Last night I was looking for boxes for Christmas presents in the basement. I started moving them around and I stumbled upon my old John Milner bushing reel. I purchased it from an Ebay auction about ten years and that was when pinning was starting to take off on the Alley, especially here in Ohio. I was as green as got when came to pinning. No videos or articles to help guide me. It was all trail and error and a lot of birds nests. But, I eventually mastered it. It was a well built reel, but I'm always getting the latest trends in steelheading. It was the Milner, then a Bob James and today a Kingpin. I sold the Bob James, but I could never part with the Milner. I knew John Milner only produced a handful of reels every year, but it had no serial number and I had no idea when it was made. It was tucked away but never forgotten.
I took the reel out of the box and spun it. It spun for a couple of minutes despite the lack of any lubricant. It still had the old Siglon line from five years ago. I took it upstairs and replaced the line. I put a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the bushing and spun it. It was just as quiet as the bearing reel. I rigged the reel to my G Loomis rod and I was all set for the trip out east tomorrow. I sat back and watched the latest of the never ending bowl games. Tonight it the ever popular uh oh better get MAACO bowl game. Personally I think there is way too many bowl games and some of them have the dumbest names such as the Beef O'Brady or Tax Slayer bowl - seriously. But colleges are always looking to squeeze more cash out their student athletes. It actually turned out to be a thrilling game as Boise State beat Washington 28-26.
The Alley got it first taste of winter a couple days ago. It was suppose to be a major storm, but it didn't amount to anything but a light dusting here. As for the the snow belt I would find out in the morning. A cold chill greeted me as I walked out. The sky was clear and full of stars. Many of my fellow citizens were getting sleep, preparing for a day of last minute Christmas shopping and waiting for family members to arrive. Unfortunately due to work I wasn't able to get time off and it would of been to expensive to fly out to British Columbia with just days before the weekend.
When I crossed into Pennsylvania, the amount of snow was much greater. I got off the exit and drove south to the creek. It was first light when I pulled in and there was a couple cars. I watched all four of them head downstream and I immediately headed up. I walked along the creek and checked the temperature, it was 27F. There was ice along the stream and some slush in the water. The surrounding forest and cliffs were cloaked in fresh snow. The creek was running clear and the deeper water was emerald green. It was winter steelheading at its finest.
The best place to be was the monster pool farther up stream, but with nobody around I wasn't in an hurry. The water was probably in the mid 30s and that meant tailouts and slicks. With it being this late in the season and farther up river, nearly all of the fish were dark, post spawn and dropping back. Unlike the fresh fish of Ohio I caught before the last blowout, all of the Pennsylvania fish had a palette of charcoal, reds and whites. The highlight of the morning was the yuletide log that I hauled out of one hole. It was the lightest of takes as the float barely hesitated. It was truly a pig and just as fat as one. He was in his winter glory with the brightest of colors. I guess he also garnered a lot of attention as he about five flies stuck in him. I removed all of them and took a couple of quick pictures. I gently placed him in the frigid water and I watched slowly sulk off into the depths.
The frigid temperatures made fishing challenging as the line and guides constantly iced up. I remembered not to whack the rod in the water as I learnt my lesson from last winter. The fishing was mundane as best as I picked away at them. They weren't piled into the few holes but scattered through out. The sun slowly crept up through the trees and I started to feel the warmth. It was mid morning I had yet to see a person out which is a blessing on the Elk. I started the long trip back downstream and as I got closer to the access, I started to see people. Groups of the them were clustered around the holes I fished earlier in the morning. In the distance I could make out 8 cars and trucks. I could of made the trip downstream but instead I wanted to head to another stream. That stream was my little secret. It's a small gem that I get to rarely fish anymore.
I arrived to see not one person out. This stream practically runs over shale. The bottom is pockmarked full of small holes. Along those holes are the shale ledges. The ledges provide with little cover for the fish. It was partly cloudy and whenever the sun came out, the ledges could be seem very easily. I fired the float across and moved it into the heart of the hole. The float shot under and from a distance I could see the side of steelhead flash as it took the bait. Unlike Pennsylvania, the majority of fish caught here were fresh. Every little hole yield some fish.
It was three before I hit the road and I-90 was more busy for a Sunday. A lot of people travelling including fellow Canadians. I stopped for a coffee and took my time driving home. I was in no hurry as all of my Christmas shopping was done weeks ago. The couch was calling my name when I arrived home. I flopped down and put on the game. I covered myself in the blanket and quickly fell asleep. Tomorrow will be a slow day and I'm sure the boss will close shop by noon. That will give me some time to scout the Rock out for the annual Christmas outing with the boys.
Nothing beats having a river full of steelhead in your backyard. Then add living 10 minutes from work and it's the slow season. I call it being blessed when I can wet a line for a couple of hours and get into some nice fish. I still follow my I don't fish the Rock on the weekend decree. But after work especially during the winter can be great. The cold chased the morning crowds off hours ago and a full day of sunshine can bump the temperature up a couple of degrees. Just enough to get them to perk up when a fresh sac of salmon eggs drift by.
With the slow season, my work load has decreased to the point that I often leave work around three, plenty of time to wet a line. With the festive season around the corner, there has been times when I've gone home around two. I could of used the time to do chores or take a nap. Yeah right, this steelie junkie has fish to catch. I've heard through the grapevine that a decent number of fish have moved in. Despite it getting dark around five, I've had plenty of time to make the rounds at my favorite holes. Winter steelheading is around the corner.
Many steelheaders that fish the Alley are familiar with the PA mutts. Pennsylvania's steelhead are hodgepodge of different strains. Depending on the dominant strain, they'll run in the fall or spring. This is why Pennsylvania's fishery is popular or much maligned. Unlike, Ohio's sleek Manistee strain, Pennsylvania's will come in a assortment of shapes and sizes - a genetic mess. Case in point, the specimens I caught on the Elk. If they were football players they would be the nose tackle. Despite their hefty girth, they fought like champs.
Oddly, I rarely catch morbidly obese fish in Ohio. Instead they are sleek silver missiles. They often shoot out of the water and fight with reckless abandon. That's what the Manistees are known for and they pale in comparison to the Skamanias of Indiana. I've heard of their legendary fighting abilities and in some cases they'll literally fight to the death. The mutts instead will bulldog and never yield an inch. It's like trying to pull a log from the bottom. After releasing these chunky individuals I watched them quickly dart back into the hole to catch their breath and lie on the bottom for the reminder of the day. I guess we share something in common after a hard workout instead mine involves a couple of beers after a 4 mile run........
That's the question many are asking on the Alley - where the hell are the fish? In the 14 years I've been here, I've never seen numbers this low. I mean ridiculously low. It's almost like the steelhead have vanished or the population has crashed. Now I know what a steelheader in B.C feels like. With the exception of Pennsylvania, it been a struggle to find consistent number of fish here in Ohio. We've been spoiled like a group of rich kids. A skunk was so infrequent that it never crossed our mind. Double digit days were the norm. So far this year, it's been a case of practically kicking over every rock and log to find fish. Some anglers are probably seeking professional help on how to get their game back. We're thrilled to land two fish. Reality has sunk in for me as I know it will be one or two here and there. Like most, we're patiently waiting because we know the fish will eventually show up.
I believe that Hurricane Sandy is the major culprit for this woeful fall. The hurricane produced 15 to 20 foot waves, major lake surges and massive flooding. Any staging fish would of been battered and the end result is all of them seek refuge miles out in the lake. Fish have returned to staging but now the rivers are so low that very few are trickling in. Instead of fishing low, I've been fishing far up river in some cases nearly 20 miles from the lake.
What was the results of Turkey Day and the day after Ohio State went undefeated? A lot better than others. Both days I ventured out at an unheard of nine in the morning. Didn't have race to any holes or pools as a matter of fact I ran into three people - a guide and two clients. As for the guide, talk about pressure. I'm sure guides on the Alley were feeling the 800 pound skunk on their shoulders. People living outside the Alley are reluctant to fork over $3.40 for gas and drive a 100 mile to get skunked. Not many happy faces on the river but what can you do? Deal with it.
