October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat

Took a well deserved day off from all of the bullshit at work and what better way to spend it fishing on the last day of October. Earlier in the week we had some cold weather and my procrastinating caught up to me as I waited until the last minute to get my gas hooked up at my apartment. Wednesday night the temps dipped into the low 30s and I froze my ass off. Out east in the snowbelt there were reports of snow and sleet. With the front going over the lake, it was either lake effect rain or snow. I heard through the grapevine that some of the eastern tribs got high as of result of precipitation. How much rain or runoff was anybody's guess. That was perfect for Friday as the weather was be sunny and in the 60s.

With it being Halloween, it would been a hoot dressing up as a giant pink spawn sac or piece of skein or maybe as Donnie Beaver with a giant streamer stuck in the eye. Joking aside, I was going to meet up with a good friend that I haven't fished with for a while. Earlier in the week, I made plans and kept an eye and ear out for info. I heard some rivers were too high and others too low and others had very little fish in them. But there's always a place to fish on Steelhead Alley.

I arrived at the river just before first light and noticed it was in perfect condition. The water was stained from the rotting leaves and the color was perfect for concealing steelhead. The night before I tied a bunch of assorted flavor sacs - peach, pink, red and chartruese and any leftovers would be used as treats for the neigbourhood brats. I was to meet up with the Dfishinfool - Don Mathews. Don was scouting the river for the upcoming weekend of guiding. But before he showed up, I killed some time by spanking fish out of a hole in one section. Eventually he arrived and I was armed with the pin and he had his fly rod and battle ensued. Due the tannic conditions and lower water levels, most if not all of the fish were in deeper runs and pools. We had some double headers and every spot gave up some fat spunky fish. We ended up equal in the pin vs fly battle, but I'm sure I'll kick ass as soon as the snow flies. Most of the fish were holding in the tail end or slack parts of the pools. We continued downstream and I ran into another old friend and we chatted for a bit.

By now the sun was coming up and I was going to head over to the Conneaut with Don as he was going to Erie to get some supplies. I called a source to find out that the Connie was still high and off color. I had second thoughts and Don told me he would stop by to take a look on his to Erie. I started back upstream and tried the same spots we fished earlier. I recieved a call and was told the Connie was out of the question today and tomorrow. It was 11:30A.M and the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was rising. The bite shut off and I was starting to get really hot, so I walked back to the lot and took off the two sweaters I was wearing. I hopped in the Jeep and drove into town to fish a couple of spots. As expected there were a lot people that called in with the 24 hour flu. I was able fish one spot and caught some more before calling it a day around 3:00P.M. I wasn't thrilled at the thought of driving into Cleveland around 4:00P.M as 2 lanes were closed on the I-90 bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River. Sure enough the traffic piled up about a mile from Deadman's curve and I was lucky enough that I knew my way around "da hood" and avoiding gridlock.

We're still waiting for that elusive blowout to happen. For the time being, every time the water levels go up some more fish push up. However, the majority of trees have yet to shed their leaves. Most of those leaves have ended up on the bottom of the streams and the water has that tannic color. Tannin is a weak acid that can affect steelhead's behaviour and movement. But with a good presentation, fish can be had. As it's with every year here on Steelhead Alley, we eventually get a rainfall that flushes out the leaves and silt. Hopefully, that doesn't happen the 3rd week of November - the week of my vacation.

October 18, 2008

The Night Owl


Once in a while I love to fish in the dark. There is something special about it. The eerie feeling of walking down a pitch black trail. Hearing the rustling of some unknown creature in the surrounding woods. I remember times stumbling through the woods on my way to a far off hole or pool. I would be hours ahead of the other anglers. Finally reaching the spot and panting and breathing heavily. You see your breath as the headlamp shines out towards the water. 

Whenever I fish in the dark, whether its' early in the morning or in the evening. I like to use the Blue Fox lighted float or a LED light stick. Unfortunately none of the local tackle shops carried the floats at the time. The latest trick in my fishing arsenal are these LED lights I bought for my floats. In the past I've used glo sticks for floats, but I was never satisfied with the results as they often made the floats tip over or easily pop off whenever a fish took the bait. These lights are about the size a fuse you use for a speaker. They're made in Japan and with 127 million people crammed onto a bunch of islands, I'm sure a lot of folks are into night fishing. The lights are waterproof and have about 20 hours of use. The plastic sleeve was too large to fit properly on a Raven or Hi-Viz float, but I found it fit perfectly on a Drennan bobber. But I wished I had one of those Blue Foxes.

