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........