Monday, November 7, 2016

Fresh Steel

 Fresh Steel

We watched in awe as the steelhead went air-born for the third time trying to shake the hook. Its chrome sides reflected the available light from the early rising sun. I was relieved when the fish dropped below the surface that the line tightened again and the struggle continued between me and the fresh steelhead.

  Early in the season the steelhead are wild with energy and antics when they enter the Lake Erie tributaries for their seasonal run. You never know how long you’ll be fighting one till it gets close enough to net or land. On the other hand there’s a better chance of it becoming unhooked in the meantime. 6lb test doesn’t always hold up with their mighty force and the abrasive rocks and slate shelves aren’t kind to nylon leader or tippets. Fluorocarbon is a lot more abrasive resistance but even so doesn’t always prevail with the radical fresh steelhead. On Monday morning Donny and I fished the lower section of Walnut Creek. I found that the 6lb tippet wasn’t a good choice.
 The morning was cold with an occasional shower. We secured our spot, among the other early bird fishermen, in the dim of a flashlight. Anticipation mounted waiting for enough light to see where I would be casting or to see indicators of the other fishermen. Donny selected the lower section of Walnut with good reason. With the recent rains the tributaries where still muddy and stained. Walnut clears a little quicker than the bigger tributaries so we were hoping to have a chance of hooking up to some fresh steelhead even though we’d be competing with a conglomerate of other anglers.
 As the morning lightened I found the flowing water was still well stained. The outlook looked slim but Donny assured me we were in a good spot for any steelhead wanting to head up creek. We were stationed just below a tail out, of the faster current that opened up to a bigger pool of water. There was a crease of slower current in between the slightly quicker flow that would drift my offering slowly for a deep fish to get an eyeball on it easier. With the 9’ fly rod I was able to stretch it over a riffle of water just in front of me and keep a drag free drift of my offering. Until it got light enough for me to knot on a tandem rig of sucker spawn I drifted a streamer in the flow. With others attempting to attract a bite, cross creek, there wasn’t much room for my streamer to sweep down creek very far for fear of tangling with others. I drifted the streamers under an indicator to let others know where my line was.
 It was slow going in the first half hour of daylight. Donny foul hooked a couple steelhead, unintentionally in the mud stained water, but it boosted my confidence that the steelhead were there. I knotted on a tandem rig of sucker spawn and continued to try to find a hungry steelhead. It wasn’t long I had my first hook up. The steelhead tugged and head shook the line like a mutt trying to tear apart a rawhide bone. I gripped the full well cork handle tightly trying to keep the rod high as the struggle continued. The line finally snapped after a quick turn and tug of the fish and my first hook up was lost. I lost one more before I decided to knot on a section of 8lb fluorocarbon to the 4x tapered leader.

 My cast was up creek a bit and by the time the sucker spawn drifted in front of me I was pretty sure it was near bottom. The indicator dipped below the surface and with a healthy yank, the line tightened and ’fish on.’ She scrambled beneath, with head shakes, before taking off with speed down creek. A quick leap into the air caught everyone’s attention and the nearer fishermen took in their lines and watched the performance. The fresh steelhead shook, tugged and darted every which way but loose. I held my position maneuvering the rod with its antics. Finally it tired and I landed it along shore down creek.  

As morning went on hook ups were spotty but enough to keep me and the other fishermen entertained. Donny and I either had the best drifts or just the right combination of offerings that we were the main spotlight for some time. Some fish got loose as soon as the line tightened while others got away with a hard battle. Every once in a while Donny and I got quite a few landed after a good fight. 

 Being that we were doing well with the hook ups people started to draw nearer to fish closer to us. Their casts, of their indicators, were right in front of us and drifting down creek in front of them. They followed in order though as if synchronized nymph fishing. There were very few line snags among us and everyone was pretty considerate considering the many of us that were fishing the area.

 Occasionally a fresh steelhead would capture everyone’s attention with the steels acrobatic skills. There were times the fish would dart right at me and I would hurriedly have to back up, reeling in as quickly as possible, trying to keep the line taut. Than all of a sudden the fish would about face and sprint towards the middle of the creek in haste. The reel would rotate rapidly with the drag giving way to the pressure. Even though fish got loose it’s the fight that I always look forward to. Than again landing a fresh steelhead is always a rewarding accomplishment.

Towards noon I found pink sucker spawn with my own gold nugget sucker spawn dropper was the most successful offering for me. The water was clearing a bit and I think the fish had better clarity below. With the crowd of people to come, when the rain quit and the clouds brightened, there wasn’t a chance I was moving.

 It was another good drift as I anticipated another strike. The indicator pulled swiftly away and I pulled back on the rod and set the hook. The steelhead took off across creek and I called out fish on as the rod bowed towards its direction of escape attempt. The wake of the fish let the guys on the other side of the creek know that the fish was coming towards them and they brought in lines with some stepping back out of its path. It turned downstream and towards mid creek when it exploded out from the surface water. Its chrome side glittered in wetness as water sprayed about before it returned to the water. I was able to see it took my top pink offering while it was air born. Back beneath it took a round about way as if parading itself in front of all the ankle deep fishermen. It streamlined up through the fast current in front of Donny where there it paused. I reeled in the slack line, caused by the burst of up creek speed, and than put rod pressure trying to force the steelhead towards shore. It was a moment or so when it gave in and turned towards me and swam down creek. I kept good leverage on the rod and swung the fish between me and the bank where I was able to land and control it. 

 It was if I never wanted the fun to end. There were times as if the fish were on the move and quite a few people would hook up within a few minutes. Other times there were long pauses between hook ups. That’s when I was relaxed and enjoyed my cigar more than the drift.

 I had reservations for a tent sight at a camp ground and wanted to get things set up for the rest of the week. The hook ups were getting scarce among us and I decided it was time to head out. Donny headed up creek for more action as I waded down creek and across the riffles towards the road. Looking back a couple of fishermen immediately took our spots.
 It was about 3:00 when I got to my PT Cruiser and headed south.

 After checking in the campground I found my site and proceeded to empty the stuffed PT Cruiser of camping gear. I pitched the tent on the fall foliage leaves, aired up the air mattress and threw my sleeping bags and blankets inside. After organizing the rest of my camping equipment I lit some coals, in the fire ring, and proceeded to cook dinner. Once the coals got completely hot I laid out the marinated venison butterfly steaks on the grate and let it cook over the open coals.

 Dinner was relaxing with another cold beer, venison and a side of buttered peas.

 The peace and quietness, of my site, was well satisfying away from the other campers. I finished the evening off with a Torano Noventa 90 torpedo before calling it a day and snuggling in for the chilly night.



  1. Great trip! Sorry I missed you when I was up in the area. I'm back in Kansas now, my last day of fishing was Friday and I drove back all day Saturday.

    1. Sorry, I got the msg. when i got home Saturday. Things were tough the rest of the week. Only landed a couple and had to find them first. If you get back up we'll try again. Hope you did hook up to some.