Let's go fish........Ahhh, screw it

The rotten weather all week has reeked havoc with the streams. Just when the streams were coming down to fishable levels, more rain falls. I opened the door to see a whiteout and howling winds. I can't believe my neighbours left for the Browns game in this shit. But it will be an great game, better me than him. I'm sure the 5lbs of deer chili I gave them last night will be the top item on the menu at the tailgate. There is suppose to be blizzard conditions tonight and what really sucks is I'll have to leave for work tomorrow at 5:30A.M.............yeah right.

Without anymore rain the rivers should be great late this week. All I want for Christmas is the Grand to be fishable this weekend.

Tis the season

Tis the season and after my vacation week, I see on the bulletin board that Doug is no longer with the company. Two weeks ago, Lennie retired. Mike is out from hernia surgery. Greg took a leave of absence and who the hell knows when he'll be back. I feel a pat on the back from the manager asking if I'm well rested.......Well, we all know where this is going. I have to take over Doug's accounts until they hire a new guy. The other thing I found out later was I have to work every other Saturday. During the winter months, I don't work weekends and I made it clear from the get go. You don't screw with my fishing time. I wasn't too happy as I hate working Saturdays and told them "start cranking out help wanted ads".

On the fishing front, chalk up another useless weather forecast. The weather channel was calling for a winter advisory for Sunday morning. It was suppose to be freezing rain and sleet. I woke up early in the morning and peeked out the window to see the street was dry. I drove to the Chagrin and it was running perfect. There wasn't supposed to be any rain until this evening. I kicked off the winter steelheading season looking for some fresh fish that came in with the last high water. It turned out to be a slow morning at the office. It was several fish here and there and I had to work over the pools. There must been a run of pygmy steelhead as I caught five of the smallest steelhead I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately the batteries in my camera died. I caught one buck that was 14” long in full winter colors and he had a kype jaw and humped back.

Then the day came to an end when the Gates Mill church clock started chiming in the distance and ten minutes later the skies opened and dumped a shitload of rain. I left the rain jacket at home thinking I didn’t need it. To make a long story short, I got soaked on the way back. It rained all the way back to North Olmsted. Once again, the Grand was coming down to fishable levels and the runoff shot it right back up. I was going to call off with the 24 hour flu. There is more rain for the upcoming week and this is the 3rd week in a row that the Grand won't be fishable.


The first push of Manistees have started to move up the rivers after the last blowout. Depending on what river you fished and how far up you went, it was bling or scrap metal. On the Rocky, it was bling-bling as every fish caught was in mint condition and full of fight. It felt nice seeing a fish jump and fight hard in water about 38F. But, the constant howling wind ran me off the river after a couple of hours in the morning. Two cups of java finally thawed me out.

I hit the Chagrin and it was a mix of bling and spawned out Pennsylvania fish. The thermometer barely got over 32F and I was tardy this morning as I arrived at 8:30A.M. It was a slow morning as I bounced from pool to pool. Once the sun got up the fish awoke from their slumber. Fishing tailouts, runs and slicks sandwiched between gravel beds was the ticket. Takes ranged from teasing taps to violent takedowns. I used the last of my uncured King eggs and once again I wasn't disappointed as I had my best day ever on the Chagrin. But, I got lucky yesterday and managed to score some uncured Coho eggs. I even got me some gold as a carp mistaken my white spawn sac for a boilie. The water so cold that the fat bastard didn't even put up fight. I hauled on the beach and he literally sunk in the muck.

The bonus of the day was the huge male that I landed on a frayed 6 lbs test fluorocarbon tippet. I'm terrible for not checking my line for nicks and frays. I previously caught 7 fish and drifted the last 20 yards of a pool before spilling into a gravel riffle. The takedown was hard and once I set the hook, I knew I had a bull on. I gingerly applied pressure and let him fight the current. He parked himself on the bottom and it was a battle of tug of war. I was afraid that the tippet would crap out and I wouldn't get a glimpse of the fish. I finally got him close enough and was the largest fish of the new season for me. I hauled his huge ass on the beach and the hefty ole man probably tipped the scales at 12lbs.

Taking tomorrow off for some much needed sleep and I'm glad as I'm getting tired of tying eggs every night. Sadly, my vacation week is coming to an end and it's back to the grind. Now that it December, we're starting off the winter steelheading season and this is where we separate the boys from men.

Elk Creek Steeheading by Nintendo


There are times when the moon and stars align and everything falls into place. The same thing can happen when comes to steelheading - especially when you go to Pennsylvania after high water and the during the week of deer hunting season. It was also my week off of work and earlier in the month I was pumped for some action. But, Mother Nature had a surprise in store for me. It rained Monday morning and I managed to squeeze in a morning of fishing before the Rock blew out. I wasn't going to let this happen and I knew plan B was the only option - heading to Pennsylvania.

The Elk got blown out Monday and I knew it would be fishable by Wednesday. Even though, in the past I have lambasted Pennsylvania for stocking too many steelhead and goofed on the locals for fishing a pod of steelhead in a pool about the size of my bathtub. Since this was my vacation, I was desperate as I was only able to fish early Monday morning.

When I arrived the river was about as perfect as you can get. The other bonus, I was the first vehicle there. During any other time, the cars would be rolling in. It was very cold at first light and I knew the fish would be packed like sardines in the deeper pools and runs. The water was slightly stained and I had two containers of my King salmon eggs raring to go.

