Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Slow Day Steelhead Fishing

Slow Day Steelhead Fishing
…but the cigar was good!
 I woke up comfortably late. I hunted all day Saturday and didn’t want to get out from under the warm sleeping bag in the bed of the van this Sunday morning. Besides, who is going to be on the water this early in the freezing weather?
  On the way up north the snow was more plentiful but the roads were clear and dry. Nearer to Erie a neon sign, outside a place of business, read 26 degrees! By the time I got to the east side creek, about 8:30am, there was already a line of vehicles parked along the roadway. So much for the freezing weather keeping the steelhead fishermen away.
  I bundled up in layers of warm clothes and put on my Yukon cap. After stringing up the fly rod I greased the rod eyes, leader and a long section of fly line to keep from freezing with lip balm. I pocketed some good cigars and made sure I had everything I needed before slinging the sling pack over my shoulder. Through the snow I walked and then trudged down the hardened muddy path through the woods to the creek.
  I found the water low and gin clear. I walked a short bit upstream and two guys were fishing a deeper flow of water before it spilled over a ledge of shale. I decided to head down creek to a few holes I knew that always held fish and hopefully seeing a few along the way.
  The morning was brisk and still awakening as shadows shaded the creek banks from the hidden rising sun. Tree branches were covered with snow as was the ground except for the worn path made by fishermen.
 I took my time wading downstream looking for oblong shapes above the stony and shale creek bed. My search was fruitless along the shallows and pocket waters along the banks as no steelhead were found. I came across 5 fellows, around the first bend, fishing a deep pool of water that the shallows emptied into. From the bank I searched the outflow, down from the last fisherman, but again couldn’t spot a fish.
  Down creek I came across two fishermen fishing another deeper pool. One of them fished the head of the pool where the tumbling water spilled into a wide deep section. The other fished the water as it settled around the bend in the much clearer and shallower water no more than about 3 feet. Down from him I got an eyeball on a couple of oblong shapes and caught sight of a steelhead swimming down creek from the deep hole. I took a stand, at an acceptable distance from the other fishermen, and staked a claim.
 I started with a trusty streamer gently letting it drift in the vicinity of fish. The cliff, on the other side of the bank, shaded the water hampering visibility of my drifting offering. Without any takes I knotted on a sucker spawn with another sucker spawn dropper under an indicator. I noticed when the indicator started to drift towards the steelhead they moved away from it. I took the indicator off and, though they didn’t take my imitations, they weren’t as wary of my offerings. I went through my fly boxes and showed them different shades and even nymphs to no avail. After a good hour I only had seen the two other fishermen hook up once each. By now the ash gray sky now reflected more light that lit up any darkness upon the water. I did notice a couple more steelhead along the shallow run but they too weren’t interested. I lit up a Connecticut Yankee Churchill and headed down creek to search for steel.
  I was quite a distance down creek before I came across a couple of steelhead in a deep runoff near an uproot. The one scooted in the deeper water near the uproot while the other held tight a little further down as I approached. I flashed a streamer in their area but they didn’t appear to be that rambunctious to chase and eat it. Down creek a little further two guys were fishing a nice deep pool that ran along a submerged deadfall. I stood on the bank and enjoyed my cigar while watching them. For the short time I watched they each got one hook up a piece with only one looking to be a fair hook. Neither got the steelhead to the bank. I dared not to go any further down creek and headed back up at a leisurely stroll.
  Stopping, before the two guys where I fished earlier, I was able too see a few more steelhead in the backend of the run. The stub of my cigar was starting to get heavy on the draw so I dashed it out in the creek and stuffed it in my sling pack. I knotted on a sucker spawn with a nymph dropper and began again to try to get one to bite. I spent about 45 minutes trying every different color sucker spawn, streamer and nymph without a take before the two other gentlemen decided to take off. As soon as they left I took claim up in the mouth where the choppy current emptied into the deep pool, with force, before flowing against the cliff bank and turning down creek to my right.
  It took time as I adjusted my indicator, weight and length of leader trying to learn how the differences of current acted before me.
  About 15 minutes passed by before a young man took a stand just down from me. He laid his noodle rod on the ground and took out a jar. I asked him what he was using and he replied “brown trout eggs.” It didn’t take long before he said he missed a take and it wasn’t long after that he was playing a nice steelhead. After taking a picture for him and his steelhead, I asked what color he got it on, he said orange and opened the jar to show me the different colors of egg sacks he had tied with the trout eggs inside. One thing a fly guy with imitations can’t produce and that is the scent of his imitations. Being that I was fishing in the faster current it shouldn’t matter as much.
 I already had an Oregon cheese color sucker spawn on so I immediately knotted on a beaded orange sucker spawn for a dropper. After a couple of drifts I didn’t like the way the indicator reacted with the fast cross currents so I took it off. A couple deep drifts after that and I felt the sudden strike and had my first steelhead of the day on a tight line.
  He rose, from the deepest part of the pool, and turned away towards the shallows near the cliff edge. I had the drag set light so when he turned down creek I eased the rod back and double clicked the drag knob for a little more tension on the mid arbor. Once the rod flexed, with more tension on the line, he rose again, gave a few surface slashes and turned back upstream. My cold red hands gripped the cork handle without much feeling though I could feel the adrenaline pumping warmth through my body. At the mouth I wasn’t sure he was going to run the gauntlet of trying to swim into the fast choppy current before him so I arced the rod tip downstream and forced him away. After an ensuing battle in the deep pool the second time I got him nearer to me he was more cooperative. I backed up on the snowy bank and he flopped along the shallows trying to right himself.

