All I Want For Christmas is Rain

Having an entire river to yourself on Steelhead Alley in the month of November, many would have to pinch themselves at the thought of that. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the solitude and great weather. The plus side was there was enough fish to keep me happy and I though of the others slaving away in the kitchen, sitting next to their mother-in-law or having 20 kids running around the house.

That was the case when I fished the Grand ole girl on Thanksgiving. There wasn't a soul on the river when I arrived and left. As expected she was running low and we really need rain - bad. Today, I fished way upriver and blew through the first mile of the river as it was barely flowing. I knew one spot that would more than likely pay off in spades. Sure enough I found fish hiding out in the holes and some of them were as fat as the turkey I would be eating later in the day. So far this year I haven't seen so many big fat fish - male and female. I can't imagine when late winter rolls around and some of those hens eggs are ripen.

On the weather front, this could be first the first snowless November since the late 1800s and many would rather lose a weekend to rain then have to scour every square inch of the river for fish.

Taking Black Friday off for the obvious reason that every steelheader would rather go out and get skunked than having to shop.

Work, Smurk.......

Same shit, different week and nothing has changed here on the Alley. Once again, many were faced with low and ridiculously clear conditions. Many of the streams have fish, but they have been hammered with everything but the kitchen sink. For the record, I hate fishing low and clear. It's pointless and a complete waste of time. Spare me the stealth fishing bullshit with a 5X tippet and a #16 blood dot or single egg. Fish aren't stupid especially in gin clear water where they've seen every Tom, Dick and Harry. 

That's where the Grand comes to the rescue. Over the years, the Grand has rarely failed me. But I've never seen the river this low in recent memory. I could see holes that in past years would of been obstructed by the murkiness that the Grand is well known for. I know the Grand like the back of my hand. Finding fish wasn't going to be hard, the only problem was if they would come out and play. 

Saturday was a scouting day as I took the upcoming Monday off. I was hoping to float it that day, but a little mishap with tie downs almost caused my pontoon boat to fly off the top of me Jeep on I-480. Thankfully the boat didn't end up in somebody's windshield. However one of the pontoon's got puncture. According to the flow gauge, the Grand was flowing at a pedestrian 80 on the graph so the float trip was scrapped. I didn't want to spend the entire time bottoming out, playing pinball with the numerous rocks sticking out of the water or possibly blowing out another tube.

There was no need to get there early Saturday morning. But old habits are hard to change and I still woke up early. Instead of the standard eggs and bacon, I actually treated myself to some blueberry pancakes. It was a hearty meal and those pancakes stuck to my ribs. I took my time, drinking coffee and listening to Rush's Permanent Waves. The word on the rivers was that there were hardly any people out. Most probably threw in the towel and parked their asses on the couch until the next blowout. I arrived at the bridge and there were two cars. As I was dressing, I could see two anglers fishing not far from the bridge. That was a good sign as holes are few and far between and I hoped they would spend the majority of the time there. 

I strolled pass the anglers and greeted them. I continued to walk along the trail and noticed the river was running very slow and low. On a good note, that meant most of the fish would be hiding in deeper holes and runs. The sun had yet to rise over the cliffs and trees. I was the first person to fish this section. It was riffle that spilled into a long run that cut along the shale cliffs. It wasn't deep, probably a couple of feet, but the broken water and plenty of rocks gave fish cover galore. It turned out to be decent morning as the majority of fish had been in the river for some time. Once the sun was high in the sky, the fish shut down and retreated to deeper and darker locales. I was more than satisfied with the results and called it a day as I wanted to watch the Ohio State game. 

Monday morning was one those days that steelheaders love - grey and slightly cold. I started at the same spot and fished farther up at a couple of pools that in past years hold a lot of fish. By mid November most of the fish were pretty well spread out. This section of the Grand didn't have a lot of pools instead it was mostly flats that didn't have a lot of cover or structures. However upstream there was the mother of all gravel beds that in the spring are peppered with redds. The pool below can hold an obscene number of fish when conditions are right.

The ground was covered in frost as I walked the trail. The woods were silent and the only sound was my heavy breathing. It was first light when I got to the first spot. The riffle above was barely flowing. There wasn't a lot of deep water here and this was the largest pool. I knew the fish would be hold tight against the shale ledges. I was correct and started getting in some decent size fish. The highlight of the morning was the tank I hooked. Drifting right down the pipe, the float shot under and I felt a huge tug. I set the hook and watched the tail fin come out of the water. It was a fairly large fish and I had a tough fight on my hands as the fish constantly ran out into the current. Once I beached him, I thought it was larger than the fish caught last week. It's hard to say as both were very thick, but it was truly a hog.

So far this season the Grand has coughed up a lot of huge fish. After banging a couple of spots, I decided to move up river as I haven't fished it yet and was curious to see how low some of the pools were. It was the same as downstream - nobody was fishing and it was nice to fish in peace and quiet. That can be a rare thing on Steelhead Alley as November is one of the busiest months.

Top This Bitches

Took a novice out for a day of adventure and the master didn't disappoint this time out. The day before I scouted the same river looking for players and I found some, but they were spread out. This would be the first time this person would be fishing for steelhead. I told him to be ready early like 5:30A.M and I didn't care if he wanted to sleep some more on the way to the river. No wanting to spend a ton of money on gear he bought the cheapest pair of wader on the market - Flo-lites from Dick's at a bargain basement price of $14.99. Rubber hippers are basically useless because of the shale rocks. One wrong step and it was a cold early morning dunk. That would fishing tough, even when the water is low. So I settled on one spot where one could fish off the bank without plunging into some dark hole.