It was odd being back in Pennsylvania after a six year hiatus. At first the fishing was slow and I didn't have any takers. The water was deep enough and I was somewhat puzzled. I drifted along the seam and nobody was home. I crossed over and moved towards the tailout. Then it was off to the races as I started to clean house. I noticed most of the anglers were heading upstream. After 20 minutes of no action, I decided to head downstream. As I walked downstream there was a sign posted by a landowner asking anglers to wear blaze orange. I had my lucky Toronto Maple Leafs cap, dark blue hoodie and sage colored waders. I scanned the trees looking for stands and found none. I remember all too well about 7 years ago when I was fishing the same section and 3 deer ran across the creek. Not too far behind was a hunter getting ready to shoot. Luckily at the last minute he spotted me. It freaked me out and I decided to high tail it out of there. Today, that section is posted by no other than the trout nazi himself - Donnie Beaver. It's a shame because there was some nice water.

The fishing today was like a video game set at beginner level. At times, it was one fish after another and I could of made bets on consecutive hook ups and won. It was insane and at one point I couldn't stop laughing. The Elk got a great run as the majority of fish caught were fresh. A friend of mine guiding farther upstream, told me they were hammering them all day long. When the conditions are right on the Elk it's possible to land 40 to 50 fish in one day when using bait such as eggs. The stained conditions and no previous pressure benefited me. All of the fish caught came in pools about 3' to 5' deep with a moderate flow. The fish were holding in the mid to tail sections. Using the pin really helped and it's very rare to drift entire pool on the Elk without somebody pitching a fit and screaming "Pool hog!! Pinners suck!!" As the day went on, the creek started to get clearer. The previous spot I fished in the morning went from stained to green. With my polarized sunglasses, I could see bottom and darker fish were easy to spot. By tomorrow the creek will be running low and clear and the fish will also have started to smarten up.

After I exhausted my spawn sacs, I placed several sucker spawns in the jar to absorb the juice from the eggs. It worked and I started to bang holes on the way back. It turned out to be a great day - I didn't get shot at, I ran into 4 other anglers the entire day and had a boatload of fish for myself. Maybe I won't be too harsh on Pennsylvania anymore.

Am I fishing with a collectible reel?

I recently found out from somebody that I might be fishing with a valuable piece of fishing equipment. My bushing centerpin reel is made by John Milner from Cranbrook, British Columbia. John's reels have a reputation for superior craftsmenship and are highly sought after. I have no idea how old the reel is as there is no serial number. I sent an email to the company to see how old it is and how many were made that year.

I purchase my reel from Ebay about 6 years ago, well before the pinning craze that hit steelhead alley. I got lucky as I got both the reel and a 13'6" Raven float rod for $220.00. At the time, I was bidding with four others. If the auction happened today, the reel alone would gone for much more.

My Milner has a lot of battle scars and logged a ton of miles. So I'm looking at getting another reel and retiring it.

Creek Critters

Earlier in the week we received enough rain to get the rivers high. Some of the eastern rivers started to come down when another dose of rain fell and they went back up. For the upcoming weekend, I wanted to fish east, but with gas at $3.10 per gallon, my options were slim. The Grand was still too high, Conneaut was too far and the Chagrin was questionable. Both the Rocky and Vermilion were low and clear. Also, the Rock would be a zoo this weekend.

Friday evening the Chagrin was coming down to the point that I knew it was fishable and I needed to tie goober sized sacs. I woke early and found the flow gauge was at 650cfs. That meant the river was a little high and dirty. When I arrived the river looked decent, but not great. I knew I was in for a tough day. I plugged away at several pools and worked the tailouts. For my efforts, I caught a couple of hens and that was it. For the entire time out, I didn’t see one person. On the way home it started to rain and through out the evening it rained off and on. I was concerned that the rain could blow the river out. I tied some sacs and if the Chagrin got blown out, I would have to the fish the (gulp) Rocky.

I woke early Sunday morning and checked the flow gauge. The graph showed a slight hiccup and the Chagrin dropped to 550cfs. I geared up and started to walk through the woods. As I walked to the river in the dark, I could hear some rustling. I turned to see what it was and there was beaver feeding on a large tree. He froze when I shone the light on him. I wanted to get a picture but it was too dark. The beaver made a break for the water as I fumbled with the camera. I was surprised how fast he took off.

This section of the river runs through one of the many Cleveland’s Metro parks found in Cuyahoga County. It also runs through one of the wealthiest communities in Ohio. Many people don’t know how much urban wildlife there is. The Chagrin acts as a natural highway and many animals use it to get around. In this park, there are deer, turkey, beaver, coyotes and raccoons. There are also some animals that people hear, but don’t often see. One of them is the Great Horned owl. I was fortunate enough to hear one this morning. It was somewhat eerie hearing that owl call. By now it was first light and I tried to see where the bird was perched. I scanned along the treetops and I finally caught a glimpse of the owl. It was sitting at the top of a large sycamore calling out as I heard another owl in the distance. This is the time of year when horned owls start looking for a mate. I continued walking and startled another beaver feeding along the bank. He bolted for the water in a hurry. What is unusual with these beavers is they don’t construct lodges, instead they live in the river’s banks.

Today, the river was in better condition. I fished the same spots and the results were better. All of the fish caught came from the tail end of pool and along the edges of the main current. It was a mix bag of fresh and older fish. As I was fishing, I noticed a large buck and doe emerge from the woods. As with the owls, deer are mating and this large buck was courting the doe. In this area, deer tend to be more use to people and they stood there watching me. I got the camera and used the zoom to get a shot. During that morning, I saw about 10 deer.
The bite shut off around 11:00A.M and I decided to hit another spot farther downstream. The fishing was slow and I talked to a couple of anglers that caught a couple here and there. I agreed with them the fishing on the Chagrin was average. It was like that last fall as the fish really didn’t come in until spring. I managed to catch a couple more and my back started to ache. It was about 12:30P.M and I decided to head home to watch the Browns and Ravens.

