Friday, March 3, 2023

Plan B, Steelhead


Plan B, Steelhead!


  It was a chilly morning when I awoke. My plan was to dust off my trout rods and hit Oil Creek for trout for the day. When I checked the USGS gage height it was rising due to the rain overnight. I switched my thinking to plan B and decided to head to Erie for steelhead.

  It was in the upper 30’s when I parked behind the only truck along the roadside. It was suppose to warm up to the upper 40’s later on. I was surprised there weren’t more vehicles due the fact I got a late start. I filled my Eddie Bower jacket with fishing needs and assembled my 7 weight fly rod and reel. I grabbed a bottle of water, a few cigars and headed down to the creek.


  As I walked upstream, along the bank, I searched for shadows of steelhead as I went along. The water was stained and moving fast in the narrow sections but the water level was just about perfect in my opinion. I came upon the fellow that owned the truck I parked behind. He said he lost one already. He mentioned he was up here a few days ago and didn’t see many fishermen then either. I crossed the creek a couple of times before I got to where I wanted to fish.

  The wavy water was strong as it flowed and emptied into a deeper section. The current flow changed constantly as water rushed and then settled some below. I was able to distinguish some of the under water ledges of slate rock below the surface nearer to me but out further was questionable. I’ve fished this section many times before so I was familiar with the water, but the changing current flow would be puzzling at times.

  I started casting a streamer but wasn’t getting any results. I switched to tandem sucker spawn and on one drift missed a hook up after seeing a steelhead roll beneath. I kept at it and finally got my first good hook set early in the competition. It was a wild ride as the fresh steelhead gave me a run for my money. It wasn’t a huge fish but it had a lot of spunk. He shot out of the water a couple of times shaking it’s head trying to release the hook. His chrome sides gleamed like the chrome pipes of my Harley each time he rose. He circled the area in haste like someone searching for a parking space not wanting to be late for the opening ceremonies! I got him clutched in my glove eventually and after a quick pic let him slip out of my hand back into the creek. It’s always a great feeling getting the first fish in early.


 My next steelhead was an older male!

  Again I was changing colors and drifting two sucker spawns. I wasn’t getting any more hits for a time so I added a little more weight to get my spawn down deeper. Because of the cross currents I wasn’t using an indicator and was holding the rod out trying to keep the fly line from the current in front of me. Now I know why guys use 11 foot rods.

  I watched my fly line pull upstream and reared back to set the hook. A heavy load was at the end as the rod bowed deep into the middle section and kept its arc as the fish took off up into the fast current. He turned sharply and headed to the slower current across stream before heading down creek with sharp tugs and pulls. I put the rod butt in my gut holding the rod up with both hands. After it took line downstream and turned I quickly tightened the drag a bit. I palmed the spool also keeping as much tension on him as possible without wanting the hook to come free. I had 8lb fluorocarbon tippet so I wasn’t afraid of the line snapping. During the fight he came to the surface a couple of time slashing and splashing water all over the place. I kept the butt of the rod into my gut as he thrashed and swam around, my rod tip arced and followed his direction. He swam back into the oncoming faster current and held there for a short spell. I looked behind me for my net and it wasn’t too far from me on the bank. I was glad I had it unfolded but now I had to get to it.

  During the action I was able to wade backwards to the bank towards my net keeping in the fish in the deeper section but the current was pretty strong and the rod arced pretty deep so I wanted to get him out of the faster current to give me time to get to my net. I had him coming towards me when I reached my net. Into the shallower water, still knee deep, he turned and took off away. I let him have line so I could get a hold of my net. With my long handled net cradled under my armpit I waded back out a bit and played the big guy trying not to give him any more line.

Now how was I going to get him into the net by myself”?

  He was still putting on a pretty good fight using the cross currents to his advantage. I had him near with the rod as high as I could and tried to let him back tail into the net. Maybe his tail brushed against the net because all of a sudden he took off upstream in a hurry like his tail was on fire. I released my finger, holding the fly line against the cork, and let him travel up into the on coming current. There was no way of getting this big guy into shallow water. Holding the net with one hand into the oncoming current wasn’t an easy task all the while using the other hand trying to guide the steelhead in it.