 I took a break and dried my hands as best I could. In my coat pocket I pulled out an Obsidian Torpedo and lit the end of the barrel. The medium/full cigar brought an exclamation to my taste buds. With its well packed filler tobacco I knew I was in for a long hearty smoke.

 As we fished I noticed the young man beside me appeared to be having a hard time getting a good hook set. I noticed a couple of times he had a fish on only to lose it within several seconds. It was hard to tell if a fish took my offering but I kept an eye on my line pulling back on any sign of a take. He was definitely getting more takes than me but I continued without getting upset.
  I caught a flash near the bank just down creek between both of us. There was a pocket of deep water just before a layer of shale along our side of the bank. The riffling water made the fish hard for me to see but the discoloration, upon the creek bed, made me pretty sure he was in there.
  I moved further away from the bank and took in line. I made a loop cast in front of me with a short mend and than extended the rod out in front of me. I watched the 2 sucker spawn flow with the soft current to where I noticed the flash. The fly line dipped unnaturally so I quickly lifted the rod for a hook set. The fish took off down creek like the Roadrunner escaping from Wile E. Coyote, only with a line attached. It didn’t take long for me to bring in the fresh slender young jack to the bank that maybe went 19.”
 My last catch was just waiting to happen. I began to see more steelhead moving around in the deep pool. Occasionally a couple would swim up, from down below, hold in the shallow water near the bank and set for awhile before swimming off. I kept drifting the two sucker spawns about in the tricky currents. I added another split shot to get my offering down deeper risking it getting caught up on the uneven bed of rocks and shale. I had my stogie between my teeth blowing smoke as it feathered away in the slight chilling breeze. My ear flaps were down as the air seemed to get colder. I held the rod out with my cold right hand following the sucker spawn, as it tumbled, watching for any sudden movement of my fly line.
  I felt the heavy take and pictured a steelhead grabbing the spawn as it swiftly tumbled in the current. I gave an extra pulling heave for the hook set. (Not sure if I was surprised or just an instinct reaction when I wasn’t expecting such a hard take.) The steelhead continued swimming up towards the mouth of the run before it tugged a couple of times and turned downstream with force and gaining momentum. The young man brought his line in just in time before the steelhead crossed his path. I had the rod up keeping as much line out of the water as she took tensioned line off the reel. She suddenly stopped, rose with a twist and headed back upstream. She fought with headshaking tugs as she swam along the far edge as I reeled in line. Once I got her across from me she was in the deepest part of the run. She struggled beneath a bit before I was able to get her to swim towards me.

 The evening light turned to complete darkness as I traveled down the roadway. I was about halfway home, from the 90 mile one way trip, listening to the van radio in the comfort of my captain’s chair. I was warm, smiling, with a Corojo Cigarillo between my lips.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zombies, Chrome and Browns

Zombies, Chromes and Browns
Halloween Weekend 2014

 When a friend asks me if I want to go fishing out of state and I can get the time off I’ll consider it. When he tells me the cost is fair, the drive is less than 4 hours from home and the fishing should be great for big brown trout, I’m in!

 Being that I’ve been cut back to 4 days a week I took a vacation day to coincide with my day off and weekend which gave me a 4 day vacation. We headed to New York from Erie Pa. thursday morning about 2:00 am expecting to arrive at Oak Orchard River NY around 5:45 am.