Once again the Browns made the game interesting and I thought they lost the game when Phil Dawson missed the tying field goal to force overtime. The ball clanged off the bar and hit the crossbar, then bounced back onto the field. I was disgusted with the poor effort from the team and changed the channel. During commercial I switched back to CBS and noticed the game was still on. I was puzzled and found out that the officials reversed the call as the ball hit the crossbar extension. By doing that, the ball broke the plane, therefore it was good. The Browns won the toss and marched down field to set up the winning field goal. Dawson’s kick was good and I wished I could see the look on Art Modell’s face. These Browns make the Kardiac Kids look flat line.

I'll be taking Turkey day off for some much needed sleep. Next week, I'll be cashing in my vacation time. That week is also deer hunting season. A lot of guys will be hunting instead of fishing. Memo to self - find orange toque.

I'm Beat

Next year, I’ll be 40 years old, the big 40. This weekend left me sore and tired. Stumbling along the banks, buckling my knees, tripping over downed branches, feeling winded and a sore shoulder from pinning all day. I could be the poster boy for Advil. Time to hire a personal trainer and drop the fatso foods. But then again, I wasn't in great shape in twenties and thirties as I smoked and drank a lot. 

The two excellent days of fishing made all of those aches and pain more tolerable. The Grand is still producing a ton of fish. Some larger fish have moved in as I caught a couple of fat hens that topped 30+ inches. The fish are spread out and I hit them at every spot. The weather this week has been much colder. Didn't get a water temp reading, but after a hour, my feet started to ache from the cold water. Unlike last week, the fish started to retreat into their winter homes. The tail end of pools, flats and eddies were the ticket. I surprised to see other anglers passing up those spots. The fish were gobbling up and asking for seconds when it came to my uncured salmon eggs.

As I’m writing, we’ve had rain falling for several hours. A lot of the other rivers need rain and they could use a good flushing as the leaves are starting to pile up. Time to take a nap……

Pennsylvania Puddle Fishing

Here is another example of why I constantly goof on PA steelheaders. This is a picture of the Walnut Creek aka The Walmart taken this past week. This section of the Nut is called the chutes and it would make a great bobsledding run. As you can see this what PA's streams run like 95% of the time - low, clear and shoulder to shoulder. I fished it once 6 years ago and I vowed never to return.

Grand Days

The fall steelhead run in Northeastern Ohio is official underway. One river that has been on fire is the Grand. During the past week there has been reports of some anglers hitting the motherload of fish.

Now time to vent. This week, I took Thursday off to go to court to fight a bullshit traffic ticket that I got from the North Olmsted police. Speeding is one thing, but to get a rolling stop infraction in my subdivision at 2:30 in the afternoon and there wasn't a car at the intersection??? I pull into the driveway and was ready to get out, only to see this cruiser come roaring up my driveway. The way the cop acted he thought I robbed a bank. I wasn't too happy that the cop raced up my driveway and I gave him an earful. The cop tells me there have been complaints about people not stopping. I called bullshit and starting arguing with him. I made a right turn and I stopped. A complete stop is so subjective and hiding in somebody driveway doesn't give him a full view. I could tell he was going to be a hard ass and wasn't going to give me a break. I figured I'll see how far I can take before he threatens me. We went back and forth and he started to get pissed. His buddy riding shotgun just glared me. Too bad, that's what happens when you dick people over, don't expect them to be pleasant. He issued the ticket and I told him I'll have my day court and get off my property. 

I went to court and told the judge not guilty and my case was set. A month later, I was back in court. I researched the internet and I didn't have good chance of winning because the officer had his buddy riding shotgun. I knew both of them would tell the judge that I didn't stop after all cops tell the truth all the time right? I didn’t want 2 points on my record, since I had to drive as a service tech, so I asked for a deal. I guess the cop must of had short term memory, because he didn't remember me. I thought he would look at me and say "your the guy in the red Jeep that was running your mouth" . He dropped the charge and issued me the ever popular burned out tail light. It was a $30.00 fine and I could live with that. It was a done deal as we didn't even step in the court room. I walked downstairs to settle up and then the shit hit the fan as I was presented with a $146.00 bill. The clerk told me the $116.00 was for court costs. I started bitching that my local income and property taxes paid for the judges, clerks and cops. She on the other hand, heard this a million times and was unmoved. What a fucking racket, you beat the charge but you'll still get it in the ass. I paid it and stormed out of the building. I was still steaming and what a better time then to head for the Grand.

Now for the fishing. Early in the week, a little birdie told me that the Grand had a monster run of fish. Most the other streams were starting to run low and clear. But the Grand was still holding its color. I arrived at the lower section of the river around 10:30A.M and I could see about 10 cars in the lot. As I pulled in, I didn’t see anybody fishing the one section above the bridge. I got dressed and walked down. I was puzzled to see nobody up or down stream, I had no idea where most of the people went. As long as they were far away, the better. The river had a nice flow and color, the visibility was about 2’ and slightly stained. I had a couple containers of King salmon eggs and put them to use. Within a few minutes, I had my first fish. That was a prelude for things to come as I started to hook in fish. I was stunned at the number of takes. I had barely moved 80 yards and I had 8 fish on the beach. The word was that a lot of Pennsylvania steelhead moved up the Grand. They were either fed up of being crammed in tiny pools or the sheer number of anglers scared them back into the lake. What was PA's loss was Ohio's gain and I welcomed the fish into our larger streams. I continued below the bridge and there were 3 guys fishing. I fished below them and I started hooking up. Those uncured eggs were the ticket as the other guys had skein and they were trying in vain to fight off the hordes of creek chubs robbing them blind. When it was all said and done, I had a banner day. Most of the fish were on the average size. I was surprised that the fish hit all afternoon as this spot is right in Painesville and usually gets hammered daily throughout the season. I wondered if the fish made it further upstream as I had plans to assault the upper stretches this weekend.