  I waded down creek a bit in slower current. I got him across from me and began to reel him in closer with the net cradled under my right arm. Kind of awkward, being I’m right handed, I was playing the fish with my left hand on the rod while my right hand was controlling the net due to the fact I was facing the water flowing from my left to my right. I had just about a couple of inches of fly line, out of the tip top, when I raised the rod tip. He followed the pressure with his tail swaying as if feeling behind him. Once close to the net I dropped the rod some and, before he could feel the net, I swooped him in!! For looking a little beat up from the steelhead run up creek he put up a great fight.


 I kept at it, since the bite seemed to be on, not wanting to take the time to grab another cigar. I caught one more frisky chromer before the steelhead bite abruptly stopped.


  After that release I took the time for another cigar. I pulled out an Ave Maria Divinia. I knew the mellow full body smoke would last a while and the sun grown Habana wrapper and Nicaragua filler would be tasteful. 


  It was nearing noon and I thought maybe, with the sun out and dampening the chill of the morning, that more steelhead might get active. Well that didn’t happen. In fact all of a sudden I was catching smolts and a lot of them. They were grabbing the different color sucker spawn like kids eating fruity gumdrops at the movie theater!

  Later on I hooked into one steelhead in fast, wavy water upstream in a different section of water but lost him. I talked to a couple of fellows and they said they were catching a lot of smolts also. (I couldn’t imagine how many minnows they fed them?)

  By 4:00 I headed to the truck. I changed out of my fishing clothes, grabbed a snack and relaxed in my truck before heading back home. After a refreshing drink I took out a Fuente Double Chateau for the ride home!!






Friday, January 13, 2023

Finicky Steelhead


Finicky Steelhead


  ‘On my second cast, with a Triple Threat streamer, I thought I had a snag on a ledge. I reared up and a steelhead rolled beneath the wavy fast current…..’

  It was a busy hunting season and visiting Holiday that I hadn’t been up To Erie to fish for steelhead. The weather and climate wasn’t very cooperative after the Holiday season either. Looking like more favorable conditions I called Kevin and we made plans to hit the creek on Wednesday. When I left my house the truck thermometer read 18°. By the time we got to Erie it was around 34°. There was already 2 vehicles aside the dead end street we parked behind. We were still getting on our waders and gear ready when a crew cab truck backed in behind me. 4 guys got out of the truck in their brown neoprene’s like circus clowns out of a clown car. They grabbed their spinning rods and hurried across the road to the creek like they were some kind of firemen rushing to maintain a brush fire. We just took our time, made sure we had all we needed for the day, and headed to the creek.

  As we walked along the path, upstream, we saw the water was low and clear. There were a couple of fishermen here and there in likely deeper holes I had fished before. When we crossed the creek to where I wanted to start there was no one on the side of the creek we wanted to fish from. There were two fellows on the other side casting minnows on noodle rods. For the rest of the day we had the ‘hole’ to ourselves.

  The one guy using minnows just got done putting a steelhead on a stringer by the time Kevin and I got our packs on the shore and into shin deep water to start to fish. I casted up into the wavy fast current with a Triple Threat streamer and watched my fly line drift quickly with the current. I had a couple of split shots on the get the streamer down quickly as the fast wavy current emptied into a deep section. I could see below there was a ledge and I was hoping I wouldn’t get snagged up. On my second cast the fly line angled up stream after it floated passed the ledge and I figured I caught the ledge. When I reared up on the rod my line tightened slightly and I saw a steelhead roll below the surface. He must have grabbed my offering but I missed hooking him. I made another cast in the same fashion and watched again my fly line. This time the steelhead wasn’t going to let my minnow looking offering get away. He grabbed and took off just about hooking himself but I gave an extra tug to make sure as he sped away like a fox on the run. The line cut threw the water surface as he raced towards midstream and down towards the far bank. I held the cork grip tightly with the rod bowed half into the midsection. The fight was real!! Back, midstream, he paused and came to the surface with head shakes splashing water all around him. I could feel the rod tremble within my gripping fists with the on line activity. He went under and fought hard before I got him close enough for Kevin to net him. 


 It was only a little passed 9 and I thought we were going to have a super fun steelhead catching day. I was wrong. It took till around 2:30 that I finally got another good hook up. 