  Standing in a cold river knee to thigh deep in the pitch darkness waiting for the first signs of daylight plays with my sanity. The only reason to do such a thing is to claim a section so other fishermen don’t take it. We ended up arriving a little later than expected and there wasn’t enough space, between other fishermen, to fit in so we separated. Out of six, four of us waded up river through the darkness.
  Some may wonder what we do or what goes on in our brain as we stand there waiting for daybreak. Like I said it plays with my sanity.
  Small red and white lights glow out in the water from headlamps or along the shore line like evil eyes in the darkness. There is nothing to fear though as they are just other humans waiting in the darkness for the same reasoning. Time tics on as small conversations stir up, muffled by the distance that carries the chatter along the river. A flicker of a cigarette or cigar is seen as more car headlights appear moving down the dirt road that leads to the parking area along the water.
  As daylight appears you can hear rustling in coat pockets, vests and fishing packs. There’s splashing of folks wading from the bank to ’their’ spot in the river. Soon after you can hear the plops from heavy lead bell sinkers hitting the water surface being used to get the offerings down to the bottom of the river bed.
  My target, with my 8 weight fly rod, is the big brown trout that hug the bottom. Fishing for these, in the river, is like trying to find a hidden treasure in a dungeon. The biggest threats are the Zombies, the sharp toothed creature that inhibit the river cistern.
 What Zombies you might ask? The King Salmon that roam the waters. You find them dead along the banks and shallows rotting as their flesh peal away, some putrid white from decay. Occasionally you’ll see a ’floater’. One bloated drifting with the current, buggy eyed and helpless, and a sure sign of death. The ones to watch out for are the ’living’, unless you like spending lots of time battling these 26” to 40” and up ogres, disrupting other fishermen, along the river. These Zombies that still have enough strength to survive. Those that will take you into your backing by sure weight than bully strength. Sores upon their skin like open festered wounds. These sharp toothed creatures I try to avoid as they waver in the current, wallow in the shallows or swim in small groups causing havoc if caught. More than likely it will be by accident than by their hunger. Even this late in the season there are still odds you might bring in a decent one.

Gary with a big King Salmon
 If you’re in the right place at the right time you might hook into a river Steelhead or even a Coho Salmon. It will rip line off the reel faster and longer than any freshwater fish I have caught. They may torpedo out of the water at any time exposing their shiny chrome sides before splashing down through the surface water. They will give you a run for your money with incomparable maneuvers trying to free themselves from the hook.
Donny with a Coho Salmon

 Than there are the New York Brown trout, the treasures of the river. They come in many different sizes and colors. This time of the season they appear to be plentiful but hooking into one isn’t as easy as one might think. I don’t think they attack out of curiosity or playfulness like a rainbow or brook trout. I believe it’s more out of hunger. They come to the river, I’m told, for dropped eggs of the spawning Kings and Steelhead. If you just so happen to be in their area during their hunger spell and have the right food offering, be it natural or imitation, you should have some fun.

 I find they battle deep, avoiding the surface, with pure force and might than agility or speed. The bigger ones tend to alligator roll soon after they are caught sometimes causing tangled lines around their fins or even broken tippets. They battle and never willing to give up. When you think you have one tired out they’ll be looking for some logs, submerged branches or a sharp angled rock to brush against. If everything goes right, you outplay him, out maneuver him and outsmart him, you will relish the rewards!

 Randy with his Brown Trout

 Out of the four days we spent fishing the river Saturday was my best outing of number of fish. We had been fishing for at least a couple of hours in the early morning with only Donny hooking up a couple of times. I lit a short cigar and verbally told myself when I finish it I was going to move. It was about ¾ the way smoked when I got my first bump. After that it was hook up after hook up with challenging battles which ended with some nice fish to hand as well as some missed opportunities.

 Sunday, by the time we cleaned up the cottage and got to the river, was miserably crowded. People were lined up within rod lengths of each other. The 4 of us split up and searched for a spot to wet a line without breathing down some ones neck. The only claim to fame I can report was a nice steelhead that gave me a heck of a fight.

A great weekend was had by all.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Diary of a Steelhead Fisherman

Diary of a Steelhead Fisherman
Sight Fishing
 I met Randy at the parking area early morning on Saturday. He’s only been fly fishing for a year and a half, mostly for trout, but I talked him into steelhead fishing. I had an extra 7 weight fly rod and reel so he didn’t have to buy any combo in case he didn’t care for fishing for steelhead. I gave him a box of sucker spawn and such. We got our gear together and headed to the creek. The water was clear but I got a tip that the steelhead were scattered along the creek so we headed down creek to see what we could find.
  Wading through the riffles I came across a few steelhead but they weren’t interested in my streamers. Along a deadfall, parallel to the creek, I caught splashes and swirls along its length. Again they weren’t interested in the streamers so I switched to sucker spawn.
  My cast put the yellow sucker spawn up creek from where they were staging and watched the spawn drift into their sight. I watched as one of the steelhead took notice and swam out the greet it. As soon as he took it I yanked the length of line and my first steelhead was on.
 I was able to catch one more along the deadfall before the others were aware of my presence and shied away from anything else I offered them.

