The sun shining through those red and golden autumn leaves, the crisp nights and blue sky.
These are why we who live in Western Pennsylvania feel we are the luckiest people on earth. The bittersweet side to October is winter is coming. But for today we who enjoy the outdoors love October.
It would be in October we decided to go steelhead fishing at the mouth of Walnut Creek at Lake Erie. We drove up to see our son at college in Edinboro, signed something or other for him and ran over to fish. My wife Eileen and my daughter were with me. I think my car knew the way to Erie that season as we made many trips there. The air in Erie in October is much cooler than here and we planned to night fish a bit before driving home.
Right at dusk is a great time to fish for steelhead. We had packed warm clothes and stopped for sandwiches, so we were set. The bait shops on the way to the fishing streams are prepared for the onslaught of fishermen coming their way. This is a good thing as steelhead love salmon egg bags, worms or minnows, which are available at these shops. You can also use spinners and spoons. The float method works too. The fish can be caught at the split of October through November, depending on the weather and when they are plentiful.
Then there was the time we were fishing and not having much luck when a couple of guys came along and moved in not far from us. It was still daylight and we watched them set up to fish. Of course, they asked if anything was hitting, and we said not yet. Soon one guy, who kept staring at me, moved over and said, “We drove down here from Altoona as some writer put an article in the paper that the fish were in.” Then he moved back over to his buddy. Eileen leaned in and whispered to me, “Was that you?” Well of course it was. But just then the fishing gods smiled on me, and I hooked one. I would catch two, Eileen caught one and Kathy hooked one and lost it.
They still hadn’t hooked one as they weren’t really in good that day. Eileen leaned in and said, “Let’s go home before this gets ugly.” So back we went to try another day. That’s how steelhead fishing works, when they are in, you catch some big fish fast. It can die off though if the weather is too warm.
My late wife loved to fish, and she could also be more patient than anyone I knew. She really taught me a lot about the sport. It was another time we were in Erie fishing at the mouth of the same creek when a guy was bothering her. He kept annoying her and trying to chat with her. She was a very beautiful lady. I never worried about her too much this way she could take care of herself. This guy was about to learn. He kept stepping in front of her and she caught a couple of nice steelhead around him. After listening to him for a very long time, she just looked at him and quietly said, “Listen, I don’t need your help. Leave me and my daughter alone or I will push you in.” And the funny part was she meant this.
One other time we were fishing, and she caught the ugliest trout I’d ever seen. Now this fish was an old steelhead, the fins were all ripped up and destroyed and she wasn’t sure what it was. It was large, and she brought it over to me to see what it was before releasing it back in. I asked her after she released it what was in the bag she had with her, thinking it was fish, It was full of driftwood and interesting finds from the nearby beach. That was Eileen.
I sit now and look back fondly at those photos of her fishing in October against that bright blue sky. As I leaf through the old photos, suddenly I realize that in one of the photos, it wasn’t my Eileen with the fish, it was my daughter Kathleen. This made me realize that it continues the call of the stream or the love of fishing whatever it is called. It continues.