Gifts for the Steelheader

With Christmas around the corner every steelheader is hoping that Santa brings them something useful such as a new rod, reel, clothing or in my case some eggs. But with my taste for high end stuff, I'll be lucky to get a pair of socks. 

Waterproof Electronics - We've done it, cameras and phones dropped in the water. So far to date I've destroyed 2 cameras and 2 phones and I lost a waterproof camera on a flight to Vegas. Cameras come in handy because of Murphy's law #6 - you land the fish of a lifetime and the camera is at home. Also make sure to carry extra batteries because of Murphy's law #7 - you have a 20lbs steelhead ready for the money shot and the batteries are dead. A great camera is the Olympus Stylus 770.

Cooler - Nothing better ends a hot day in October or April then reaching in for a ice cold beer or two or three.

Jerky - The breakfast of champions. I can't get enough of jerky in the morning with a scolding cup of coffee.

Grey Goose Vodka - I give the French credit, they make a kick ass vodka. A favorite Christmas drink - Hot Russian

1 oz Grey Goose
1 oz Kahlua
1 oz eggnog
2/3 cup of hot chocolate

Take 2 packets of hot chocolate mix and put them into the coffee mug. Add the shots of eggnog, vodka, and Kahlua. Fill the rest of the coffee mug with hot water. Stir. You may need to heat the drink up in the microwave for 30 seconds before serving. When nice and hot, serve.

Thermal Clothing - The majority of steelheading is done during the winter months and nothing ruins a day freezing your ass off after a couple of hours in the water. Under Armour is probably the most popular active wear used by steelheaders. They make undershirts, leggings and socks. It's not cheap, but it's well worth it.

To butter up the old lady for another season of steelheading, jewelry or a trip to Vegas will score big points. I did both and I got a divorce - maybe I should of taken her to Celine's show instead of Louie Anderson. Merry Christmas.

Gnarly Steelhead

Once in while we catch a fish that is really fucked up looking. Something that looks like it came from Chernobyl. They defy the notion survival of the fittest. Whatever the case, there were times I was debating whether to put them out of their misery. Here's the motley collection

This fish above looked like it swallowed a softball. I was tempted to club it over the head, but instead I released it. I watched it float off downstream and eventually sink into the abyss.

This fish was actually fat and healthy looking despite the fact it's bottom jaw was deformed. I remember my younger brother having his jaw reconstructed and being on a liquid diet for six weeks. Remarkable that fish could eat.

Every year I catch a few fish sporting some gnarly lamprey wounds or scars.

Caught this fish after ice out. Steelhead can be vulnerable to getting injured or even killed by chunks of ice because most of streams along Steelhead Alley are very shallow. The wound pattern shows a narrow long cut the length of the back and it was caused by a sharp piece of ice. Released it and it took off like a champ.

This little brown trout had what looks like a recent lamprey wound.

It just shows you how tough these fish really are. 

Weather Man Sucks

I want to kick Dick Godard in the balls. Dick is Fox channel 8 weather dinosaur and basically made my weekend miserable in regards to the weather. With the crappy conditions I had to contend with last weekend, I was looking forward to making up for that debacle. Fortunately, the fishing gods took pity on me and blessed me with some fish. Earlier in the week the weather outlook for the upcoming weekend was calling for a chilly Saturday morning followed by temps in the upper 30s with bright skies. For Sunday, there was a 30% chance of rain. But, but and that's a big but, because every angler knows how accurate the weather reporting can be.

 Saturday morning, I drove east only to see the river clogged with slush. It wasn't those small annoying blobs, it was more like those blobs that could devour a steelheader. I rolled the dice as I knew the night time temps were to be in the 20s, but I figured the river would be slush free due to the blowout and warmer temps earlier in the week. With the sun, I thought the slush would burn off by noon, wrong. I made the best of a bad situation and tried fish through it. I re-rigged with my slush buster set-up. I stacked all of my shots low and I had to drop shot it between chunks. The shots would enable me to get everything down quick before a blob devoured my float. I managed to catch some nice size fish including one large male that ripped through several slush chunks with relative ease. The temperature barely made it out of the 20s and the wind made it felt even colder. I looked at the time and it was almost 12:00P.M. It was time for plan B and headed to another river even though I knew it was higher and off color. I arrived to see there was no slush, but the water was dirty. By now it was almost 1:00P.M and it still felt cold. I figured there was no way the slush would burn off. The fishing sucked and I decided to give it a try again tomorrow. On the way home, I listened to radio and the temperature was 29F and this was 2:00P.M. Later I found out the slush in fact did burn off around 2:00P.M and the fish turned on.........d'oh.

We all know that the weather man can screw up the forecast. It's pretty a given nearly every week during the season when he's calls for rain only to find out that nothing happens. Or there's the case of calling no rain, only to get soaked because I left my jacket at home. After a while I've come to the conclusion, that most of the time even he doesn't have a clue what's going to happen with the weather. 

While it's a minor inconvenience for me, imagine the guys having to make a two or three hour drive. They have no idea what's going to happen and I've run into guys on the river that showed only to see it clogged with slush or blow out before noon. I often hear the

"But, but, but the weatherman said it wasn't suppose to rain?"

Now they're looking at a stream that's turning to shit and to make things worse, they'll drive back with a skunk around their necks. 

Winter Steelhead Tactics

winter steelhead on the rocky river

Fishing for steelhead in the winter separates the boys from the men. Frigid temperatures can test even the hardiest of steelheaders. Dealing with side ice and slush. Driving through lake effect snows. We can wear the warmest of clothing, only to succumb to the elements. Working the pools and holes can be a long drawn out process that can test the most patient of anglers. But you can be rewarded if you know what your doing and willing to put the work in.