I used the opportunity to scout some new water on the Chagrin. Ever since the dam in Gates Mills collapsed a couple years ago, the fish have about 8 miles of new water to run up. I fished the South Chagrin reservation several times last season and caught a few fish, but it was nothing to write home about. This section of the Chagrin runs through a gorge with steep shale cliffs and a series of waterfalls before the river itself splits into the East branch and the Aurora branch. The scenery here is beautiful as there are stands of old growth stands of hemlock and high cliffs. The center piece of the reservation is a rock sculpture called "Squaw Rock" that was created by artist and blacksmith Henry Church in 1885. Unfortunately this section is not the best holding water as it shallow and shale bottom. Fish will more than likely blow through it on their way up past the metro park into private waters - bummer.
Well at least I can sleep in, go to Starbucks for coffee and drive leisurely to the river with no worries of some body being in spot. As for rain...........nevermind
The old saying of 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish. I truly believe that and the it's dedicated and most persistent steelheader that can still catch fish despite low numbers. Dealing with one of the worst fall runs in recent memory, has tested the patience of most anglers. That's been evident over the past couple of weeks as the number of anglers has dropped. Newbies have thrown in the towel and old timers are sick and tired of catching nothing out of their favorite holes. People can bitch all they want, there's nothing we can do about it. If your willing to put in the time and effort, you'll be rewarded but don't expect huge numbers. It was like that for me over the past few days on three rivers.
At times, I'm not the most patient angler. But when times are tougher, I'll start working a little harder. Instead of walking by marginal spots, I'll give it a shot. That's the problem with a lot of anglers, especially ones new to the game - they give up too easily. Parking yourself at one hole is a recipe for a skunk around your neck. You have to walk and fish hard. I fished the Conneaut hard and it was seven fish. The Grand was even tougher as it was four fish. The Chagrin was better as I almost hit double digits. The distance covered was measured in miles, sore knees and back, and my cleats were worn down to nubs. But it was it well worth it and I credit my success to the years of constant scouting and knowing the secrets of the Alley's streams.
There are many theories why the number of fish have been off. I have my usual suspects, but I don't have the answers. It's always been a cycle ever since I've lived here. One possible theory was the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The storm nearly dumped 8" of rain in some areas. The Grand went 8' over flood stage and she bulldozed runs and pools and filled in holes. I noticed the effects once the river came down. Trees were moved and gravel bars appeared out of nowhere. Under one bridge it was a wall of trees and logs stacked along the supports. With flows that strong, I seriously doubt that even the hardiest steelhead would have made the journey upstream.
It was first light when I arrived at the lower end of the Grand and the sky was filled with stars. The sun started creeping over the horizon filtering out the darkness. The temperature was 30F and the surrounding vegetation was covered in a layer of frost. The river was probably hovering around the 40F mark, that meant tailouts and bends. Earlier in the week we received more rain, just enough to bump it up. Many hoped that more fish would of moved in, but I had reservations. All of my hard work managed three fish from a tailout. All of them had been in the river for some time as they were in full winter colors. After those three, there wasn't a lot going on and several anglers I ran into were grousing about the lack of fish. I fished around the bridge and I was dismay at the sight of one my favorite spots turned into a babbling riffle. The pool below the bridge got washed out, as it was turned into one large riffle. I decided to give another spot downstream another chance, I hoped third time was a charm because the previous other times were dismal. A half mile later, it was one fish. That closed the books on the Grand and it was off to home to watch the Ohio State and Wisconsin game.
The Chagrin was a river that I yet to fish this season. From reports, I heard it too was greatly effected from the flooding. The chatter I got about the Chagrin were less than favorable, but than again it was like that every where else. Another chilly morning greeted me when I arrived and I didn't bother getting up early. I was the first to roll in and slowly took my time walking to the river. From the trail I could see the river was on the verge of low and clear. This part of the Chagrin is my favorite. It's far from the lower stretches that on the weekends are a zoo. It's more rural and it has a mixture of pools filled with lumber and long sweeping runs with gravel and sandy bottoms. It's very reminiscent of the streams found in Michigan. It was cold enough that ice started to build up on the guides. I was mindful not to start whacking the rod tip in the water as I broke it this past winter. The first fish of the morning was a hen that came from the tail end of small run. It was a small enough that it was probably the only fish in it. I had a lot of water to explore and next spot I found that the gravel got washed out. The flood deposited a gravel bar and it was funneling water through it. It was light enough that the tail end of the pool above had been filled in with gravel.
It was a theme as I found pool after pool was filled in with gravel and sand. Hopefully over time the current would start creating holes and deeper pools. The second fish came from a pool in the past that fish would stack themselves like cord wood. The depth was reduced by half and I could see the bottom. Not a lot of rocks or structure to give fish relief from the current. As I fished, I began to hear the chorus of coyotes starting to yelp and bark far off in the woods. Hard to believe, because a mile and half to the west, there's the hospital, large malls and one of the busiest streets in the Greater Cleveland area. My persistence was paying off as I picked away at fish and one spot held a decent number of them. It was several large trees stuck in the middle and their roots allowed the current to start gouging out a hole. It had the perfect depth and size and gradually tailed out. One fish turned out to be six fish including one hefty male. That male turned out to be the last fish of the day as I started working some of the same spots on the way back. I didn't see one person on the river, which is unheard of for a Sunday in November. I drove to two other sections and there so much as a nibble, but it was a valuable scouting trip.
I don't expect much to change in the upcoming weeks as we make the transition from fall to winter. The number of fish will still be low, but on the bright side the number of anglers will be a lot less. Time to swap out the cleats...........
Every anglers biggest annoyance - prime conditions and little to no fish. The stars and moon are aligned. The weather is beautiful, the water is spot on, a prior blowout, and wind coming out of the south, but there's hardly any fish. That what it was like this weekend - nothing but frustration on the Alley. We waited with anticipation as we were into the month of November, generally when Ohio's steelhead start migrating into the streams. I relished the thought of getting into fresh spunky steelhead.
Hurricane Sandy did a favor as the streams got the thorough roto rooter cleansing we needed. A couple of them - the Grand and Chagrin went well over flood stage. All of them were coming down just in time for the weekend. Wanting to give my wallet a break, I decided to fish closer to home. One river I wanted to hit was the Grand. It's been a while since I've wetted a line and the times I've fished it, it was barely flowing, clogged with leaves and very little fish. It was primed for action and you couldn't ask for better conditions. The plan of action was to fish high Saturday and low on Sunday.
The first stop was below one of the Grand's feeder creeks. As I got dressed, I watched three women jogging up the trail at first light. I was caught off guard to say the least. I started the long trek down the feeder creek and to the river. The Grand ole girl's flow was inviting and I crossed over to fish the monster pool below the mouth of the creek. I started at the head and wondered how many fish moved up. A half hour turned into an hour and I was still waiting for my first bite. By now, I was working the tailout and I was puzzled. Plan A turned into plan B and headed farther up river. I started a quarter mile below the dam and began to fish. It was the same result - nothing. I banged every hole, pocket water and pool for nearly a mile. The result was no fish, not even a nibble from a lowly chub. I muttered and cursed under my breath "Where the hell are the fish?". I combed the same spots on the way back and the same result - nothing. Of course the conspiracy theories started to pop in my head. If they weren't up high, they had to be down low. I hopped in the Jeep, grabbed some grub and drove downstream.
