February 16, 2008

Slurpy Steelheading


The wacky weather continues here in Steelhead Alley. Last week, it poured liked a mother and blew several rivers above flood stage. But the cold weather returned and the rivers once again started to freeze over. There was a small window of opportunity to fish the Grand as more rain was in the forecast for Sunday.

I called a friend on Friday for an update of the Grand and he told me there wasn't that much ice. I made plans to fish the upper section and slept in as the overnight temperature was to be in the teens. I arrived at the river around 11:00A.M and noticed it was a tad dirty and there was some slush coming down the river. Usually above the dam the river is completely frozen over and slush isn't an issue. Luckily, it was sunny and it was only a matter of time before the sun burned it off. The Harpersfield bridge was covered in snow and with the bright skies it made for a beautiful picture. Harpersfield bridge is one of the many covered bridges found in Ashtabula County. I got dressed and started to walk to the river. There were a couple of guys who arrived at first light and told me of the horrible conditions as their line, guides and floats froze over, not to mention the slush.


I knew from experience it never made sense to go fishing at first light when it's 12F, your better off catching a few more hours of sleep. It was still cold and the dirty water would make it a challenge. I could of opted for the Rocky, but I knew fishable water was far and few between. I scouted it the day before and decided there wasn't enough real estate to fish. The slush was still problem as it moved along the shelf ice and right down the main current.

Whenever it's cold, I usually fish tailouts or off the main current. Steelhead prefer to hold in these places as they don't have to expend energy and fight the current. The problem is when its that cold, they won't expend the energy to grab a presentation. I don't blame them, if was stuck in water about 33F, I wouldn't move for shit.

The slush was a pain in the ass as it constantly grabbed my line and banged the float around. It was about 12:30PM and slush was still coming down river. I knew in about an hour or so, the slush was be a non factor. Sure enough the sun eventually burned off the slush and I headed downstream. As I walked through the woods, I noticed the sun had barely crept above the cliffs. Without the sun's rays, the fish would be lethargic at best. I started to work the tailout and the float popped. I set the hook and watched a steelhead leap from the water! I knew the Manistee strain was hardcore in regards to cold water, but leaping 2' out was amazing. I managed to get the fish to the bank and noticed why the fish bolted so hard - it got hooked right above its eye. Luckily, I debarb my hooks and quickly popped it out. I continued fish and couldn't get anybody to play. Be then it was almost 2:30PM and I started to head back.

I fished another spot and I stood on top of a section of shelf ice. The ice was thick enough to support me and water below was no more than 3' deep. But, I stood back enough that I didn't really want to take a bath. The fishing was slow as I managed to catch a couple, but I couldn't haul them up onto the ice. Several times the line would get caught in the ice and I had to yank the line really hard. The 8# leader I was using really held up well. Both fish eventually spit the hook. The only fish I was able to flip onto the ice was this little skipper. It's hard to believe that this little squirt was only a 10" smolt released last April. This little guy ran the gauntlet of predators in the lake and feed well on the vast schools of emerald shiners and mayfly hatches. By the looks of him and fed well in the big lake. I gently slipped him back into the water and decided to call it a day.

Tomorrow's temperature is to be in the upper 40s with rain and that usually means the rivers will get blown out. The city of North Olmsted dropped off the pumps just in case if the sewers get overwhelmed and with my luck they'll fire them up around 1:00AM and of course I have to start work at 5:30AM.

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