October 9, 2011

I Love Lousy Weather

Lousy weather brings a smile to my face and it's even more special early in the season. Last week, I was discussing plans for the upcoming weekend. The outlook for later in the week was calling for rain and below average temperatures. If the rain blew out the streams in Ohio, then we would skip over the border to Pennsylvania. I'll only fish Pennsylvania out of desperation because I don't play well with others. Maybe old age has mellowed me out, but it made sense to have a back up plan when things here are not so great. In the past, I've often resisted getting a Pennsylvania license because of the cost, distance and most of the time the streams there often run low and clear. But Pennsylvania has ridiculous numbers of fish and when conditions are primed, you can hit double digits in less than an hour.

Friday came and so did the rain. Work wise it was a washout as I had to rescheduled several jobs. To kill time I drove along Chagrin River road near the village of Gates Mills. The Chagrin was starting to rise as I could see several small feeder creeks pumping in silt laden water. I knew fishing in Ohio was out of the question for Sunday. Saturday morning it was still raining and I checked the flow gauges and found the rivers had blown out. Pennsylvania's on the other hand had peaked and were starting to drop. Unlike Ohio's streams, Pennsylvania rise and drop like if somebody flushed a toilet.

That morning I drove over to Gander Mountain to get my license. What should of been a couple of minutes turned into an ordeal as the clerk had trouble processing my information. It kept kicking back my social security number as an error. She called the Pennsylvania boat and fish commission and they finally corrected the problem. It turned out that my Ohio drivers license, when swiped still had my old address and the computer got confused as it thought I had another file opened. Got to love the state government! After 20 minutes, I looked over to see the monster line up I created. I opted for the annual license and with the Lake Erie permit it cost me $62.00 and I was going to make sure I got my money's worth before it expires at the end of the year.

Pennsylvania's steelhead program has it's fair share of critics and supporters. For the supporters, it's a ton of fish and most of the locals are spoiled rotten with the bounty. For them a 10 fish day is a disappointment. When I first moved here I heard stories of people catching a 100 fish when conditions were right. I scoffed when I heard that as there was no way creeks that small could hold that many fish. It sounded like one of those tales of some far off land filled with mythical creatures. My skepticism of those insane numbers of fish was quickly put to rest when I fished the Elk several years ago during the month of November. When I arrived the stream was high and dirty. There wasn't a soul there and I annihilated nearly every spot I fished. I lost count but I figured I was well over 50 fish as I usually carry about 100 sacs give or take. The critics on the other hand feel that the state overloads streams that couldn't support that many fish in natural conditions. But I'll bet those same critics will have a shit eating grin on their faces when they're nailing fish.

The evening was spent stinking up the kitchen tying sacs and watching Wisconsin blow out Nebraska. I didn't get to bed until 12:30 and I knew I would pay for it as I rarely get a good night of sleep anymore. The alarm blared at 5:00A.M as I groggily crawled out of bed. I checked the flow gauge and the stream was perfect. I brewed some industrial strength coffee and wolfed down some eggs and bacon. I packed up the gear and carried everything outside. When I opened the door the crisp cold air jolted me. Even though it was October 2nd it felt more like November 2nd. The wind was howling and the temperature was barely out of the 40s. The boys showed up just as tired as I was and Dave was the chauffeur as Bubba needed to cop a few more z's.

We got to the river around first light and couldn't decide where to fish. We stopped at the access closest to the lake. We could see about 30 cars in the lot and a large cluster of people sitting on the rocks and others in the water. We could hear the waves crashing into the shore and the wind was roaring. The flow was barely noticeable and the action was uneventful. We changed and got back into the truck headed down stream. I've never fished this low as I preferred to the upper sections to get away from the crowds. This was also the first time I fished in Pennsylvania on a weekend.

We picked one section that is popular but then again every spot on the river is popular. When we arrived there were two vehicles. But that would change as the morning progressed. We walked down the trial and we could see four anglers - two bait fishing and the other two fly fishing. The other guys walked up and I fished a riffle below. The key to fishing Pennsylvania's streams is not overlooking the tiniest spots because hiding spots are at a premium. I tossed the float and drifted along the seam. It boggled and I set the hook. The rod throbbed and it was the first fish of the morning. This fish raced downstream, full of fight. It was a nice chunky hen that fell for a pink sac.

 I quickly got into another fish and after that I didn't get another hit. Bubba got a couple of fish but it was slow. Nobody was banging them as I had no idea how early the other anglers got there. I walked up to join the guys and it was still slow. I used cured and uncured eggs and still got no hits. I started getting antsy and I needed to move. I can't help it as I'm not one of those guys that can stand in one spot for hours on end. I made the move downstream and wanted to explore to see what lied ahead. There were several fly guys fishing fast water. None of them were hooking up and I noticed a large tree lying in the water. I knew somewhere in there was some fish. Sure enough the spot coughed up a couple of fish and I got freight trained by another as it snap the line before I could even react. But after that all was quiet and I wondered how the others were doing upstream.

We moved back up to the same spot and then it was like the switch went off. We started hooking up like crazy. It was like a conga line as one of us was walking a fish downstream to be released followed by another. The hot ticket was uncured eggs and the fish had a hankering for them. As expected whenever others are hooking up, the level of douchebagginess starts to come out from the other anglers. One young angler fly fishing started to muscle in on our spot, but his attempts were futile. We were still banging them as he moved from spot to spot. Sorry dude, but dirty deep water, #14 sucker spawn and fish holding tight along the bank equals zero hits. He slowly slinked off to more shallow water in hopes of catching a fish. The action tailed off and we decided to hit one more spot before heading home.

It was nearly noon and there were a lot of people out fishing. We fished yet another popular spot and the action was slow, but I didn't care as I had my fill and was happily sated. So far this is fall has been far better than last year and hopefully we've turned the corner. Glad to throw that nasty ole skunk off my neck.

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