I traded rural for urban and fished one of my favorite places. To my dismay, the long run I loved to fish was reduced to a riffle. The high water filled in the run with rocks - bummer. As I walked up to the pool, there were three anglers fishing. All of them were posting a shut out. One of them told me he seen eight fish caught in the morning. That gave me a glimmer of hope but it was almost noon when I started. Magic eggs come on! It was time to think outside the box and I fished the bend because I figured nobody bothered. It turned out to the right call because it was fish on. A nice bright chunky male, the skunk was thrown off my neck. One turned into another fish, a dime chrome male. A absolutely beautiful specimen with a gun metal hue and bright white belly. I guess the fishing was terrible as I heard upstream some angler yelling out "It's about fucking time" Yes, it was fucking time to bail from this spot. On the drive to the next spot, I got on the horn and a pattern was revealed. The fishing on Conneaut blew, the V sucked ass, the Chagrin was shitty and so on. When I arrived the last spot had one car, oh boy. I gave it a shot and didn't bother to cross over. I fished off the bank and it was same pattern - casting over and over and over. It turned out to be a bust. What the hell was going on? Two fish? Oh well, there always tomorrow and I watched Alabama self destruct against Texas A&M - such much for your shot at another national title.
I gave the grim news to the boys yesterday and I figured I was going solo. I was already halfway out when the phone rang. It was them and I told them I was heading back to the same spot where I caught my two measly fish. I arrived at first light and walked down the trail with my coffee in hand. The trail the river was reduced to the width of a narrow mountain goat trial. One slip and its a mud bath. Well, I slipped went I jumped down and it was face first and spilled coffee. I slowly got up and brushed the mud off and cursed that all of my coffee was gone. Nothing changed water wise, but I hoped the fish changed their minds from being assholes to willing players. On the second drift I hooked into a fish - a small hen. From experience whenever I hook into fish that quickly, it's either the only one from spot or I'll start picking them off. It turned out be something in the middle as I picked one off - every hour. When the boys showed up I had two landed. With five of us, I wondered what the odds would be? I caught another and that was it. None of us could coax a fish into biting. We drove another spot and we all posted a shut out. Five experienced anglers in the month of November win one of the hottest spots and nothing! That's unheard on the Alley and a first for all of us.
It seemed either Hurricane Sandy flushed mostly all of the fish back into Lake Erie or the fish still dig the warm water of the lake, because numbers so far have been off this season - way off. In Pennsylvania, the locals are bitching that 20 fish in a pool is an unacceptable number and I'm sure letters are being written to the head of the fish and boat commission demanding that another million steelhead need to be dumped into the ditches immediately. I still think the lake is too warm and small number of fish moved in. The end result is fish are scattered through so much so, I've heard of guides floating 8 miles of the Grand and they landed one fish only. A lot of head scratching and questions why this weekend was so bad despite the great conditions. More rain is on the way and colder temps for the rest of the week. So we'll get another kick at the can.
Hurricane Sandy was heading for the Alley and I was lucky to get my fishing in before she unleashed her wrath. It was a night of rolling the dice as the Elk blew out the day before during the afternoon. The chance of rain for Sunday was 90% with most of it starting in the early afternoon. I tied some sacs early on and sat back to watched the Buckeyes beat down Penn State as they continued their quest for a perfect season. During the game, I would check the weather report, because we know how unpredictable hurricanes can be.
I woke up early, I checked the weather. There was a large green band of rain creeping northwest into Pennsylvania. I quickly checked the flow data for the Elk and it dropped down to 14 on the gauge. I knew a lot of people wouldn't make the drive out because of the threat of rain. Like I said before, I'll roll the dice when it comes to weather. Most of the time I win big, but there has been a couple of times where I see the stream is a little too high and dirty. I quickly loaded the Jeep and hit the road. It was still dark when I left but the roads were dry as I drove through Lake County. When I passed Ashtabula, it started to rain and it progressively got harder as I made my way east. It poured and the wipers struggled to wipe the water away. The window was going to shut quickly if the rain didn't stop. I got off the exit and headed south as I was fishing higher up as the creek generally runs cleaner here. It was first light when I pulled in and there wasn't a car. The creek was running a little higher and stained, but this is typical Ohio water that I'm used to fishing.
By now the rain has lessened and I would keep an eye on the flow gauge all morning. With the stronger current, I fished along the seams. The fish were not in a playful mood as I poked and probed the pools and holes. So far for the morning, I had 2 creek chubs which I never caught from the Elk before. I walked farther upstream to another spot and fished along the ledge. Even with stained conditions, finding ledges is easy because the shale bottom creates waves. Off the waves is where I fish and the first fish of the morning was a bright silver hen. I struggled to get into fish but the creek held steady so I knew I had all morning to fish. It continued to be a tough morning and I figured the approaching storm was throwing off the fish. I banged away and for the morning I had 6 fish. By now the rain had picked up and I was getting drenched. I looked at the gauge and the flow was starting to creep up. I checked the weather app and the radar showed a large dark green blob over western Pennsylvania. Being wet, cold, the bite was off and hunger were good enough reasons for me to bail. On the way, I ran into a couple of hardy souls braving the conditions. I got back to the Jeep there was a truck behind me. Usually on a Sunday there are cars and trucks parked all the way up the hill. I didn't linger and after getting lunch and a coffee, I headed home. On the way home the wind pushed the Jeep around and I knew we were in for one hell of a storm. When I arrived home, I checked the gauge and the Elk was blown out.
When I left for work on Monday, the wind was howling and I got pelted with rain. The rain never once let up and as the day progressed the wind got stronger and angrier. Sandy was at the doorstep and she was ready to huff and puff and blow the house down. I finished work around 4:00 and decided to drive to the lake. By then the Rock was blown out and I could see massive waves crashing over the breakwall down by the yacht club. I knew of a little park on the edge of the bluffs near the mouth of the river. I drove around the corner, I could see several cars parked. I was the only person to get out and the gusting wind pushed me around. It was probably gusting over 60mph and Lake Erie was rolling and raging as massive waves crashed into the shore. The wind was straight out of the north and there was nothing to stop it. I've never seen the lake so rough as many people stopped by to sate their curiosity. I started the video recorder on my phone and started filming. I had a difficult time holding the phone steady and several other people joined me to take pictures or film the action.
The weather honks said that the worse would happen around midnight. I sat back and watched the Monday night game as the wind roared outside and the trees swayed back and forth. Once in a while the lights would dim and flicker. While watching the game, I would change stations to see what the storm was doing. On the local station, they had a video of the waves crashing over I-90 near the E.55th power station. The waves and spray from the winds were too much for officials and they shut down westbound lanes. Many people drove down to the lake, to witness the wrath of the storm. Several times, I would see flashes of lighting through the curtains. I opened them and it wasn't lighting, but transformers arcing. The wind's intensity got stronger and stronger as I was waiting to hear one of the trees to snap and fall into the ravine. The ground was so saturated from all of the rain during the weekend that a night of gusting winds was enough to tear the roots out of the ground. The game turned out to be a blowout ( how ironic? ) and I looked out of the window to see the large oak by the carport being whipped into a frenzy by a tempest. I mutter to myself that it would be a matter of time before the lights went out. Once again, the lights started to flicker and I could hear the fridge's motor began to struggle. I was still looking outside when I watched a transformer in the distance explode. Orange sparks littered the sky and the lights went out. I was standing in total darkness. I was prepared as I had my headlamp close by and began to light candles in all of the rooms. It was 11:20 and I took a shower because I knew by morning, there would be no hot water. As for the power coming back on, who knew? I got into bed and listened to wind gust with ferocity, I set the alarm on the phone and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I looked out of the window. It was first light and it raining and windy. The intensity of the wind had died down, but there was still gusts. I drove to work and there was hardly any cars on the road. All of the schools were canceled and I'm sure some businesses in the affected areas were closed as well. With the winds blowing over 40mph, there was no way for power crews to do any work. They had to wait it out. I was concerned because I was running on empty as I forgot to fill up the yesterday. On the way in, the radio reports confirmed that the west side and along the lakeshore got hammered. In total, over 140,000 homes and businesses were in the dark. I was lucky to see to the gas station off the exit to work was open and I promptly pulled in to fill up. I arrived at work and noticed the ladies up front calling customers to see if they had any power. About half of them had to canceled appointments. It was a light day as I toured along the east side. Many streets were littered with branches and the occasional downed tree with a police officer blocking the street. I drove by the Chagrin and it was above its banks and with the rain still coming down, it was more than likely it would go beyond flood stage.