Location, location, location

When water temperatures get into the low 30s, a steelhead's metabolism is almost catatonic. They'll seek places in the river where they'll get relief from the current. That's where reading water is invaluable. When I fish during cold periods, I look for the slowest flowing parts of a river. Places I'll fish will be the lower sections close to the lake if ice isn't an issue. Here the rivers tend to be wider, more flat, and a little deeper. Any structure at the bottom such as rocks and lumber will be utilized by fish to conserve energy. Other places will be the wide bends and the tail end of pools. On bends, fish will hang off the main current, so watch the speed of the bubble line. At the tail end of pools, fish prefer to be there as the current is deflected up and away. Other areas to target include along shale ledges and drop off in pools that are not deep. If side ice is present, drift a float as close as possible as fish often use the ice as cover. 

winter centerpinning for steelhead

Time of Day

When night time temperatures get into the low 20s or teens, I'll sleep in. The reason why is slush. Fishing in slush is pointless and quite honestly a waste of time. At times it can be so thick that it's impossible to fish. The best thing to do is go later in the day, especially on days when the sun is out. As the day progresses, the sun's rays warm the water. Gradually the chunks of slush get smaller and smaller. By mid to late afternoon, it's usually all gone. The other advantage of going later is the water temperature might go up a couple degrees. That little bump could the difference whether a fish is willing to move to take your bait or fly. The added bonus is a lot of the best spots will be vacant as the majority of anglers that tried to fish in the morning are gone. 

Cut Back on Bright Colors

I've heard some people say that bright colors are effective on steelhead in cold water because  "bright" colors get their attention. There's been plenty scientific studies that show fish will react in certain light and background conditions. While it's true that bright colors are more effective in stained conditions and natural colors in clear water. It depends what river I'm fishing on. The Grand is a river that runs off color the majority of the time. But in the winter when the clay and mud bank freeze up, the water will turn to a tea color. In water like that I'll use a chartruese or pink colored sac. The other rivers run much clearer and in the deeper sections the water takes on a greenish hue. In conditions like that I'll use white, blue, peach, or red as they're more subtle. The same can be said about jigs as my favorite color is simple 1/32 oz white one.

Getting Jiggy With It

The majority of steelheaders will use sacs exclusively. During cold weather a jig can be deadly. I carry a wide variety of jigs of different colors. The best color for me are white with a red or pink head. Another favorite pattern is a white zonker. The marabou breathes enough life that a lethargic steelhead might be tempt to take it.

Bundle Up

Winter along the Steelhead Alley isn't as severe as the Northern Great Lakes states, but it still can get cold. Wearing the right type of clothing is essential. When I fish during the winter, I layer my clothing. All of my clothing consists of fleece and polyester. Your clothing should also have the ability to wick away any moisture. For a shirt I wear a compression long sleeved shirt. For my legs I wear a compression long johns and over that I are fleece pants. For my feet I wear a pair of polypropylene socks and over that wool socks. Make sure that you have enough room in your boots. Because if your boots are too small, your feet won't be able to move blood and that's when your feet start to get cold. That's why I buy boots a couple sizes bigger to accommodate socks. For a jacket I wear a fleece one and over that I wear another jacket made of goretex. Head gear is always a toque or balaclava. I'll also bring along a pair of gloves. Even though I never wear them while I'm fishing, I'll put them on when I walk from spot to spot. Another important item that anglers forget is bringing a small towel. Towels come in handy to wipe your hands when releasing a fish. Nothing is worse than cold fingers, because you need them to tie knots. In my jacket is where I carry a couple heat packs. They give off plenty heat to get those fingers functioning again. 

Be Patience 

You'll need a lot of it when it because these fish won't budge as you'll need to practically put it on their nose. That means working the section and having to try different colors or presentations. You might have also move around to find where fish are holding. 

Gary Bettman Hates Sloppy Seconds

Sean Avery
The biggest shit disturber, asshole, scumbag and punk Sean Avery got sent to the principal's office for saying bad things about his former puck bunny Elisha Cuthbert. It all started when the Star's pest made the comment 

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight." 

Avery was punished indefinitely by commissioner Gary Bettman for the crude comments and kept him from playing against the Flames and for good reason as Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf is currently dating Cuthbert. Instead of suspending him, Bettman should have thrown him out on the ice and let him and Phaneuf settle it with a good ole fashion NHL scrap. 

I think the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Trash talking is a part of sports and there's some guys that are masters at it. Avery will always be an asshole because that's what keeps him employed. There's always been a place for players like Avery in the NHL, the guy that gets under your skin, throws you off your game and relishes that role. But you have to wonder if the Stars regret signing him, because he a history of questionable behavoir on and off the ice. 

Back to the river.

Gobble, Gobble

Couldn't ask for a nicer day to go fishing than on Thanksgiving. It was especially nice that most of the steelheaders couldn't weasel their way into a day of fishing. The in laws, the honey to do list or peeling an endless pile of potatoes. Because I knew tomorrow, the rivers would their version of Black Friday. Even though I have the day off, I'll be more than happy to sleep in and instead of parking on a spot in the dark waiting for first light, only to hear the voices and splashing in the water as more anglers take up their places at the pools. 

Due the warmer temperatures most of the snow melted and the streams came up. I knew of several that would be borderline and I was the guinea pig for several others hoping to wet a line for tomorrow. I received the calls early in the morning and gave the thumbs up and resumed fishing. Some of them pissed and moaned, that they couldn't get out. The morning crowd showed up and frantically fished before the dreaded calls came in. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. By noon, I had the river to myself and I enjoyed it as much as possible. It's rare to enjoy solitude on some of Steelhead Alley's streams at the high of the fall run.

