Slow Day Steelhead Fishing
…but the cigar was good!
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.
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.
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.”
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.