I woke early Saturday and the blast of cold air hit me as I walked out the door. It had to be below 32F as there was a heavy frost on the grass and the Jeep's windows. I drove off and headed for the mid section of the Grand. When I arrived it was 6:45A.M and it was pitch black. I started the long walk upstream to the mouth of a feeder creek. It was hard to navigate through the grass and sedge as it covered most of the trail. It was eerie as all of the vegetation was covered in frost and the woods were quiet. I finally arrived at the feeder creek and it was twilight. The water was low and I noticed the float was starting to drag. I only had about 2’ of line and I knew the fish wouldn’t be holding in water that shallow. I started to gun and run back downstream. Without sunglasses, I could make out rocks in the water. The water had a tea color and the flow was moderate to slow. The one pool that I do well in the winter was too low and I skipped it. I was able to find some deeper water. It was tough to pin as the flow was really weak, I was able to fish from the bank and I had the first fish of the morning, a jack. I fished for several more minutes and the creek chubs drove me out of there.

It was cold enough for ice to form on the guides as I struggled to get off long drifts. I hit another pool and worked one small hole. It paid off as a large hen crushed a pink sac. But, it was a case of one fish here and there. I knew there had to be one place where the fish were holed up. I finally found the spot around the bend and it’s a section that a lot of anglers walk by. The fly guys don’t fish it because of the trees and newbies can’t read the water here. I started to drift along the inside of the bend and a small hen took it. At first I didn’t set the hook hard as I thought it was creek chub. Then it was off to the races as I started to hook into fish. I managed to beach a couple of fish and lost a couple more. The river here is about 3’ to 4’ deep and is great during the winter months. I continued to walk downstream and I found another of my money pools vacant. This pool was a classic steelhead alley pool. It was about 3” deep and cut along the bank and tailed out to a riffle. I couldn’t see bottom and I knew this spot was packed with fish. I started at the head of the pool and started banging fish. It was about 11:00A.M and I landed my ninth fish of the morning. All of the fish were starting to get dark and I assumed they were from Pennsylvania. I was somewhat surprised to see nobody on the water this morning and I decided to head farther downstream as the fish in that pool shut off. 

I drove to the other side of the river and started the half a mile walk to one of my favorite spots. I finally arrived I was happy to see nobody there. This riffle spilled into a long run that was about 4’ deep. This run can hold a lot of fish when the river is low as there isn’t that much deep water here. It took some time to get the fish biting and then the dinner bell rang and the float started popping. It was a mixed bag of jacks, males and hens that fell for the pink sacs. When I use uncured eggs, I usually tie about 100 sacs, because I’ll go through a lot of them. After 5 drifts, I’ll replace the sac as they become white and lose their scent. I was down to 3 sacs and I had landed 17 fish. I looked at the time it was 3:00P.M, I told myself one more fish and I’ll head home. It had been about 20 minutes since my last fish. I moved farther down as I cleaned out the upper part of the run. My wishes were answered as a small jack leaped from the water. I released the fish and started the walk back. I was beat, my shoulder was tired and my back was aching. I finally made to the lot and called my buddy. He was stuck at home painting and wanted to go out tomorrow. I told him it was another banner day and I’ve never seen so many fish in the Grand. He told me he would fish for a couple of hours early in the morning and head home to paint. I laughed and said “If you were here today, you would of used every excuse in the book to weasel your ass out of painting". I took my time driving back and I when I got home I started the long process of tying another 100 sacs for tomorrow's trip.

Currently, all of the rivers are getting very low and clear. With the exception of the Grand, there are fish, but there are spread out. The colder temperatures don't seem to effect the fish as they are being caught in the faster water. The weather outlook for next week is a blast of cold air with rain or snow in the forecast. We could use another dose of high water to push more fish into the rivers.

Gun and Run

Early in the week, a little birdie told me that the Conneaut was primed for action. That's the benefit of having friends scattered across the Alley. I always have the latest pulse on the action. I know several guides who live out east and since I live on the west end, I often know what's going on with the Chagrin, Rock and Vermilion. With that valuable info, I made plans for the trip to Conneaut for Sunday.

The night before I thawed out some King salmon eggs and tied a bunch of sacs. When conditions are primed, I'll mostly tie pink sacs. Pink for some reason out produces any other color. In the other container I still had a bunch of skein left over. The kitchen table was a mess of newspapers and paper towels. The smell of eggs overwhelmed the kitchen. But I love the smell of fresh eggs. I liken it to the smell of upcoming victory. It didn't take long to tied over 50 sacs of uncured salmon eggs. I finished just in time for the Ohio State - Penn State game. I cracked open a beer and settled on the couch.

I woke up around 5:30A.M and quickly fried up some eggs and bacon. I stopped at the gas station for coffee and hit I-90 for Conneaut. The interstate was a lonely place as the only traffic were weary drivers and truckers heading to some far off destination. The skies were clear and there was a slight breeze from the north. When I arrived it was twilight and there were about 4 cars in the lot. I took my time getting dressed and walked down the river. It was still dark and I couldn’t see exactly what the water was like. As it gradually got lighter, I noticed the water wasn’t that high. Even though the water level was low, it had a tea color. This was probably due to the high number of leaves in the water. Usually whenever the water is tannic that worries me. As leaves start to rot, they release acids and I believe that throws off the fish. Trout are very sensitive to acidic conditions. 