The weather during the weekend was calling for sunny skies and temps in the upper 60s, perfect weather for newbies and fairweather steelheaders. I made the right call by fishing upstream, as most people were still under the impression that all of the fish were still low. We arrived at first light and pretty well had the section to ourselves. With a jar full of juicy uncured King eggs, I felt confident that we would spank some fish pretty good. I instructed my student on how to float fish, mend the line and set the hook. Past fishing experience was using those Zebco closed faced reels that today belong in a museum.
I hooked into several fish earlier in the morning and I decided to move from the "kiddie pool" down into bigger darker water. Fishing at first wasn't that eventful, as I continued to be the chub master hooking into several trophy sized ones. I felt the temptation to see how far I could punt them across the river into the cliff, but the novice scolded me. I scoffed that chubs rank somewhere between hemorrhoids and the Cleveland Browns.

Once I rid the pool of chubs, I was showing of how to read water and where to cast. I watched he cast out right along the seam. At first I thought he cast too far out, but I didn't say anything. I was instructing him on how to mend the line, when the float shot under. He set the hook and the rod throbbed hard, a sign of a big fish. I had the drag set pretty loose and told him to keep the fish in the current high so to wear him out. He kept cranking away, being mindful to keep the rod high and tight. I gradually tighten the drag and got a glimpse of the fish - a large beefy male. Even though it was very large fish, it didn't really fight all that hard. I had him guide the fish into slack water and I muttered "hoooooly fuck, that's a tank" As I guided the fish towards the shore the line snapped and I quickly grabbed the fish. I struggled to control it and basically trapped it in my legs and sticking my finger in the gills. My legs were shaking and he was stunned at the size of it. I hauled it out of the water and this fish was over 30" and probably weighted more than 12lbs - an impressive specimen by Steelhead Alley standards. I took some money shots and I was truly impressed as she handled it like a pro. Not once did he panic, screamed for help or tried to hand me the rod.

The novice pretty well had the hang of it as I didn't even need to watch him anymore. Then all of the sudden I hear him yell out that he hooked into a fish. I watched to see a huge fish leap out of the water and this time it tested him. By now we had worn the path along the bank into a trough of mud. He guided it into the slack water it was a fat hen. The master himself was not to be out done, as I hooked into several fat pigs.

In all of my years fishing Steelhead Alley, I've never had a day where I hooked into so many large fish. Most of the time, it's those "cookie cutter" steelhead - 25" and 4lbs and sometimes a 10 pounder gets thrown in. I thanked the fishing gods for taking care of her and giving the both us great day.

Before The Crack Of Dawn........Ha

Low and clear, low and clear, fuck I'm tried of fishing in an aquarium full of chubs and the odd steelhead thrown in as another batch of rain came and teased us. The ground basically sucked up the water and none of the rivers went up and we were once again forced to fish in low conditions. Sunday was no different as I headed out east in search of fish. I'll be glad when Daylight Savings goes into effect this upcoming weekend as fishing in the dark at 7:00A.M is too much for this early riser.

Today, I wanted to get away from the crowds so I fished farther upstream. It was a gamble as I had no idea if any fish had made it that far up. Even if they did, the numbers would be very low and I could be posting a shut out just like the Browns would be probably doing this afternoon. I was reminded why I prefer to fish in the winter as walking through the woods with major undergrowth was a tough going. I finally reached a couple of favorite spots and my catch for the morning was 3 chubs.

Even though the water had that tannic color, the visibility was great. The other added bonus was nobody was fishing as I knew most if not all of the people were fishing the lower sections. I banged away at several spots and finally hit a nice hen on pink sac. It was one fish in three hours of fishing, I knew I had to head downstream in order to get into better numbers. The only downside would be crowds, but I figured by the time I got there it would be almost noon. With the Clowns playing so bad, a lot of people weren't racing home to watch the game. The Browns are so bad that our company had a draw for tickets for the Packers game and only three people signed up. I basically said I would rather get skunked then having to watch 4 quarters of a team that could be beaten by the Pop Warner All-Stars.

I drove along the river and I could see about 10 cars here and there. I rolled the dice and headed to one spot that I knew I might get into some fish. Driving over the bridge, I could see a couple of people fishing one spot that I usually do well. Usually this spot is pounded to death during the season and I rarely fish as it's a magnet for hillbillies and boneheads. But since it was Sunday most if not all scrambled home to watch the NASCAR race - gomers. A short walk down, I knew where to drift and it didn't long for the first fish to hit. It was a nice bag of fresh skippers, fat hens and feisty males. In reality I could copped some more zzzzzz's instead of fumbling about in the dark, but that would cut into my fishing time.......

Off We Go

The marathon began early this morning as I crawled out of bed around 5:00A.M to officially kick the new season. Last week, I scouted out east to see what the stream conditions were like and sure enough some fish started poking their way into the lower sections. However, like ever fall the streams were often low and gin clear. Earlier that morning, I was chucking spoons off the breakwall. The lake was in perfect condition, it had a nice chop and I could see endless numbers of shiners along the walls. Usually the chop will push the bait fish out farther and steelhead often ambush them. I chucked for hours and posted a goose egg. Sometimes it's a case of being in the right place at the right time. I stopped by the stream and in some of the holes and pools, I could see several fresh steelhead holding in one very popular pool. They were ignoring the many offerings thrown their way by the latest batch of newbies hoping in vain to get a bite. This seasoned vet knew it was going to be fruitless and I knew better days laid ahead.

