Doug Lamb has the casual air of a man without a worry in the world. It’s not what you’d expect from a guy who confesses he hasn’t had a day off in months, works 60 plus hours a week and is sixteen months out from being told he’d likely never walk again after having been crushed by a falling tree. But the sunny side is always up for this “retired” CEO of Lamb’s Little World children’s clothing stores as he strolls through the southern style mansion and blue ribbon trout stream he now runs as a Bed and Breakfast or corporate retreat. “When we polled our guests as to why they come here, most of them said that it was just to get away from it all; for the peace and serenity the place provides.” And Sunnybrook provides that in spades. In fact, as soon as you cross the bridge over tiny Cold Creek it’s easy to forget you’re only a few miles outside Sandusky, Ohio.
In 1999 Doug and his wife Linda bought the mansion on Sunnybrook and the surrounding 130 acres and opened business as the Farrell House Lodge. The home had been through several owners over the years and Doug says it was in a state of disrepair when he got it. Each winter he closes the Lodge and continues modern renovation until each room could be at a fine hotel within an antebellum manor. And the Lodge has a storied history Doug loves to tell about the heir to the Maxwell House fortune who built it as a wedding gift for his Southern Belle, during World War Two when materials weren’t cheap and labor was hard to find. Without turning this into a home and garden article, let me just tell you the Lodge is amazing. They have a five star chef who serves weekend dinners in the grand dining room with beautiful views and…GET TO THE FISHING ALREADY BYRON!
I’m invited to fish quite a few places, but few are like this. This has to be one of the most beautiful places to fly fish in Ohio. Although fishing here is limited to club members, if you are staying at the lodge you can purchase a fishing package. It’s the perfect his & hers combination for the outdoorsy couple!
The day we came to Sunnybrook it was sprinkling at first and before long it was pouring. I lent Tom my poncho as it’s more important to keep his cameras dry than his writer. Tom fished a large pool under a willow tree just beneath a small waterfall. It was a great spot, and he didn’t need to cast so much as just feed line into the current as it rode downstream. I wished him luck and said I’d move upstream. I didn’t make it twenty feet before I heard him calling, “Net! Net!’ He did this to me twice, bringing in a nice rainbow each time.
We made our way around the grounds, trying several different flies and presentations. I lost a couple of flies, a midge, a caddis and a mudder before changing leaders and tippets. Tom kept bringing in the rainbows but he wanted a brown trout, he coveted a brown trout. I asked what was so special about Browns, and he said he needed one for his series of fish portraits. Well, that’s not impossible to do, but it’s pretty hard to fish for a specific species in a mixed trout stream. Diligently he fished on using a pink and purple fuzzy grub while I went through the pages of my dry fly wallet in vain.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results. So, having bummed a new x4 leader, I took a page out of Tom’s tactics and went heavy using a metal gold-headed nymph in bronze. I fed line into the rapids below an eddy and it sank like a stone under the rain engorged stream. The swirling waters took the lure downstream at a clip and peeled the line right off my reel. Carefully I pulled in a little trying to nudge the nymph over to a deeper edge under the overhanging branches.
When a brown strikes, it’s like a purse-snatcher working a Chicago sidewalk. I pulled my rod tip up and the line went taught. My partner in this dance went left and right trying to throw the hook, even jumping eight inches above the surface while I kept him on a short leash. It’s moments like that which make your day of fishing. I asked Tom if he had a net, but as you can see, he was busy at that moment snapping photos away. Before long I had the little brown trout ashore. We looked him over, but to our disappointment this veteran of the tight line wars had too many battle scars to sit for one of Tom’s portraits. So, it took a bit of reviving but this one was gently released back into the frigid waters from which he came. Thanks for the fight, Mr. Brown! See you at Sunnybrook again!