9:32 am
 I heard a splashing and turned to see a nice steelhead upstream from me holding midstream in the shallow riffles. He was right in front of a flat rock, where the oncoming water separated, making a deep enough pool for him to be completely submerged. Weighing my options I circled behind him and took a stand behind his left. I false casted out of his vision and soft casted the beaded sucker spawn up to his right keeping my fly rod tip up. The spawn drifted mid current towards his right side. He swam towards it but appeared to miss the stab for it. I kept my cool, not wanting to jerk for a hook set unless I was sure he had it… the sucker spawn drifted with the current seam and he went back in place.
  After a couple of puffs on my stogie, and after the smoke cleared, I backcasted over my left shoulder and laid another soft cast pretty close to my last. As it drew nearer, in the current seam, I twitched the rod back. This brought the spawn out from the faster riffles and started to drift slowly right towards him. The lazy bum just opened his mouth and sucked it in. I yanked back on the rod and after the initial hook set and head shake he realized he’d been hooked well. You would have thought someone stuck him with a penicillin needle in his ass. He took off up creek through the rocky riffles speeding like a skateboarder avoiding pot holes on Main Street. I just kept the rod high and let him go as line spun off the reel. He dashed and splashed for about 20 yards beating himself up against the exposed rocks. Maybe he came to the conclusion he wasn’t going to find any deeper water upstream and decided to turn back. I carefully waded backwards to the bank turning the large arbor as if I was trying to conduct electricity as the steelhead headed down towards me. He turned aiming for the deadfall across creek but he didn’t have enough energy left to flex the rod more than a ¼ from the tip. It wasn’t long after I had him in my grasp.

Leave Them Alone and …
1:38 pm
 There was about 8 steelhead spread out, in a row, along the bank where a trail led fishermen along the creek. The leafy trail was above the gradual bank that by the time they had been spotted they seen you. By that time they were too late to fool, as what happened me the first time I spotted them.
  By late afternoon now there weren’t many fishermen walking up or down creek around where I was. I hadn’t seen any one pass by me for a good half hour or so. I decided to ‘sneak up on them.’
  Around the bend I could see no one in sight. From the bank, a good distance away, I could see two steelhead upstream from a group of three more huddled together. They were in a soft current flow about a couple of yards from the near bank. Not wanting to cast over them or let the streamer drift passed them I checked out the situation and marked their spot. There was a big boulder along the bank that jutted out a bit just up creek from them. I walked back up the trail, down the bank far enough for them not to see me. The trees shaded the water where they laid so there shouldn’t be any glare from my fluorocarbon tippet.
  I made a cast and dropped a streamer in the clear flat dead water up and out to the right of the huddled fish. The current drifted my fly line and the streamer nicely flowed into the current seam. When I figured it should have been in front of the huddle, I kept the rod extended out and a bit high. This should have kept the streamer free flowing in the current in front of the steelhead. I just stood and waited, moving the rod slightly up and down occasionally, while enjoying my cigar. While standing there I noticed the rod tip starting to flex down creek. I yanked up creek quickly and held on for the ride.
  The steelhead headed down creek into the flat water nearly taking me into the backing. I was ready to follow the fish down creek but he crossed the wide section of creek towards the other side and swam back up towards me. Wasn’t long before he too was in my grasp.
Deadfall Vacated
1:56 pm
 Back up creek I figured, just maybe, the fish along the deadfall might be hungry and unmolested by other fishermen. Along the bank I noticed two oblong shapes about a foot out from the deadfall taking in the outdoors like two hot kids lying on their bellies cooling off in a small spring creek.
  Keeping a good distance from them, upstream, I made a long cast towards the deadfall. The streamer fell just near the deadfall in a seam of current leading to the fish. As the streamer was drawing nearer to them I twitched the rod tip to cause a little more action on the streamer. I watched as a steelhead glided over and I felt the grab. A yank down creek towards my side of the bank put another steelhead on the line. The fight and battle for dominance concluded as I the winner!
4:44 pm
Nymph Offering
 It was early evening. The sun was just behind the tall trees on the far bank casting a shadow to mid stream. Most of the fishermen had left the area with a few still fishing the deeper water down creek from the bridge. I happen to spot a pod of steelhead holding in a semi-deep pool in the tail out. After a few streamer imitations and sucker spawn I decided to knot on an olive bead head Hares Ear.
  One of my casts drifted the nymph in front of the pod than slowly dropped to the creek bed on the flat bottom. I slowly brought in line making the nymph looking like it was crawling along the bottom towards me. I watched as two steelhead came swimming by and than turned up creek towards the nymph. One of the steelhead opened its mouth as if it was eating. I tried to strip set a hook set but the fish kept coming towards me as if he was chewing on the nymph. I finally stripped in some slack and yanked the rod up over my head taking up any other slack. I felt the line tighten and “FISH ON!”. After a good run and battle a nice steelhead came to hand.

 I actually caught one more on the nymph but he got free somehow before I called it quits.
  Tomorrow was another day of fishing. I went back to the van, changed out of my fishing clothes and went for dinner.
Sunday 10/26/14
 Getting to the creek I found it a milky stain as if someone dumped a tri-axle load of limestone in the creek upstream. No one I talked to had any idea why but the water was such as that. Luckily I fished here the day before and knew where the deeper pockets were where the steelhead were holding. The other fishermen? Well not so good for them. I walked behind fishermen strung out along the creek and started fishing along the deadfall. The only thing was to just wait until the water cleared.

