January 1, 2012

Another Year In The Books

What fish will kill me first?
 2011 has finally come to an end and instead of ushering in a new year of happiness and the hopes of prosperity, I'm bitching that the Grand is blown again. But, that's the life of a hardcore steelheader. Nearly every week the rain conveniently falls on a Thursday or Friday and I'll have wait yet another week to get on the big river. With this latest bout of rain, I'm sure a lot of the steelheaders were glad they had the day off to nurse the hangover.

Collapse of the Gates Mills Dam 
Now the year in review. This past fall and early winter has been a hell of a lot better than last year. We experienced drought like conditions last fall and none of the rivers really got a good blowout. Due the low water conditions, I'm sure the fish got fed up and decided to pack their bags looking for other rivers. The fishing was terrible as double digits days were few and far between. A lot of steelheaders were happy to land one or two fish. Then the "freeze" came and it took everybody by surprise. It was early December when everything along the Alley locked up. But that happens when the rivers are low - they freeze over quick. I was forced to fish the Hoga with dismal success, the power plant was even worse. I was losing it as the month of March was upon us. The only good note was the Gates Mills dam finally succumbing to father time and Mother Nature's wrath. It opened new water for the steelheaders and I was eager to add some new water under my belt.

Rainy April = Ditch Fishing
 The rivers were finally ice free, but the fish were still not in big numbers. We waited patiently, but Mother Nature wasn't finished torturing us. The month of April turned out to be the wettest on record. The Rock had it's 2nd worst flood in recorded history and changed a lot of sections. The constant rain threw in a major monkey wrench as I was forced to fish ditches and I wasn't terribly happy with the results. I threw in the towel about mid April was it was evident we got a lousy run and hoped the following fall would be better.

September Steel 
 We crossed our fingers and prayed to the fish gods. September I caught my first fish of the new season. Instead of bone dry conditions, we received plenty of rain that brought fish in. For the first time I purchased a PA licence and put aside my indifference towards PA steelheading. October was an outstanding month on the Elk and Conneaut. The double digits days were plenty and nobody was grousing about the lack of fish. As the season progressed we still received more rain that kept the flows nice and high. Once again the PA licence came in handy as we fished the Elk numerous times as the Ohio streams were still too high to fish. The number of fish in the Elk started to drop during the later weeks of November and it was evident that their run was coming to an end. In Ohio, ours was starting to rev up and the darling of the alley was the much maligned Rocky that got a good push of fish. Because of the good numbers of fish and some big ones thrown in, I hastily made changes in my I don't fish the Rock decree. It was still fishing good well into December as I witnessed and caught some huge fish. The other rivers out east didn't fare as well for obvious reasons.

The Elk saves the day
The Grand could never come down to fishable levels because of the rain. The window to fish it was very brief. I haven't fished it since early November. The Conneaut usually the best bet during the fall was very spotty, with the exception of a couple money holes I know, the fishing was tough but I did catch a respectable number of fish. The Chagrin, which I haven't fish yet has been off and on. The Vermilion, a river that ranks lowers than some ditches I fished only once and caught three fish in conditions even though considered low had the same consistency has my cup of coffee in the morning - heavy with a lot of cream.

 With that said, I hope a Happy New Year to my fellow brother steelheaders. Let's hope we have a mild winter and a fantastic spring to wrap up the season. More adventures to come.

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