After a short day on the job, I stopped by to pick up some dinner. Finding food was a difficult task as both grocery stores were closed and I eventually settled for fast food. I returned to my apartment and walked into a darkened building. It was eerie as everybody else left to stay friends or family who had power. My footsteps echoed along the hallway. I lighted several candles and sat at the table. I watched the candles flicker and I listen to rain pelting the window. This would the first night with no power. All day I didn't see one crew on the road. There was no heat and the apartment was at 55F. The only thing link I had with the outside world was my iPhone. I emailed my parents back in Western Canada and told them everything was all right and I lost power. That evening was spent reading a book in bed. I checked the flow gauge and both the Grand and Chagrin were above flood stage and the Rock wasn't too far behind. The pelting rain eventually put me to sleep as I slept comfortably under layers of blankets.
It was Wednesday and the 2nd day without power and I started to wonder how long I would be. Inside my freezer were my season supply of salmon eggs and when the power went out, I had about 48 hours before I had to do something like get dry ice or move to them to a working freezer. It was another slow day and the news reported that power companies from surrounding states were heading to Cleveland to help assist restoring power. I finished work early and as I drove down my street I noticed some lights were on. In the distance, I could see Joe's Deli was open and it brought a smile to my face. I walk in the apartment building and the hallway light. I opened the door and the furnace was roaring, the TV was on and I checked the freezer. All of the food and eggs were fine, but I had to toss the eggs, bacon, milk and lunch meat out. I headed down to Joe's to get dinner and the lobby was full. From what I heard the power was restored in the morning and fortunately I was one of the lucky ones. Many people in the lobby were there because they still had no power and they had no idea when it would come back. Communities such as Bay Village, Rocky River, Lakewood, Fairview Park and Westlake were hit the hardest. According to reports most of the power would be back by the end of the weekend.
As for the streams, they got blown out big time. In a way, it was a much needed as all of the leaves and summer silt were flushed out. Many on the Alley were chomping at the bit because many felt that was the blowout to bring in the motherload of fish. I was one of those curious to see but I knew I wouldn't be the only one. With all of Ohio's streams high and muddy, the only option was Pennsylvania. Saturday was still slightly high but I heard the Elk was a bustling place. Sunday would probably worse as the water levels would be lower and the Steelers were playing a late afternoon game. If the Elk was too crowded, I had the option to skip over to the Ashtabula. When I arrived around 6:45 there were cars parked halfway up the hill. I shrugged it off, dressed and made my way down the hill. The creek was primed as I could make out shale ledges and holes. Upstream the most popular spots were occupied and I kept walking.
The previous week I noticed a tree had fallen over and across a nice hole. The high water had pushed the tree over and opened the hole. As I walked up I watched 3 anglers pass it up because they probably felt the tree was a barrier. I crossed over and it was a typical Elk creek hole - no more than 20' long and a couple feet deep. But that was even to hide a lot of fish and it was off to the races. The first drift and I hooked into a chrome hen. Then it was fish after fish after. But it caught a lot of attention from anglers wandering upstream. I often dub these anglers as vultures. They slowly scan the creek looking for action. They can be either an experienced or a novice. They often across as friendly but I know what they're looking for - fish and to squeeze me out. Three guys watched me hooked into seven fish quickly I knew their intentions. They fished the opposite side and it was futile as the tree on my side as the top branches blocked their casts. It was a difficult spot to fly fish because of that and the trees above. I continue to hook into fish after fish considering I was fishing a spot no larger than 20'. They looked frustrated because they weren't hooking into fish. Eventually, I cleaned out the spot and moved upstream. As I walked upstream the flock of vultures quickly occupied the spot I was fishing.
The next spot I could see several anglers packing up and leaving. This section is considered one of the largest pools on the Elk. It runs 100' along with a large shale cliff and fish hold along the ledge. I didn't have my glasses with me and I really didn't need them. It's a difficult spot to fly fish because anglers would be waist deep and try to fire line 40' across with the current running amok makes mending the line a chore. I started at the head of the pool and noticed a large piece of shale sticking out the water. Picked off 2 fish from that spot. Despite the crowded conditions I never once seen a person fishing where I was. Several anglers walked by without even considering fishing it. I gradually shuffled down and the bite turned off. The weather for the day was cold, overcast and at times snow flakes appeared. The water was chilly and I had this feeling the fish might be down at the tailout. A fish rolled downstream and that was enough to get me there. I walked above the riffle and farther out from the rocks, the water gradually became murkier. From memory, this was a go to spot in the winter as fish will cram into that hole. In total, I caught eight fish all bright silver.
After cleaning that hole out it was only 11:00 A.M and I wanted to fish farther downstream. Around the corner, I could see a line of anglers and all of them were properly spaced out. Not a lot of action and another crew was fishing the hole I did well in the morning. I picked off a couple of fish in the skinny water as I gunned and runned downstream. As I continued to walk I could see 10 anglers all clustered in one spot. All of them had sour looks on their faces. That's typical on the Elk as a few do very well and a lot go home skunked. I reached the fly shop and the number of cars on the hill didn't change and some anglers at the campsite were preparing lunch. In the five hours of fishing, the creek dropped and it became clearer. By tomorrow it would go back to low and clear. The number of anglers dropped considerably as I didn't see a lot of people. The number was low enough that I passed up a couple of spots to get down to the bigger holes. There were a father and son fishing and way downstream three other anglers were fishing a pool. I slide down below and patiently waited for them to leave. Luckily they gave up and I watched them walk up and around the bend. Fish can be had on the Elk, even in the afternoon when many believe the fish were hammered all morning. I picked off 6 fish from that hole and I looked at the time, it was almost 1:00 and I were down to a dozen sacs. On the way down there was a small run that I knew held fish and it was a spot I passed over. The father and son were fishing the small shale cliff. Once again I slipped below and on the first drift it was fish on. It turned out to be a decent spot as I caught four more fish. The father yelled out what colors I was using and I told him pink and chartreuse. By then I was down to two sacs, my back was sore and stomach grumbling. The father and son were using trout beads and told me they didn't get so much a nibble. I felt bad for them as they made the drive from Pittsburgh. But, I've had those days too when nothing goes my way. I was fortunate to have a banner day I was over 20 fish for the day. The eggs and my knowledge of the creek made it possible.
As for Ohio, were still a long time before anything becomes fishable. I'm sure both the Grand and Chagrin will look different due to the extremely high water. It looks like they fish for the upcoming weekend and all of us will be ready to get our fish on.
I've been blogging my fishing adventures since 2007 and I often find myself going back to see what happened over the years. Last week, I was reading about the first trip to Elk Creek that took place on the first weekend of October of last year. The year before was one of the worst seasons I've experienced since moving to the Alley. Lousy weather and even more lousy returns. We put that horrible season behind us and hoped it was nothing more than an aberration. With fingers crossed and looking to the sky, the gods took pity of us mortals. Last season early on we were blessed with enough rain that kept the rivers at prime levels and fish moving in all of that autumn. We received our first cold weather and the Elk blew out the day before. The conditions were primed and it was a go. Armed with jars of fresh Michigan king salmon eggs, we planned our assault. It turned out to be a banner day and the Alley was rejuvenated. We had one of the warmest winters on record and that meant fishing all season - uninterrupted.
Fast forward and so far the season was been an difficult one due to the lack of rain. Small numbers of fish have pushed in but we've have been patiently waiting. I've gone out several times had decent numbers of fish, but I knew the best was yet to come. Saturday the Elk blew out and I knew the window was opening for some prime action. I spent tying up sacs and getting the gear prepared for tomorrow's trip. Ohio State was playing a night game and I meet some friends at the local watering hole. The place was packed but we were able to secure a table in front of a big screen. The beer quickly came and I was famished. The first thing that popped out on the menu was the porky mac-n-cheese. The waitress brought out a huge bowl of penne, onions, pork, crispy pork bellies and all of it was smothered in three cheese sauce. It was that comfort food that sticks to your ribs. It was delicious and it hit the spot, Nothing better then comfort food, beer and a great football game. The Buckeyes smack the Cornhuskers around and I was slightly buzzed. We hung around after the game and it was a little after midnight. This hardcore steelheader wanted to stay longer but he needed to squeeze in some sleep before waking in a few hours.