Fishing was tough as the water was high, stained and colder than a witches tittie. But I found several players, including one hog that wouldn't budge from the tailout. But I managed to screw that up as I took my time and the fish got fed up and turned and burned into the chute - snap. It was mostly fresh fish hanging out at the tailouts that hit quarter sized sacs in pink or chartreuse. After exhausting my supply of bait, I went for a drive to see the longest covered bridge in the U.S . I heard all of the hub-bub when it first opened for the general public to see. It's pretty high up almost a 100' and I doubt the Amish will fish from it unlike another covered bridge in the same county. 

Back To The Grind

Vacations are never long enough. It's Monday morning and I'm heading to work. Inching along in traffic, its back to the grind. I'm not thrilled at the prospect walking into the office and looking in my box to see nothing. Winter is usually a quiet time for me. It's either feast or famine when it comes to work. I enter the building and I see some of my co-workers who ask how the vacation was. I said the fishing was great and I wished I had another week. They nod in agreement. I look at the calender and sigh, next November seems so far away. 

The vacation was needed as the grind of a busy season wore me out. The last time I took vacation was in early April and you guessed it, I was out fishing. I couldn't bare the thought of taking time off during the summer. That's the time to make as much money as possible. Those huge bonuses and overtime, fueled me to go all out. I had all winter to kick back and relax. 

I look at the schedule and there's odd jobs for the week, enough to get me out of the office. But for the time being I sit a chair back in the break room and drink my coffee. I have a couple hours to kill before I head out to my first job. I start to reminisce about the week I had off. The entire week hitting different streams along the Alley. Even though it was my vacation week, I still got up early. I drove in the dark on my way out east. I wanted to be on the trail at first light. I wasn't going to dick around. I had a plan on where to fish. Since I was single, I was going to fish until I either ran out of bait or light. It was like that nearly every day. 

Unfortunately when you're on the streams all day, time flies. Before you know it, it's Friday and there's two more days before the fun times are over. There are times I wished I could retire early like my father or win the lottery. I spend nearly every waking moment on the streams. One of the guys we fished with just retired from GM and that was last we saw of him. I don't blame him, why would I want to fish on the weekend with the hoards? He had the rest of life to get out and fish. As I'm sitting finishing off my coffee, I wouldn't be surprised if he's down at the Rock fishing alone. I feel a ting of envy thinking about it. I cherish the one week I had. If I make it to ten years at the company, I'll get another week of vacation and that's eight years away. 

Hopefully I can make it to ten years, because another week off would help make the grind that more easy.

Just Another Outing

Any hardcore angler knows that the weathermen is wrong most of the time. Last night they tossed the dart at the board and it came up as lake effect snows and they would be severe at times. Lake effect snow is often hit and miss and today it completely missed out where I was fishing. The roads were wet and I bombed down the interstate without breaking a sweat. It was chilly when I started fishing not to long I was fighting with ice build-up on the guides. This was the only annoyance with the cold, as last week I spent a ton of dough on winter clothing. Last season I got tired of getting cold after several hours of fishing. I wasn't a tightwad as I bought several Under Armour coldgear undershirts and longjohns, Polartec fleece pants, fleece jacket, and a toque. If this was last year, I would of been squealing about the cold and today I didn't even feel it. As for the weather you couldn't ask for nicer conditions - partly cloudy with periods of sun. A friend of mine was surprised that it didn't snow as he cancelled his trip today.

It was nice to see snow again and nicer to see my nemesis the fair weather fishermen absent from the water. As expected with colder temps, the fish parked themselves at the tail end of the pools or off the main current. Even with the colder water, all of the fish fought very hard and a couple leaped from the water. Most of the fish were in their full winter colors and the hens had full bellies of eggs. The fishing wasn't bad and the key was staying mobile as I bounced around from spot to spot and had most of them to myself.

Old man winter will be hanging around for most of the week. On the way back home, most of the other streams are still a day away from being fishable. The eastside as expected received more snow and during the day some of it was melting from the trees and cliffs. Another cold front to arrive later this week and drop the temps below 32F for Friday and Saturday - the diehards will be smiling and the fairweather fishermen will be marking off the days until April...........

Deja Vu All Over Again

As expected the beginning of my vacation starts off with what else - rain. Yes we needed a lot of it to flush out the leaves, summer silt and trigger a big push of fish. But could it wait at least another week! This is the chance I took when booking off time in November, as the weather is so unpredictable. Last night the weather honks were calling for rain all day Saturday and on Sunday the bottom drops out as temps are to be in the 30s all of next week -lovely. Last November, I started my vacation week with rivers in Ohio blown out and I had to jump across the border to get my fishing fix. As it turned out I had the best day fishing wise in the 10 years of living in Steelhead Alley. But this year, I might be in for a tough time as a bunch of Alberta clippers (what's a clipper named that enters Alberta?). But this Canuck can deal with some harsh conditions.

Last night I checked the radar and noticed the rain wouldn't start until early Saturday morning. That was plenty of time to get in some fishing before the water got too high. That evening I tied up a ton of sacs and went to bed later then usual as I knew I wouldn't have to beat anybody to the river. When I left it was still relatively warm and lightly rained the entire way out. I arrived at 6:30A.M, there were no cars to be seen. I looked at the river it was in perfect condition, I figured I had at least 7 hours of fishing before the river started to blow out. I stuck to the lower end and fished the faster water as the river was still warm. It was a mixed bag of skippers and plump adults. Some of the fish were on the large size and with the warmer water temperature, a couple of them ripped off some nice runs. As the morning progressed the water levels came up, but the visibility held. Nearly all of the fish were hold in shallow water right in the middle of the bubble line or at the head of the riffles and runs.