This past weekend we got some rain and at times it was very heavy. I was hoping the rain would raise the levels high enough, but not enough to blow it out. Once we headed out of Cleveland, it pissed and poured all the way. The plan was to chuck spoons in the morning and then head down to the river if it sucked on the lake. We stopped at the river and noticed it was dirty, but very fishable with sacs. We decided to scrap the idea of chucking spoons and fish the lower sections.

Since the water was off color I knew I had a chance, but I had no idea how many fish were in there. This was same pool at that last week was a clear as an aquarium. Once in while a fish would come up and taunt us. I had a jar of old cured coho eggs from last season. I fished the head of the pool and that tell tale sign of the float getting sucked under hard meant the first fish of the season. It was a large bright silver hen that smacked a chartreuse sac. As expected every year early in the season, fish can be few and far between. I managed to pick up probably one of the skinniest steelhead I've ever caught. This fish probably would of nailed strand of yarn or even a bare hook.

Early this week, we received rain, cool temps and gusting winds - the kind of weather that brings a smile to a steelheader's face.

Who Are You - Part Two

Some more people I've seen on the rivers over the years and I'm sure you've ran into them too.

The Hole Beater

They love to hog up a hole for hours on end. They won’t leave to take a piss or when their wife calls to say she's stranded on side of the highway. They would rather die from hypothermia then give up the spot. Even if the fish haven’t been biting for 6 hours, they believe they’ll turn on at any moment. They’re useless for information as they have no clue where other spots are ie "Rockcliffe ford? Never heard of it" They tend to be out of shape and rarely venture more than a 50 yards from the closest access point.

The Elitist

They tend to be well educated, environmentally active, probably a member of Trout Unlimited or some Ivy League fraternity. Most tend to fly fish as it’s consider an art and using bait is considered to be "not the proper method of illicting a response from a fish". Their car of choice is usually a Saburu Outback, Audi, or some high end SUVTheir fishing equipment is worth more than what some people make in 6 months. They tend to look down at bait fishermen as they feel “baiting is cheating” or their too stupid to learn. They hate cold weather and more then often they're down in the Bahamas or Costa Rica during the winter.

The Hillbilly

They didn’t graduate from high school because they knocked up some 15 year old, went to the boy’s home or were expelled for drug possession. They drive cars or trucks with multiple colored panels, primer spots, rust and no exhaust. They buy their fishing equipment at Walmart or try to break into the elitist’s car to only see to their dismay a fly rod. They often bring along a 10 gallon bucket, tackle box and fold up sports chair. Often keep fish or try to bum them off of other anglers to feed their 6 kids because welfare doesn’t pay enough. Often ridiculed and mocked by the elitist and me.

Golden Steelies

The more I fish for carp, the more I'm fascinated with them. If a carp were a person I would describe them as that fat, lazy college roommate that spent most of his on the couch watching T.V. The only time he would get up was to stuff his face and quickly return to the couch. But he can be a weasel and had the smarts to talk his way out of anything often leaving you frustrated.

For the past several years I've been fly fishing for carp and it's been a trial and error process. I love to sight fish for them and the Rocky River is my Bahamas minus the white sands and bikinis. Keeping me company are the weekend hacks at the muni course slicing balls into the woods and once in a while the river. Fishing in low and clear water has made me a better caster as I have finesse it carefully.

The majority of carp found in Steelhead Alley's streams are not large. Most average over 5lbs and once in a while a 20 pounder will show up. The monsters are often found out in the lake and I've seen some that probably weight over 30 pounds. Carp are lazy and will rarely chase after a fly. They have their faces so deep in the buffet they often miss it. This can be frustrating and I don't know how many I've cursed that them for doing that. But it's the challenge of getting them to take one.

My favorite place to fish are the shallow flats and there are plenty of them on the Rocky. During low and clear condition, fish are easy to spot and it becomes a game of cat and mouse. They often cruise in the slower riffles sampling various sections for food. The tell tale sign are the plumes of mud being stirred up. But since I mostly fish in clear conditions, I don't have to rely on the plumes of mud.

Sunday was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, young ladies jogging in tight shorts and the river was in a lazy mood. It was very low and clear and as I walked down river, I could see the numerous dug out redds. It was just a couple weeks ago that steelhead were spawning in every riffle and today it was vacant except for a few suckers.

As I reached the flats I spotted several carp feeding in the shallows. I crept in slowly and started to strip off some line. I had a small hare's ear nymph with a micro shot. I casted upstream from the fish and started to mend. The current wasn't that strong but I was concerned that the fly would over shoot the fish. I watched with intense concentration as I tried to visualize where the fly was going. I could see three fish gradually working their way upstream. Then the line stopped and I pulled - a mass of algae. I pulled in the line and removed and cursed the North Olmsted water treatment plant. The fish didn't notice and I had to back up and cast towards them. I got about 5' from two fish and watched the fly drop about 2' from one. I could see a the fish inhale it and with a quick hookset it was game on. The fish bolted for cover across the river and it steer it away from it. I using a 3X Seaguar fluoro tippet and if it was that shitty Orvis tippet it would of snapped as soon as I set the hook. It wasn't a large one, probably 5 or 6 pounds and that's what I usually catch on the Rock. I managed to catch a couple more on a # 10 hex nymph.

I waded farther down to a killer steelhead winter pool and I could see several carp and quillback suckers in the riffle. There were about 10 carp feeding including a couple that were over 10 pounds. I see them probing the bottom and I casted towards them letting the nymph slowly sink. I would give it a wiggle and that seemed to spark interest in one of them. He slowly swam over and sucked it up and I yank hard. He strip off line fairly quick and took me into my backing. Usually carp will make one long hard run and like a fat person keel over. It didn't take much effort to reel him in and he was slightly over 10 pounds. The rest of the fish bolted for cover and I knew they would be jerks as carp often are.

