My Honey Holes with GPS Coordinates for $35.00

This article has some in Steelhead Alley up in arms. I consider myself to be a helpful person on the river. I don't mind tossing a bone or two to some angler from out of town. But,I also exercise common sense when comes to posting outings. I won't reveal the locations of small feeder creeks and sections I have permission to fish on. The same article was posted at the popular steelheadsite and several members started bashing this person for selling maps of several steelhead rivers on the internet. I was puzzled at the reactions, as these are the same people who have no problem posting reports about their lastest outing. The whole thread about it was dripping with hypocrisy.

There are no secret spots on most of the streams along Steelhead Alley. I probably know 20 to 40 guys favorite spots and they probably know mine. The rivers around here change due to the constant erosion of the clay and mud banks. Gravel gets washed from one spot and ends up in another. I have photos of some sections of the Rock and Chagrin from five years ago. Today those same sections have been altered so much that it doesn't resemble the photos. The flow is slower, the river widen and some of the holes have filled in.

So I really have no idea why some people are getting their panties in wad. Because in three years those maps and coordinates will be useless. Plus if you need GPS coordinates to find fishable water, it's time to trade in your rod and reel.

Another Day in Leafs Nation

It's tough being a Leafs fan. When my father emailed me several Leafs jokes today, I took it with a grain of salt and chuckled at some of them. It didn't surprise me as my old man is one of the biggest Leafs haters around. Over the years, he would constantly ridicule me on why I root for a bunch of losers. My parents got married in 1967 and that was the last time they won the cup. I was born the following year and for the next 40 years the Leafs fumbled through the decades as one of the most disorganized and disfunctional pro sports franchises.

I had the same expression as Mike Myers in the picture above when the Leafs finally canned general manager John Ferguson Jr - what took so fucking long? It wasn't a surprise as Ferguson been a disaster ever since he was hired. His legacy will be Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Andrew Raycroft and lousy draft picks. Then again when was the last time the Leafs had a good draft? Ferguson was nothing more than a puppet taking orders from MLSE president Richard Peddie. Who by the way, earlier this season acknowledged it was a "mistake" to hire the inexperienced Ferguson - yeah, no shit.

The Leafs had a chance to hire Scotty Bowman to run the entire show. But the MLSE board decided that giving him the keys to the car was too much. Instead they hired Cliff Fletcher on a interim basis. Fletcher was the architect who put together a great team in the early 90s and almost made it to the cup finals. This time around he takes over a team full of overpaid stiffs and almost empty farm. 

I say trade Sundin, McCabe, Tucker and Raycroft for a ton of picks. Scrap the entire team and build through the draft. MLSE needs to stop meddling with affairs and hire the right people and let them do their jobs. But, attracting good hockey people to the center of the hockey universe is daunting. But as long as the rink is sold out nearly every night and it brings in a boatload of revenue, the board members are happy. I also remind my father who is a retired Ontario teacher, that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan owns 58% of the Leafs. So he should personally thank the Leafs for his nice fat pension.

One day maybe one day I'll live to see the Leafs win the cup. Somewhere in hell Harold Ballard is laughing.........

All Natural

I’m strictly a bait fisherman when it comes to steelhead. I find natural baits are more effective than artificial ones. But, once in a while I’ll toss a fly or rubber minnow. Is there perfect steelhead bait? No, as each has its place during certain times of the year and water conditions. Here are some of the baits used by steelheaders, some are common and others rare.

Eggs –The number one bait used by Great Lakes steelheaders. Steelheaders will either used eggs or skein. Skein is the membrane that holds the eggs together inside a pre spawn hen. Eggs from a spawning hen come out more easily. I use both cured and uncured eggs. When it comes to curing eggs I'll use a variety of cures such as Pautzke's Fire cure and BorX O'fire and a local cure called Flashcure. The reason for that is fish are like humans and the flavor of the week often changes.

Eggs are great to use in dirty water as steelhead have a great sense of smell. Depending on water conditions, I’ll tie quarter sized sacs for dirty water and cold water. Dime size sacs are great when conditions start to clear. When conditions get really low and clear, I’ll go into stealth mode and use single eggs. Single eggs are very popular in Pennsylvania because of the low and clear conditions.