The rain on the other hand didn't let up as a couple of anglers around me that didn't have waterproof jackets bailed after a couple of hours. I was lucky enough to get a spot under the bridge and enjoyed the period of fishing without having to wipe water off my glasses. The fishing was off and on as several would be caught and then the bite would shut off. I was going to fish as long as possible as I knew the river wouldn't be fishable for at least 3 to 4 days. I moved downstream not far from the lake and I meet up with a friend. We knew some fish were staging at the lower end waiting to come up. As the water levels started to rise we noticed waves of fish moving up as we would bang fish quickly and then it died off. Once I used up all of my sacs I called it a day as I looked like a soaked rat and it was a good call. On the way back home I hit the cold front and the wind really picked up. The lake turned nasty as the winds shifted from the south to the northwest.

Now we're offically into winter steelheading. The fair weather fishermen will be parked on the couch for the duration of the year and the true diehards will be on the prowl. Fishing in the Buckeye State will be out of the question for most of the week as nearly an inch of rain fell. We'll she if ole Red is up to the challenge driving through the heart of the snowbelt.

Another Lame Election

On November 4th, Americans finally ended the most obnoxious election I've ever seen. I was ready to fire a brick through the TV because of the non stop commercials. I was bombarded with robo-calls for both Obama and McCain. I sick of Joe the Plumber ( in Canada he would be Pierre de Plumber ) bullshit. This is the price I pay for living in the battleground state of Ohio. Why can't Ohio be irrelevant like Vermont or Iowa? Then there were the college kids knocking on doors asking to register people and I having to tell me "Your the 5th person to ask me to register and I can't vote because I'm not a U.S citizen" All of them looked like your typical young liberal - unkempt looking, probably had a hacky sac on them and lived on a diet of hemp and rice crackers. I even had one guy say I spoke good English for a foreigner huh? 

The U.S election is crazy compared to Canada. I remember my ex-wife getting the absentee ballots for the last two elections and there was everything from president right down to the dog catcher. There was federal, state, local, county judges, county commissioners, school issues, fire and where should the mail box be placed and so on. She spent hours poking out those stupid chads. I remember voting in Canada for prime minister and there were 5 choices and checked off your party and that was it.

As soon as the economy went into the shitter, McCain was basically screwed. It was Obama's election to lose and as soon as the T.V hacks made their predictions that Obama won Ohio, it was over. No candidate running for president that didn't win Ohio - lost. McCain didn't do that badly, but was a shit kicking for the Republicans. Since I'm considered middle class that means most politicians couldn't give a shit about me once the election is over. Everbody at work has asked me what socialism is like and I reply "You'll find out soon enough".

Obama has a huge mess on his hands. The big 3 in Detroit are hanging by a thread, there is no money left to spread around, and everybody is broke. It's going to be a Merry Christmas this year...........

The X-1 reel

Newsflash! It rained for more then 2 hours on the west side of Cleveland. The 20 or so fish waiting in the Rocky headed upstream before the hoards of hillbillies started lining the banks and fords. That Friday evening, I was tying up some sacs and closely watching the radar on the computer. Most of the rain was falling on the west side, but it also was raining out to the east. That day, I got the green light go fishing as my 2nd and 4th Saturdays at work are put on the back burner until next spring - thank god. I got sick and tired on coming in to do one or two jobs and clocking out at 10:30A.M. 

I went to bed smelling of eggs and around 4:45A.M, I woke up and checked the flow gauges. The Rocky, Vermilion and Chagrin shot up like a rocket. The Grand however had a hiccup and went up to 350cfs. I called a source and the streams way out east missed out on the rain altogether. I loaded up the Jeep and hit the road early. I parked at one of the metro parks and started to walk upstream - big mistake. The grass so high I thought I was on safari somewhere in India and I was in need of an elephant. I hobbled, tripped and cursed like a sailor in the dark as I slipped in several ruts along the trail. I managed to hack my way out of the grasslands and had a relatively easy time walking through the woods. I finally reached my spot and it was first light, the river was up slightly and I noticed a shitload of leaves going downstream.

The spot was a run below a feeder creek and it had a nice slot that held a lot of fish during the fall and spring. I pulled several shots down to get the sac down fast as slot was about 20yd and tailed out quickly. I stood upstream and let the float go downstream running it along the mud line. It didn't take long to find fish and it was a mixed bag of skippers, fat males and chrome hens. The spot coughed up a lot of fish and I had a long list of spots to hit. I looked at the time and it was 10:00A.M, so I had plenty of time. Once I got away from that spot the fishing was tough as most of spots I fished were traditional winter holding areas. Even though the temperature was in the 40s today, the river was still warm thanks to almost a week of 70 degree weather and most of the fish were holding in faster water. So I skipped the slower holes and hit another spot similar to one I fished before. But just like upstream, I struggled to find the mother load of fish. Didn't help that the immense number of leaves floating downstream wreaked havoc with my drifts. I looked at the time and it was 2:00P.M, by now I was extremely bored, cranky from all of the leaves and sick and tired of listening the constant gun fire from the skeet club. Since this was a scouting trip, I knew these section was being crossed off for tomorrow.

Later that evening I was preparing for tomorrow's trip with another steelhead junkie - Dave. Dave is a west side steelheader and was looking to expand his options as fishing the Rocky will do that to a person. Dave arrived at my place and I was surprised to see how much weight he lost. During the summer he shaved off 70lbs and he was a big guy that played football for Ohio State as a defensive end. We headed out east back to the same spot I fished yesterday. For once it was nice to have somebody drive for a change. The weather today was typical of November - cold, dreary and windy. The wind today was a huge pain in the ass, leaves everywhere and line blowing off the water. As expected, whenever I take somebody fishing to spot I did well the day before, we struggled to hook up. It was one or two fish here and there. The conditions were perfect, but the fish were very finicky and even the faggy chubs took pity on us.