In the past, I've seen how clever and wily carp can be. When I was once using dough balls, I caught a lot of fish. They ran for cover and when they would come back to feed, they stopped at the balls I put out for chum and hesitate. They would swim away and then stop as their hunger and lust for cornmeal, peanut butter, honey and vanilla got the better of them. I watched them turned around and slowly come back. Several fish would inhale it and quickly spit it out and then eat the scraps. I think they were trying detect the hair rig I was using. I've read an article about how one of the largest British carp in captivity refused to eat boilies because it had been caught on them so many times.

For those who think carp are shit fish, I say grab a pole and try it out. I don't see a lot of people here along Steelhead Alley fishing for them. Most of the people I know are out on the lake chasing walleye and perch and they think the best place for carp is in the garden as fertilizer. I have a great deal of respect for them and they make the summer go by a little faster.

No Eggs For You!!

Just what we need after a successful steelhead season - drama! Impending doom! This article was recently published in the News-Herald - a Lake County fish wrap about the Ohio Department of Agriculture decision to ban the use of salmon and trout eggs south of I-90 effectively. This latest round to stem the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) which was first discovered in 2006 when large numbers of sheephead in Lake Erie died. At first they banned the shipment of baitfish from other Lake Erie states. This meant the end of the monster emerald shiners from the Niagara. These shiners were exceptional large and larger steelhead often had a hankering from them as three of the five largest steelhead I've caught to date came of those shiners. This was done to further protect the state's aquaculture industry (I didn't even know Ohio had one???)

When the virus was first detected, many here in Ohio were worried that the state's steelhead program was in jeopardy as several states banned the movement of fish across state lines. Luckily the steelhead eggs from Michigan were deemed free of the virus and the program continued as long as the eggs were inspected and treated. Sadly, myself and others witnessed the end of those "super sized" emerald shiners from New York and we had to settle for the wee ones from the lake. Our precious eggs were safe for the time and many felt there was no way that the state would ban them.

As expected the news wasn't that well received on several fishing forums from the egg heads. Then of course the lame "bait vs fly" bullshit started. Personally I'm not thrilled about the ban, but I don't think the sky is falling either. I find it somewhat puzzling about the timing considering VHS was first detected three years ago and the department of agriculture could of imposed the ban that encompassed both bait fish and eggs. The whole I-90 boundary is stupid as fish routinely move up and down stream whether it's steelhead, bass, carp or suckers. The boundary should be the first impassable barrier.

Until the ODNR puts something in their regulations, it's very unlikely to be regulated and enforced. Currently enforcement is the state agricultural department responsibility and I can't see any of their personnel hiding in up in trees with binoculars looking for the illegal use of eggs. Since the state is almost broke, I'm sure the ODNR isn't going to set-up check points to see if anglers are honoring the ban (bar codes for VHS free sacs?) As for other fishermen calling the authorities - good luck. I don't know how many times I've called the poacher's hot line calling about snagging and people walking out with 6 fish and I've yet to see one person fined. In reality this ban will be almost impossible to enforce.

Some including myself feel this is a knee jerk reaction as I would of like to see some studies done before this ban went into effect. For example would cured eggs be free of the virus? This whole thing is like closing the gate long after the herd left.

Of course this isn't the end of the world as the ban is south of I-90 and there is plenty of water to fish north of it. I still have jigs, plastics and flies at my disposable, but eggs come in handy especially when the water is dirty. Hopefully Ohio will adopt Michigan's regulations allowing the use of roe as long as it's been certified VHS free. I heard those orange gummy bears work pretty well..........

That'a A Wrap For Steelies

Another season is in the books for this hardcore steelheader and after 8 months of fishing, I welcome the break. Crawling out of bed at 4:30A.M - done, walking through 2' of snow - nada, driving in whiteout conditions - thank god for four wheel drive, and no more yelling "get outta my spot!" Joking aside, I will go through mild symptoms of withdrawal, but summer will go fast as it always does and the cool crisp nights in September will get my blood flowing.

I spent the weekend fishing with the Dfishinfool - Don and several friends out east. Don and his guides were also wrapping up the season. Saturday we fished the Grand as it's been a tradition of mine that I end the season fishing it since it's my favorite river. I arrived at first light to see them on the opposite side of river getting set up. I made my way across probably walking right on spawning fish. The majority of fish coming up late will usually stay on the lower sections. I had reports that most the upper sections had little to no fish left. I was somewhat surprise how clear the water was considering the Grand never runs clean to begin with. I brought along my larger flies that I often use when fishing the Grand. Luck for me, I brought some small egg and nymph patterns.

We fished a flat that holds a lot of fish and it didn't take long to hit the first one of the morning on a small peach blood dot. Mixed in with some fish were those troublesome smolts that attacked my nuke eggs with piranha-like ferociousness. We hit some large males and spawned out hens but once the sun got high the fish shut off. Don and the crew headed to Conneaut and I was far too tired to make the drive out so I fished farther upstream. It turned out to be bust as I could get anything to hit and my toe started to bother me.