I drove out east in the wee hours and arrived at the river around 4:30 in the morning. Obviously there wasn't any cars or people. But I was still vigilant as I've had some shady characters pull over and ask me for either a smoke or spare change. I wouldn't have any problems here in this sleepy little town. With my headlamp on I slowly strolled down to the river. The crickets chirped quietly and slowly. The moon had a light haze from the high clouds. Overhead I hear the faint sounds of a commercial airliners flying high above. It's a short walk to the first spot no more than 10 minutes. I scan the water with the headlamp and it's in perfect condition. I had everything set up and with a click, it was fishing time. The light was very visible and I could detect when I was starting to hit bottom. Once I made the adjustments, I watched the float go under hard as it was the first fish of the morning. For an hour it was steady fishing as I had my hands full battling fish in the pitch dark. Drifting along the slot and towards the tailout was the ticket.

Every once in a while I would look back and then I could see headlamps in the distance. Three anglers showed up in the dark and basically staked out their turf. Since they had no way to fish in the dark, they watched me catch more fish and I overhead one them saying 

"Shit, he's going to clean this hole out before first light" 

I smirked and continued to fish. They shuffled off farther upstream to stake another spot. Smart move on their part. 

A couple more guys showed up and I noticed they were taping on those goofy glo sticks. I ignored them and I watched them lose one after another as they found that troublesome snag I found earlier in the morning. Several more people showed up and they were milling about in the dark. One them asked 

"Are you hitting them?"

I looked back and nodded with a big grin. I thought they would of moved along, but they didn't. Probably thought I was pulling their chain in the hopes they would leave. Some anglers will never believe anything coming out of another angler's mouth. I hadn't had a hit in over a half hour. I had my fill and let them fight over the scraps - suckers.

Once the sun started coming up the fish pretty well shutdown for the rest of the morning. I banged nearly every holes and pool for about a mile and managed to catch a couple of fish. It was very tough and then I noticed a tea stained color as a result of the tannin from the leaves. Whenever leaves start rotting in the water, they release a weak acid and trout are very sensitive to changes in the PH level. This can result in fish not feeding and often ignoring presentations. A lot of the trees had yet to shed their leaves. As it was a couple of weeks ago, the river was elbows and assholes. I looked at the time it was 10:30A.M and was working on my 3rd container of eggs. I grew quickly bored and needed a change of scenery. I jumped in the Jeep and drove west in search of more fish. When I arrived at the river was much higher and stained, but it was fishable in my book. I tried for an hour and got nothing, not even a stinkin chub. I decided to head home and crashed on the couch.

Sunday the night owl slept in and woke around 6:00A.M, it was very cold this morning as I figured the temperature was in the 30s, I stopped at the gas station and got a large cup of java for the trip out east. Today, I decided to stick closer to home and fished the Grand. The river was covered in mist and the water level dropped considerable from the day before. I fished the lower section and I knew I would be fishing in company. It didn't take long to hear those words I hate hearing "Good morning, any luck?" - shit. I looked back to see three guys set up shop around me. I grunted "no fish" and I would be moving to another spot shortly. It didn't take long to hook up with the first fish of the morning. The take was light and I thought it was another chub so I didn't set the hook hard. The rod jolted and I knew this wasn't a chub, the guys around pulled their lines out and let me fight the fish. I was surprised considering this was downtown Painesville as this section of the Grand is fished by some the biggest dolts I've ever seen. It was a nice male in his full spawning colors. The two other anglers around me hooked into a couple of fish, but it was a slow morning. One of the guys chattered up a storm and I slowly started to develop a headache. To relieve that headache, I moved upstream. I managed one fish that immediately wrapped himself around a log and after an hour I got no takers.

