It was a day of play, not business for the high command of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources when they visited Adams County last Wednesday. Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten to know the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources James Zehringer pretty well, having spent some fishing time together. About a month ago I was asked by Zehringer to serve on an Ad Hoc Committee for the ODNR announcing the $80 million for Ohio State Parks. It was during that meeting when Susan Banks, executive assistant to the Director slipped me a note about a possible fishing trip to Ohio Brush Creek. I said we can do; “End of May, first of June is the best fishing.”
I volunteered my partner for this event, Bill Wickerham of Adams Soil and Water, before he even knew he was volunteered. Bill applied for and received a grant from ODNR several years back for the purchase of canoes which serve great purpose for Brush Creek sweeps, water safety classes and occasionally hauling dignitaries down beautiful Brush Creek.
Spring storms and a killer hail storm nearly derailed the fishing trip but Mother Nature above must like fishing too because within six days Ohio Brush Creek had cleared up nicely and come Wednesday the conditions were nearly ideal.
Once I got final confirmation from Columbus that the visit was a go and received the ODNR list of who was fishing I was left to quickly round up some respectable fishing guides. That was the easy part, everybody likes a day off to go fishing. Besides myself the guides were Bill Wickerham, Wildlife Specialist for Adams County Soil and Water, Steven Montgomery the TNC Forest Project Manager at the Edge, Chad and Lear McCoy of McCoy Lumber and Seraphim Ranch, and Nathen Dailey of Dailey’s Outfitters.
Likewise the A-list of ODNR brass consisted of James Zehringer the director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Fred Shimp, the assistant director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Bob Boyles, deputy director over the Divisions of Forestry, Mineral Resources Management and Division of Wildlife, Gary Obermiller, chief of the ODNR Division of Watercraft, Scott Zody, chief Ohio Division of Wildlife, and Rich Carter, the Division of Wildlife’s Fisheries Supervisor.
The float chosen was the “Swirl Hole” stretch, about five miles and about six hours long. Wickerham had previously floated the route during the Brush Creek Sweep a couple weeks prior. It’s perhaps the most beautiful stretch on Brush Creek and my favorite as far as the small mouth fishing goes and no cell phone service.
At 8:30 a.m. sharp the crew from Columbus arrived and by 9 a.m. we were in the water headed off on an adventure to Lafferty Bottoms. Wickerham had the most important canoe as it was filled with food. The only “spill” occurred in the canoe piloted by Lear McCoy when he dumped Deputy Director Bob Boyles not once, but twice. The more spectacular spill occurred as they were leaving the Swirl Hole and hit a rock in the rapids.
“The water was about five feet deep,” said Lear.
He also lost his truck keys on that last dunk. Boyles seemed to weather the dunking, even though his hand was impaled in a fishing lure during the swim. Boyles just toughed it out and jerked the hook out without event flinching. I guess if I got into a fight, Boyles is the one I want on my side.
Shore lunch was prepared by Anita Conaway and served creek side at the Swirl Hole. Wickerham had the spread of food set up by the time every one arrived. It was like being guided and fed by an expensive guide service on a sprawling western trout river.
After about a 45 minute break it was back in the canoes for the rest of the trip down stream. A few small mouth were caught with the catch of the day going to head fisheries biologist Rich Carter who was guided by Nathen Dailey with a nice 16-inch small mouth he caught on a watermelon tube. Chief Zody also caught some small mouth that Chad McCoy steered him to. As for the director who said to me, “I don’t care if we catch a fish or not, I’m just enjoying the day,” which probably echoed everybody’s else’s thoughts. I am sure that Ohio Brush Creek can seem like a thousand miles away from Columbus.
Wickerham summed up the day nicely by saying, “It was a great opportunity for the ODNR officials to see first hand Adams County’s Ohio Brush Creek and all it has to offer.”