September 19, 2010

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.

2 comments:

18 Mile said...

It's the same over here on the east side of the lake. we had some rain today and it did nothing.

Greg Lum said...

Some of us are getting concerned because last fall was dry to the point none of the rivers blew out. The end result was one of the worst seasons in recent memory.