  In the long pause that you wait for the steelhead to bite it gets you thinking. You notice your feet get colder more often. You step out now and then when you tie another offering on to get out of the cold water and to move your feet for circulation. You contemplate to go somewhere else since the steelhead aren’t biting during that long pause but do you really think they’re biting somewhere else? Even so, there might be other fishermen in the next deep hole and the next one and next one. You have fish right in front of you. They have to get hungry sometime don’t they?

  To get myself through the boredom I’ll light another cigar and start conversations with the guys across stream. You bring up subjects in the short spurts of conversation until you find something in common. This makes time fly by a little faster and keeps you from being annoyed that the fish aren’t biting.

The sun came out and started to ascend behind the guys across the creek, behind the leafless tall trees. It’s rays filtered through the bare branches casting shadows upon the surface water. Maybe once the sun climbs high enough and shines directly on the water it might heat it up enough to activate the lazy steelhead, maybe or are they just being finicky? Even the guys across the creek weren’t fairing any better with their salted minnows. At times we could see the oblong steelhead below swimming but ignoring what we had to offer. When the guys called over that they were leaving and started to walk away is when I got a steelhead to take a sucker spawn I had been drifting. It felt like he swiped it on the move as it drifted down stream. He continued on his way across creek, after taking the spawn, and fought hard towards the far bank. I was starting to gain line and had him mid stream coming towards me. With a burst of energy he turned and darted back towards the far bank. All of a sudden I felt the arcing rod flex upwards and my combination of sucker spawns flew back at me. I lost him.

  After Kevin went to the other side of the creek to fish from I had my next fair hook up. I was able to see three or four fish deep just out in front of me. They were holding deep just on the flats behind a ledge. They were just visible enough to see they weren’t hugging the bottom under the fast wavy current. The water was still pretty deep and with the indicator on I wasn’t sure if my offerings were getting down fast enough to them. I took my indicator off and, being they weren’t that far out, started to high stick the sucker spawn towards them as if nymph fishing. On occasion I would see one move as my offerings passed by but I wasn’t sure if they were moving out of the way or taking a look see. I had no fly line touching the surface so my offerings were drifting free of any drag. I saw and felt the leader lighten just slightly and I raised my rod up for a hook set. The upper section arced and I could see a steelhead beneath the surface in front of me head shaking the tight line. I suppose, seeing he wasn’t going to shake the hook set loose, he scooted out in the main body of water and half showed himself coming headfirst breaking the surface. He splashed water with the commotion before swimming deep and down creek further. I slowly waded in the shin deep water down with him trying to keep side pressure on him to tire him out. He wrangled and carried on downstream swirling the surface water that I could pinpoint where he was in the shallower water. Once he settled his head shaking disturbances he currycombed around like he was searching for a way to break free. His weight and persistence, using the current for support, made him too heavy for me to gain much ground getting him towards me for some time. When he started to swim upstream I was able to bring him closer. Kevin was on the other side of the creek so I didn’t have him to help net him. I got him to the shallowest water near me but when he felt the stones beneath he scampered back out in deeper water like a groundhog seeing its shadow. The rod arced towards his jaunt so I gave him line while I waded along the bank to grab my net. It took a few encouragements before I was able to net him.


 After that Kevin hooked up a couple of times. We weren’t sure if they were fair hooks or not but the one gave him a run for the money before the hook let loose and he came up empty. I hooked up again also. I thought I had him by the mouth when the big dingy colored male burst up out of the water head first. Once beneath he gave a hard head shake and was gone leaving me fishless.

  My next catch was out quite a bit towards the far bank. I would give a big mend upstream when my sucker spawn fell to the water. I tried to keep my fly line off the quick current in front of me by extending my arm out and rod above the fast current. I saw my fly line tighten before I actually felt any pull and yanked the rod back. The hook found a grip and a battle ensued. He fought well like the others and I had to wade downstream again to keep side pressure on him to tire him out. I was pretty far down creek from my net but couldn’t get him to swim upstream hardly at all. He put up a good fight thus far and I decided to try and beach him. He was pretty tired out, or just gave up some, when I was able to bring him in the shallows on an island of stones.