I was jolted out of a deep sleep when the alarm blared. I rolled over and squinted at the clock, it was 5:00A.M, I was lucky if I got four hours of sleep. I crawled out of bed and my feet touched the hardwood floors. It sent a chill up my spine and I shuffled towards the closest. I fumbled through it looking for my fishing clothes and dressed in the dark. I was still half asleep when I got the coffee maker brewing and frying pan was popping and sizzling some eggs and bacon. As breakfast was cooking, I peeked out the window and noticed the pavement was wet. The day before the weather honks said the rain was out of the area and there was a 20% chance of it for Sunday. I hit the road with a hot mug of coffee and I listened to Rory Gallagher's fine playing in the background. As I made my way through Cleveland and the eastern suburbs, it started to rain. I checked the weather app on my phone and there was nothing on the radar, so I figured it wasn't enough precipitation for the radar to pick up. As I continued east, the rain became more steady and once again I checked the weather app and nothing on the radar. I was puzzled that nothing was showing and I hoped they were isolated, because I didn't bring my fishing jacket. All I was wearing was an Under Armour long sleeve shirt, sweat shirt and a fleece jacket - not the best clothing for an all day soaker. It rained off and on and when I hit Pennsylvania the rain became more steady. I checked the flow gauge and the Elk was flowing at 3.5 which as prime as you want it. The day before Uncle John's webcam showed the Elk running the same consistence as my coffee - heavy with cream.
I pulled in and it was raining harder, by then it was first light and the clouds were very low and not in hurry to move through. By then I didn't bother checking the phone because it didn't matter, it was going to either rain or not. But it didn't matter because the spot I was fishing was the tubes and if the weather got worse, I could seek refuge deep within the tunnel and stay dry. I walked down the hill as I could hear the rain hitting the trees above. I looked down the trail and I could see 4 people fishing mostly in the faster water. If my memory serves me correct, we struggled to get into fish early on the previous year. I fished along the wall and beat it like a dead horse - nothing. My fleece jacket was hold up against the light rain and I hoped it stayed that way all day. My gut told me to venture into the tubes. I finally made my way in and the cracking of my cleats against the concrete echoed loudly up and through the tunnel. Last year we yanked fish left and right and it was a conga line as we walked our catches down and around to the shallow water to release them. In told, we probably caught about 50 fish. At first I hit nothing and started making some adjustments. Periodically, I would look downstream and see nobody was really hooking up. Farther up I heard a fish roll in the dark. I finally hit pay dirt and as I walked around the corner Dave showed up. Talk about perfect timing and I asked him is he brought some of his mojo. The fish were inside the tunnel and the both us had a great time. But good times must come to an end as we cleaned out the spot and I had to venture out into the rain.
We walked downstream it was fish after fish out of every hole. It continued to rain but it didn't seem to effect the creek at all. It was a typical Elk Creek day when the water is dirty as we hit into double digits. A lot feisty fresh chrome that kept me on my toes and by then my hat was completely soaked as was my jacket. There was no way I was coming off the creek - never. I could be dripping wet and shivering and I would of tough it out. That's the sign of a hardcore steelheader. After a while both me and Dave went seperate ways as he was getting ready to head home. I drove farther upstream to another spot that had several deep holes along the shale ledges. It was early afternoon and I noticed nobody was fishing. When a hot spot is vacant on the Elk, the morning crews have usually worked the holes over. But, sometimes the bite might be off in the morning or fish moved in later in the day. It turned out that nothing was biting and it was good timing. It was like the floodgates were opened from above and the deluge commenced. That was enough for me as I started the long walk back. Walking along the trail I got pelted and sloughed through the mud. When I finally made it back, I felt a sense of relief as I started remove my jacket and shirt. Luckily, I always bring along fresh shirts, pants and socks. My lucky Leafs hat was placed on the floor mat to dry as I started to make my way back to Ohio. On the way home, I stopped by for some hot chili and coffee and that hit the spot.
I found it ironic that I had the same results from almost a year ago. Fished the same spots, the creek was running dirty and the only thing different was the rain. It will be interesting to see what next year has in store for me.
There have been times, when I get that feeling of giving up when fishing. When I'm not hooking into fish, I'll start ringing off the excuses - low or high water, the time of the season, my eggs, my lack of patience and so on. But at times, I get that nagging feeling, if I leave I might miss out something great. In the past, I've been burned when I'm speed fishing. Speed fishing is when I set a certain amount of time on one spot. Once I've reached that allotted time, I go to the next spot. I do this when my time is limited. It isn't the most effective way to fish as some times it pays in huge dividends and other times I struck out.
Today it was like that when I fished the lower Grand. The day before the other guys did well on the lower Rock. I passed up the opportunity to get in some much needed sleep as I was worked a very long week. Today, I would be fishing solo and I wonder how the Grand had been fishing. I didn't hear much chatter and nobody I knew had fished it yet. I arrived at first light and to my surprise, I was the first person there. When I reached the river, it was running low but the water was stained. The river looked the same when I lasted fished it back in July for catfish. I crossed over and started fishing the head of the pool. The flow was lethargic and the banks reeked of something rotten. The bottom was very silty as clouds of it swirled up as I walked. The river definitely needs a good thorough blowout. I had the float adjusted to about 3' and I watched struggled as I knew it was dragging bottom. I made some adjustments and resumed fishing. I pretty well half assed it all the way down because I figured the fish would be in the deeper hole around the bend. I finally reached the hole and there was some flow albeit slow. I worked the hole and the only things interesting were 3 juvenile bald eagles chasing each other along the river and several deer watching me do a lot of nothing. Speaking of nothing, I didn't see one fish roll. In the distance, I could hear thunder off over the lake. The black clouds loomed closer and closer. I took my phone and checked the radar and it was going to miss us. This section generally holds new arrivals from the lake, but a little over an hour, I had nothing. It was time to take a leak, when I walked to the shore and when I looked down, I could see some scraps of blue spawn sac netting on the rocks. I chuckled as it was my netting I used back during the summer to tie chicken livers. Despite some of the rain we received, it never got high enough to wash it away.
The hole was a lost cause and I made my way back up. I started doubting that if there was any fish present. I looked up and there was still nobody. Maybe the locals knew something that I didn't know. I pounded away working the pool and I was getting frustrated. The only thing I could hear were bass chasing minnows. I was getting ready to throw in the towel when I was back at the head of the pool. I gave myself 15 minutes and that was it. I tossed the float out and watched it go downstream. Bored, I yawned several times and continue to watch it when it shot under suddenly. I quickly set the hook and felt the fish charge downstream. I knew this was a very large one. It peeled off line at lighting fast speed. I kept the rod high and gingerly applied pressure. I watched the water boil and I could out make out a very large fin coming out the water. Several times the fish charged back out in the middle and I started to gain the upper hand. Luckily, I was using a 3X tippet so I was able to muscle it in as fast as I could. Being mindful that the water temperature was still at the upper threshold for these fish. It turned out to be a massive hen, thick and fresh - a titan. She already sported a hefty gut. Her tail was so thick, I could barely get my hand around it. I whipped out my phone and took a couple of quick pictures. I popped the hook out and quickly placed her in the water. I gently moved her back and forth and I started to feel her regain strength. Finally, she surged forward and bolted back out to the river. I figured she must of weight close to 15 pounds and if she survived to next spring, I'd bet she would tip the scales at 18 pounds.
