November 1, 2012
I've been blogging my fishing adventures since 2007 and I often find myself going back to see what happened over the years. Last week, I was reading about the first trip to Elk Creek that took place on the first weekend of October of last year. The year before was one of the worst seasons I've experienced since moving to the Alley. Lousy weather and even more lousy returns. We put that horrible season behind us and hoped it was nothing more than an aberration. With fingers crossed and looking to the sky, the gods took pity of us mortals. Last season early on we were blessed with enough rain that kept the rivers at prime levels and fish moving in all of that autumn. We received our first cold weather and the Elk blew out the day before. The conditions were primed and it was a go. Armed with jars of fresh Michigan king salmon eggs, we planned our assault. It turned out to be a banner day and the Alley was rejuvenated. We had one of the warmest winters on record and that meant fishing all season - uninterrupted.
Fast forward and so far the season was been an difficult one due to the lack of rain. Small numbers of fish have pushed in but we've have been patiently waiting. I've gone out several times had decent numbers of fish, but I knew the best was yet to come. Saturday the Elk blew out and I knew the window was opening for some prime action. I spent tying up sacs and getting the gear prepared for tomorrow's trip. Ohio State was playing a night game and I meet some friends at the local watering hole. The place was packed but we were able to secure a table in front of a big screen. The beer quickly came and I was famished. The first thing that popped out on the menu was the porky mac-n-cheese. The waitress brought out a huge bowl of penne, onions, pork, crispy pork bellies and all of it was smothered in three cheese sauce. It was that comfort food that sticks to your ribs. It was delicious and it hit the spot, Nothing better then comfort food, beer and a great football game. The Buckeyes smack the Cornhuskers around and I was slightly buzzed. We hung around after the game and it was a little after midnight. This hardcore steelheader wanted to stay longer but he needed to squeeze in some sleep before waking in a few hours.
I was jolted out of a deep sleep when the alarm blared. I rolled over and squinted at the clock, it was 5:00A.M, I was lucky if I got four hours of sleep. I crawled out of bed and my feet touched the hardwood floors. It sent a chill up my spine and I shuffled towards the closest. I fumbled through it looking for my fishing clothes and dressed in the dark. I was still half asleep when I got the coffee maker brewing and frying pan was popping and sizzling some eggs and bacon. As breakfast was cooking, I peeked out the window and noticed the pavement was wet. The day before the weather honks said the rain was out of the area and there was a 20% chance of it for Sunday. I hit the road with a hot mug of coffee and I listened to Rory Gallagher's fine playing in the background. As I made my way through Cleveland and the eastern suburbs, it started to rain. I checked the weather app on my phone and there was nothing on the radar, so I figured it wasn't enough precipitation for the radar to pick up. As I continued east, the rain became more steady and once again I checked the weather app and nothing on the radar. I was puzzled that nothing was showing and I hoped they were isolated, because I didn't bring my fishing jacket. All I was wearing was an Under Armour long sleeve shirt, sweat shirt and a fleece jacket - not the best clothing for an all day soaker. It rained off and on and when I hit Pennsylvania the rain became more steady. I checked the flow gauge and the Elk was flowing at 3.5 which as prime as you want it. The day before Uncle John's webcam showed the Elk running the same consistence as my coffee - heavy with cream.
I pulled in and it was raining harder, by then it was first light and the clouds were very low and not in hurry to move through. By then I didn't bother checking the phone because it didn't matter, it was going to either rain or not. But it didn't matter because the spot I was fishing was the tubes and if the weather got worse, I could seek refuge deep within the tunnel and stay dry. I walked down the hill as I could hear the rain hitting the trees above. I looked down the trail and I could see 4 people fishing mostly in the faster water. If my memory serves me correct, we struggled to get into fish early on the previous year. I fished along the wall and beat it like a dead horse - nothing. My fleece jacket was hold up against the light rain and I hoped it stayed that way all day. My gut told me to venture into the tubes. I finally made my way in and the cracking of my cleats against the concrete echoed loudly up and through the tunnel. Last year we yanked fish left and right and it was a conga line as we walked our catches down and around to the shallow water to release them. In told, we probably caught about 50 fish. At first I hit nothing and started making some adjustments. Periodically, I would look downstream and see nobody was really hooking up. Farther up I heard a fish roll in the dark. I finally hit pay dirt and as I walked around the corner Dave showed up. Talk about perfect timing and I asked him is he brought some of his mojo. The fish were inside the tunnel and the both us had a great time. But good times must come to an end as we cleaned out the spot and I had to venture out into the rain.
We walked downstream it was fish after fish out of every hole. It continued to rain but it didn't seem to effect the creek at all. It was a typical Elk Creek day when the water is dirty as we hit into double digits. A lot feisty fresh chrome that kept me on my toes and by then my hat was completely soaked as was my jacket. There was no way I was coming off the creek - never. I could be dripping wet and shivering and I would of tough it out. That's the sign of a hardcore steelheader. After a while both me and Dave went seperate ways as he was getting ready to head home. I drove farther upstream to another spot that had several deep holes along the shale ledges. It was early afternoon and I noticed nobody was fishing. When a hot spot is vacant on the Elk, the morning crews have usually worked the holes over. But, sometimes the bite might be off in the morning or fish moved in later in the day. It turned out that nothing was biting and it was good timing. It was like the floodgates were opened from above and the deluge commenced. That was enough for me as I started the long walk back. Walking along the trail I got pelted and sloughed through the mud. When I finally made it back, I felt a sense of relief as I started remove my jacket and shirt. Luckily, I always bring along fresh shirts, pants and socks. My lucky Leafs hat was placed on the floor mat to dry as I started to make my way back to Ohio. On the way home, I stopped by for some hot chili and coffee and that hit the spot.
I found it ironic that I had the same results from almost a year ago. Fished the same spots, the creek was running dirty and the only thing different was the rain. It will be interesting to see what next year has in store for me.