When rivers are low and clear, I often dread "bluebird days". Bluebird day is defined as clear blue skies, bright sun and warm temperatures. I on the other hand prefer low grey skies, zero sun and temperatures hovering in the 40s. Today, it was a bluebird day and I wasn't going to stand on the sidelines. Fishing time is precious and I'll try to deal with the conditions the best I can.
Daylight savings couldn't come at a better time. No more stumbling around in the dark and it's only 7:00A.M and for this hopeless sleeper, an extra hour is what I need. I really didn't feel the need to get up early because the word out was the fishing has been terrible ever since the rivers came down. Not a lot of fish made it in and they're spread out. Many steelheaders used the beautiful weather to score points with the wife in regards to raking leaves and tossing the patio furniture in the shed.
It was first light when I was halfway out to the Grand, driving at a leisurely pace as I listened Rush's Exit Stage Left. This would be the second trip out to the upper stretches and I hoped it would be better than the previous one, but I wasn't holding my breath. I crossed over the covered bridge below the dam, the final stop for steelhead about 20 miles from the lake. I could see several anglers clustered around the bridge. I knew from past experience that the fish will move downstream whenever the water the gets lower.
When ever the rivers are low and clear, I'll fish the Grand. The Grand was one of those rivers that never runs clear. It always has that murkiness to it. A cloak that hides fish very well and makes it very challenging. I know the Grand very well, but there are times that she doesn't want to reveal her secrets or her fish. The upper stretches is where I'm at home - the long shale cliffs, lazy flats, and the remoteness. As I pulled in to the back lot, there wasn't anybody fishing downstream. The large rock that I use as a gauge was halfway out of the water. That meant the river was low but perfect for wading as I had plan to fish the 2 miles downstream. Unfortunately, I looked across to see a large drift boat being loaded. I wasn't in the mood to out run a boat. With the lower water that meant the boat would spook a lot of fish. Even though the Grand is the largest stocked steelhead river in Ohio, it's a very shallow in nature.
I immediately walked down to one of my money pools and quickly hooked into a male - bright in his fall colors. I kept looking up stream and I could see the boat making its way down. In this section it was wide enough that the boat could drift on the opposite side without disturbing any fish. As the boat drifted by I noticed they all had fly gear. That meant they probably wouldn't fishing the lazy pools but I was concerned because most of those pools and flats are shallow and the hulking shadow of a boat is enough to scattered and shut down fish. I figured since I was halfway down I stop at the first mile and give it a shot. I managed one more fish and that was it.
Walking back it was evident that a lot of people took the weekend off as nobody was fishing upstream. It was very odd not seeing people fishing during the first week of November - the prime month of steelheading on the Alley. I drove downstream to another spot where the high cliffs would provide fish with cover. It was the same result - not a lot of action. A couple of anglers walked passed both with grim looks on their faces. One them asked if I fished upstream and said yes but it was slow. Both were not from here and I was hard pressed to give them any info that would help them.
I hope that this November doesn't turn into the one we experienced last year - very low numbers of fish. I believe there are more fish, but they are very spread out. You will need a lot persistence and willing to walk the extra mile. Parking at the closest hole and repeatedly casting over and over won't yield a lot of fish. Time to look ahead for the next adventure.