The first spot was a riffle that flowed into a flat that is considered a winter hot spot because it a tail out. I used a pink spawn sac and casted out. That’s when I noticed the pin had a hard time free spooling. A bushing pin can have a harder time in slower water than a ball bearing pin. I reeled in and popped off the spool. Last night when I was cleaning the reel, I forgot to apply machine oil to the bushing. The bushing was dry and free spooling was out of the question. I decided to make short drifts and work the water. After a few drifts the float went under and a fresh hen came to the surface. I quickly released it and used another pink sac. Several minutes later and feisty little jack took the bait and leaped out the water. I guess the water wasn't terribly tannic here. Not wanting to quickly exhaust my uncured eggs, I switched over to skein. I fished for 20 minutes and had no takers. That’s what happens when fishing bait. One day uncured eggs work and the next they want skein. I switched back and didn’t have any takers.

I moved farther upstream in search of fishable water. I was somewhat surprised to see hardly any people for a Sunday. Usually the Connie is the hot spot in the fall, because the creek is stocked with PA steelhead. I putzed around several riffles and couldn’t stir up a player. It was now 10:30A.M and I decided to gun and run. Gun and run is my style for getting into fish quick. When using eggs, steelhead will take it fairly quickly. I don’t bother wasting an hour fishing one hole hoping that a fish will bite. If there isn’t any action quickly, it’s off to the next spot. That’s why I usually fish alone because most people don’t like this method of fishing. I swear by it and that’s why I catch a lot of fish.

I made it back to the bridge and blew past the guys fishing under it. I got about 100yds downstream and found another favorite spot of mine. I used another pink sac and started drifting along the seam. The float got hammered hard and I quickly set the hook. A large steelhead broke from the water and raced downstream. I darted back and forth and raced for any cover. It was a plump male in full color.

By now, the sun was starting to peek through the clouds. It was a decent morning, but not great. I started getting into fish when I fished the faster water. I caught nothing in the slower stuff. Out of the all of the Alley's streams, the Conneaut is the more classic trout stream – riffle, run and pool. I starting banging away and the fish started to hit. All they wanted was the uncured eggs and thumbed their nose at the skein. I ended up have a good day considering there were quite a few people fishing. These spots have been fished hard over the past week so I was happy that I did well.

Currently all of the streams are dropping fast. The water table has been so dry that the ground soaked up all of the rain fairly quickly. I wouldn’t cash in the vacation days or use the 24 hour flu excuse yet. There are fish in the rivers, but they’re spread out. You need to do a lot of leg work and work the water. If you do go out, fish the lower sections. We need another good dose of rain and unfortunately there isn’t any for the rest of the week.

Welcome to the Rock

We finally received enough rainfall to get the rivers up and flowing. Like with any heavy rainfall, it was going to take some time for the waters to clear. After work, I stopped by the Rocky to see the water conditions. The river was running very stained but not flowing too hard. This is due to the heavy build up of summer silt. The busy season at work winding down, I would be able to slip out of work a little early.

Today, I got lucky and finished work early. I got to the river around 3:00P.M and there were about 5 people fishing. One of my favorite spots was vacated. The river was lower than yesterday, but it was still running stained. The night before I tied some jumbo skein bags. Skein can be a mess and I prefer to tie them in sacs, rather than hauling around a big bag and cutting chunks. The fishing at first was slow and the constant gusting wind kept blowing the line off the reel. I was fishing the lower section not far from the lake. During the fall, steelhead often stage in lower section before heading upstream. The river is wider but it's not very deep. There was a decent current and I started drifting along the seam. Since the first riffle isn't very far from the lake, winds can affect the flow. Whenever the wind is blowing from the north, the water surges upstream. It common to hear the water gurgling and then all of the sudden it stops. Some time the water level will go up several inches. During one year, the wind out of the south was so strong the lower section dropped by half. It was odd seeing the river take on a whole different character. The flow was very fast and the fish were stacked into several deep pools. But, as soon as the wind stopped the water starting moving upstream.

I moved around and tried different colored sacs, but I didn't have any takers. I decided to move downstream about 50 yards below the first riffle. I was going through a lot of sacs because of the snags. Leaves in the water were also starting to become a problem. Then I finally got into a fish that took a pink sac. It leaped from the water and raced upstream. It felt like a fairly large fish and when I got to shore, it was a large hen that had to be at least 30". I took a quick picture and released her. I resumed fishing in the same spot and it was slow. Nobody else was hooking into anything. Then I noticed a steelhead floating belly up go by me. I grabbed it by the tail and didn't see any visible wounds. Some guy came by and told me some angler caught it upstream at the pool. When he landed the fish and he simply kicked it back into the water. I tried to revive the fish, but it was beyond help. The angler probably over fought it and with the warm water temperature, the shock was too much for it. I all ready had enough skein and salmon eggs at home. I asked several anglers downstream if they were interested in taking the fish. As soon as I said it was a hen, one guy jumped at the offer. It is very important during this time of the year, that fish are not to be over played. Let them run or jump once and then get them in quick.

Even though I live 10 minutes from the Rocky, it's my least favorite river. The river is often referred to as the "urban jewel" Several people I know often call it the "urban sewer" Because of the Lakewood and North Olmsted water treatment plants. The main reason why I don't like it are the crowds. During the fall and spring the entire river can be a zoo. In the winter months, most of the fairweather anglers are on the couch, so the crowds tend to be more tolerable.