Dave showed me his latest toy - a HBE reel made by a Swiss company looking to get into the hot Great Lakes pinning market. It looked like something the Russians would of developed in a in top secret lab somewhere in Siberia. I remember seeing the reel at Erie Outfitters last winter and I wasn't keen about it as I found some glaring issues with it. One was the material it was made of - carbon fiber. One big pissed off steelhead with a heavy flow behind him would literally burn the tips of your fingers off in a heartbeat from the resin finish. The other was the reel didn't have a backplate and a misplaced pinkie could get chopped off. The reel was very light, weighing under 3ozs compared to my Kingpin that weighted over 9ozs. The start-up was insanely low and Dave really enjoyed his reel.

Unfortunately the fish weren't playing ball and I made the call to head down river. I took Dave to another spot that was great for pinning. With the windy conditions, I figured most of the fair weather fishermen would be parked on the couch. As we drove into Painesville, I could see the parking lots full near the river. Over one bridge, I could see several hearty souls fishing. We arrived at the park and I gave Dave the scoop on what to expect and where to fish. This spot got the full effect of the wind and it was blowing downstream. There were a couple of people fishing and there was plenty of room. I pointed out a spot and we started off fishing, right off the bat we started off with a double header - which was great or bad. As Dave was beaching his fish, some hillbilly asked for his fish and Dave gave to him. If it were me, I would pull off my boot and inform him it would taste better. The wind made trotting difficult as Siglon and brisk winds don't mix. We shuffled down the section and couldn't get any players. I noticed the water had a tannic stain and that could of been a factor as I people I talked to said it was slow all morning. After an hour, we decided to call it a day and went to lunch and nothing beats a hot meal on a cold day.

Currently most of the streams are starting to drop and will fish on Monday. The streams out east are low and clear and the conditions will favor the fly flingers. There is no rain for the upcoming week and I wouldn't be surprised to see the monsoons hit on Monday when I start vacation.

Another Road Trip

Today ushered in November and many of the diehard steelheaders welcomed Daylight Savings with an extra hour of sleep. Another bonus was the lower gas prices as I filled up the Jeep the night before with gas at $1.86 per gallon. That's a far cry from a couple months ago when gas was almost $4.00 per gallon. With the lower fuel costs, I was more willing to rack up the miles in search of steel. I took the Saturday off as I fished pretty hard the day before and my knees needed a break. It was refreshing to sleep in. I spent the afternoon at Gander Mountain buying some clothes for the upcoming winter. They had great deals on socks, sweaters and long underwear. After that I spent the rest of the day stinking up the kitchen as I tied a ton of sacs for Sunday.

The weather was to be warmer and that meant my old nemesis would be out - fairweather fishermen and hillbillies. I left in the pitch dark and I wasn't that groggy considering it was really 5:30A.M. This is the time of the year to be cautious during the early hours as the rut is on here in Northeastern Ohio. All over the local highways there is a fair share of carcasses littering the median and blood splats on the road. Wired with a week's worth of caffeine, I made it to the river around 6:00A.M and I could see about 6 cars parked. I pretty well knew where all of the folks were fishing and I walked upstream to one of my favorite spots.

It was still dark and with a click, I started fishing. I have to admit that those float lights are killer and a couple of friends asked me to get them some. It was a chilly morning as I noticed ice forming on the guides. I fished tailouts and it was a chore to get a bite. The water had a perfect color, some of the leaves were washed away and most of the fish probably had very little pressure. For two hours, I banged one section from top to bottom and had two fish for my efforts. By know it was 8:00A.M and I packed up and walked around the bend, in the distance I could see a lot of people fishing upstream. I knew how this morning was going to shape up - elbows and assholes. I walked downstream and I could see a ton of people, as I walked on the bridge I looked down and noticed one spot wasn't being fished. I've learned over the years that you never leave any stone unturned and I apply this to fishing. Most people would decline fishing it since it's so close to the bridge, thinking it was probably pounded earlier. I casted out and on the first drift the float tapped and it was a chrome hen that hit a peach sac. I quickly caught a couple more fish and several people downstream looked surprised considering I whacked them so quickly. But this was a small hole and probably a small number of fish. I looked the time and it was 10:00A.M and I had a hankering to move another river. I called a buddy up fishing farther upstream and he told me it was a zoo. I knew where he was fishing and I didn't want to take a number and wait in line.

I hopped in the Jeep and drove west. I had one section I wanted to fish and this early in the season can be a crap shot. Either there will be fish or none at all. I pulled into the parking lot and got out. I looked downstream and didn't see a soul. My curiosity got the better of me and I figured what the hell. I walked along the river and you couldn't ask for better conditions, the water was slightly stained and the flow was perfect. I fished a favorite spot and managed a couple of fish in two hours of fishing. I figured most of the fish were still downstream and still making their way upstream. I walked back and drove to the lower section, thinking that most of the people were at home watching the Browns. I headed to one of the metro parks and walked downstream. In the distance, I could see four anglers and there was plenty of room to get off some Olympic distance drifts. This was a nice flat with some depth that flowed into a bend and a pile of lumber. The flow was fast, so I pulled all of the shots down to the bottom about 14" from the hook. I set the float at 4' and cranked out a long cast. I feathered the pin to slow down the float, but I had no takers for a while. It was early afternoon and I wonder if there were a lot of sore jaws on the bottom. Undaunted, I start to shuffle my way down and it I hit the first fish - a large male. I managed some fish and looked at the time 3:30P.M and sun was starting to get low. I was satisfied with the day and gave some poor soul the rest of uncured eggs as he was posting a goose egg. I gave him some pointers and wished him luck. On the way home I listened the Browns cough up a 14 point lead and eventually lose to the Ratbirds.

