Fly or Pin for Steelhead?

Just as Steelhead Alley's streams were coming down to fishable levels, the latest round of the March monsoons returned. Personally, I'm sick of this shit - rain, snow, melting snow, more rain, more snow and more melting snow. Before you could say fish on, the streams blew out. The last thing I wanted to do was go ditch fishing and I crossed my fingers for one stream. I began to speed dial and called a couple of friends to see what it like out east. Either hell or high water, I was going fishing. I got the call and the verdict was - let's go fish.

Today was the day I picked up my slightly used fly rod - 11'3" Redington rod and 6wt Teton reel. Since turning to the darkside, I rarely use a fly rod. At home my two Redington RS2 reels make great paperweights and the St Croix rod is somewhere under a pile of old carpet and boxes in the garage. Over the years, I wanted to get back into fly fishing as I wanted to relearn the finer details of it.

I meet up with my friend and got the rod and reel. I gave him the money and with him going to Mexico next week, I'm sure the money would buy a lot of Corona or Pepto-Bismol. The river was slightly stained and the water was a chilly 38F, but that didn't stop some fish from hitting the gravel. I put the fly rod together and took it for spin. The 11'3" rod handled nice and high stick nymphing and roll casting was a breeze. I fished some pocket water using sucker spawn and clown eggs. But I didn't get any hit and returned to the pin. The morning was very slow as I had a skunk hanging around my neck. We decided to head downstream and look for some players. The river was busy as everything else was still too high and muddy. We really didn't fish that much and we spent more time bullshitting with other anglers. We continued downstream and nearly every section of the river was occupied. We finally meet up with another friend and it was now almost noon. After five hours of fishing, I didn't even sniff a fish.

We drove back to the same spot we fished this morning and both of them left. Since I drove almost 80 miles, I wanted to get my money's worth and there was still plenty of time to break the o-fer streak. By now it was 1:00P.M and the morning crowd left and I was alone. I figured the fish on the gravel got pounded and moved into deeper water. It turned out to be the right call as I started to hook into fish. The majority of fish were chrome and several hens had not released their eggs. The highlight of the afternoon was when I got freight trained by one fish. The float got whacked and I set the hook, the fish turned and burned downstream. I burned my fingers on the centerpin's spool as I tried to put the brakes on it. The fish made it down to the end of the pool and I was eager to see how big it was. Usually large fish will bolt hard, but I've had 3 pounders feel like a 12 pounder. BUT, that didn't happen as the only glimpse I got was the fish giving me the middle finger ie hook being spit out of the water. I muttered and thought that I put too much pressure to stop the fish.........bastard

Over all it turned out to be a great afternoon and as I left, the second shift were making their way down to the river. On the way home, I could see the Grand was still a mess and the Chagrin was coming down, but still dirty. For the week ahead, there is another dose of rain coming either Monday evening or Tuesday.

RIP Steelheadsite

The Ohio and Michigan board inmates were put in lockdown. This was the result of a border war between the two states and it had nothing to do with the Buckeyes and Wolverines. This latest soap opera might be the final nail in the coffin and many in the steelheading community are saying good riddance.

Steelheadsite was one of the most popular steelheading sites on the internet. You either loved it or hated it. People loved it for the fishing reports and helpful tips. The haters blamed it for the sudden increase in crowds in recent years and the blatant spoonfeeding. I was never a contributor and it was nothing but cheap entertainment for me. I got banned numerous times for stirring the pot and rattling the moderator's cages. The constant trolling and hijacking of threads was too much. Moderators got fed up of rapping the knuckles of unruly posters or deleting comments on the the hour. This went on year after year after year. As a result many left in disgust or got outright banned. 

I guess the spoonfeeders are really screwed and they might have to do the unthinkable, get in the car and actually drive to the river. Most of them are probably losing their minds and googling for the latest steelhead report, poor bastards.

Stick a fork in it, because it's done.

Bruised Ribs = No Fishing

Took a nasty spill at one of my accounts Tuesday morning. I slipped on some ice and all 210lbs of me fell on top of my toolbox and the left side of my ribs took full impact. I rolled on the pavement cursing as I felt like somebody took a sledgehammer and hit me. One of my fellow employees helped me up. I took a deep breathe and hurt like hell, but I didn't notice any sharp pain. That was a good sign, I didn't break them and there was a nice size dent on the toolbox.

I called the office and went to the hospital for X-rays. Luckily, I didn't break any ribs, but they're bruised. I'm on painkillers strong enough to knock out an elephant and has help numb the pain. But, I can't bend over without feeling a sharp stabbing pain go through my chest.

I guess I got lucky as the streams here are starting to get high and muddy from all of the snow melt. I'll be living on the couch for the next couple of weeks, but I heard fishing is great therapy.........

The Big Dig

We got hammered here on the Alley and hopefully this is the last winter storm. It hit Friday afternoon and didn't stop until late Saturday night. Saturday was spent shoveling endless amounts of snow. I huffed and puffed until I thought I would keel over. The entire driveway was done and I retreated into the warm depths of my man cave. A couple hours later, the snow started to pile up. Not wanted to wake up tomorrow and shovel 4 feet of snow, I quickly dressed and chugged the rest of my beer. 