One thing the Rock has over the other rivers is access. The main river is flows thorough the Cleveland Metro parks. There is 13 miles of river to fish on and plenty places to park. Because of it's suburban location, peace and quiet is hard to find. One of my favorite places is the lower section near the marina. The mouth of the river is about a half a mile. During the spring when most of the anglers are harassing spawning fish, I'll be down at the marina. In the spring, large schools of emerald shiners move up river. Not to far behind are skippers or dropback steelhead heading back to the lake.

So far the water levels on most of the rivers are still running high, but they're fishable. Get out while you can because the water will start to drop fast.

Went fishing and walked into a nudist colony?

Summer won't go away here along Steelhead Alley. It's been drier than a bone and nearly all of the rivers are running low and clear. But that is expected as steelheading in Ohio during early October is often being in the right place at the right time and little luck has to be thrown your way. When conditions are not favorable, I'll head out to the break walls to cast spoons.

During the fall the best break walls to fish are the Grand River, Ashtabula and Conneaut harbors. Generally, in early fall, Conneaut is better because Pennsylvania's steelhead are a fall running strain. But, when October rolls around fish start showing up around the Grand River. I prefer the Grand River wall as it more accessible and not as steep as Conneaut's wall.

I've been fishing the walls for the past couple of weeks and the fishing has been slow. Usually a handful of fish are caught at first light and depending on weather conditions such as bright skies, the fish will retreat back to deeper water a couple hours after sunrise. As I walked along the wall, I could see large schools of emerald shiners racing along the wall. The wall was their only refuge from other predatory fish such as bass, perch and of course steelhead. During the early morning hours, I could see and hear the slapping and splashing of water as  steelhead were chasing shiners towards the surface. Even though the boat traffic was heavy it didn't stop the fish from feeding. Fishing off the walls or pier can be hit or miss. There are a lot of factors involved such as temperature, water visibility, sunlight, wind and time of day. First light is usually the best time as steelhead often come closer to the shore. The best conditions for pier and wall fishing is a cloudy day and the water has a nice chop. The waves will force the baitfish to move farther out from the rocks.

It's doesn't take a lot of know how when it comes to pier fishing. Steelhead are very aggressive and will hit any that resembles a baitfish. Simply cast out and retrieve, steelhead often cruise along the upper water column. Strikes are often hard and in open water they'll rip off a lot of line. Other anglers take the other approach and use a jig tipped with maggots under a float. Usually the anglers will have 4' to 5' of line between the float and jig. Casting out about 10' to 30' off the pier produces fish.

On an end note, the slow day ended with me running into several elderly bird watchers. They had a disgusted look on their faces. The one lady said "Nothing ruins a morning than having to look at" I looked over and there was this fat guy strolling along the beach totally naked. I wanted to a shot with my camera, but he was too far away. When I got the parking lot a Grand River police car pulled up and I said "You better bring a towel......a big towel"

The Clown Egg

This pattern was developed in Michigan (not sure) and is one of my favorite egg patterns. The clown egg is similiar to the glo bug. The only difference is more colors are used. I like to mix up as many color combinations as possible.


Kamasan B420 #8
Red 6/0 thread
McFly Foam - Brite Red, Cherise, Orange, White, Chartreuse, Early Girl, Steelhead orange and pink

Wrap the thread around the hook several times

Cut a piece of foam and tie it in. Then move the foam to the side. There should be four different colors used for this recipe.

Repeat the same step.

Tie in another piece of foam.

Tie in the final piece of foam. All of the foam should be next to each other.

Pull up the foam and wrap the thread around the base of the foam. Then let go of the foam and build a head and whip finish.

Pull the foam up and with a sharp pair of scissors, cut across. You can fluff out the fibers to give it a more rounder shape. Try as many color combination as you like. I find this pattern is great on early season steelhead or when the water is off color.

Go To Plan B

Another steelhead season commenced and I'm heading out east early this morning for the first trip. September is usually a hit or miss when it comes to steelhead. Last year, we had a cooler and wetter August. After Labor Day, some fish were being caught in the lower sections of some eastern streams. Earlier in the week we had some heavy rainfall in the Cleveland area. But, I had no idea how much rain fell farther east. I heard through the grapevine that some fish had moved into the lower sections of several streams. I was suppose to go Saturday, but I slept in after a grueling week of work. Saturday night, I started to get prepared for the morning trip. During this time of the season, I will bring along my spinning reel and small box of spoons. September is usually when steelhead start to prowl along the breakwalls feeding on bait fish and waiting to head upstream.

I woke around 5:30A.M and hit the road. It was a fairly chilly morning with temperatures in the low 40s. I arrived shortly after sunrise and noticed several cars parked along the road. From the bridge above, I could the river was very low and clear. I decided to give myself an hour to see if anything was in the river. Earlier in the week, I had reports on fish moving into the lower section. From the water conditions, it was obvious that the fish dropped back into the lake. I walked upstream and fished a couple of deeper holes. I didn't have a thermometer but the water felt warm. The river was barely flowing and I could see the bottom without the aid of polarized sunglasses. I knew it was time to go to plan B and head to the lake.

When I arrived at the lake, I was surprised to see the water was green. Just a couple of days ago the wind was roaring from the west and that usually meant the water would be muddy. There was hardly a breeze and the sky was overcast. I swapped the pin for the spinning reel and walked out to the short wall. There were several people fishing and I picked out my spot. I was relieved that the wall was short as I forgot my landing net. I sorted through the box of Cleos and K.O Wobblers and picked out my trusty old blue and silver Cleo. Casting with a 14' rod was effortless and I started the long process of covering water. Breakwall fishing can be bust or boom. I've seen guys chucking spoons for hours and have nothing to show for. Then there are the guys that show up around 10:00A.M and withing five minutes have a fish on.

