Sexy water was a term coined by Gene Norland for prime water. When I think of sexy water, it's that sapphire water found in the South Pacific or the Caribbean. Ohio's streams are unique, much different to the tannic colored Lake Superior tribs I fished in my youth. Most of Lake Erie's streams run low and clear due to low ground water sources. The water depending on the time of year can range from gin clear to chalky white. As the water levels drop, the rivers take on a "greenish" hue from the clay particles suspended in the water. The deeper water has an emerald-like color and within that dark green is where steelhead often lie. Unfortunately, sexy water is often a temporary condition and earlier in the week, we had a huge blowout and several rivers hit flood stage. The end result was the rivers turned into a bunch of dirty girls and they stayed that way well into the weekend.
This is the time of year when fish start making the transition from winter to spring. Pennsylvania's steelhead are wrapping up spawning and Ohio's Manistee's are slowing making their way into the rivers. March is a fickled month as cold and warm weather can wreak havoc on fish migration and spawning. It can wreak havoc on steelheaders as it's a guessing game on what river hit the jackpot. Having the phone on speed dial and humping a lot of miles can put you on a bunch of fish.
Saturday was going to be a tough day as I knew several rivers were too high and there was only one game in town. As expected with the warmer weather, the crowds were going to be thick as thieves and I had to gun and run. That meant I didn't beat any holes to death and I hopped from hole to hole, pocket to pocket and run to run. I managed to hit fish in several spots, but the crowds were bad enough that I had to make a change of scenery. The next river was higher and had the consistency of vanilla latte. However the number of people was low and several others that had to battle the crowds on the other river found refuge. Even though it wasn't the sexiest of water, I made the best of it and managed a couple of fish. I figured as the river dropped overnight we might see some of that green water and I had my finger crossed for tomorrow. Since it was only early afternoon, I decided to drive back to the previous river as the morning crowd called it a day. With the warmer temperatures, I could see some of the fish were getting their groove on and like flies drawn to shit there were plenty of people to intercept them. I could go on for days about the ethics of fishing redds and I'll save it for another day.
Sunday was going to be a zoo regardless of what river was going to be fish. It was the annual OCBS spring tournament. For those who don't know what OCBS is, it stands for Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders or as somebody know calls it - Ohio Conceited Bastard Steelheaders. I'm not a member, but I know several who are and they are outstanding steelheaders and deeply care about the fishery. The club does a lot for the steelheading community and they embrace both bait and fly fishing. I arrived early to see the cars pulling in and I quickly dressed and greeted the other fellow steelheaders. I fished the lower section of the river, thinking that most of the fish were coming in slowly and staging in the deeper water. The morning started off fast as several hooked into skippers, I don't knock them as they're fun to catch and they fight very hard. The number of fair weather fishermen was high and it wasn't hard to point them out and some don't seem to have a grasp on steelheading. As I walked upstream, I watch a couple of young fellas loading up a bucket and I asked if they were leaving. They said yes and remarked the fishing sucked - it was only 8:30A.M. and they were giving up a classic steelhead tailout that holds a lot of fish. They told me they were going walleye fishing and I said "knock em dead" and chuckled as they left - idiots. After an hour, I was thinking of joining the idiots and looking for some walleye action as the tailout only gave up a couple of fish. I wasn't the only one scraping the bottom of the river for fish as I noticed nobody else was really banging fish. When that happens it time for a death march and that's what I did.
I started to trek upstream and I bitched about the dingy water. It was almost a week after the rain and the water was still murky. I plugged away at all of the spots I knew and it was a skipper here and there. There was no bulls to be had and I started thinking where the hell were they hiding. With it being mid-March it was bound to happen sooner or later - I snagged a sucker. Several friends I know dubbed them hillbilly bonefish and unlike bonefish, suckers are lucky to peel off 10yds of line when hooked. But this one caught me off guard as I thought I hooked into a large steelhead. The fish moved quickly and I struggled to get it off the bottom. But as soon as I got it to the surface, the red fins were the dead give away - it was a monster golden redhorse sucker. I was fishing with a couple of OCBS members and they were hooking into skippers. Too bad they weren't allowed as they would of won by a landslide. One them hooked into a hen that had a fresh lamprey scar. Over the past couple of years, I've noticed fish with numerous scars and raw ones are nasty. I can't imagine what a fish goes through as one of these parasites bores through its flesh and drain them of their bodily fluids. Surprisingly the fish was fat and healthy looking.
By now the sun was high and I was tired of pissing in the wind. I jumped in the Jeep and headed west to another river that I've yet to fish this season. I arrived around 1:00P.M and not to my surprise the river was dirty even though the flow was low. This was more or less a scouting trip for my upcoming vacation in April. Once again the river changed as I noticed some killer tailouts were no more and some pools were wider and deeper. I was some what surprised to see that all of the gravel beds had no fish spawning - there was one redd here and there but no fish to be seen. The puzzle was solved when I caught a couple of spawned out hens in one deep run. A lot of others were posting goose eggs as nobody could point out where the fish were holding.
It turned out that a lot of fish didn't make their into the rivers. For the past three days, I've talked to several others that struggled to get fish into the net. Hopefully once the rivers start to clear up the fish will seek out the deeper water. But don't fret as the best fishing has yet to come.....