Sunday morning was especially tough as my troublesome ingrown toenail was acting up. This fucker has been bothering me all season. Popping a couple of Tylenol at 2:00A.M helped alleviate the pain, but it took all of my effort to fall out of bed at 4:00A.M. A 20oz cup of steaming cup of coffee and blasting Metallica's Ride the Lighting got me stoked for the finale. The finale would take place on the Conneaut and she didn't disappoint as I hit a lot of droppies in the tailouts. The Conneaut seem to have more fish than the Grand, but for some reason the Connie always has a late run. She's the first to get fish and the last to have them leave. The last fish of the season was a large male taken on a red Blood's dot and decided to end the day on that high note and watched Don and his friend fish. As I drove off, I waved good-bye and thanked the Connie for an outstanding season on her waters. It will be five months before I'll be back prowling the waters.

Now that I'm done with steelhead (yes I'm really done) I can fish those fat yellow looking bastards I see in the Rocky all summer. I dubbed them my "summer steelies" as they're the only big game in town. I have a lot of my summer fishing list including a short vacation in Northern Ontario as I'm going back home to Sudbury to visit family. Hopefully I can squeeze in some time and fish the Pumphouse Creek for speckled trout.

V is for Vindication

Spring has exploded along Steelhead Alley as it feels more like July then April. It was that sweating my balls off type of heat as the temps hit the 70s to 80s starting Thursday. The plants on the forest floor were quickly sprouting in an effort to get as much sunlight before the canopy cut it off. Everything seemed to be in a hurry the birds tending to young, insects buzzing around, toads fornicating like crazy, hillbillies gathering fiddleheads and me trying to squeeze in another fishing trip.

Ole Red’s A/C hasn’t worked in a couple of years and I wasn’t going to drive out east in the sweltering heat. Instead I choose to fish the Vermilion as the Rock turned into a fishbowl several days ago. Saturday turned into a long work day and I welcomed the overtime. Finishing around 3:00P.M, I drove out west. From the past few days on the Rock, the bite was on after 5:00P.M. I took my time as I knew finding a spot wouldn't be a problem. It was still in the high 70s when I arrived and I was in my gym shorts and didn't even bother to put socks on. Hell, I could of fished in a thong and that would guarantee nobody would even dare come near me.

The Vermilion is the westernmost river on Steelhead Alley and it has some of the most striking scenery. The high shale cliffs, riverine forests, abundant wildlife and perhaps some of the best gravel beds. This is why the V can have great spring runs. The problem is the sediment and its been an issue for the past several years. The river takes on that diarrhea brown color and it reminds me of what the toilet looks like after eating those circle K taquitos - fucking nasty. It seems to take an eternity to become green and most rivers are fishing great well after it has finally cleared. Many including myself, felt that the heavy sediment load effected runs of fish as steelhead generally dislike water with high sediment. This was the major reason why I stopped fishing the V as every time out, the fishing sucked ass.

Armed with both the fly and pin, I set out find some fast deep water and dropbacks. The river was still slightly off color and I found some fish on the gravel. This section was better suited for the pin as the run cut along some downed lumber and several trees hanged over. I had my last container of steelhead eggs and tried to coax some droppies to come out and play. It didn't take long for the first fish to hit - a small male. With the warmer water, I'll use a 2X tippet to quickly muscle in fish. With the precision and quickness that rivals a NASCAR pit crew, I had the fish back in the water in about a minute. But, I knew some monsters lurked somewhere in that darker water. Unfortunately I got a bad case of fishoffitis and lost five decent size ones including a huge male that turned and burned right under a log. I didn't mind considering I got a quick fight and I didn't have to horse them into. The action died off and I decided to see if they were any droppies below some gravel beds I knew. Walking along the bank I could spot large pods of redhorse suckers, some were spawning and others were feeding. Since I didn't see any steelhead, I figured why not. I tied on a small peach globug and with the fly rod I casted close to some feeding fish. With a couple of quick mends I could feel the shots bounce along the bottom and the line stop. I set the hook it was a large sucker well over 10lbs and in the faster water it gave me a decent fight. Redhorse suckers are a poor man's carp and they lack the wiliness and brute strength that carp possess. I kept wandering upstream plugging away at holes and runs. It turned out to be a nice evening as I caught fish in every spot and watched some people in the woods picking for fiddleheads or looking for those elusive magic mushrooms.

To beat the heat, I woke up early Sunday morning as the temps were to be in the 80s. Today I was fishing the lower section and left the fly rod at home. This section of the river is nasty as a lot of trees were in the water, ideal for pinning. Float fishing along downed lumber is very effective, especially when conditions are bright. Dropbacks and pressured fish often hide within or along the lumber. Yet another sign that the steelhead season is coming to an end is when I hooked into a catfish. I've heard of some guys hooking into catfish with sacs but this was first time I caught one. During the summer months, the V has given up some nice size cats. But a nasty case of poison ivy put a stop to catfishing last year. This section changed a lot from last season and I quickly made some mental notes for possible trips next year. As the morning wore on, the sun and heat started to weed out the anglers. After 6 hours on the water, my arms and neck were turning red and that's when I decided to call it a day. By then I was one of the last ones on the river to make the long walk back.

Both days on the V were productive for me as I caught fish considering the conditions were very challenging. I think there is a last kick at the can for this upcoming weekend. The hot weather will be gone Monday and the cooler nights will drop the water temps back into the 50s. This could keep some fish in the river until they feel the need to head back to the big pond.

I Can't Quit

I've been fishing like a mother since last September and I'll go out kicking and screaming like a five year old being tossed from Chucky Cheese. For some I know, they've called it a season yesterday and they're burned out. They need the summer off to recharge their batteries and do some major league ass kissing with the significant other. In my case, the significant others are my rods and reels and all of us are happy whenever we hit the water. In the past, I've quit after the 3rd week of April as my work schedule filled up, my body started rebelling and most of the fish in the rivers were to beat up to swim back to the big pond. I could of called it a season today, but I knew it wouldn't take a lot of arm twisting, especially when I'm getting glowing reports from the grapevine. I'm pissed that I'm scheduled to work this Saturday and nobody wants to swap - assholes. All I wanted was one more kick at the can and then I could get back to the business of stockpiling a lot of money. I guess it's a good time to cook up an injury from the gym or fall off a ladder.