  I couldn’t see the sucker spawn in his mouth very well so I grabbed the neck of his tail with my glove net and carried him to the bank so I could make it easier to find and unhook the sucker spawn.


  After that Kevin waded down creek and came back up over to my side. I told him the location I was hooking the fish and gave him the spot. In the meantime I fished downstream from him and hooked one more for the last time. He wasn’t that big but he fought well. I banked him also but I had evidently left my forceps back at the net where I unhooked my last steelhead. When I got the steelhead beached I was able to see the sucker spawn just at the side of his mouth and easily slipped it out without much trouble. I pushed him back into the shallow water and he swam away with a sore lip. We fished a little longer till about 4:00 and decided to head back. We saw a few fish in spots while walking and wading. Kevin tried for them while I watched and then headed down creek. My arm and shoulder was sore and being I caught a few already, wasn’t as excited to try and catch, or waste time, being ignored by the finicky steelhead.

We got back to the truck and called it a day!




Sunday, December 11, 2022

Diary; 3 Days Steelhead


Diary; 3 Days Steelhead



After setting up the camper at Folly’s End Campground I got my fishing gear together and headed out to get some late evening steelhead fishing done. It was around 3:00 so I knew I had only a couple of hours before dark so I didn’t go far. I parked along side of the road and was the only truck there. While I was getting my gear on another truck stopped at the end of the road and left a fisherman off.

Down at the creek there were a couple of other fishermen at the first good deep section. I walked up the trail looking for fish. I knew a good hole where steelhead usually hold so I continued on, waded across the creek and headed upstream. There was one other fisherman there and we had the section to ourselves. In the next couple of hours he landed 2 nice steelhead, lost one and rolled one. He was using single eggs. I landed two, lost one and rolled one also. The other guy netted the bigger one I caught being it was aggressive and I had a hard time landing him by myself.



  Brian met me at the camper this morning and we drove over to where I fished the evening before. It was chilly and at times breezy. He fished with home made egg sacks and I fly fished with streamers and sucker spawn.

  We did pretty well hooking up in spurts during the morning hours. In the afternoon the bite quit. The steelhead were quite fresh and had a lot of spunk.

  After the bite quit in the section we were fishing we waded and spot fished downstream. We picked off a couple more steelhead before we headed back to the camper. It was around 2:30 by then.

  At the camper we feasted on venison stew I had cooking in the crock pot and hot coffee. That evening he sent me a text of a Lake Erie weather alert warning. There was a lake effect snowfall of 8” to 12” to come overnight. It was too late for me to pack up and leave. I had enough provisions to last till things cleared out by the following week if need be.

I wasn’t scareed!”



I woke up in the morning to what looked like 12” of snow or more!


  I was in no hurry to go fishing. Besides it was freezing out and I didn’t care to fish with line, eyes and leader freezing up. I ate breakfast and tied sucker spawn. Around 10:00 I went outside and was heading to the restrooms. A neighbor, 2 campsites over, and his son were dressed in their fishing attire and were heading to go fishing. I got my gear on and joined them and a couple of other fishing behind the shop office. It was above freezing but it was still cold and breezy.

  In the 3-4 hours fishing near the campground I only saw 2 steelhead caught and landed. 1 was accidentally snagged. Other than those that was it among 8-10 of us fishing there at the time. I could never say I had a bite. Disappointed and cold I headed back to the camper.

  I got a bite to eat and decided to take a drive to see how the roads were. I kept my fishing waders on. The roads were clear with no problems driving. I got to the parking area up creek and decided to give it a try. There were already a few vehicles in the parking area. I trudged through the deep snow to the creek, waded and fished down creek a piece. I was surprised that there wasn’t any people tracks in the snow even though there were vehicles in the parking area.

I fished a couple of deeper runs that usually hold steelhead but couldn’t get a bite with streamers. After wading the wavy, rushing, shallow water and climbing up on the snow covered bank I decided to switch over to sucker spawn.

  The shallow riffling water emptied into a long wide stretch of deeper water. Out, midstream, it was more slate rock. I couldn’t see any fish but I have caught steelhead in this section years past. I stepped off the bank into the shallow water up to my knees near the bank. The water was stained enough I couldn’t see how deep the going would be but I knew it probably wasn’t deeper than waist high near the bank, I figured.