Knowing where they hide
8:48 am
  By 8:30 am the water was clearing enough I was able to see the dark outline of a steelhead hugging the deadfall. I knotted on the brightest yellow sparkle sucker spawn I had and went for it.
  I got a couple of casts almost bumping the deadfall logs upstream from the fish but once they hit a current, caused by a short branch, it brought the sucker spawn further from the fish than what I liked. I calculated my line out and dropped the sucker spawn just inside the current and let a lot of slack line out to let the spawn drop deep before flowing down creek to fast. I watched the sucker spawn but it ended up higher in the water column as I liked. With a little more weight on my tippet, closer to the spawn, I made another cast in the same manner. This time the spawn kept lower. I noticed after the second drift through the steelhead moved away from the deadfall and settled in the pool down from the swifter current. I had him where I wanted. My next cast didn’t need to be in the swifter current so I dropped it just shy of the swifter current and let it drift towards the exposed fish. He swam out further and my sucker spawn disappeared. I yanked the long length of line and felt the line tighten and the rod flexed towards the fish. He turned with the hook set and darted down creek under the overhanging tree pulling and tugging on the line. I swung the rod down creek and towards my side of the bank. He hesitated with a swift tugging pull and than darted out towards midstream. I had to keep the rod low from getting caught up in the branches. He splashed about with head shakes and splashed his way out from the tree in open shallower water. I backed up towards the bank with the rod up. We battled a bit for control and I finally got him coming my way.

  There were a lot more fishermen walking down creek searching for fish to catch. After awhile I traveled down creek doing the same. Without a strike to any fish I traveled up creek again heading for the bridge.
In the Riffles
4:44 pm
  In a riffle I spotted two steelhead trying to keep themselves in the head of a swift run. Along the bank I moved horizontal from the fish and proceeded to trying to get one to take my yellow sucker spawn. On one drift the spawn drifted right in front of their noses. The fly line started to arc down creek without the leader following. I pulled up the rod, up stream, and the line stopped as if stuck on something on the creek bed. Another yank and the line tightened with a splashing steelhead headshaking my line. He swam up creek through the shallow water battled the tight line as he pulled tension line from the reel. I let him tire himself out as he tugged and pulled on the rod but I wasn’t letting him get any headway. He turned downstream and I took in line. He arced down below closer towards me and soon I had him splashing about right in front of me. A fine looking steelhead added to my catch.
Helping a Brother Out
 Down creek from the bridge a group of five fishermen were still fishing in the deep pool. They were sitting on the bank with their rods in a crook of a stick as if they were carp fishing. I circled upstream from them and began casting my streamer in the deeper pool. I could see many oblong fish shaped figures holding or swimming in the deeper water. On a strip in a got a good grab and a fair hook set. Getting the steelhead to the bank I offered the gents the fish. They accepted it with a smile and a thank you.

After they left I fished for another ½ hour before calling it quits.

On the interstate I lit up a VS 55 Corojo Perfecto. The medium blend was a fine smoke to finish off the weekend of steelhead fishing.








Monday, October 13, 2014

Elk Creek Weekend

Elk Creek Weekend
10/11/2014 10/12/2014
It doesn’t get much better!
 There is nothing that comes close to early steelhead fishing. The fresh, wild, exuberant steelhead that makes the run into a trout size creek each year is one heck of an experience to be hold. Just to see them staging in semi-deep holes, along shallow ledges or in a tumbling riffle gets me excited. To hook into one is an experience you don’t often find in a fresh water creek.
  The speed of a fresh steelhead that will rip line off the spool in a matter of seconds and possibly into your backing! The quickness of them in changing direction and the force is incomparable to any freshwater stream fish. The sight of a steelhead exploding out of the water within feet of where you stand, watching it display beauty and acrobatics is worth the sight if for only once in a life time. Its chrome sides glistening from the sun flashes before your eyes before its body slams back upon the surface. You better hold on because there isn’t much of a pause before it quickly dashes away constantly trying to throw the hook. Can you keep up with an onward charging steel right at you? Your hand winding the large arbor reel trying to keep tension on the line as you keep the rod up and flexed with the other tightly gripping the cork handle.
  You find you’re never sure when you got him tired out. As you get him closing in he turns abruptly for another try at escaping. You keep the drag too tight and he’s sure to break you off, too loose and he’ll take all the line you give him.
  Some come for the excitement just for the experience. Some for the meat in the form of smoked steelhead. Some come just to relax and hope for just one fight with a fresh steelhead.
You don’t necessarily need a hunk of sticky skein or live bait in the form of egg sacks. Sometimes just a single egg. Fly fishermen will use the same patterns they use for everyday trout fishing in the form of Woolly Bugger or streamers.
One on a Woolly Bugger
One on a streamer
Even a small sucker spawn will get a take and a wild ride to go with it.
One on a hand tied sucker spawn
 If you get the chance to hook into a buck hold on tight, he’ll bully his way, any which way to get loose. And if you get him to shore you can admire his colors and hooked jaw.

