Rich Dummies

Several weeks ago, a wealthy landowner in Gates Mills had a friend over for a day of fishing. The fishing trip was filmed and posted on YouTube. These two dummies figured a net was easier to use than a rod. The video caught the attention of local steelheaders and the ODNR went over for a visit. As expected the landowner was on an "extended vacation".

Today, there was another news segment about another wealthy landowner that started altering the East Branch of the Chagrin River. He didn't like the fact that the river was eroding his property. So he took matters into his own excavator and removed nearly 250,000 cubic feet of stream bottom. Well, the EPA caught wind of it and we all know that you don't fuck with the EPA.

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.

Leave It To Beaver

Major league asshole Donnie Beaver is in the news again. He's preparing to appeal the court decision in his never ending battle to keep Joe Angler off the Little Juniata. Beaver thinks he's a tough guy but now he has to deal with the 800 pound gorilla named Norfolk Southern. What are the chances that he's going to win this - zilch

Railroad joins Little Juniata River access fight

Exclusive club told to remove fencing, no trespassing signs

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

By Deborah Weisberg, Special to the Post-Gazette

As state attorneys and Donny Beaver prepare to do battle in a state appeals court over access to the Little Juniata River, another matter is unfolding along its banks. Norfolk Southern Corp. has ordered Mr. Beaver, operator of the exclusive Spring Ridge Club, to immediately remove barbed wire and "no trespassing" signs from railroad property along the stream. If he fails to do so within 10 days, Norfolk Southern will perform the task and might bill him for the work, according to Norfolk Southern attorney Randal S. Noe, who made the demands in an Aug. 3 letter to Mr. Beaver.

Mr. Noe said yesterday that he doesn't know when the barbed wire and signs were erected, but the railroad only recently was made aware of them. The "no trespassing" signs bear the names of the Spring Ridge Club and Legacy Conservation Group, two of several corporations Mr. Beaver has or had an interest in. The barbed wire is strung among dense brush downstream of Spruce Creek. "We were advised by a third party of [the wire and signs'] existence," said Mr. Noe. "We weren't aware of anything before that. But once we became aware, we got concerned."

Although Mr. Beaver leases a small, relatively narrow strip of land from the railroad along the Little Juniata, Mr. Noe said the signs and barbed wire are beyond the leased section. He also said that while the railroad "does not want to get in the middle of a dispute between the state and Don Beaver ... when [Beaver] allegedly invaded our property, we felt it was our duty to react." Mr. Beaver declined to comment.

In the Aug. 3 letter to Mr. Beaver, Norfolk Southern demanded "the immediate removal of any barbed wire, fencing, barriers, signs or other material placed on our property by you, your employees, or agents." It further stated that the railroad company would inspect the property in about 10 days, remove and dispose of any such material and "reserve the right" to seek recovery of payment for the cost.

Three state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection, and local fishing guide Allan Bright sued Mr. Beaver and the club four years ago because they treated a 1.3-mile section of the river near Spruce Creek as members-only water.

Earlier this year, Huntingdon County Common Pleas Judge Stewart Kurtz ruled in the state's favor. Subsequently, Mr. Beaver was ordered not to post or hang signs on the stream, not to "threaten, harass or otherwise attempt to exclude the public" from the water and streambed, and not to advertise the river as private.

In recent months, however, "no trespassing" signs and metal posts with bright orange caps had been posted in and along the Little Juniata on the side opposite the railroad tracks, where Mr. Beaver owns land for the Spring Ridge Club, a private fishing organization that charges up to $80,000 for membership and thousands more in annual fees. The metal posts and most of those signs have since been removed.

Mr. Beaver appealed the judge's decision last month in a case that probably will be argued early next year.
Stan Stein, the attorney for Mr. Bright, who is seeking damages over income he claims he lost for all those years that the club advertised the Little Juniata as private, said the railroad issue "will have no effect on the appeal, but it may have an effect on how and whether the court might be asked to enforce the court order."

What Happened to Steelheadbasics?

I received several emails from people wondering what happened to my website. Due to my wife and I separating many months ago, I decided to let the domain name expire. At the time I couldn't get my heart into maintaining it. I have told people that the site will not be resurrected. It's too time consuming and I decided to maintain this blog instead.
I will try to upload some of the more popular steelhead flies that I still have on file.