Several anglers earlier in the morning had caught some fish. I arrived around 10:00A.M and an hour later I had no hits. I constantly changed colors and patterns, looking for that winning combo. All morning the sky was low and grey. That's when the fishing is best as steelhead like to ambush their prey. Then the sun started to come out and I was concerned as that usually shuts the fish down. In the distance, I could see a large clouds gradually heading east. I looked at my watch and it was 12:30P.M, I've been fishing for nearly three hours and I had two hits. One guy next to me already landed two fish and another hooked into two nice sized smallies. The clouds finally showed up and the water got darker. There was also some nice chop to cut down on the sunlight penetrating through. Hopefully the steelhead would start prowl about.

Then it finally happened,that telltale dead stop of the lure and then the reel started to scream. A decent sized male leaped from the water and started to run for Canada. It was to fell the trob of the rod and seeing a steelhead leap from the water. Lucky for me, I was able to step down on a rock at the water's edge and release the fish. Satisfied with my catch, I ended the day on a good note and headed home. On the way home, I decided to listen to the Browns game only to hear the Indians game. I figured the Browns game was cut short due to another blow out. I shut the radio off and waited until I got home as I had recorded the game on the DVR. To my surprise the final score was 51 to 45 and Ocho Cinco made good on his promise to jump into the dog pound where he received a nice beer shower.

As the days get shorter and the nights cooler, steelhead start to stage near the mouths of the rivers. They often cruise along the walls looking to feed on baitfish. When fishing breakwalls a long net is a must. Most of the rocks at the water's edge are wet and covered in algae. I've seen several anglers slip and fall into the lake when trying to grab a steelhead. As for lures, my favorite choice are spoons such as Cleos and Wobblers. The best size spoons are 1/3 to 2/5 oz, they are lighter and doesn't feel like your hauling in a brick. The best colors are silver, blue/silver, green/silver and silver /red. The best time to go is before sunrise as steelhead tend to be closer to shore. If the sky is clear the sun will drive them into deeper water. During overcast days, fish can be caught anytime of the day.

When September rolls around I get ready for breakwall fishing. The lake is where most of the action is. Steelhead tend to be very aggressive and will hit spoons with reckless abandon. The lake gives steelhead plenty of room to rip off a lot of line. So whenever the streams are low and clear and fish are few and far between, go to plan B.

Beginner Steelheader Mistakes

With another steelheading season quickly approaching, a new class of steelheaders will be taking their first casts. Every year, I have newbies come up to me and ask questions on how to cast a centerpin. Some do their homework before hitting the water and others need to hit the books.

Here are some common mistakes

Wrong Rod - Using a 6'6" bass rod for steelhead isn't going to catch you a lot of fish. Long rods are critical in achieving drag free drifts and float control. The best rod for a novice should be a 10'6" to 14'6" rod. Stores such as Cabelas sell them starting off at as little as $50.00. 

Incorrect Float - The worst floats for steelhead are the large plastic ones with the metal plug. Not only do they make a lot noise when they hit the water, but the metal plug pinches the line and weakens it. The end result is when an angler gets snagged, the line will snap. The end result is your float and rigging is gone. The newbie steelheader should have one kind of float and that's the Raven FM model. That model is very versatile and can be used in all types of water.  

Incorrect Depth - I've seen beginners either have too much line or not enough under their float. If your float is dragging and constantly going under, then you have too much line and need to adjust. Your float should be able to drift freely. But I've also seen some anglers with not enough line and they're missing the strike zone. 

Missed Takes - Steelhead takes come in a wide range. Some hits are hard and others are really light. During the winter months, when the water is cold. Steelhead tend to be more sluggish. More than often the takes can be subtle and many rookies believe they've bottomed out and don't set the hook. When ever the float goes under I set the hook, regardless if it's slow or fast.

Reading Water - I believe in the saying "10% of anglers catch 90% of the fish" This can make or break a rookie steelheader. Reading water is very difficult in regards to what's at the bottom. I tell newbies to think like a fish. Where would I hide? When the water is cold, where would I hold? When steelhead first enter a river, they seek out deep pools with cover or long sweeping riffles. The reason for this behavior is steelhead are often wary entering shallow water from a deep lake. During the winter, steelhead will seek out slow flowing pools. The best place for steelhead to hold is at the tail end of the pool. Tailouts deflect the current as the bottom starts to rise. This allows the fish to expend less energy. A pair of polarized sunglasses also helps.

Poor Etiquette - In the quest for the first fish, manners often take a backseat. Nothing drives a veteran steelheader crazy, then a newbie wading out to retrieve a snagged hook or starting to fish 15' below them. Take the time to watch others fish and ask questions.

Fishing the same spot - Hole beating isn't very productive. Most rookies tend to fish not very far from the parking lot. These spots usually get pounded hard and the fish gradually start to wise up. Not to mention some of these spots will be packed. The best advice is to go off the beaten path. Not only you find peace and quiet but a lot of fish for yourself.

Giving Up - Steelhead are a challenge and I have seen some newbies throw in the towel after a couple of weeks. Fishing is not catching and it does take time. The best advice I can give is research on the internet, read some books, join a fishing club or ask a veteran to take you fishing.

Using Fireline as a mainline - Believe it or not, I remember running into a newbie who had a centerpin and his mainline was 30# Fireline.