Shiners - Before the VHS ban, many of the local tackle stores would get the large emerald shiners from the Niagara River. These shiners were huge about 4" to 5" long. Shiners are great to use in water that is slow or deep and steelhead find them irresistible. Three of my biggest steelhead came on them. I'm pretty fussy when it comes to shiners. Post VHS ban, most of the tackle stores carry shiners that are great for perch. If they're less than 3" I won't bother. Shiners can be used either alive or salted; it doesn’t really matter as they usually die at the sight of a hook. I'll hook them through the lips using an #8 egg hook.

When it comes to using minnows, the Quick Minnow bucket is great for transporting them. It’s light and easy to carry.

Butter Worms – Are the larva of the Chilean Moth and they look like waxworms on steroids. There are huge often over an inch long. They are hard to get and bait shops don’t carry them. A friend of mine orders them online from New York. I used them several times during the spring when the water was warmer and low. It’s something the fish don’t see often; I was surprised how much they liked them. Not a lot of people know about them.

Waxworms – Are the larva of the wax moth. Most think panfish when it comes to these worms. But, they do work on steelhead. They are larger than maggots and easier to get than butterworms. Some tackle stores carry them and others don’t. Anglers I know buy them from pet stores and they swear they work better than maggots. They are better suited for low and clear conditions and work great on pressured fish.

Maggots – Are very popular with Ohio steelheaders. Maggots are mainly used to tipped jigs. The jigs are often small ranging in size from 1/64-ounce to 1/32-ounce and are made from either bucktail or marabou. About 3 to 5 maggots will be placed on the hook. It’s unclear whether the fish are attracted to the jig or the maggots.

Michigan Wigglers – Are giant nymphs of the Hexagenia limbata – large species of Mayfly. Wigglers are popular bait for steelhead in Michigan. Many of their streams are loaded with this larva and smolts growing up in their natal streams eat them. When they return to those streams they remember "imprinted" the nymph and eat them as adults. Wigglers used for bait are preserved because they are hard to keep alive. Personally, I’ve never used them, but I’ve heard anglers rave about them.

Return of the Couch Potato

The Siberian Express was a little behind schedule this morning. Yesterday, I fished the Rock after work and did well considering I had an hour and a half to play with. The river was flowing strong enough that side ice wouldn't form. Slush on the other hand could be a problem in the morning. Wanted to get out before we would get major Mother Nature bitch slapping.

I woke around 8:00A.M and drove to the river. This was one of the rare times I've fished the Rocky on a weekend. I thought the colder weather and chance of slush would keep most of the people in bed. I guess there were a quite a few people looking to get out before the big freeze. I arrived at the first spot and there were a couple of guys fishing the faster water??? I slipped down into the flats and started looking for players. It was very slow as I didn't have any takers. I fished the same section yesterday and caught a nice collection of large bruising hens and frisky skippers. I fished for about an hour and moved to another spot.

The wind was as cold as witch's tittie and the rod's eyes kept icing up. The water on the other hand was perfect. I managed to hook in several large hens hanging in water 3' deep along the bank. But, the wind literally made my hands useless and on top of that, I lost my hemostats. I was able to get the hooks out but that was enough for me. I returned to the Jeep to defrost and chatted with a couple of friends in the lot.

Drove back down river to finish off the remaining eggs I had. There about 5 guys fishing, but they were landlocked and fishing the faster water??? I waded into the shallow water as my knees ached from the cold water. I had about 100 yards of water to play with. It was still slow and I caught a few here and there. It was 11:30A.M and my feet ached, the temperature was getting colder and I had my fill of fish.

As the streams drop and flow gets slower, the rivers will start to freeze over. It's a matter of time until all of the prime winter holding spots will be unfishable. This is part of Steelhead Alley fishing as cold snaps will shut down the fishery. Last year, we had the warmest January on record. Then February came and we had nine straight days of subzero temperatures. It locked everything up and the rivers didn't fish until Mid-March.

Now I'm forced to return to the couch and hibernate until spring..........

A Nice Drive Through The Park

Came down with the ever popular 24 hour flu and called in sick. With all of the bullshit at work, I thought I would stick it too them. I stuck close to home and fished the urban sewer. Yesterday the river went up and gradually came down to large sacs level. The forecast was calling for lake effect snows and temps in the lower 30s. I wanted to get out before the Siberian Express arrived in town this weekend.

I had overly ripen uncured eggs in one container and it smelled liked the Browns locker room. In the murky conditions any scent would be an advantage. I hit the lower river and ran into Ken. Ken is an engineer, but your first impression is he looks like a landscaper collecting pogey and getting through the winter fishing. Ken still uses his old spinning reel and rod. His waders are stained from the years of egg goo and slime. But the guy can flat out fish. I yelled out to save some fish for us bums. We chatted for bit and he was debating whether to call in sick. The fishing was somewhat slow as I caught some fish here and there. Ken caught a couple more and decided to go to work.