 The down fall is the crowds. You have to be patient and sometimes wait your turn to get into the right spot for that perfect drift. There are long pauses where you think it’s never going to happen. Sometimes it never does but when you get that hook up you know you’re in for some extended fun.
What more can I say? You won’t catch them sitting at home!

 The line stops and you yank a hook set. You feel the line tighten and before you know it all hell breaks loose. Your forearms tighten and you try to keep your wrist locked on the rod that is flexed towards the steelhead. The force and speed is too much and the rod starts to lower towards the fleeing fish as line peels off the spinning reel. The least amount of line in the water the better to keep undue pressure off the tapered leader and tippet from the escaping steelhead. The seconds tick by and you wonder how long it is going to take to get him close enough to land. It is as if the steelhead has no limit to its energy. Once landed you’re relieved. You accomplished the feat and you can now admire your catch.

There truthfully is nothing like it in my opinion. A 7 weight fly rod. 4x or 5x tippet. A few boxes of hand tied streamers and sucker spawn, and a very good drag system on a well made reel! Oh, and a few great cigars for me!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October Steelhead 2014

October Chrome
…By the time we got to the creek the fishermen, fisherwomen and children were lined up like dominoes along the banks. Its early season and the steelhead are just starting to make their way into the creeks from the mouth of Lake Erie. The abundance of these steelhead are still down low not that far up from the mouth. It brings crowds galore for those that can’t wait to hook up into steel.The deeper holes are encircled with fishermen within elbow length trying to hook into a steelhead by outmaneuvering one another. There are rods and reels of all kinds. I see, thick in diameter, short surf rods, undersized trout rods as well as spinning reels that are from lightweight to ocean ready. Aside from that the crowds are a little tamer than usual.

As we walked up creek, on the near side, a couple of fishermen decide to leave their spot and move up stream further. Deetz and I take their spots, along the narrow run, with enough space between us that we didn’t have to rub shoulders. Deetz started drifting an egg sack under an indicator with his noodle rod. Though I didn’t have much room I tried drifting a streamer in the small section allotted to me with my 9‘ fly rod. I came to a conclusion that I wasn’t going to get a good drift so I decided to knot on a sucker spawn. I noticed the guy right up stream was fishing with orange skein. Knowing well that skein will come apart in chunks I decided to fish with an orange sucker spawn being I was below him. I took out of my fly box an orange bead-head sucker spawn and knotted it to the 6lb tippet. I knew this bead-head would drop deeper faster being that there wasn’t much room for a better presentation.

  My roll casts were directed at the sharp ledge that ran along the run across creek. The water was dark there and it wasn’t clear enough to see any fish but I had my suspicions. There wasn’t anyone at the time standing above fishing close to the ledge so I had it pretty much to myself.
The sucker spawn dropped up creek a bit from where I stood and I snapped a small mend upstream to make sure my sucker spawn would drift down ahead of my tippet. In time the line arced as if something stopped the sucker spawn from drifting so I gave a good upward yank and the fight was on. The water boiled from beneath as my first hooked steelhead of the season was giving me the old headshakes trying to get loose. I held the cork grip tight as I felt the weight of the steelhead throbbing the end of the rod. He took line up creek for a short distance, stopped for some headshaking near the surface and than shot down creek.
“Coming down” I blurted to alert those with lines still in the water. He stopped momentarily and struggled below with the hook. If there wasn’t as many people lining my side of the bank I would have slowly followed him down a bit trying to keep sideward pressure. When there is such a crowed I’d rather take my chances on a wild one and try to horse him towards me. As he pulled and tugged harder I kept my stance as the rod flexed further and further. I had him coming to my side of the bank, still a ways down creek, when my tippet broke and the line went limp. I wasn’t too discouraged, we had a good struggling battle, and I was going to release him anyway.
  It wasn’t long before Deetz decided to head upstream some. I was pretty sure there was still a couple of more steelhead along the deep ledge and decided to stick around.
  My second hook up was an accidental snag. I didn’t let him get too far before I yanked upward with force once I determined it was a bad hookup. Once the egg pattern came flashing by, it came to rest safely. By now people were starting to take notice and soon a few more fisher people started to close in nearer to where I was casting. I continued on as before fishing the deep ledge.