Another sign that the season is drawing to an end are the planting of smolts. On the lower sections they're like piranhas attacking everything in sight. I guess that's what happens when your fed the same crap everyday at the hatchery. Saturday was a perfect example of that as I and others hooked into them. I wince whenever I hook into a smolt as they're the next generation and a lot of them don’t make it back the following year. When I start hooking into them, I’ll pack up and start moving upstream. The problem was as I moved upstream I still hooked into them whether I was using sacs or flies. By then the bite had shut and I was starting to broil as the temperature made it into the 70s. I jumped into the Jeep and had an ice cold brew on the way to the Chagrin. The Chagrin was my special lady last season as I spent a lot of time there. But being the fickle steelheader, I ditched her for several other ladies out east this season.

The last time I fished the Chagrin, it was almost devoid of fish in March. The upper reaches have some the best gravel in Steelhead Alley and I found not one fish spawning. That was odd considering some rivers further east had fish polluting gravel beds. I fished the traditional winter holes and managed four dropback hens. By the time I arrived it was noon and the sun was high. There were some fish on the gravel and I figured a lot of time got beaten off it by the morning crowd. I was in droppie mode and it didn't take long to hook into some feisty lean hens. Considering I fished the shit of the streams out east, I wanted a change of scenery so I decided to hit the Chag early Sunday morning.

The morning started off slow as I picked up a couple of fish here and there. The treat of the morning were the two males doing their version of ultimate fighting. Both were the same size, covered in battle scars and neither were going to back down. They swam side by side almost taunting or trash talking to one another. One would take a swipe and wait for a response. They were oblivious to my presence as I took several pictures of the altercation. I'm sure a weasel of a skipper slipped under the covers and a had a quickie as those two brutes duked it out.

Looks like the season might be coming to an end as the temps this weekend are to hit the upper 70s. That means the river temps will shoot up into levels that steelhead usually find uncomfortable and I wouldn't be surprise that most if not all decide to say "fuck it, let's head for the big pond" In that case, can anybody say carp?

Wishing For A Permanent Vacation - Day 5, 6 and 7

Sadly my vacation week has come an end and so will another steelhead season by the end of the month. If I were a GM or Chrysler employee, I would be enjoying my 4th month off and looking forward to walleye and perch season in May - motherfuckers. For me on Monday morning it will be listening to the three stooges at the office bitch about this and that. In reality, I probably couldn't take another week of fishing. By Sunday, I was burning out from getting up at 4:30A.M and driving all the way to Conneaut and fishing like a mother all day. Plus my debit card was burning as I spent over $100.00 on gas and food - but it was a small price to paid for the week of excellent fishing.

Good Friday turned out be Good Grief!! Where the fuck did all the people come from? I'm sure the 20 other dimwits fishing the same stretch said the same thing. As expected many had the day off whether they liked it or not. I was in sour mood as most of the streams out east were too high to fish - shit. I was resigned to fishing the urban sewer and the sewer didn't disappoint as nobody was catching anything. The only thing we were catching was flak from Walt who was standing on top the cliffs whistling some annoying tune and calling us homos. We dared him to jump and the pussy chicken out - lame. I fished the lower section and only saw two fish caught. As I drove through the metro park it was 10 cars here and a full lot there. The telltale signs of boredom kicked in and the thoughts of another two days left made me call it a day. I headed to gym to "ahem" work out and ogle at the collection of spandex and tight tops on the treadmills. Working out and scaling back on the fatso foods has got me down to 191lbs and in 3 months I've shed 22lbs. But with the season coming to an end, I be stuffing my face as the early symptoms of steelhead depression will kick in.

Saturday I was suppose to head out east with the crew but one of them slept in - booooo. Not wanting to wait until 9:00A.M as that's when sleeping beauty finally woke up. By then I was already banging fish with both bait and flies. Surprisingly the number of people was very low as I was the first to pull in at 6:30 and leisurely strolled to a favorite spot. A sign that the season is coming to an end are the smolts, and I caught a couple of them on sacs. Since Conneaut is stocked by both Pennsylvania and Ohio, I assumed it was a PA smolt as the Cleveland paper's outdoor section usually informs anglers when smolts in Ohio are being released. The release of smolts is easy to locate as you look for a huge flock of seagulls off the boat launches - heh. The little fella I caught was about 8" and it's hard to believe that next spring they'll come back as 1 pounders. Unfortunately the majority of them end up as walleye fodder and ask any walleye fanatic what's their favorite springtime lure when trolling off the mouths of rivers. The day came to an end when I slipped on the rocks and smashed my knee around lunch time. That's what happens when most of the cleats on my boots are missing. With a few choice curse words, I hobbled through the water and limped back to the Jeep. My knee was too sore to walk on and a stiff drink with Advil awaited at home.

Sunday I made the drive back to Conneaut as Bubba wanted to fish the Rock with brother as he was leaving after fishing. Once again, I stumbled out of bed at 4:30 and guzzled a couple cups of coffee. It was the same thing as yesterday when I arrived at first light - nobody was there. Today I knew the crowds would be low because of Easter and many of my fellow anglers were stuck at home and eggs were on their minds and it wasn't chocolate ones. Yesterday I caught a lot of skippers on the lower section and further upstream many fish were on the gravel. The river was lower, but the color was off slightly. The same spot coughed up some skippers and spawned out hens. Every spot I fished gave up droppies and freshies and I didn't see one other person which is very rare in April.