There was a stiff wind from the west and it started to push water upstream. It was a neat sight watching the water move upstream like a tidal surge. At one point the waves got about a foot high. I was sure that this would affect the fish as the current made them move. I fished above the surge as I struggled to see my float. The bite turned off and I was getting cold. I sat in the Jeep and drank some coffee. Eventually the feeling in my feet came back. 

I drove farther upstream and it started to snow hard. The parkway was covered and there were no cars. I arrived at a popular spot and walked through the squall. It was still snowing and I could barely see the float. The end result I missed a lot of takes and had fish spitting the hook. I probably lost at least 8 fish due to poor hook sets. By then my feet felt like ice blocks and it was late afternoon. Four hours later under the covers watching TV, my feet were still cold.

I'm hoping that the warmer temps start melting off the snow and blowing the rivers out. If that's the case, the rivers won't freeze over during over the weekend. Temps are to be in the teens and single digits overnight.

Is Everybody Pussy Whipped???

I'm checking some of the fishing blogs and most of them are at least several months old. I guess the ball and chain put her foot down. Luck for me I don't have that problem. Life is bliss here in Steelhead Alley

What???? The Grand is Fishing?!?!

The wacky weather continues here in Steelhead Alley. It snowed, got really cold for a couple of days. Then the lower sections of the rivers and most of the prime pools got froze over. Then it started to warm up for the upcoming weekend. For the Grand, the window of opportunity was going to be opened briefly.

The last time I fished the Grand was last mid November. The Grand is a large watershed and receives a lot of runoff. Usually the Grand takes about a week to come down to fishable levels. It’s frustrating to see the river come down in a teasing fashion only to have it rain and watch the flow gauge go up to 6000cfs. It’s been like that for nearly two months.

I finally arrived at one my favorite spots, the cliffs along the Grand were covered in a blanket of snow. The river had a lot of side ice and several prime spots were covered by it. The surrounding forest was covered in snow. This is when I really appreciate the wonderful winter fishery we have here. The fishing was good during the morning. But during that time I noticed the water started to run over the side ice and snow on the cliffs started sliding down into the river. Then the window started closing as chunks of ice started heading downstream. It got to the point that it was as bad as fishing in slush. The float started getting banged around and the line would get caught up. I was on the water for seven hours and decided to pack it in.

Later that evening, I watched the gauge on the Grand start its long march up. Later in the week we got more rain and the Grand briefly hit flood stage. I'm still trying to take a day off to do a float on Grand.........hopefully some day.

A Day for Diehards

The New Year started off with a roar as I could hear the wind howling outside early this morning. Most of Steelhead Alley’s anglers were either nursing hangovers or pulled the covers over their heads as they heard the wind outside. The weather forecast for the morning was calling for snow and winds gusting from 25 to 40mph. This was perfect weather for the diehard steelheader.

When it’s very windy I usually take the spinning reel. But the spinning reel’s bail was broken so I had to use the pin. The wind was coming out of the southwest so I fished areas near cliffs and ravines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t escape the wind and it played havoc with my drifts and the line kept blowing off the reel. There was a pause in the gusting winds that I was able to get off several long drifts. But strong winds and Siglon F line don’t mix as I had the line blow off the water many times.

The Rock was in perfect condition and I fished the lower section as the high cliffs blocked the wind and made it more bearable. The fishing was slow as I picked up a couple of fish here and there. But those few fish display a lot of vigor and it’s still exciting seeing that flash of silver streaking along the shore. After four hours I decided to call it a day as my hands were frozen.

The Manistee strain is well adapted for cold water. Even when the water temperature is in the low 30s, these fish will fight hard and even jump from the water. I had one large hen that kept bolting for the faster water. The key to catching them is where they stay during the winter. During the winter months steelhead will hold in the slowest moving sections of a river – eddies, tail end of pools, flats and along the banks. This is where the centerpin excels as the presentation can be slowed down to allow the fish to smell and see the bait or fly a little longer.

The weather will be on a roller coaster this week. A cold snap will be hanging around the area for a couple of days and then by the end of the weekend the temperature will go into the 40s. I’m raring to go on the Grand this weekend as it’s almost a month and half since it last fished.