I drove to another metro park and walked down to the river. In the distance, there was a gaggle of fly fishermen in one section. In the past, I found it too be one of the most productive spots on the lower Grand, but getting in line and waiting wasn't my cup of tea. I continued to walk down and fished a section full of lumber. By now the sky was bright and I knew the fish would be seeking cover. I fished along the slot and the float slightly tapped, once again I thought it was another pesky chub and lightly pulled the line. The float shot under and I felt the rod jolt and watched a bright silver hen explode from the water. The fish made so much noise from jumping the other anglers upstream all looked downstream. It was a chore keeping her from going under the logs, but I was able to apply side pressure and quickly beached her. I managed to catch a couple more from the section. The high sun, bright sky and the morning crowd all took their toll and decided to call it a day around 1:00P.M, only to go home and watch the Browns implode.

Most of the fish moving into Ohio's streams are PA steelhead and this is the reason for the small number of them. If you know the rivers well and are willing to cover a lot of distance, you'll catch fish. Areas of easy access are getting pounding and the fair weather fishermen are trying to squeeze as much fishing as possible before November. If we get no rain this week, all of the rivers will be back to low and no flow. Ohio's strain of steelhead - the Manistee is a winter/spring run fish and they usually don't show up until mid-November.

October 12, 2008

Sound Investing Advice

The economy here has really gone down the shitter. How bad it is?

If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Airlines stock one year ago,  you would have $49 left. With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left  of the original $1,000. With AIG, you would have less than $15 left. But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have $214 cash.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

As for fishing, I worked like a mother all week and had a heavy load for Saturday as I'm trying to stuff more cash into the mattress for winter. The rivers are low, no flow and it's too hot. I took Sunday off and watched another soap opera on Steelheadsite, that site is like a house full of roaches - impossible to get rid of. There's a chance of rain Wednesday and the weather is suppose to get cooler.

October 5, 2008

No Browns Game = Everybody on the River

Finally after weeks without any sufficient rainfall, Steelhead Alley received some much needed rain and during the mid-part of the week, the weather got colder. With the combination of the two, many steelheaders hoped for a big push of fish into the streams.

As with every year, I plan my trips farther east as the fishing tends to be better, due to the close proximity to Pennsylvania. I got a report through the grapevine the streams didn't get blown out, but got high and stained. Stained conditions never bothered me as I knew where to find fish, plus I had goober sized sacs to get the fishes attention. I arrived at first light to see that the water was high, but manageable. I stuck to the lower end and knew of some killer holes. I fished one spot and drifted along the slot and paid off with some large fresh chromers. The majority of fish caught were hens loaded with eggs and they were on the large size. Due to the high water the number of anglers were low and I had the spot to myself for several hours. The fishing was good for an hour and died off, so I decided to head to another trib. This trib was not as high, but the water was stained. The fishing here was a little tougher as I hopped from hole to hole in search of players. The only players I found were those annoying little bastard creek chubs. In one section, I hooked one after another and flung them across the stream. Too bad it wasn't Northern Ontario as I would love to use those fat pricks for pike bait. But I managed to weed out the chubs and caught a couple of steelies. Overall it was a slow afternoon but it was nice to be out and enjoy the fall weather.

The following day was another story. I arrived to see about 10 cars parked along the road. You would of thought the internet got plastered with reports. There were no reports on the local fishing sites and it was the good ole word of mouth that got around. The spot I fished yesterday had 8 people standing in the water waiting for first light. I hit the trail walked upstream and it would be a morning of "gun and run". Even though the water conditions were better, the fishing was tough. There were more people than fish caught and I lost count of the people I passed and people that passed me while I fished. This was due to the nice weather and the Browns had a bye week. I usually tolerate the fair weather fishermen and none of them bother me this morning. I managed to catch some fish that were holding in narrow runs with a depth of 3' off the main current. As I walked back nearly ever spot was occupied and I noticed a lot of people were fishing in sections that never hold fish. For shits and giggles I decided to check another spot and there were 20 cars parked along the road. It was late in the morning and I decided that it's still early in the season and I could wait for colder weather.

I still think it's early in the season and this past high water episode didn't bring in a ton of fish. I heard across the border the fishing was better, but I would rather have my balls stuck with ice picks then fishing the Elk in October. The good news the fishing will get better as the weather gets colder (no more fair weather fishermen) and the shorter days.