Sounding like a broken record, the streams will be low and clear in a couple of days. We'll be getting a small dose of Indian summer this week as the temps are to be in the upper 60s and low 70s. I think the fish will push their way upstream regardless of the flow. Counting down the days for vacation week.

Trick or Treat

Took a well deserved day off from all of the bullshit at work and what better way to spend it fishing on the last day of October. Earlier in the week we had some cold weather and my procrastinating caught up to me as I waited until the last minute to get my gas hooked up at my apartment. Wednesday night the temps dipped into the low 30s and I froze my ass off. Out east in the snowbelt there were reports of snow and sleet. With the front going over the lake, it was either lake effect rain or snow. I heard through the grapevine that some of the eastern tribs got high as of result of precipitation. How much rain or runoff was anybody's guess. That was perfect for Friday as the weather was be sunny and in the 60s.

With it being Halloween, it would been a hoot dressing up as a giant pink spawn sac or piece of skein or maybe as Donnie Beaver with a giant streamer stuck in the eye. Joking aside, I was going to meet up with a good friend that I haven't fished with for a while. Earlier in the week, I made plans and kept an eye and ear out for info. I heard some rivers were too high and others too low and others had very little fish in them. But there's always a place to fish on Steelhead Alley.

I arrived at the river just before first light and noticed it was in perfect condition. The water was stained from the rotting leaves and the color was perfect for concealing steelhead. The night before I tied a bunch of assorted flavor sacs - peach, pink, red and chartruese and any leftovers would be used as treats for the neigbourhood brats. I was to meet up with the Dfishinfool - Don Mathews. Don was scouting the river for the upcoming weekend of guiding. But before he showed up, I killed some time by spanking fish out of a hole in one section. Eventually he arrived and I was armed with the pin and he had his fly rod and battle ensued. Due the tannic conditions and lower water levels, most if not all of the fish were in deeper runs and pools. We had some double headers and every spot gave up some fat spunky fish. We ended up equal in the pin vs fly battle, but I'm sure I'll kick ass as soon as the snow flies. Most of the fish were holding in the tail end or slack parts of the pools. We continued downstream and I ran into another old friend and we chatted for a bit.

By now the sun was coming up and I was going to head over to the Conneaut with Don as he was going to Erie to get some supplies. I called a source to find out that the Connie was still high and off color. I had second thoughts and Don told me he would stop by to take a look on his to Erie. I started back upstream and tried the same spots we fished earlier. I recieved a call and was told the Connie was out of the question today and tomorrow. It was 11:30A.M and the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was rising. The bite shut off and I was starting to get really hot, so I walked back to the lot and took off the two sweaters I was wearing. I hopped in the Jeep and drove into town to fish a couple of spots. As expected there were a lot people that called in with the 24 hour flu. I was able fish one spot and caught some more before calling it a day around 3:00P.M. I wasn't thrilled at the thought of driving into Cleveland around 4:00P.M as 2 lanes were closed on the I-90 bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River. Sure enough the traffic piled up about a mile from Deadman's curve and I was lucky enough that I knew my way around "da hood" and avoiding gridlock.

We're still waiting for that elusive blowout to happen. For the time being, every time the water levels go up some more fish push up. However, the majority of trees have yet to shed their leaves. Most of those leaves have ended up on the bottom of the streams and the water has that tannic color. Tannin is a weak acid that can affect steelhead's behaviour and movement. But with a good presentation, fish can be had. As it's with every year here on Steelhead Alley, we eventually get a rainfall that flushes out the leaves and silt. Hopefully, that doesn't happen the 3rd week of November - the week of my vacation.

Night Time Steelhead

universal beacon

There's something about fishing at night for steelhead. The eerie feeling that something or someone is watching you. Hearing the rustling of some unknown creature in the surrounding woods. The hairs on your neck stand up. You stand alone in the dark and you don't see anything. All you hear is the sound of moving water. Fishing in the dark isn't for everyone. It takes a special type of angler that loves the challenge of fishing during the night. The biggest appeal of night fishing is you won't have to worry about other anglers. When the crowds leave and the river becomes a quiet place. Once the sun set and darkness encroaches, steelhead will become active. I've done it several times on the Rocky and Conneaut. It will either be early in the morning or after the sun set in the fall or spring. I've learned from one guy, who we call the night stalker as he does a lot of fishing in the dark, even in the winter. Over the years, he's honed his craft and enjoys his time out when most of us are fixtures on the couch watching TV. 

night float set up

When comes to night fishing, you need some form of light. A head lamp isn't strong enough. The best lights are the universal beacons from Rod and Bobber. Nearly every Walmart carries them or you can buy them online. They come with a variety of holders for different types of floats. I prefer the holders that fit on the float as it's more stable and you don't need to cut the line. You simply slide it up the float until it's snug. I find either the 5g or 6.2g Raven FM floats to be the best for the set up I use. The light is one of those sticks that you crack and the fluid inside mixes and starts to glow. The stick is pretty bright as you can see from a far distance. 

The hardest part of night fishing for steelhead is detecting the hit. When the water is clear, the light is strong enough that it can be seen underwater. If the take is light, you might think you've bottomed out and not set the hook. But most of the time, when the water is warmer, the hits will be fast and violent. What I've learned is watching the light for any odd movements and setting the hook regardless. 