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is another egg pattern widely used along steelhead alley. It's similiar to the sucker spawn. The only difference is instead of yarn, diamond braid is used. This pattern is effective in water that is murky. Like the drug, steelhead get addicted to it.


Hook - Daiichi 1530 #10 - #12
Diamond Braid - Pearl, Red, Hot Pink, Shrimp, Chartreuse and Orange
Thread - 6/0 red

Wrap the thread around the hook all the way to the end of the shank.

For this example, I'm using shrimp braid. Unlike sucker spawn, crystal meth is tied using single loops. Place the braid on top of the hook and tie it in. Then pull up the braid and wrap the thread several times. This will securely hold it in place. Take the braid and fold it over making a loop. Wrap the thread several times to hold it in place. The loop should hang over the side of the hook.

The next loop should be the same size.

The next set of loops will be larger.

Repeat the same step. As you can see the loops have a weaved appearance.

The final loops should be the same size as the previous ones.

Build a head and cut the excess braid. Whip finish and apply head cement. This is what the fly should look like a cluster of eggs.

Fishpond Blue River Chest Pack

Fishpond Blue River chest pack

I'm very minimalist when it comes to things, especially when it comes to hauling my gear. The less is better, that's my motto. I see a lot of guys on the rivers that have too much stuff in their vests. They look like they're ready for a 3 week expedition and the only things missing are a sleeping bag and a frying pan. I usually see them fumbling about going through the endless pockets looking for something. Then I would hear them complain about their sore shoulders or back. I wanted something simple. I've had chest vests but I always found them cumbersome. A lumber pack was more practical so I headed over to one of the local fly shops. 

Blue River chest pack fly bench

The store is a high end fly shop and they had a wide selection of vests to choose from. One vest that caught my eye was the Fishpond Blue River pack. What I found appealing about it was it could be used a chest, lumber, or sling it over your shoulder. It measures at 9.5"x5"x7 is about 366 cubic inches. It had a large fly bench that had plenty of room for my streamers, egg patterns, nymphs and jigs. That meant no more fly boxes. It had enough pockets for all of my needs and it felt very light. Whenever I go fishing, I carry the basics - a single small box for sinkers, hooks, beads and swivels, forceps, floats, spools of 3X and 4X tippets, spool of 10 and 8 pound leader material and a leathermen tool. It had plenty of pockets and zippered compartments. There's also tabs and loops to attach various tools and spools of line.

So we'll see how this pack performs in the long run. 

Idiot Poacher of the Year Award goes to.......

There has been a YouTube video of two people illegally catching steelhead from a feeder creek running into the Chagrin River. The video was taken on a property located in Gates Mills. One of the preps is from France and from watching the video, his guest isn't well versed in the game and fish laws. In the state of Ohio, it's illegal to net steelhead. The creek in the video, is so small and narrow that a 3 year old could piss across it. He gleefully dunks his net in and catches one of the darkest, nastiest looking steelhead. It looks so awful that a starving raccoon would pass it up. Nonetheless, the guy is very happy with his catch and brags about how easy it was to catch in front of the camera. After that we're shown a segment of the fish lying in a large pan ready for the oven. I suspect a puddle of black mush after 30 minutes of cooking. 

Well that video went viral and it sparked outrage in the steelheading community. Several people emailed the video to the ODNR. The ODNR contacted Youtube and they assisted the game warden by tracing the ISP account. The warden arrived only to find out that the homeowner was out of town. Once he returned, he gave a summons for him and Pepe that they broke the law and had to face a judge.

They had their day in court and the guy from France was charged with illegally netting a steelhead and fishing without a licence and the landowner was charged with aiding. Both were fined $250 and received 30 day suspended jail sentences.

I felt they got off lightly as a $250 fine for a Gates Mill resident is pocket change. Both of them should be forced to fish the Manchester Hole on Walnut creek with 10 slob anglers for company for an entire season

Sucker Spawn

Ask any Lake Erie steelheader what's their favorite fly is and the most common answer will be - sucker spawn. The sucker spawn is one of the most widely used patterns along Steelhead Alley. The majority of steelhead I've caught when fly fishing has been this pattern.

The sucker spawn is suppose to resemble a mass of fish eggs. This pattern is relatively easy to tie. I buy most of my yarn from arts and crafts stores such as Joann's or Micheal's. A large ball usually costs a couple of dollars and can last a long time.

Daiichi 1530 hook - #10 to #14
3 ply yarn - white, orange, peach, pink, and blue
Thread - 6/0 red

sucker spawn

Wrap the thread around the hook all the way to the end of the shank.

sucker spawn

Cut an 8" piece of yarn. For large hooks such as #10 or #12, you can use 3 ply yarn. For smaller hooks may need to remove a strand. This will make the fly less bulky and easier to work with. Take the yarn and fold it in half. The first loop will be a single one as shown above. Wrap the thread around the yarn about 5 times. Then pull the yarn up and tie the thread around the hook 5 times. This will hold it in place.

sucker spawn

Take the yarn and fold it over as shown above. This will be the first pair of loops. Wrap the thread around the hook 5 times. You can adjust the size by pulling on the yarn. Then pull up the yarn and wrap it 5 times. This will keep the loops from moving.

sucker spawn

The second pair of loops will be larger.

sucker spawn

The 3rd pair of loops should be the same size.

sucker spawn

The last set of loops should be the same size as the first pair of loops. Wrap the thread around the hook several times and cut the excess yarn.

sucker spawn

Form a head, whip finish and apply head cement.

sucker spawn
The end result is a cluster of eggs. This pattern can be used under a float or bottom bounced. The best colors for me are white, pink and peach.