Another vacation and another bout of rain. That's how it usually happens, because I have to book my vacation time well in advance. In some years, its been bone dry and others the rivers get blown out. There is no in between. I sigh usually with a feeling of frustration, but I have to make best with what I have. That was evident as the Alley got walloped with rain. Some are so fed up with the rain that they're praying for snow. So far to date Northeastern Ohio has blown away the most precipitation in one year record.
Sunday, I snuck out to beat the rain. It was a decent day, but I knew the fishing gods would try to ruin my vacation. As expected the streams blew out, but I hoped that PA got spared. Sure enough that evening the flow went up but none of their streams blew out. For the remainder of the week, Pennsylvania was the only destination as all of Ohio's streams were out of the question for the entire week. On the upside, the river would be high and it was the beginning of deer hunting season. With high conditions and the hunting season, I wasn't in a hurry to lock up the best spot. The downside was it was 100 mile drive one way and my lead foot doesn't help with the fuel economy.
It was this time back in 2007 when I smashed them on this section. I never had a day like that and may never again. I know it was well over 50 fish and if I kept count it might of been close to 70, because I usually carry about 3 dozen sacs per container and I had 3 of them on me. That year, we had the mother load of fish both in PA and Ohio - it was the dream season. We were all spoiled by the bounty and hoped it would never end. Then the reality check smack us upside the head last year. It was horrible as some of us thought we lost our mojo. We got teased a couple of times, but most of the time we struggled to find fish. If you didn't put in the effort, then your season was filled with frustration and sorrow. Even here in Steelhead Shangri -La hasn't been the same either as the locals have been complaining about the lack of fish and you know it's been a bad year when PA steelheaders are whining.
I arrived around 10:00A.M to see the stream dirty and flowing good. The added bonus was seeing a couple of anglers looking glum walking back to the car. The majority of PA's anglers hate and I mean hate fishing dirty water. They look at the dirty water with a panic expression on their face. You can see beads of sweat forming on their foreheads. In their heads, they're trying to figure out where the fish are, but they can't put 1+1 together. After a few minutes they decided it's not worth the effort and drive home. I'm pretty well use to it and I'm the opposite as I hate fishing low and clear.
Even though the weather was miserable, I could hear in the distance cracks of gun shots and I made an effort to make sure I was seen and heard as I started to head downstream. By late November, most of PA's steelhead are spawning. Because the creek has a limited amount of good gravel beds, the fish will take advantage of any. In several places, I could make out the dark shapes of fish clustered near a hen. That's usually a good place to start as I started to fishing below them. I hit fish, but not in big numbers. It seem that a lot of them were spread out but that's expected when conditions are higher as the fish can seek out more spots. Every spot produced fish and the majority of them were dark and some males sported some bite marks, ragged fins and their bodies thin. Not a lot of fresh fish which means that PA's run is starting to wind down and hopefully Ohio's Manistees are starting to show up.
On the way home the report was calling for more rain and a cold front pushing from the west. The creek was precariously close to blowing out again. It would be a night of waiting and seeing whether I would make the drive out. It didn't take much but the stream blew out again. Tuesday would be a day to chill at home and rest my back. It was late evening and the creek peaked. As with a lot of PA's streams they drop like a rock over night. I woke early to take a peek and as expected it dropped a foot or so. Filled the Jeep up and it was another 200 mile round trip.
The weather was nasty coming out of Cleveland as I hit rush hour. It was blowing snow and the wind whipped all over the place. As I drove farther east, it was coming off the lake. It was a day for the hardcore steelheader, not for the faint of heart. It was 9:30 when I pulled in and the creek looked the same as it did Monday. With the weather colder, the fish would be holding at the tail end. Today not a soul was out even the hunters as I didn't hear any gun shots. There was fish to be had but again not in big numbers. It was 2 or 3 here and there. Covering water was the key as several anglers I pasted later in the day stood at one hole and only caught a couple of fish. Once again my troublesome back started acting up and it was long drive home as I had to stop several times to loosen the knot in my back. By evening it was killing me and I needed to take several days off to rest it. I couldn't imagine the pain if I had the Molson muscle, as I use to weight 220lbs several years. It would be tough sitting on the sidelines. Ohio' streams were still too high and PA's would eventually become low and clear.
Finally our streams started to come down. I had a hankering for big water. Sunday for a change I didn't have to drive and we headed to an old favorite. We were all curious to see how many fish moved in after the rain. We decided to fish low away from the rural areas as it was the last day of deer season. We pulled into one favorite place and I moved farther upstream to a spot to see if any fish where in the hole. The wind was gusting as I heard leaves rustling behind me. It was first light and I looked behind me to see a hunter sitting on a picnic table. This section is heavily wooded for some distance on one side of the river. I watched him sitting patiently, looking across the field hoping his trophy buck would emerge from the woods. I got back to fishing and hooked into the first fish of the morning - a bright hen. It's nice to see some of the Manistees coming in instead of fishing for the stale PA mutts. The last time I fished this river, it was a skipper fest. Today, some titans moved in and the pole strained and groaned as I fought some tough fish. Too bad the flow wasn't stronger as I love the battle of attrition with these larger fish. We enjoyed it while it last, because more rain is on the way. I can't wait for the snow and cold........