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...........