I am not a super nostalgic person… sorta non sentimental I guess you could say… so even tho it’s only 20-or-so miles north of me I’ve not fished the river I grew up on… or at least the section I fished daily during my formative years… for close to 3 decades.
My wife’s aunt & uncle live up there so when they offered to let us borrow live traps to catch the woodchucks that have been troubling our garden (and therefore my wife!) I decided to grab the opportunity.
As a kid I’d get home from school, run my paper route, and hit the river either in waders downstream of the dam during steelhead & salmon seasons or from my buddies canoe landing above the dam where we’re head upstream catching northern and then big browns. I can’t even put into words how awesome my upbringing was it seems like some kind of fairytale.
I called up a fishing buddy and we hopped into my canoe to see if we could play with some of the northern pike I remembered being in the impoundment behind the dam.
I introduced my fishing pard to Mepps spinners earlier this summer when we went after smallies and I was slayin em. He grabbed a couple gold #4s with squirrel tail on his way to meet me and I, having been after trout the previous weekend, forgot mine due to lack of planning!
Not long after we got in Mike lost a big one. I was going through everything I had for what I thought they might like to no avail. The river is far more weedy & silted than when I saw it last which has slowed the flow & warmed the water substantially. Where there once were great pools of trout there are now creek chubs & smallies. Pretty sad.
Just as we got to the site of my buddy’s old canoe landing, Mike caught a decent one:
I was a little irritated by then so I tossed on the closest thing I had… a #3 silver Mepps comet I’d refashioned with a single hook and a paddle tail swim bait. I caught a tiny largemouth and then a really nice one for this river… it doesn’t look like much here especially compared to Mike’s pike!
We went around a corner and I cast that thing up into the shadow of a big willow tree, saw a LARGE swirl in the water felt a tug and got a cleanly cut line back to show for it! Fishing northern 8 lb test & no wire leader can get more bites but it costs lures…
We worked the downstream side of a fallen tree with no takers and went around its end to work the upstream side when Mike hooked a third northern. This one was the biggest of the day… prolly 28” I told him to long arm it
It wasn’t long before the heat of the day and the weight of my chores awaiting got us headed back to the dam. My son in law had wanted to fish that evening and when he saw the fish we’d caught and realized we’d need only one vehicle (no car spitting behind the dam) he said he’d like to return there for the evening.
I didn’t forget my #4 Gold Squirrel tail… and it paid off with a little guy in a deep run close to the dam:
Being me I ignored the lesson I ought to have learned earlier & skipper the wire leaders, hoping that a snap swivel would put the distance the line needed from teeth. It was not meant to be, as I worked a weed line that looked pikey, fought what felt like a bigger fish than any I caught that night for a few seconds, and again had a neatly cut tag end come back lure-less! That was the only “magical” lure I had but I remembered nailing freshwater barracuda on red & white daredevils so I put on a Wally World knock-off which was a great decision as it yielded my best fish of the day before I lost it in a high tree:
Friggin awesome so far it was BETTER than I remembered with the exception of the fact that over the past decade or so it’s come out that a manufacturing plant on the river (in the background of that last pic) and stored a chemical called PFAS in underground tanks that seeped into the muck of the river making the fish dangerous to eat and the groundwater so bad that property values plummeted.
Of course there were also TONS of houses along the shore where I’d once hunted squirrels, rabbit, ruffed grouse, and deer. Amazing the “March of progress”
Anyway we got back up to where Mike had caught his biggest pike and my son in law put on a brown trout patterned swim bait and caught this nice fat largemouth which he was quite pleasantly surprised by… as you can see from his grin which is also in amusement over my admonition to long arm the fish for social media
Brown has just gotten into fishing this year after I took the family out for an evening and got his son, my first and so far only grandchild Isaiah his first fish. Since then he has become almost as obsessed as I am and is excited to catch new species of fish every chance he can get so this nice largemouth, having caught nice northern & smallies already, was exciting!
We explored further up the river where the water gets more trouty hoping for a monster brown but didn’t catch anything except bankside grass as light disappeared. We raced back down to the dam in the dark and arrived at 10 pm (he joked I was out WAY passed my bedtime).
What a fantastic day I got to share all kinds of stories with my son in law about how things were when I grew up. He is a fantastic young man we have a great relationship and fishing has added to it.
Thanks for reading! Tight lines y’all!!!
Ps- today I ordered some 40 lb seagar fluro leader material hoping it’ll help me keep lure but not discourage hits like steel anyone have insight?