After the bite shut off, I drove over to the Grand. The Grand was unfishable all week due the snow melt. The river was still a tad high and dirty, but fishable. I could make out some fish darting around the gravel and most of them looked old and beat up. That was evident as I caught a spawned out hen and male that had his lower jaw torn to pieces. This old buck will be another addition to the fucked up fish folder. The things some fish will go through to unload their jizz. It was late afternoon and the sun and wind did me in and it was long drive home where I promptly crashed on the couch.

There some nice fish being caught on the lower sections of the rivers. Usually late spawning fish tend to stay in those areas and quickly do their thing and head back to the big pond. The weather outlook for next week is to be dry and several rivers are starting to become bathtubs. The fishing might be tough as many spots are being pounded. I figure most if not all of the fish will have finished spawning by mid week. But there are exceptions to the rule, as I and others have seen fresh fish push upstream in low and clear conditions. There is probably another two weeks left in the season and I'll be done by the end of the month........maybe

Wishing For A Permanent Vacation - Day 3 and 4

No money shots, because I was fishing a very unscenic section of the river and I'm sure the fish didn't want a photo shoot that involved lying in a pile of mud. But I have added another in my collection of fucked up fish as this spawned hen was the hapless victim of I guess a boat prop, the undiscovered Lake Erie sea lion, rogue iceberg or some retard on meth that tried to zip it. What ever it was it was so nasty, but she fought hard and I wonder if it will heal.

Wednesday the rivers were starting to rise due the melting snow and the morning was banging as waves of fresh fish pushed upstream overnight. Running sacs along seams and cuts was the ticket and I pretty well stuck to the lower section. Today, I had a brief window as the river started to rise even more during the morning. It went from chalky white yesterday to mud. It was a skipper-fest for a couple of hours and I was forced off the river around 11:00A.M and drove back home was resigned to fishing the Rock and it was an hour of boredom.

All of the rivers are high and off-color, but not blown out. If you enjoy running golf ball size sacs then knock yourself out. Tomorrow I'm staying close to home as I've burned through a lot of gas ($90.00) and I'm getting burned out - both physical (my hands are like sandpaper) and mentally (tired of tying a gazillion sacs).

Wishing For A Permanent Vacation - Day 2

More lousy weather and that was perfectly fine with me. With the wind blowing off the lake, the lake effect machine was cranking out some nasty squalls during the day. The river was perfect in regards to flow and clarity and there were plenty of fish to be had. The fish of the day was a huge male I landed early in the morning. At first I thought snagged bottom and tried to yank the hook lose, then the line started to move. With a heavy current and a shitty tippet courtesy of Orvis, I gingerly played the fish. Three times I had it almost to the bank and the fish ripped straight across and downstream. It took almost 20 minutes to finally steer it into slack water and it was a fresh male well over 10lbs with a magnificent kype. Usually I would ask another angler to do the honors of taking the money shot, but nobody was around. I cropped the picture, because the background was too obvious and I'm being watched and I would get a verbal spanking from the diehards, plus who wants to see my ugly mug.......

It was a day for the hardcores and I only ran into 2 others for the entire time I was fishing. But good things must come to an end as warmer temperatures and the sun will be back and that means my nemesis will venture out - the fairweather fishermen. Now it back to tying sacs, stinking up the dining room and throwing out the 2 spools of Mirage tippets.

Wishing For A Permanent Vacation - Day 1

I officially started off my annual April vacation sitting in front of the computer Sunday night breaking into a cold sweat. On the screen was a giant green blob invading the state of Ohio. Like an ameoba, it's tentacles were slowly snaking its way towards the alley. The only thing I could do is go to bed and in the morning either breath a sigh of relief or throw the computer out the window. Lucky for the computer, the fishing gods took pity on me and the 1/2" of rain the weather nerds predicted never happened.............go figure

As with every vacation, I try to make stops at all of the river including the much maligned Vermilion and Rocky. It was go east young man as none of the rivers went up, but it would be an incredibly shitty day weather wise. This was typical April weather on Steelhead Alley - one week it's sunny, upper 60s and elbows and assholes. Then today it was upper 30s, sleet and wind. The type of day that brings a smile to my face.

The constant drizzle was a pain in the ass and I forgot to bring lens cloth. Wiping glasses with polyester doesn't do a very good job and I often had to stop fishing to wipe my glasses. In the skinny water I could see fish lying along the ledges and I found the pin was more effective. The fly rod came in handy as I worked several riffles and pockets that gave up some fresh fish. But it was mostly droppies holding in the deeper pools and holes.

With April showers come the pesky Lake Erie suckers and they can pollute some of the best steelhead holding areas - pools. This morning I had a "hillbilly bonefish" suck up a sac and it was large golden redhorse sucker. Redhorse's generally dislike holding in faster water and most steelheaders will start foul hooking them as they pile in any available slow deep water. Usually when I hook into a sucker, it's time to move. Moving around was the theme today as I had cover a lot of water to find fish. In every spot, only a couple would come out to play.

The low and grey clouds hanged around all day and the drizzle and sleet rarely let up. Even the weather was sub-par, the water conditions were great. By late afternoon I had enough and satisfied with the day's results. On the way home I drove into some lake effect snow and visibility was about a quarter mile. Luckily it was wet snow and the temperature was still above freezing. Back at it tomorrow and it's winter steelheading........