The next grab was similar to the first. I gave a yank and felt another heavy load on the end of my line.
“Fish on!” I gave a yelp.
  The steelhead came to the surface nose first shaking and stirring the water like an inboard motor taking off with a skier in tow. Water sprayed as he arced downward to continue his rant. I kept a tight line, and grip, hoping he wouldn’t take off downstream as far as the other. We battled tooth and nail within 15 yards of each other before he decided to forcibly swim down creek. I didn’t have much choice but to give him line. I could feel the tightness in my forearms as I struggled to keep the rod upward as he spun line from the tensioned spool. He stopped his escape in an instant, rose to the surface again with wild tantrums that shook the rod all the way down to my grip. We were putting on a good show but it was time to start taking more control. I seen a huge net behind one of the observers and asked if he wanted to net the fish for me. He grabbed the net and started to walk along the bank as I backed up and forced the steelhead towards us. It didn’t take too much time that I got him close enough and the young man scooped him up.

 The steelhead was a solid catch and had to be at least 26” long or better. I asked the net minder if he wanted the steelhead. He was grateful for that and roped the fish after I got the hook out of its jaw.
 By the time I got back to my original spot a couple of older gents had already taken claim, across creek, high sticking their fly rods fishing the same ledge. Within minutes a younger man stood up creek and floated a pencil bobber into my drift time and again. I spent another 10 minutes trying to avoid being snagged by the casting idiots and then decided to move on up creek. I crossed to the far bank, and continued on.

There was a faster rippling run that looked to have good potential. I was able to see a couple of tails beneath the rippling water and with no one fishing this section I took a stand. The nearest person was up creek a short piece but was concentrating in a deep flowing pool before the choppy water. I tried drifting the sucker spawn through the run but it was quite fast with lots of bedrock. The bottom was easy enough to see to mid stream but beyond that is where the water was a bit deeper with rougher current. It was time for streamer fishing.
  I tried a couple colors of my DT Triple Threats that didn’t produce a strike. I decided to go with one of my Goldfish color Threats and add a bit of weight on my tippet to get it down deeper.
  After a few casts I started to see fish move around. One such steelhead was staging a little further than rods length down creek. I flipped the streamer outward and controlled the drift to within a foot or so in front of the fish. There I twitched the rod tip a couple of times and then let it ‘swim’ in the current. The steelhead couldn’t take the temptation any longer and swam up and mouthed it. That’s all it took.
  With a hearty yank, the hook set and, the fish was on the run with my line following. He didn’t go far before he surfaced and head shook. He continued upstream as other fishermen pulled in their lines. I took a few steps along the bank and put a little more backbone into the rod. The steelhead turned and swam down creek a bit and settled on the opposite side of the creek with jarring tugs. It wasn’t long the hook unhinged and the steelhead was set free.

  I spent at least another hour or so drifting and swimming the streamer in the choppy flow. At times I was able to see some fish moving up creek. I ended up fair hooking 4 steelhead and foul hooked one that darted down creek with unnatural speed. When I followed it down is when I discovered the foul hook and jerked the fly rod upward and the hook came loose saving my streamer.

I had just lit up a mild stogie when Deetz returned and we continued to fish the section. While my head was turned talking to him I felt a nudge in my line fingers. Instinct took over and my right hand yanked the rod upstream while my left hand held line tight until I felt the set. I turned my head down creek and seen the boil in the water and said aloud “FISH ON!” Deetz was surprised that while we were talking and my head turned I caught the steelhead without looking in its direction. I told him I fish streamers so much that it’s instinct.
  The steelhead felt like it was tugging backwards with the current a second or two before it rose up and body slammed the surface a few times trying to spit the hook. I felt the vibration all the way down the 7 weight rod shaft as it flexed erratically with each forceful whipping pull. This one wasn’t as big as some of the others but she had lots of spunk and I could tell by the color it was a fresh fish right from the lake. Its back was gunmetal gray and its body was pure chrome that glistened from the sunlight. I struggled with her trying to keep her under my control but she didn‘t want to give in just yet.
 I had her just about straight across from me with the rod bowed and her struggling facing into the current. The reel drag was set perfect for if she tried to run again and if not it was holding tight as I had two hands on the rod waiting for her next move. She began to come closer, turned down creek but didn’t get too far before she turned my direction again. It wasn’t long after that we were posing for a picture, her chrome sides shimmering like Harley chrome in a custom motorcycle show!!

 After a bit we decided to walk up creek. Fishermen still lined the creek like dominoes where fish were holding. We fished the still water without success and continued on to the straight and narrow channel that flowed down into the big hole. Deetz found a gap between a few anglers and had enough room to drift his egg sack under his float as I watched. It wasn’t long before he had one on and I watched the fun.

 After that Deetz took off as we walked down towards the road. I continued to fish my way back down creek. I happen to see a few steelhead lying almost motionless beneath the rippling current where no one was bothering them.

  I looped a roll cast out and across and watched the fly line as the streamer swung beneath. I caught movement towards where my streamer should be and felt the swiping grab. Another steelhead battled with me, splashing, tugging, headshaking, peeling line off the spool but I wasn’t letting the steelhead get the upper hand. He had a lot of room to try his best to get away but I played him out until he gave up and my last steelhead came to hand.

