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.