When I was fighting her, I watched another fish roll further up. It started to make sense as the head of the pool had the fastest current. I casted out and quickly mend the line. The float started down along the seam when the float shot under and the water erupted. A small male flew out of the water and ran downstream. It was a fairly quick and intense fight as I was able to pop the hook out without beaching him. Shortly after that, I hooked into another male that aggressively hit a pink sac. After that it pretty well shut down once the sun came out.
I almost passed up that last spot to head to another one and I was glad I gave it another kick at the can, because who knows if I would caught fish at the next spot. By then it was almost noon and I watched two anglers head upstream. I drove further upstream and fished a long run that spilled into a wide pool. I worked it for about an hour and my stomach talked me into to leaving. I wasn't disappointed with my outing as it can be hit or miss and it was nice to end the month. All of the rivers are woefully low and we need at least several heavy rain falls to replenish the ground, because the ground basically soaks up any available water before it has a chance to run off. As the weather gets cooler, generally we start to see more wet weather and hopefully October turns out to be like last year - outstanding.
Fall once again has begun to make its appearance along the Alley. The days are getting shorter, nights cooler and some of the trees are starting to turn color. Lately, we have started to receive enough rain that some of the rivers are allowing fish to enter them. September is a month that depending on weather, I'll venture out. Generally the numbers of the fish can be low. But, the savvy steelheader can find a decent number of fish. In past years, its been either feast or famine. I go only when the water conditions are great. The first trip out didn't yield one fish due to muddy conditions and me forgetting to bring the spinning reel as the lake was perfect for casting spoons. Last week, I didn't go out due to coming home very late after the Ohio State game and still fighting the after effects of a cold. It didn't really matter because all of the streams were running low and clear. So far for September, I've been shut out.
I awoke very early this morning sometime before five in the morning. The alarm blared and I looked up at the ceiling. In the dark and I could hear rain pelting the windows. I crawled out of bed and peeked outside. My Jeep glistened with water and it was lightly raining. The day before we received sufficient rainfall that raised the levels of some streams. The overnight temperature was in the 40s and it was going to be a cool day in the low 60s. I stumbled to the kitchen to my dismay I was out of coffee. I'm one of those people that can't function in the morning without a hot mug of java. I cooked my eggs and bacon and wolfed them down. I loaded the Jeep and drove to the gas station to fill up and get some of that raunchy gas station coffee. As I filled up, I watched several Browns fans walking in and getting ice and beer for the early morning tailgate. I thought to myself that I would rather have ice picks stuck in my balls than watch the Browns play. The Browns have been a joke from day one and 14 years later they still stink. But, I can relate to them as a long suffering Leafs fan and there's a possibility that there might not be any hockey this upcoming season. The pump popped loudly and I looked over at the total - $65.00, it was going to be an all event as I was going to get my money's worth.
I hit the road as the rain pelted the windshield. I looked on my Iphone and the weather app showed a small band of rain coming off the lake. It was a quiet drive to Pennsylvania - no music, just the sounds of the tires on the road and my thoughts. I crossed into Pennsylvania and it was first light. The black clouds in the horizon were scattered and the roads wet. I drove down the road to the Elk Creek access and several cars ahead turn into it. It was seven when I entered and I could see a lot of cars. The first lot was packed and I was forced to parked in the second one. This is what the steelheader expects in late September on the Elk. Fishing the access is a test in patience and playing well with others. Those two attributes are ones that at times, I fail miserably. It was put on my happy face and I wondered how long it would take me before I blew my stack. I geared up and walked down to the creek to see a mass of humanity. The log jam had about 15 guys fishing and others were forced to fished farther down patiently waiting for a better spot. I looked farther upstream and there were more people fishing. The water up there was very shallow and my gut told me to fish lower in the deeper slower moving water.
I crossed over and there were anglers sitting on the wall and others on the opposite side. I walked down around the bend and there were more people scattered on both sides. I found one spot on the opposite side of the shale bank and I shuffled in. Several large trees hung over the creek and fishing on that side was difficult due to the branches. It was a mix of fly and bait fishermen and not a lot was happening. It was quiet as people focused intently on their floats and indicators. In the distance I could hear the roar of the waves crashing on the shore. There wasn't a lot of chatter and not too many happy faces. The water felt cool and somewhere in the murky depths were steelhead. Once in a while a fish would announce its presence by rolling or jumping clear out of the water. I had a couple jars of clear water and flash cured eggs and I hoped they were up to the task as they spent the entire summer hidden way back in the depths of the fridge. I worked my small section and once in a while the mundane morning was broken by the sound of fish being hooked. Nobody was hammering them and no particular spot was yielding fish. Just as fast as the action was, it quickly went back to quiet and unassuming. I kept making adjustments and at one point I tied on a white jig. For two hours I didn't get nothing and I started getting cold. I dressed for early fall, a tee shirt under a long sleeve shirt and I wore a flimsy fleece jacket. I shivered as I tried to concentrate. I went back to sacs and finally redemption. I watched the float tapped a couple of times and I set the hook. The rod throbbed and I felt that tell tale powerful surge of a steelhead. It was a powerful quick intense fight and I landed the first fish of the season - a chunky bright silver male. I beached it in the mud and quickly took the hook out. I watched the fish quickly dart back into the murky depths.
The first fish of the new season made the cold feel more bearable. It briefly rained and several anglers started to depart with their catches. That opened up more space for me to even pull off some hero drifts, which is unheard of on the lower Elk. The same pattern played out all morning 2 and 3 fish caught. Thankfully the sun started to come out and I felt the rays. My body started to warm up and I felt rejuvenated. I ended up with 2 more fish and by then it was early afternoon and the fish shut off. More and more anglers, especially the ones who didn't sniff one bite packed up with disappointment. The place started to clear and I too made my way out. The log jam was down to 5 guys however all of them were tightly clustered.
I survived the access for another day. Remarkably everybody got along. There wasn't f bombs hurls, cut lines, and fellow anglers pummeling one another. We'll see what happens the next time I venture out to Pennsylvania.
September 15th was a date that was circled on my calender. It was the Ohio State vs California game in Columbus. This was going to be my first live college football game. I've always been a big fan of the college game and preferred it over the NFL. The student athletes play with more passion, the traditions, the game is more pure, and the atmosphere is electrifying.
This is the first season under the tutelage of new head coach Urban Meyer - the 2 time national champion at Florida. This is a home coming for Meyer as he's a native of Ashtabula, Ohio and started his coaching career at Ohio State. He replaced Jim Tressel after he resigned during the tattoo scandal that eventually cost the Buckeyes all of their 2010 wins and Sugar Bowl victory and their first losing season since 1988. I was never a big fan of "Tressel Ball", so I wasn't terribly sad to see him go. This year, they're banned from a bowl game and many consider this a rebuilding season. Meyer is considered one of the best recruiters and he has secured some of the best talent in the nation so the future looks bright for Buckeye Nation.
We left Rocky River early Saturday morning and it was a beautiful warm day for a game. We headed south on I-71 to Columbus and on the drive down we could see many Buckeyes fans dressed in scarlet and gray. We exit the freeway and it was a wall of traffic. As we walked to the stadium, we could see groups of people tail gating and off in the distance we could hear a live band playing. Everybody was in a festive mood, people tossing a ball, playing corn hole, pounding back beers and grilling food. In the distance, I could see the fabled horsehoe. The Shoe is considered one of the best stadiums to watch a college game and it's steep in history. We were in a sea of scarlet and gray as hundreds of fans of all ages walked through the tunnel hooting and hollering towards the rotunda. Mixed with some of the chants were the famous "Fuck Michigan".
Our seats were in the D level under the press box. After a long climb up to the section, we settled in as the Ohio State marching band came out getting ready to perform the Buckeye Battle Cry. The seats were great as we were on the 35 yard line. As they assembled on the field, the crowd was getting worked up. Then the drum major ran out to the middle of the field got the band started. Over 100,000 people started singing the Battle Cry and it was amazing. That's what makes college football so special, the tradition unique to a particular school and Ohio State's is their marching band and its fans. They put on a spectacular show of precision as they performed "Script Ohio". After the national anthem, Cal entered the stadium to a chorus of boos and when the Buckeyes came running out, the place erupted.