Berkeley atomic jig

Most of the time when I'm night fishing, I'll be using sacs. But, another effective presentation is Berkley's power bait atomic glow tube jigs. The jigs are prerigged and come in packs of 3. I like the use the 1/16 ozs jigs. You can use a headlamp or the flashlight from your smartphone and shine it on the jig. Within a few seconds the jig starts to glow. This is very effective in the spring when shiners will come up the lower section of the rivers. There's times when I've caught a lot fish using them. 

But before you head out make sure that you're allowed to do it. The Rocky River metroparks closes at 11:00 PM so if you're out on the river, don't be surprised that you a visit from the park ranger asking you to reel in and have a nice night. Other communities might have hours where you're not allowed to fish during late evening hours. Usually I don't like to fish in the dark in rural areas, because I've heard cases of people cars getting broken into, especially around the more popular spots. However, I really don't know anybody that pulls an all nighter when it comes to fishing at night. I'll usually fish for a couple hours once the sun sets and that's about it. 

Night fishing can be thrilling and a challenge. So instead of sitting on the couch flicking through channels on what to watch, head down to the river and give it a try. 

Sound Investing Advice

The economy here has really gone down the shitter. How bad it is?

If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Airlines stock one year ago, you would have $49 left. With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left  of the original $1,000. With AIG, you would have less than $15 left. But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have $214 cash.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

As for fishing, I worked like a mother all week and had a heavy load for Saturday as I'm trying to stuff more cash into the mattress for winter. The rivers are low, no flow and it's too hot. I took Sunday off and watched another soap opera on Steelheadsite, that site is like a house full of roaches - impossible to get rid of. There's a chance of rain Wednesday and the weather is suppose to get cooler.

No Browns Game = Everybody on the River

Finally after weeks without any sufficient rainfall, Steelhead Alley received some much needed rain and during the mid-part of the week, the weather got colder. With the combination of the two, many steelheaders hoped for a big push of fish into the streams.

As with every year, I plan my trips farther east as the fishing tends to be better, due to the close proximity to Pennsylvania. I got a report through the grapevine the streams didn't get blown out, but got high and stained. Stained conditions never bothered me as I knew where to find fish, plus I had goober sized sacs to get the fishes attention. I arrived at first light to see that the water was high, but manageable. I stuck to the lower end and knew of some killer holes. I fished one spot and drifted along the slot and paid off with some large fresh chromers. The majority of fish caught were hens loaded with eggs and they were on the large size. Due to the high water the number of anglers were low and I had the spot to myself for several hours. The fishing was good for an hour and died off, so I decided to head to another trib. This trib was not as high, but the water was stained. The fishing here was a little tougher as I hopped from hole to hole in search of players. The only players I found were those annoying little bastard creek chubs. In one section, I hooked one after another and flung them across the stream. Too bad it wasn't Northern Ontario as I would love to use those fat pricks for pike bait. But I managed to weed out the chubs and caught a couple of steelies. Overall it was a slow afternoon but it was nice to be out and enjoy the fall weather.

The following day was another story. I arrived to see about 10 cars parked along the road. You would of thought the internet got plastered with reports. There were no reports on the local fishing sites and it was the good ole word of mouth that got around. The spot I fished yesterday had 8 people standing in the water waiting for first light. I hit the trail walked upstream and it would be a morning of "gun and run". Even though the water conditions were better, the fishing was tough. There were more people than fish caught and I lost count of the people I passed and people that passed me while I fished. This was due to the nice weather and the Browns had a bye week. I usually tolerate the fair weather fishermen and none of them bother me this morning. I managed to catch some fish that were holding in narrow runs with a depth of 3' off the main current. As I walked back nearly ever spot was occupied and I noticed a lot of people were fishing in sections that never hold fish. For shits and giggles I decided to check another spot and there were 20 cars parked along the road. It was late in the morning and I decided that it's still early in the season and I could wait for colder weather.

I still think it's early in the season and this past high water episode didn't bring in a ton of fish. I heard across the border the fishing was better, but I would rather have my balls stuck with ice picks then fishing the Elk in October. The good news the fishing will get better as the weather gets colder (no more fair weather fishermen) and the shorter days.

Rain Dammit!

Shaping up to be another dry fall here in Steelhead Alley. It's been a couple of weeks since we last had any sufficient rainfall to get the rivers high and push in the first run of the new season. The rivers are extremely low and in most spots the flow is virtually non-existent. There are some fish that have trickled in, but in small numbers. The anglers tossing hardware have had the most success as the majority of fish have retreated into frog water. 

During this time of year, I often use these outings for scouting. Most of Ohio's streams often change due to it's flash flood nature and erosion of shale cliffs and clay banks. Nearly every year, I find one of my favorite holes or pools filled in or its course altered. I usually have to make mental notes on depth and structures. Gravel in one section gets washed away and ends up in another spot, bridge construction alters the flow and creates a deeper run or several large trees fall into the river and create a break in the current. Keeping up with all of the changes can be a daunting task.

Today was more or less a scouting trip and if I got some fish, lucky me. The water was extremely low and much more clearer than last week. I managed to catch a couple of fresh fish on King salmon eggs I recently got late last week. The fish came from a run that runs much deeper during the winter. The eggs were so good I caught several smallmouth bass on them.

The weather forecast for the upcoming week is calling for a chance of rain, but it's a small chance. A couple hours of light rain isn't going to effect the rivers much. We need a major soaker or a week's worth of it to replenish the water table and keep the levels high for several days to get some fish in. Temperature wise, it's going to get colder and will bring in more fish near the mouths. If your traveling a far distance, forgot about it........