Selling a house in Cleveland is like selling a fridge to an Eskimo

Eight months ago, my wife and I decided to separate after 9 years of marriage. Like most of today’s couples, we accumulated a lot of debt. Luckily, we ended the relationship on a civil note and the neighbors were relieved that the house wouldn't be burned down. She left to stay with a friend and I stayed in the house for the time being. To pay off the debt we needed to sell the house. Unfortunately, we couldn't time it at a worse time. The housing market here in the states has hit rock bottom.
I have the dubious distinction of living in Cuyahoga County aka Crapahoga County. The county has the highest rate of foreclosure in the state of Ohio. The big three – Ohio, Michigan and Indiana have the highest rates of foreclosures nation wide. Ironically, it’s the big 3 – GM, Ford and Chrysler that have caused problems in those states as plants are slated to close and people being laid off. Several plants here in the Cleveland area have been either idled or slated to close. Even before the downturn in the auto industry, Cleveland has struggled as it still relies on manufacturing.

This year, the county is on track for 17,000 foreclosures, that’s 1 house for every 77 houses in the county! The county treasurers office can't keep up with the amount of people foreclosing or not paying their property taxes. Even the burbs are not immune. The final nail in the coffin for these doomed homeowners were the sub-prime loans. A lot of naive first time owners got suckered into owning the American Dream by morally corrupt brokers looking to get rich quick. The fine print in these loan documents would make a lawyer’s head spin. Now many of these homeowners are screwed as the interest rates started going up. Many people’s mortgages have doubled and they can't pay. Most of them end up walking away. It’s common to drive through some of the inner ring communities such as South Euclid, Euclid and Cleveland Heights and see houses boarded up. Last week, I was in South Euclid and there were 12 houses for sale on one street. It’s a truly depressing sight when you see for sale signs littering front lawns on certain streets. As these foreclosed properties glut the already saturated market, it leaves me screwed as I’m competing with a ton of properties.

In June, I hired a realtor. One of my co-workers said she was a great. I called her up to set up an appointment. I thought she a nice lady and she had a great reputation. She walked around the house and gave me some pointers. After 2 phone calls, she dropped off the face of the earth. I was puzzled as why she decided to jump ship. I guess the thought of losing out on selling houses in the tony communities of Avon Lake, Bay Village and Westlake was too much for her to bear. I wasn’t happy as I wasted almost an entire month.

I decided to call our realtor who helped us buy our home almost five years ago. Michelle stopped by the house and gave her condolences. We sat down and devised a game plan. I lived in the community of North Olmsted, which was considered to be one of Cleveland’s blue collar middle class suburbs. The city was rated as one the best bargains in this year’s Cleveland magazine for buying a house. Most of the homes are affordable and popular with first time buyers. Five years ago we bought the house for $146,500. It was a 3 bedroom split level built back in the early 1960s. Michelle told me that we should list the 4 car garage as the major selling point. The property also had a large backyard. But, when I asked Michelle what were the chances of selling quick, she told me it was a buyers market and a lot of the buyers are picky.

Michelle said we should list the house for $155,000; I paid $146,500 almost 5 years ago. I would be grateful if I broke even. The other problem Michelle told me was just over in Lorain County, a person can buy a relatively new house for the same price and the property taxes are much less. I tried to put on a brave face and hoped that some grease monkey was looking for a 4 car garage. But, I had to accept the possibility that I could be living in the house for a long time. Like with any down market, there are no guarantees. I’ve had all sorts of advice – my dad basically said “Screw her, move back to Canada”, my father-in-law told me to short sell it when times get tough, and my neighbor told me that we should get back together and tough it out. There was no way that I could walk away and ruin my credit rating. Recently I found out that my wife was fired from her job at the university. Since she was self employed and a disaster at money management, there was no way that we would last a week together. 

Will the house sell for $155,000? Who knows. Last year, any Joe Lunchbox could get a mortgage with nothing down and have bad credit. Today, the nothing down mortgage is gone. Also gone are the fly by night brokers. Many of the banks in the area have tighten their belts. Hopefully at the end of the month, people will be getting back from vacation and beginning to look for a house. I hope they do, because if I don't sell it by winter. I'll literally be living in a van down by the river.......

Too Little , Too Late?

There was an article in Sunday’s Plain Dealer a couple of weeks ago about invasive species entering and altering Lake Erie’s ecosystem. The article detailed the damage these invasive species are having on the lake’s native fish and the economic impact to the environment and recreational fishing. It also looked into what the federal and state governments are doing to stop further damage from sea faring vessels dumping their ballast water into the Great Lakes.