The Buckeyes raced out to take the lead but as the game progressed Cal started chipping away and eventually took the lead. The Buckeyes struggled in the 3rd and 4th quarters. With minutes left in the 4th quarter, quarterback Braxton Miller tossed a perfect ball to wide open Devin Smith and ran it 70 yards to secure the win. It was an ugly one as they gave up over 500 yards of total offence. This year they might win 10 games but it will be seen whether they can hang with the big boys of the Big Ten - Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin and the hated Michigan Wolverines. But a win is a win in my book.
We hung around after the game and watched the band perform several songs before playing the battle cry one more time as they marched their way out through the tunnel. After the game we wandered along the street and many of the bars were packed with fans looking to celebrate and quench their thirst. We drove to High Street and my urbanspoon app picked out a bargain gem a place called the Press Grille. It was a little quaint cozy restaurant filled with students and young professionals. The food and beer was delicious and I soaked in all of the experience and I'll never forget it. We made the long drive home and I'm grateful that my fishing partner Bubba - a former player was gracious enough to give us tickets. It's an experience that any college football fan should do and it was one of those things on my bucket list. I'm looking forward to attending another one in the near future.
The alarm goes off at 5:30A.M jarring me out of a deep sleep. I hit the alarm and squint in the dark looking for the lamp switch and the light blinds me. I groggily stumble out of bed and make my way to the kitchen. I fill the coffee maker with water and coffee and turn on the stove for eggs and bacon. As the eggs and bacon are cooking, I look at the calender and today is September 9th. Over the past couple of days, we received much needed rain. This summer has been one of the driest on record as nearly all of the Alley’s streams have barely flowed. But some fish have been reported making their way into the lower reaches albeit in very small numbers.
Today’s first trip will take me to Pennsylvania. I wolf down the eggs, bacon and English muffins. I double check all of the gear and start loading it into the Jeep. I fill the mug with steaming hot coffee and I'm on the road. The highway is wet as I pass through Cleveland into Lake County. On the way out, a dense layer of fog is rising over the Chagrin River. It’s still too dark to see how high or dirty the water is. I check my Iphone to see the conditions of the streams. The Elk has gone up to 13cfs on the guage. With the exceptions of the Rocky and Chagrin, the other streams never blew out.
After an hour of driving, I cross over the state line into Pennsylvania. The skies to the east are dark and omious. The roads are very wet as it must of just recently rained. I'm curious to see how many fish have pushed in. Reports have been sparse and none of the people I know have seriously started to fish. I pull off the exit to the lower Elk and make my way down a series of rural roads. The fields are covered corn and soybeans and the forest is still lush with green vegetation. Autumn seems so far away.
I pull into the access lot and there are 2 cars. The creek is extremely turbid as visibility was virtually non existent. I didn’t drive over 100 miles to turn back so I made the best of it. I tied on another tippet and ran double large sacs into a riffle that ran along a downed tree. I worked that section for 45 minutes and nothing. I decided to make my way to the mouth of the creek. The lower section of the creek gradually flatten out into a large flat slow moving section of water. Then it gradually turned and quickly spilled into the lake. The muddy water mixed with the bluish green hue of the lake. The lake itself was remarkably calm and I wished I brought my spinning reel as I could cast spoons far out into the lake. I fished the mud line and some waves crashed into the flowing water and the float drifted aimlessly. I sat on a large log and watched a group of large black clouds drop rain far out into the lake. I finally realized that the Elk wasn’t going to get any better so I drove over to the Walnut.
The Nut was slightly better but the water was turbid. There were more people here mostly fly fishermen working the skinny water. Further downstream, there were some people fishing off the wall. Nobody was hooking up and I started to move upstream fishing the faster water. For an hour, I fished nearly every spot that I could remember that held fish. I accepted the fact that fishing for steel in early September on the Alley can be boom or bust, with the latter happening more often.
I drove into Conneaut for lunch and I stopped by the first bridge to see. The river was just as dirty as the Elk and nobody was fishing. The rivers more than likely have very heavy load of summer silt. It will take more than one rainfall to clear it all out. For the time being, many of us will patiently wait for cooler weather and rain. Others will be enjoying the bounty of lake full of perch and walleye. Some will make the trips regardless because they have nothing else better to do.
Every few years I start to upgrade my fishing gear as I like to keep up with current trends. Several years ago, I bought a Kingpin Series 2 reel to replace my Bob James and Milner reels. My series 2 has logged a lot of miles and brought in a ton of fish. I truly loved the reel and recommended it to other steelheaders. While I was cleaning it last night, I noticed a lot of nicks and scratches. Despite my rough treatment, the reel performed flawless in all of the conditions whether it was heat, cold, being dropped on rocks or in the water. It was a beautiful piece of engineering as the British are known for.
I drove over to Erie Outfitters and purchased my latest reel - the Kingpin Imperial 475. Several friends of mine had purchased the reel towards the end of the season and they loved them. The Imperial is the 2nd generation and the only differences are the knurled front spindle bolt as opposed to the slotted one and the clicker is positioned slightly higher and is more beefier. There were plenty of color schemes to choose from and of course I selected the purple with the black backing plate.
When I got home, I held both reels and found the Imperial was lighter due to the fact it has more ported holes and a thinner profile. The Imperial weights in at 9.1oz while the Series 2 is slightly heavier at 9.96oz. Both were the same diameter, but I noticed the Imperial is more refined looking. Like its predecessor, the Imperial has ABEC 5 bearings and is machined from high quality aluminium bar stock. The reel spinned so effortlessly and there was barely any noise.
I place the reel on my 13' Loomis and noticed due to the lighter weight, I had to position it farther down on the handle in order to properly balance it. Generally, I prefer more handle as I like to tuck it between my elbow and ribs when fishing, so I might have to look into adding some more weight at the bottom. Looking forward to breaking in the new reel in the couple of weeks as some steelhead will start showing around the lower sections of the rivers.
Missed takes, it’s the bane of every angler whether its musky, trout or tarpon. We as anglers make every excuse under the sun - hook was dull, the glare was too bright, I didn't get that promotion or I struck out with that blonde last night. Golfers get the shanks, pitchers get wild and we anglers can get inflicted with the case of missed takes. When I was younger, it was either being hung over or chasing skirt well into the wee hours. I would show up in a stupor completely unaware of my surroundings. I didn't even stand a chance and I wasn't on my game. Even a cup of Tim Horton’s strongest brew didn’t take effect immediately nor did the cold air and water. I would stand in the water feeling like absolute shit and often asked myself why am I doing this? Why did I get out of bed? The night before was fantastic and I still tried to remember the girl who I picked up her name - Allison, Michelle, or was it Janice? Somewhere in the fog, inside my head her name would eventually appear or maybe not. I might of wrote of her number down on the inside of my pack of smokes, but I threw it out after a long night of euchre. I pulled out one my fly boxes and picked out a white zonker. I trembled and tried to focus as I painstakingly threaded the line through the eye of the hook. My fingers were stained with nicotine as I smoke like a steel mill when ever I drink. Back in the day I smoked a lot but I never when I fished.
I casted out, mended the line and sniffled. The hang over was stubborn and I felt achy. My muscles didn't want to cooperate and I made feeble roll casts. My head was pounding and my ears were still ringing from the music being played over the loudspeakers at every club we went to. During the early 1990s, I went to Sir Sandford Fleming college located in Lindsay, Ontario. It was a small farming community on the edge of the Kawarthas Lakes and the Haliburton Highlands were farther north. It was a small college town and there wasn’t a lot to do during the weekends. The bars in town were a joke and the locals were lame. However, Lindsay was a little over 50 miles from Toronto and during the weekends, I often made the trip down to stay with friends. For a man in his early twenties from a small northern mining community, Toronto quickly became my newest playground. I been to the city before but I never had the time to take in the nightlife. The clubs, pubs, live bands, exotic women and sporting venues drew me there like a moth to a bright light. I was there nearly every weekend and I had plenty of passengers to pay for gas. That of course meant more beer money. When I wasn’t too shit faced, we made to the Credit or the Bronte or even made the drive to the Niagara. I still miss those days as it was the best times I’ve ever had.