Another Season Begins

The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler and right around the corner is steelhead season here on the north coast of Lake Erie. Last week we received enough rain to get the streams up, but due the dry conditions the ground soaked up the water and the streams quickly went back to low and clear. But that wasn't going to stop the diehards from dusting off the rods and reels and seek out some early season action. 

It was great to get back on the water after a long and uneventful summer. This is the time of the year that I've been waiting from ever since May. With all of the new gear I bought over the summer I was eager to break in the Kingpin and my G Loomis rod. I was lucky enough to get some King eggs and decided to head out east. I heard through the grapevine that some fish have been sneaking up river. 

I arrived at the lower section and as expected the river was low but somewhat stained. Many of the riffles were barely flowing and the deep pools looked stagnant. I placed my hand in the water and it felt cool probably in the range of the high 50s to low 60s. I knew of couple spots that held fish during the early fall. It was early morning and the forecast for the day was calling for sunny skies and temps in the high 70s. I figure early morning was the only time to catch fish before the sun shutdown them down. I walked along the stream and noticed a couple fish rolling in one section below a riffle. It didn't take long to hook into the first fish of the new season - a feisty skipper. Fish were in an aggressive mood and nailed any offering. The fights were fast and furious and I quickly brought them so not to exhaust them. 

I wouldn't start calling in with the 24 hour flu or blowing a personal day. The fish are few and far between and if you don't know the rivers very well you'll more than likely be disappointed. The weather for next week is sunny with temps in the 70s. Without rain, most of the fish will probably hang out close to shore and wait. 

My Insurance Settlement Gets Me This...

What I feared the worst happened - Ole Red, my 1991 Jeep Cherokee got hit with a total loss from the douchebag that hit me from behind. The frame horn on the right side had more damage and that pushed it into the "your fucked" category. I wasn't surprised considering my Jeep was pushing 18 years old and the odometer was 190,000 miles - but Red still had a lot of miles left and looked great for his age. The adjuster broke the bad news and told me he would be submitting the paperwork to the loss department. That meant I was going to be slapped with a salvage title. Once you get that, the vehicle cannot be driven until the repairs have been made. Giving up the Jeep wasn't an option as it was my only source of transportation, plus Jeep owners can't part with them. So I hoped the settlement would be enough to make the repairs.

I tried to stay upbeat and drove over to the body shop. Bill the manager showed me the damage to the right side of the frame where the trailer hitch got twisted. He told me it was a shame that my Jeep got hit with the loss, because it was in great shape. He informed me the damage to the frame wasn't that severe and it was fixable. I told him the trailer hitch didn't have a hook-up for to run lights and I never used it. As for the hatch, the crack in the fiberglass was at the bottom and so insufficient that most people wouldn't even notice it. The smudge marks could be easily buffed out and I wasn't going to make a big deal over that. We crunch some numbers and got it down to $830.00 to pull the frame back to factory specs and replace the bumper. 

The next morning I recieved a call from Safeco's loss department. They gave me the information on what I was entitled to. They claimed the Jeep was worth $1313.00 in the Cleveland and surrounding area and that's what I would get for all my troubles. These days $1300 doesn't buy you a decent beater. The other option was if I kept it, the payment would be $853.00 because they deducted the salvage loss. I told the guy that $853.00 wasn't enough to cover the repairs. I've heard all of the horror stories of insurance companies stonewalling and playing hardball. As expected he started to make excuses and I knew most of the insurance people you talk to don't have permission to wipe their asses. So I started working up the ladder and I was ready to use my trump card - call a lawyer. I explained to the manager that I wasn't responsible for the accident and I wasn't going to fork over the money to make the repairs. I wasn't asking for a lot of money, just to be fairly compensated. The guy tells me if I can prove that I took care of the vehicle, that might boost the value of it. I faxed over several repair statements of the work I got done over the year. A couple of hours later, I got a call and what he said next left me speechless - they were going to give me $970.00 and who said insurance companies are a bunch of heartless pricks.

Maybe the guy was a Jeep owner........

Killing Time Before the Season

Trip to the Florida Keys = $3000.00
Bait = $10.00
Camera = $200.00

Showing the world that BIG fish and having it posted on the Internet....


Evolution of a Word

Photographic evidence of where the term 'Dickhead' came from


Once in a while, I get one of those days where nothing goes right. Today was suppose to be a quick 3 hour morning at work, only to be stretched out for nearly 8 hours due to equipment failures and screw ups from the office. The hot and humid conditions didn't help either and by the end of the day, I was ready to strangle somebody.

The finale to my shitty day was when a moron smashed into the back of "ole Red" my 1991 Jeep Cherokee as I was going home from the grocery store. Waiting for the light to turn green and I looked back to see this black car coming up fast and WHAM!!! I braced for the impact and felt the Jeep go forward barely missing the car in front of me.

"What the fuck? Are you serious?

I got out to assess the damage only to see the bumper took the full impact. I asked the lady if she was okay. She goes on about adjusting the driver's seat and it went haywire and her foot came off the brake - real bright lady. Considering the force of the impact, the middle section of the bumper was dented and trailer hitch got hammered. The hitch almost punctured the gas tank and there was a slight crack in the fiberglass rear hatch. I was thankful for the lift kit because if it was lower the hatch would of been destroyed. Due to the Jeep's metal bumper, her new Mazda CX-9 got the worse of it - stattered front end, hood dented and cracked headlight. She wasn't sharpest tool in the shed as she commented

"My bumper has styrofoam pads under it??" 

I just had this I don't give a shit look on my face and returned to my Jeep. After all the bullshit of giving a statement to the cop, exchanging insurance information, and her bitching about getting a failure to control ticket, the 3 tubs of ice cream I bought from the grocery store had pretty well melted and leaked all over the back - fuck.