Equipment Reviews

Another steelhead season has come and gone and I’ve put my latest equipment through hell and some of it is ready for Wednesday's trash collection. If I were a hired tester, I would be that Samsonite luggage gorilla reeking havoc in the baggage area.

Korker Streamborn Boots

I’m pretty hard on boots, but in the past I bought cheap ones and by the end of the season, they were falling apart. The brand of boots was long - Redington - destroyed, Cabelas - FUBAR, and I even managed to wreck a pair of Chotas!! Last summer I purchased a pair of Korkers as a friend of mine got me a discount and I never turn down a bargain. Korkers are known for their interchangeable soles and the boots came with rubber and felt soles and a tool to insert them in. It was relatively easy to get the soles in and if you lose the tool a screwdriver on a leathermen tool would do just as good.

I really didn’t see the point of them adding the rubber soles as I wouldn’t even dare even use them in the water as that guaranteed a dunking in the river. Felt are practically useless in the snow and mud. I got the studded rubber soles and after several trips out some of the cleats started popping out. After that I started to lose several more and pretty soon I was down to 8 of them. I bought a bunch of cleats as I figured I was going to lose some every trip out because I‘m a clumsy oaf and shale rocks are a bitch. I didn’t lose as many cleats, but then the lugs came loose or fell out. By April, most the lugs were gone or the threading was stripped, so I had to use the felt soles. The boots themselves held up pretty well as in the past I’ve had the stitching come loose or the soles started to crack. The only tear was a small one at the back of one boot.

The positive notes were the boots were very light and drained water well. They are incredibly durable as this gorilla can inflict some major damage. On the downside, the lugs for the studded rubber were flimsy and couldn’t withstand a season of my hardcore fishing. At $34.99 for pair I would probably go through a couple of them a season. The boots also had an appetite for laces as I went through 4 pairs.

Overall, I would recommend them as they’re a good light weight boot, comfortable and durable. Hopefully Korkers will upgrade the studded rubber or come out with an aquasleath type of sole.

G Loomis GLX 13’ 2 pc Rod

G Loomis hit this one out of the park. This rod was specifically made for the Great Lakes region and float crowd. The rod is incredibly light as it made my 13’6” Raven feel like a plank. No more shoulder pain and it made those long days that more enjoyable. The rod is extremely fast and tip sag is almost non existent as most float rods suffer from that because of their long lengths. This resulted in lighting fast hook sets and I noticed I didn’t lose as many fish this season. The titanium recoil guides can be very soft in colder weather as I thought I broke one of them as it was bent back towards the blank. Simply breathing on it made it stiffer. Any ice on the guides can be simply flicked off or tapped into the water.

This rod is a pinner’s dream and don’t let the $550.00 price tag scare you away. It’s worth every penny and I wouldn’t hesitate to get another.

Wright & McGill Waders

A reasonably priced of waders for those who can’t afford the Simms or Patagonia. Like boots I go through a lot of waders. Prior to the past season I heard several good comments about these waders. They were in the $150.00 price range and competed with the Cabelas and Hodgmans. At that price I usually give them a couple of seasons.

They are a decent wader as I only had one leak at the knee and that was the result of me tripping and landing on a rock that tore the seam. They are made of Aqualex and I’ve never heard that type of fabric before. The waders comes with a belt, back support pad, built in gravel guards and 12” wide pocket.

The only thing I found annoying with the waders was the water balance system which the company omits from their website. The reasoning behind it was water in the lower legs helped balance the angler in faster water. I’m kind of confused with that logic, as you would want no extra weight to hinder your movement through the water. It was funny whenever I emerged from the water and my bottom legs had about 20 gallons of water and seeing all of that water gushing out. By the end of the season I had a total of 4 leaks all of them at the knees. I'll probably spend the dough and get a pair of Simms.

The Wright & McGill Bighorn Jacket

I bought this on the recommendation from several friends and it was in my price range. This jacket is also made from the Aqualex fabric. It’s a heavy four layer jacket has two large front pockets and I can hold all of my terminal tackle in them. Inside there are 3 pockets and two on the sleeves. On the front are two plastic rings that can used to clip on retractors for tippets and pliers. In the back there is a large pouch that hold a lot of stuff. It's very easy to unzip and retrieve items.

Feature I liked were the pockets and neoprene cuffs that kept out water. The things I didn’t like about it was the hood, as I found it too small it restricted my movement. I also felt the Aqualex fabric didn’t keep out the cold as good as Goretex as I felt the cold a couple times when the wind was strong.

This jacket can hold a ton of stuff as I rarely use my vest anymore. It's perfect for the winter months, but a little too heavy for the fall and spring. I'll give it 4 sacs out of 5.........

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..........

Gary Bettman is an Idiot

Maybe it's me being crabby that I can't watch any of the NHL playoffs because my cable provider doesn't offer it for free - bastards. Plus nobody in the state of Ohio gives a shit about hockey. Seriously high school spelling bees competitions get more press. Then I read in the news that NHL commissioner - Gary Bettman is trying to screw over Jim Balsillie again.

I hated Gary Bettman ever since he became commissioner. Many in traditional hockey circles didn't like the fact that a former NBA lawyer from New York was picked to run the league. It didn’t take him long to start pissing off many of the traditionalists when he eliminated the names of the divisions (Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe) and then become public enemy number one in Canada when the Jets and Nords left for Phoenix and Denver respectively. Then there were the stupid rule changes and the two work stoppages, including the one in 2004-05 robbed us of an entire season.

Now Bettman is ready to bend over Blackberry billionaire Jim Balsillie as he’s once again trying to buy and move another franchise to Canada. First it was the Pens and then the Predators and now the Coyotes. The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy and Balsillie made an offer. To nobody’s surprise Bettman stepped in and stop it from happening citing league rules. I call bullshit as Bettman doesn’t want to lose a team from the southwest. Yeah, Arizona is such a hockey hotbed. I’ll bet that 99.99999% of the residents in the Greater Phoenix area couldn’t name 2 players from the team or if you asked them what a puck was they would say it's found in a urinal. Nobody gives a shit about hockey there, so let somebody buy it and move it where people appreciate the game.

But Gary Bettman is the stubborn know-it-all and I wonder if he would be willing to bet his OWN money that the Coyotes can survive. Maybe somebody should sit Gary down and explain it like this

“I bought a company that specializes in selling surfboards in Nunavut and snowsuits in Saudi Arabia. So far I am losing a lot of money, but I feel as though the company will come around with the right marketing strategy. Can I get some capital from you to keep me afloat in the short term?”

In article I read, this comment pretty well sums up what an idiot he really is “the league prefers to fix its problems rather than abandon cities“ Yeah, tell that to Winnipeg and Quebec City.

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.