Over the past three decades, 183 strange and exotic creatures have been released into the Great Lakes from the ballast of ocean freighters arriving from around the world, according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. In the 50s and 60s, it was the lamprey scourge that wiped out the vast schools of lake trout and whitefish. In the 80s, the ruffe, spiny water flea and zebra mussels started their assault. In 90s, the round goby arrived. Last year, viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), killed large numbers of Lake Erie sheepshead and other game fish. Now the Asian carp is poised to eventually enter the Great Lakes. It’s just a question of when will they make their way in. With their large size, voracious appetites and prolific breeding, they could be the final knockout blow for the Great Lakes sports fishing industry.

During a 25 year period, Lake Erie’s ecosystem has taken a beating. Erie is the most fertile of the Great Lakes and has more species of fish then all of the lakes combined. The biggest culprit has been the zebra and quagga mussels. As efficient filter feeders, they have cleared the once murky waters. The mussels have robbed much of the lake’s phytoplankton. The end result has been poor hatches of walleye and perch. The young fry often rely on the plankton for a food source. 

Now the zebra mussels are being taken over by the larger quagga mussels. Like the zebra mussel, they too are efficient filter feeders and their waste spews large amounts of phosphate. Over the past several summers, there has been a large dead zone found in the central basin of the lake. This is due to the quagga mussels and biologists are helpless to stop it. 

Then came along the round goby from the Baltic region of Europe. This troublesome little fish has been especially detrimental to smallmouth bass, with hordes of the small bottom-feeding fish feasting on bass eggs during the spawning season. Studies have shown gobies ganging up on a bass nest, taking turns darting to the nest to eat eggs. Tournament fisherman that frequent the lake can't help but notice the decline in the smallmouth bass population. More and more anglers are starting to see smaller number of fish being caught. Also disturbing are the lack of young bass being caught. 

Just last spring there were reports of many dead and dying sheepshead washing up on the beaches around the Cleveland area. Many of these fishes had large red spots throughout their bodies. At first many biologists were puzzled at the large number of dead fish. Then they found out it was a virus. The virus was identified as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and it had originated from Europe. The virus also killed large numbers of perch. As for steelhead, I didn't notice any fish afflicted with the virus and the number of fish caught hadn't decreased from the previous year. Because of VHS, fish cannot be transported over state lines. The end result is many bait shops cannot get bait fish from neighboring states. The one bait shop I frequent for the large emerald shiners can no longer get them and those shiners come from the Niagara River. Today, the bait shop must rely on shiners caught from locals. 

Where did all of these invasive species came from? They stowed away in the ballast tanks of ocean freighters. Ballast water is a necessity. Held in tanks below the decks of big ocean-going ships, it provides stability and helps maneuverability. When ballast water is pumped into the ships at foreign ports, the organisms from that part of the world become part of the ballast package. As ships are loaded at U.S. ports, they discharge the ballast water. To prevent those organisms from entering the lakes, the ships are supposed to exchange the freshwater ballast with salt water before leaving the ocean. Unfortunately, a large percentage doesn't bother with it so they can save time, money and maintain the stability of their ships. But even flushing the tanks with salt water does guarantee the removal of the organisms. 

Coast Guard figures show that at least 30 percent of ocean ships have been allowed to enter the Great Lakes without their ballast being checked. The ship captains simply declare there is no ballast on board, which is called the NOBOB rule. The U.S. Coast Guard, the federal agency designated to deal with ballast, does not check those ships. The EPA says only the Coast Guard can enforce ballast laws, and the Coast Guard was told to upgrade its enforcement of ballast water in 2002. But after 9/11, the Coast Guard has had to pick up the increased homeland-security responsibilities. This makes it even more difficult to check ships arriving in the United States.

Researchers around the world have tried a wide range of tactics to cleanse ballast, or deprive it of oxygen so it won't support life. The shipping industry has spent millions, and so have public and private researchers. A collaboration of Nebraska biologists and educators called ESCAPE keeps a running tally of invasive-species damage caused around the Great Lakes. The total for 2007 hit $67 billion this week.

The federal and state governments need to draft legislation with teeth to stop the invasion. Unfortunately there isn't enough political will to help the Great Lakes. I've often wonder what will the Great Lakes be like in 50 years. Will the Asian carp be the dominant fish? Will I reminisce about the glory days fishing for walleye, perch and steelhead? As of today, the future looks bleak for the Great Lakes.