I noticed more fishermen moving in to try their luck. It was about 5pm by now and I had my fun for the day. I waded out and walked down creek toward the mouth hoping to see some steelhead in areas that there weren’t any fishermen but couldn’t get an eyeball on any. I decided to call it quits and made my way to the van.

  My adventure for early Steelhead was a complete success as far as I was concerned!!





Friday, September 12, 2014

Meanwhile on Tionesta Creek

Meanwhile on Tionesta Creek
 There was a steady breeze in the early afternoon. The white puffy clouds were moving along the sky as if the wind gusts were pushing them along. The creek looked inviting. The water flowed easily in the shallows, rolled with riffling effect as it narrowed and then rushed towards the outside bend. There it waved and tumbled near the bank till it emptied into a deep pool of water where submerged boulders laid beneath. The inside bend was calm, clear and flowed easy again.
My Woolly Bugger tried the riffling current. The first hook up was quick and hard. There was no easement in the quick current to guide my catch. The trout surfaced and the force of the surface current was too much as the hook found its way loose from the lip. The trout disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
  I cast out towards the deeper pool, after adding some weight. It searched for another trout without success. I moved to the calm water near the far bank and searched some more.
  Swinging and easing my strips I felt the swipe at the end of my line. This time I was able to gain better control of my catch in the slower current. It wasn’t long before my 9’ custom 4 weight fly rod was able to bring the trout to my net. A fine looking rainbow was captured.
Late summer trout are scarce in a stocked stream this time of year but the ones that are usually caught are much bigger than when in the early spring.
The breeze came and went as the smoke from my stogie showed its path and forcefulness. On occasion the sun peeked out and brightened the day. There were no mayflies about so I stuck with my Wooly Bugger searching for another hungry trout.
  The next trout took the Bugger as I stripped it in towards me. He flashed and turned outward towards the opposite bank. We wrestled until his strength eased and I brought another to my net.


 The afternoon was relaxing and calm. Seldom did a vehicle drive along the road disturbing the quietness of my surroundings. I had no where I needed to belong, time was on my side!!

 As evening came the sun moved behind the treetops upon the mountains. The sun rays bounced off the white clouds leaving plenty of daylight but shadows covered the bank sides. I lit another cigar and again continued searching.
 The long cast dropped my Woolly Bugger in the calmer water beyond the main flow of water midstream. Instantly I noticed the fly line dip below the surface quicker than expected. I stripped line back and reared back to take up the slack in hopes of getting a straight line to set the hook. I felt the resistance. At first it felt like I had a twisted heavy branch being pulled down creek with the current. I jerked the rod back enough just to make sure of the hook set. I felt the weighty fish arc with the line towards midstream, pulling and tugging wanting to take me down creek further. I knew right away this wasn’t a trout. It didn’t try to escape with speed but more trying to muscle his escape with weight and letting the undercurrent push him as he tried to stay at a crosscurrent angle. I gripped the cork tightly in my right hand with my left fingers tensioning the fly line as needed. Once I got the fish directly down creek from me I started to guide him towards me. As I brought him closer I held the rod with one hand as I undid the net from my belt and let it dangle in the water by the lanyard. The fish surfaced suddenly, splashing, trying to get away. There I seen he was a pig of a smallmouth. I reached to net him but he skimmed the surface water and headed back out midstream. I let enough line out, as the 4 weight flexed deep into the top third of its length, to settle the smallie down so I could get control again. I reeled line in until I had only a few inches of fly line extending from the tip top. As the rod arced the fish drew near enough I was able to scoop the big boy up.
“What a nice smallmouth”


 Was this to be my last catch?
 I fished for some time later making my way down creek some. I returned to the spot I caught the big smallmouth and decided to make my last few casts in the same area.
The evening started to cool as the sun lowered beneath the mountains making the shadows upon the water grow long. Even the creek water felt colder as it circled my hip waders. A few more casts I thought.
 I placed the bugger about where I had caught the smallmouth. I let the bugger sink a little longer before taking up slack and letting the slow current start to swing it down stream. I didn’t let it swing too far before I twitched the rod tip and started to strip the long length of line in with 3 second intervals. The line tugged, in between the strips, and I set the hook with a quick strip and yank of the rod. The force and speed of my captured fish took line quickly down creek. I knew this wasn’t another bass. Once I got him turned in my direction and calmed, I got him swimming in my direction with a lot of zigging and zagging. Once near he darted outward. I let him exert more energy hoping the hook wouldn’t come undone. Within time I got him close enough to scoop him up in my net. A fine rainbow completed the day.
 At the van I rewarded myself with a fine Nat Sherman mild cigar. I was surprised with the sweetness of the tip as I lit it.
Next stop was to be at The Kelly Hotel for wings and a couple of cold brews before heading home.