Me and Jeff, a friend from Sudbury who moved to Toronto the year before to start his new job fished the lower Credit. Back in the early days, I was primarily a fly fishermen. I viewed float fishing as a novelty. I've seen guys doing it and I found it intriguing. But, I was a lowly college student with limited funds and most of those funds went to fishing and alcohol. I told myself the following summer, I would save enough money to get one of those long float rods. But for the time being it was my trusty 8wt and beaten Orvis Battenkill. The morning was chilly and the water was slightly stained. To our surprise there wasn’t a lot people out. We were both reeling from the effects of a night of debauchery along Yonge Street. We first hit the notorious but cheeky Brass Rail and Zanibar. The ladies were in fine form and women like that didn't exist back home. I was spellbound as they worked the pole and playfully removed bits and pieces of what little clothing they had on. The crowd was a mixture of college students, blue collar workers, old perverts and Bay Street nerds roared with approval when the top finally came off. We had our fill and hailed a cab to take us to one of Toronto's hippest dance club - Kool Haus. It was like a kid being in a candy store as there was women galore and we meet up with some Jeff's coworkers. We danced and drank until last call and it was back to Jeff's place in North York for more booze, pizza and euchre. I didn't hit the sack until 4:00AM and I knew I would pay for it.
We got in my car and I wondered if I was under the legal limit. I still dazed and out of it since I only slept for 3 hours. We only had the morning to fish since we were going to head back to Kool Haus again with Jeff's friends we meet last night. I wanted to wet a line, catch some fish, get more beer and hit the sack for a couple of hours. All I kept thinking about was having a beer to ease the hang over. We arrived at the Credit and struggled to get our gear on. We hit the first pool and started working it. I half assed it so bad. My casts were sloppy and in my booze induced daze, I missed the indicator going down. I quickly snapped out of it and tried the set the hook. The line tighten immediately and I felt a tug for a brief second before the line went slack. The fish spit the hook and I looked to the sky in disbelief. I reeled in the line and checked the fly, the hook was still sharp. We moved farther down towards the tailout and above it where several cuts in the current. I casted out and started mending the line. The indicator boogled slightly and I set the hook. I felt the fish move quickly and tried to apply pressure and it was off. I almost drop the rod and looked at Jeff with disbelief. I remarked with a smirk that a drink would improve me concentration. We both laughed and went back to fishing. In that spot we went 0 for 5 and we were snake bitten. We continued to move up stream and the walking helped burned off the hang over but my body ached. I wanted a smoke bad, but I was out and boy I could use one.
The next spot was vacant much to our surprise. I tried to focus but my dried out contacts made it difficult. We worked the pool and Jeff was babbling about some hot blonde that worked in accounts payable. Jeff is very animated when he talks and when you add alcohol he’s like a hamster on meth, he’s all over the place. As he’s babbling away and his eyes are off the indicator and it goes under, in mid sentence he tries to set the hook. There is a loud splash and nothing. A volley of f bombs can be heard coming out of his mouth. We finally got broke the shut out when Jeff landed a small steelhead buck that fell to a black wholly bugger. As for me, it was the worst outing I had in a long time as I ended up 0 for 12. It was that type of morning and I should of stayed in bed. Jeff fished as I managed to bum a smoke off another angler. I sat on the bank and wonder if I wasn't half in the bag I probably would of had a great morning. Instead I felt like it was a wasted trip. We wrapped up fishing around noon and I desperately needed of another coffee. We bailed and headed to Tim Horton’s for lunch. I talked about how school was coming along and that Lindsay was a hell hole. We got back to Jeff's place and I took a couple Tylenols and I was out for the count. The sleep was what I needed and I was recharged for another night. It was back to Kool Haus and we a lot of time on the dance floor. I worked up a sweat on the crowded floor and quickly made trips to the bar. It was another late night as we played cards and drank well into the night. There was no fishing for Sunday as we slept in all morning. We toured the Eaton Center and Kensington Market for the rest of the day. I left around five and we made plans for another weekend and promised to lay off the boozing - famous last words. I picked up my three passengers and made the trip back to Lindsay.
That was over twenty years ago and the days of drinking, debauchery and fishing hung over are long gone. They are a distant memory, a time when I had no responsibly or any thoughts of what the future held. I was having too much fun and I didn’t want it to end, but it eventually all parties come to an end. After graduating, I moved to Toronto and eventually to Alberta. After a couple of years both me and my fiancée had an opportunity to move to the states and settled in Ohio. Jeff got married, had three kids and was transferred to Calgary. As for the other fishing pals, we went our separate ways and eventually lost contact. But the missed takes never went away. Instead of being hung over, it’s being distracted by a phone call or listening to the guy next to me bitching about the Browns. One memorable day of missed takes was on the Conneaut. Bubba’s friends were up form Dayton and we were itching to get some fish after a long deary winter.
It was early March and we were experiencing a warming tread. The past winter was brutal, one of the coldest since I’ve been in Ohio. For several weeks, the streams were locked up with ice and the warmer weather started to unlock it. As the snowed melted, the large blocks of ice freed the rivers and we were back in business. The power plant was getting old and I needed a change of scenery. We arrived in Conneaut and the river was cloaked in mist. The temperature today was suppose to be in the 60s but the river was still in the upper 30s. Nobody knew what the fishing would be like. Would they of pushed up or remained low waiting for the water to recede. As expected with the warmer weather, there were more people out. There were the diehards, the newbies and the fair weather fishermen. All of them trying to get their hands on fresh fish. The four of us fished near a popular spot. The water was murky at best and definitely was more suited for sacs. We divided into groups of two to cover more water.
I felt really funny this morning, I was all wound up and I don’t know if the coffee I got from the truck stop was high octane caffeine. I couldn’t focus and my mind started to wander. I also kept looking downstream to see how the others were doing. I casted out across the stream and moved the float to a spot where I knew the fish held. The shale ledge was 15’ off the opposite bank and the fish generally parked themselves above the tailout. I shook my head and blink several times as my eyes got blurry. I focused and noticed the float was gone. I swiftly set the hook and felt the line throb and fish bolted. It felt like a skipper and I watched it launch itself from the water. In one fluid motion, the skipper threw the hook and I watch splash back into the water. I wasn’t terribly disappointed since it was a skipper and I knew there would be more fish. I worked the pool the some more and again I looked downstream and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the float tapping. I set the hook and briefly felt a head shake and it was gone. I dropped the tip the rod into the water and looked to the sky. I reeled in the line and inspected the hook. The tip was still sharp and I muttered that I reacted too quickly. I looked upstream and Bubba was in the zone. Nothing fazed him as he watched his float, I called out and I got no response. The two missed takes as it turned out were the takes I had all morning. The fishing was terrible as the others were still shut out because of missed takes. Maybe it was long time off the water and the others were still rusty. All four of us were posting a shutout and excuses started to fly as we figured the water was still too cold or the fish were spread out. What ever the reasons, we bailed and drove back west to the Chagrin. We managed to hook into a couple of fish and I rid myself of the missed takes. The others were not as lucky.
I still have the periodic times when I get distracted while fishing. The year I was getting divorced from wife was exceptional brutal. I worried about the house and wonder if she would undermine me. On the flip side, when I'm with the guys we often bust each others chops, the laughing does get distracting. But, even when I'm alone, I can get distracted because of the scenery. There are times when I look at the shale cliffs covered in snow or the flocks of turkey foraging across the river. The miss takes like shanks come and go. The following week, I'm totally in the zone and I don't miss the slightest movement of the float. I'm like a machine as I hook fish after fish. After 30 years of fishing, I've yet too figure out how to cure myself of the missed takes.