I greeted with an angry wind from the northwest and driving snow. Generally, the western suburbs are often spared from the lake effect snows due to the prevailing winds and the eastern suburbs are higher in elevation. I kept at it until eleven o' clock, I had enough but the driveway was all done. I crashed on the couch and it was lights out. I woke later that morning and heard the sounds of snow blowers. I peeked out the window and it was snowing again. I glanced over at the driveway and groaned - more snow. At least it was light and powdery. My hard work last night paid off as I only had a quarter of what my neighbors had. The snow was so bad that the mail wasn't delivered Saturday and I don't blame him as I wouldn't want to walk in that shit.

After digging out, I decided to go four wheeling. The streets were a mess and people were shoveling everywhere. My Jeep plowed through the snow like a tank. I bombed down the streets as people were spinning out or getting stuck. I drove down to the Rock and it was slushed to the max. All of the parking lots were covered in 3' of snow. I called my friend and said fishing was out of the question for tomorrow and the power plant would be the only option. The snow was relentless and another squall came off the lake, even in four wheel drive, I was crawling as I could barely see the other car in front of me.

I couldn't imagine how much snow fell out east. I pulled into the driveway and the Jeep inched its way into the garage. I got out and there was another foot of snow. I cooked a hearty meal to fuel my body for the next dig. The weather channel informed that the storm was pass in the evening. The final tally was 24" of snow in my backyard. Several drifts in the front of the house were 5' high. When it was all said and done, it was late evening and I was exhausted. It doesn't help when your grossly out of shape and have a lousy shovel, I fell on the bed and hit the pillow hard.

I peeked out the window and the sun was shining. As my neighbors dug out, I drove out to the lake for a day of fishing. The roads were still a mess and I-90 looked resembled an ice road. Early in the week, the pack ice got blown out and the winds turned the power plant discharge turned into mud. But the winds shifted and voila - instant pack ice. The water cleared in a matter of days. 

I picked up some shiners and drove to the plant. The usual suspects showed up and with a combination of a Cherokee, Avalanche and a Durango we plowed through the snow bank and blazed a trial. When we arrived the plant was discharging warm water and the fish were active chasing baitfish. But, it turned out to be a slow day as we picked some fish here and there, but sure beated shoveling snow. A couple of guys even hooked into several carp. During the winter, carp and shad often reside there all winter as the water temp is in their comfort zone. A couple of carp almost tipped the scale at 20lbs.

On the weather front there is a warm up later this week and it's going to blow out the streams for this upcoming weekend. On the flip side, the spring run is around the corner.

High Gas Prices - No Problem

There is talk about gas getting near $4.00 per gallon this upcoming spring. When I moved to Ohio in 1998, gas was going for 99 cents and filling my car put me back $15.00. If you told me back then that in ten years gas would be almost $4.00, I would of laughed my ass off. Lately, I've felt the pinch as I filled my Jeep this morning and headed to the upper Grand. From my house to the upper Grand is about 56 miles one way and round trip it's 102 miles. I love my 1991 Jeep Cherokee, but it's a pig on gas. Just doing a round trip I'll use nearly half a tank. That's in part because of the off road tires, lift kit and my lead foot. The higher gas prices haven't stop me from fished the Conneaut or Elk. But since the Grand has been either blown out or frozen over, I haven't fish it that much this year. This weekend, I would make every opportunity to get out there.

On to the fishing front. The Grand was running at near perfect conditions for March. Saturday, I fished close to home had a successful day. The bright skies made the gusting winds bearable, but I felt like kicking myself in the ass for not going to the Grand. The Grand was running at 420cfs and the window was going to be shut as the temperatures were to be in the 50s on Monday. I left fairly early Sunday morning and arrived at the river around 6:45A.M to a chilly morning. There was slush in the river but I knew farther downstream I would be able to get around it.

The trail leading to the river was well traveled. The river was a perfect as it gets - slightly stained and a moderate flow. I crossed over and noticed there was a lot of anchor at the bottom. I was concerned that the cloudy conditions would not burn off the slush, BUT the weatherman promised temps in the 40s this afternoon. I walked almost a mile and hit my first spot - a tailout before the river made a huge turn, we called it "the bend". This section was fairly shallow, no more than 2' deep and I knew where the shale ledge was. I adjusted the float and started to work the section. I was fairly slow as I picked up a couple of fish. The water was so cold as my feet started to ache after a couple of hours. Back upstream there was a huge section of shelf ice and that was the cure for cold feet. I walked out to test the ice, generally I don't like to fish off ice for a variety reasons. I felt confident enough that it would hold - for the time being. I started to drift the tail end and I started to hit fish immediately. Even though the water was cold, the fish fought well and I had a difficult time keeping them from going under the ice. Luckily, a very long rod and a heavy tippet made it a lot easier to heave them onto the ice.

The slush was a huge pain in the ass as it constantly screwed with my drifts. I had to use a lot of shot to bust through it. But around noon the slush finally disappeared and I was able to fish more effectively. Then people started showing up and the large section of ice gave plenty of room. There was plenty of fish to go around as several others above and below me were hooking up. It was a busy Sunday as I could see a lot of people fishing upstream. Once the sun came out, I noticed it got a lot warmer. By late afternoon, I could hear ice and snow falling from the cliffs. Then I knew it got a lot warmer when the shelf ice made a huge cracking noise. It startled me and the other two anglers down from me. I knew it was time to get off the ice and jump back into the water.

The majority of fish were in fine condition and several hens were ripe with eggs. Meet several anglers who made the journey all the way from Kentucky. In all, everybody went home happy and I stayed until 5:00P.M because I knew the end was coming near. By tomorrow the river will start going up and eventually blow out due to runoff and rain.