, mooneyes, brown trout, northern hog suckers, and smallmouth bass in a given stream, I want to catch them all. I might start with the trout because they're the easiest. They're the easiest because you can find five hundred detailed books about how to do it. But after figuring out the trout, I'll move on, until I've mastered every species in the stream. It can take years, and it's a lot of fun.”

How many species of fish can you catch in the little creek just down the road? The list is surprising. Bass, sunfish of all varieties, walleye, sauger, saugeye and other “desirable” fish are on everyone’s list of victories and barely raise an eyebrow. Carp are ubiquitous and well deserving of the newly found gamefish status. But how about a homely Northern Hog Sucker, graceful Redhorse Sucker, or the exotic looking Quillback Carp Sucker?

Ever battle with a Bigmouth Buffalo? Or perhaps you’ve thrilled to the acrobatic antics of a Shortnose Gar? One of my personal favorites is the flashy silver radiance of the many species of river shiners, all of which love to take tiny trico spinners from the surface. This is just a partial list, there are quite literally dozens of native Ohio species that can be taken on a fly rod. And best of all, wild native fish are guaranteed to live in almost any of the more than 29,000 miles of flowing water in Ohio!

So what do you need to prepare for a day of alternative angling? Again I defer to the words of Mr. Geving: “Roughfishing is about stripping the commercialism out of the sport of fishing. Since nobody knows how to catch northern hog suckers, there aren't sixteen brands of special baits marketed to catch them. You don't need a forty thousand dollar boat and six tackle boxes crammed with commercialized fishing crap to catch them. All you need is an old pair of sneakers and some kind of fishing rod. This is what I mean by pursuing fish "on their own terms." There is a very fine line between "angling" and "harvesting". With modern technology, we humans could catch every single living fish in the country. We could blast the fish out of the water with dynamite or electricity. Or I could spend millions of dollars buying every sort of gadget on the planet so that I could become such a great fisherman that I'd never get skunked. But that isn't any fun, you don't learn anything from that, and you don't really get the same experience out of it. Roughfishing means bringing yourself down to the level of the fish. You observe nature closely, trying to garner clues about what is going on in the ecosystem right now. Then you come up with a theory, and test it.”

Grab your ultralight fly rod, 6X tippet and tiny nymphs, dries and emergers. You don’t need to wait for the annual trip to Michigan, or a weekend when you can drive three hours each way to one of Ohio’s over-pressure trout streams. You don’t need to brave the madness of unlimited horsepower go-fast boats jockeying for space on crowded reservoirs. And you don’t need to share space with crowds of fishermen on the “known” waters. All you’ll need is a pair of wading shoes, a pocketful of tackle, and a desire to be challenged – and maybe even humbled. These fish may be rough, but they aren’t stupid. And they aren’t soft hatchery frauds.

 

 

 

 

 


The Bigmouth Buffalo - A Real Powerhouse

 

And it has a face only its mother could love!

 

The White Amur may be the fastest freshwater fish you'll ever hook!  It's a beast!

 

The Black Redhorse Sucker, strong, beautiful, powerful and a good indicator of quality water.

The striped shiner is quick to take a nymph and is breathtaking when in its spawning colors!

Dave Whitlock called it the perfect game fish.

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