Goose Egg

Early fall can get to the hardcore steelheader. After a long summer laid off, the shorter days and cooler nights get them stirring. The leaves start turning color and there is slight nip in the morning. But being at southernmost range of these magnificent fish, we are often forced to wait until late October and November before we start seeing any major number of fish. This year, summer still persist much to the chagrin of many. Somewhere out in the depths of Lake Erie, some steelhead patiently wait for the cool rains that will beckon them to come in. But for the time being, we must also wait patiently. The heat still persists and there is no rain in sight. 

 The Alley is still parched from a hot and dry summer. The streams are low and filthy looking. The brownish hue is a far cry from the brilliant emerald green colors of winter. The streams are stagnant not the place for trout. The streams out in Pennsylvania are so low, that fish wouldn't be able to make it in. Reports of fish are few and far between. I start to look at other options and one of them is fishing off the breakwall. 

There are numerous breakwalls near the mouths of several rivers. The Grand, Conneaut, and Ashtabula are ones that have public access. It was cool and grey day. Just a month ago the beach was packed with people swimming and tanning. Today, the beach is largely quiet except for a few walking along the beach looking for beach glass. The surrounding woods are full of birds, resting from their journey across the lake. The small park is an important resting and feeding place for migrants. The wind has kept the midges down. During the fall, the number of midges hatching from the lake can be staggering. Entire trees and rocks are covered in them. As I walk along, clouds of them swirl about. I swat them away and hold my breath as I don't want to inhale them. I can see many birds jumping from branch to branch, feeding as they expended a lot of energy crossing Lake Erie. Some of these migrants probably came from the boreal forests of Ontario and are slowly making their way to either Central or South America. 

The wind was blowing out of the northwest and from the top of the breakwall, I can see the water is very murky on the lake. The inner bay leading to the mouth of the Grand River is slightly off color, but fishable. Fishing the harbor in early fall can be a gamble as fish are few and far between. I stand on a large rock and rummage through the tackle box. The box mostly contains spoons that are either Cleos or K.O wobblers. I use a scuffed up silver and green cleo and start the long grueling process of casting out. There will be the chance that a fish is in the vicinity of your lure. The dingy water makes it that more tougher. I chucked and chucked until I couldn't chuck anymore. I didn't such much get a sniff of steelhead and that was expected. Walking back, I could see dark clouds over the lake. Many of the cottonwoods in the park were starting to shed their leaves. It will be a matter of time. 

Low Water

I hate low water. I hate it when I can see straight to the bottom and see no fish. If there is fish, most likely they have their eyes trained on me. There can be a pod of 10 fish and some of them are pigs. They hang off the bottom, lazily riding the current. Some of them even engage in a game of tag. But once you appear, they're on edge. They start to move about getting closer to any cover available. Your tempted to toss a single egg or a small fly at them. You think you can outsmart them. You give it the old college try and you FAIL. The fish ignore your offering. Some will taunt you by making a half hearted swipe and at the last second swim away. This is low water fishing at its finest. 

The streams along the Alley are notorious for low water. Most of the streams here have little to no sources of groundwater. The Alley's streams rely on rain and snow melt for their sources of water. Streams in Pennsylvania can go from a raging torrent to low and clear in matter of days. Some of the smallest streams have short drainages and drop like if somebody flushed the toilet. I've fished the Elk many times just a couple of days after a rainfall. The creek is off color and I'll shove a stick into the water. Within an hour the water has dropped an inch. By the end of the day it can drop several inches. The window for prime conditions depends on where you fish. It can last a couple of days on the Elk or Walnut or over a week on the Grand or Catt. But overall, we mostly have to contend fishing low and clear, especially in the fall. 

I read an article in the Cleveland paper about this summer being one of the hottest on record. With the heat also came very little rain and if it did rain, it came down in micro monsoons. The Alley is parched and begging for rain. September comes and I'm getting anxious for the upcoming season. We receive rain, only to see the parched earth suck up like a sponge. The rivers barely go up and become a mud slow flow that you see in the deep South. Within days, the rivers go back to low and clear. Any fish that make it into the low stretches often retreat back to the lake. 

Several of mine friends are more than happy to see the low rivers, because it gives them more time on the big pond to load the freezer more with perch and walleye. For the lowly landlubber like me, steel is the only fish I really chase after. Instead of pouting or sitting on the couch, I'l make the drive out. I would rather get skunked than do house-chores. I decide to take a road trip out east to see what's shaking. I bring along the spinning rod in case I want to chuck spoons off the breakwall or at the mouths of one of the creeks. It's just too nice to be holed up in the house. 

I arrive at one river and it's extremely low. From the bridge, I see can make out the shale bottom. I can see the ledges and small cuts in the bottom. During prime conditions, fish often hug or hide themselves in these places. From my vantage point, I see no fish. Rocks are exposed and I can see the high water mark, the river is 3 feet lower. The wind whips across the stream, it looks so lifeless. 

This makes it a perfect opportunity to scout out some holes. It's warm enough that I don't even bother to put on waders. I have an old pair of sneakers and shorts. I walk along the stream and come to one popular hole. Where I'm standing during the winter months, I would be in knee deep water. Instead the rocks are dry and the stream is about 5 feet away from me. I look into the riffle for any signs of fish, there is none. I walk above the bank and look into the water, no signs of life. It's another favorite spot of mine, a large sweeping pool. The bottom is littered with rocks. The current hugs along the bank and there are several trees that have fallen into the water. I scan around the trees and see no activity. There are fish but I suspect they are way downstream in the slower deep water. I spend most of the morning stopping at several spots making mental notes and taking pictures with my camera.  I've noticed several spots have changed in depth due to high water and the movement of gravel. 

No fish for me today. The lake is too rough to fish. I stop at a farmer's market on the way back to the highway. I buy several bags of corn, peppers, zucchini, squash, and apples. It's warm enough that I drive home with the window down. Doesn't feel like mid September as the trees are still green and there isn't any hint that fall is around the corner. I drive over another river and I glance over. I can see plenty rocks out the water. The rain will come, it's only a matter of time.

The Season Is Almost Upon Us

All of the things on my "honey to do" list have not been complete. After a long day of work, I have no energy. I flop myself on the couch and watch the ballgame. Excuse after excuse comes out of my mouth. 

"I have all summer, stop ragging on me"

Then days start getting shorter and the nights cooler. I start to stir and fidget in my home. I could do those things on the list. But I need to make sure I have everything for the upcoming season. I write a list - hooks, sinkers, floats, new boots, and waders. There might even be a chance of going to Michigan for salmon. I walk by all of the junk that should of been organized weeks ago. My how time flies. 

I wander into the basement and look for my equipment. The equipment is in the corner, covered in dust and cobwebs. I dusted off the rods, reels, waders and jackets. Everything is in order and I wander to the kitchen. I look into the fridge searching for my eggs. I open the bag and they are in good condition. But the freezer is packed, I must make room for my eggs. What can I toss or eat? I still feel restless and anxious. I look on the computer and check the weather reports for rain and stream conditions. I call friends that I haven't seen in months - we are all restless. I start to go to bed early, the weather channel is always on, buddies call during supper.

The season is almost upon us.