March Madness

This was the first voyage of the S.S Bubba and the captain was excited to break in his boat. This was the perfect weekend to do a float as it was another Saturday of elbows and assholes. I dropped my Jeep off 4 miles downstream from our starting point and as we rolled in we could see 15 vehicles in the lot across the river and it was wasn't even daylight. We went down the check list - rods, bait, food, beer and we shoved off. As Bubba sat in his boat, it groaned and protested. It was smaller than the boat I had and I feared as we floated down river Bubba was going to slowly sink especially after lunch. Aside from that, I really pumped for a great day of fishing.

Floating during the spring is very effective crowd control and that was evident as we had to weave around several anglers fishing the first set of riffles. Over the past couple of weeks me and others have commented that this was the most people we've seen fishing in recent memory. As we made our way downstream, I could see and hear the herds of anglers racing to get down river. As we approached the bend, this was the first test for the S.S Bubba as there was a set of rapids. Luckily the river was low, but the rapids ran very close to the bank and there were a couple of large sycamores in the water, not to mention about 10 guys fishing the length of the rapids. I scooted through quickly and turned back to see Bubba bounce off the first tree. I didn't hear any loud popping noise or a Mayday distress.

Prior to launching, I had a game plan and we were going to blow through the first 2 miles of water as its been pounded beyond belief. Most if not all of the fish had finished spawning and I knew of several large pools below gravel beds that held droppies. We made it to the first pool which is massive by Steelhead Alley standards - nearly a 100yd. In the winter it's chock full of fish and during the spring spawned out fish drop back for a smoke. It turned out to a be a bust as I managed to hook into 2 fish and Bubba was wearing a skunk. As we fished I watched 2 guys walk downstream and started to fish a spot that I wanted. I mentioned to Bubba that we could fish between them and if we didn't get any action and next spot was the pool along the cliffs.

Then we started down towards the "club". This a section on the Grand were the assholes come out in full force during the spring. The club is the Slovenian club and they have property on the river and this section is loaded with gravel. I know a guide who has permission and I've heard the landowner himself tell us that he doesn't mind people fishing it. The road to the river is private and that is posted. It's a two mile walk from the dam so a lot of anglers rarely walk down. But that doesn't stop some of the club members that try to act like the club enforcer. I've had a couple of them try to kick me out and I simply tell them the owner's name and the discussion is over. But there are the dickheads that don't seem to get it. 

Today it was some guy casting spoons off the bank and he wasn't wearing waders. Just before we could get the rods off the boats, he walked over and told us that the section was posted. I said I had permission and continued to untie my rod. He then said he was the landowner and I looked and said

"Spare me your bullshit and take a hike"

He just stood there with this stunned look on his face as we walked to fish a hole. Obviously his plan backfired because he didn't confront us. 

We worked the hole and I watched 4 guys drift by - fuck. I watched them drift downstream and they pasted over a pool that I wanted to fish. But I knew where they were heading and I wasn't thrilled at the thought of it. The hole didn't produce that much action and we were ready to launch when a father and son drifted by - fuck. The next pool started to produce some decent number of fish and we were contend on camping out there until we cleaned it out. 

The place I want to fish was still another mile away and I feared that it would resemble the Rocky River's Rockcliffe ford on a Saturday afternoon. But I didn't want to race down river only to have our trip cut short because after that spot we were about 1/2 mile from the hauling out. I could see the father and son fishing a set of riffles that holds a lot of spawning fish due to the large amount of gravel. We went around them and parked downstream. This was the spot that I wanted to break in my new fly rod as the river is fast and shallow. This was a rod that replaced my 11'3" Redington as I broke it fighting a monster carp last August and only two weeks ago did I finally send it out. To my dismay, Redington had discontinued the model as it was perfect for Lake Erie steelheading and I had to settle for the standard 10' rod. As expected we saw a lot of empty redds and only a couple of males that showed late for the party. We worked the entire the area and Bubba briefly had one on. We had lunch and watched the 3 guys in the canoe, their buddy in the kayak, one hillbilly in a canoe and his buddy in a kayak, father and son and their two buddies go by - fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck. Maybe I'll look into having a couple of torpedoes mounted on the sides on the boat, strategically dropping mines in the water or pulling out a favorite from Donnie Beaver's playbook - piano wire across the river.

We shoved off and I could see in the distance that the spot we wanted to fish was occupied by all except for the 3 guys in the canoe and other in the kayak. All of them were fishing the faster water and I noticed nobody was fishing the pool below. This spot has a ton of gravel and in the spring it has an obscene number of fish. There are so many redds it resembled a mine field. This pool had dropback written all over it and we got the pins raring to go. Bubba was fishing further down and it was difficult section to fish due to all of the slack water in front of us. I moved up to the head and stood on a gravel bar. On the first drift, the float got slammed and the fish turned and burned - a typical droppie. I corralled the fish and it was a spawned out hen. I motioned Bubba to move up to where I was. Then it was like somebody rang the dinner bell as we started to hook up left, right and center. When I released a fish, he was hooking into one and it was like for over an hour - non stop. We joked that we wouldn't have the energy to paddle back. It was one spawned hen after another and by the time it was said and done we landed over 20 fish. All of them were hens except for one male. That's how many hens were spawning in those riffles last week and any fly fishermen stumbling on that probably blew his load.

We ended up having one of the best days of the season. The S.S Bubba survived its maiden voyage, Bubba was sold on floating and wanted to do another. We decided to end the day on a good note and lazily paddled back having a ice cold brew. Staring tomorrow it's five days until vacation..........