  My first cast was up into the shallow wavy current that emptied into the deeper water not too far from the bank. When my indicator flowed past the wavy current and into the deeper section it went under. I lifted and set the hook. The rod bowed and tight lined a steelhead immediately. The line shot out midstream and line took off through the guides spinning the reel spool. The steelhead sped out and then downstream like a scared turkey escaping a chasing fox. Down and across creek the fish continued with body shakes and force until the hook let loose and flew back towards me. The leader and line ricochet up in an overhanging tree in a mess. I wasn’t positive but the way the steelhead took off I was pretty sure I may have snagged him. Anyhow I got the line out of the tree limbs. I had to cut the leader and retie everything back together. My fingers were cold and almost numb but I did the best, I thought, I could.

  Two more casts into the same area my indicator dropped again. I yanked up for a hook set and the rod bowed once again. The steelhead took off towards midstream. It was like dejavu all over again. This time it stopped briefly midstream with ferocious head shaking. I could tell this time I had a good hook set as his head appeared within the surface splashes. It turned down creek with purpose and took off like it was late for a hot Thanksgiving buffet. I gripped the cork handle tight and locked my wrist as the rod bowed into the midsection. With the scraggly young tree branches overshadowing the creek from the bank I couldn’t wade down creek with the fish. Also I wasn’t sure how deep the water was going to get if I tried wading so I had to stay where I was and hope to get the steelhead tired out and towards me. He wrestled the leader and line with head shakes and quick body turns until the line finally snapped. Evidently my numb finger knots weren’t tight enough. I was disappointed but with a long no strike earlier it was fun while it lasted.

  I retied more leader and tippet on and made sure my knots were tight. I knotted on the same color sucker spawn and cast up stream watching it drift into the deeper section again. Not getting any more strikes I slowly waded along the bank and cast outward into the current.

  I watched my indicator drop. The line moved out through the water surface midstream. Sweet potatoes pie, I hooked another! I yanked back and set the hook. The rod arced towards the hooked fish and I could tell I had another nice steelhead. Feeling more confident in my knots I wasn’t anxious to get it in too quickly. The steelhead turned down creek after a couple of hard head shakes and tension line slid threw the rod eyes. Downstream it turned up creek and fought hard against the current and the bowing rod. Each forceful thrust, by the steelhead, arced the rod deeper into the sections. I had the butt of the rod in my gut for leverage as we fought like two kids over a drumstick. Sooner or later one of us was going get tired and give in.

  I was now able to wade down the bank a bit and it took off midstream. I now put side pressure on the fish as it fought out and across from me. Slowly but surely I was able to reel the steelhead closer. Once, within sight, it rose and then took off across and down some until the rod arced enough to put more pressure against it. It battled against the force but was tiring. I got it close a couple of times before I finally got a hold of the steelie tightly by the neck of its tail. I laid her on the deep snow covered bank for a quick picture and to unhook the pumpkin colored sucker spawn from her mouth.


 Maybe not as fresh as some we caught the other day but she was plump as a stuffed turkey and she fought just as strong as the others.

  I fished a short while longer before it got too dark. Through the deep snow I headed back upstream to my truck. I couldn’t wait to get back to camp and warm up.

It was all cold fun while it lasted!




Sunday, November 6, 2022

"Wet and Colder Than a Witch's Kiss"


Wet and Colder Than a Witch’s Kiss”

10/19 22

  I woke up listening to the patter of raindrops on the camper roof. It wasn’t raining heavy and it wasn’t just wetness falling off the limbs and scarce leafy branches, it was raining. I got up and looked outside. It was just turning daylight. Besides the rain it was windy out. Autumn colored leaves blew from their branches and whisked to the ground with the windy conditions. At times the wind gusts were strong enough to sway the 28’ camper just enough to be noticed. I was suppose to meet a friend at a local catch and release stream but there really wasn’t a promise. He had maybe an hour drive to get there and I was only 18 miles away. When I stepped outside to look at the thermometer the cold hit me like walking into a butchers freezer. The thermostat read 34°. I closed the door behind me as I entered back into the camper.

Dennis isn’t going to go in this weather”, I thought, “not just for trout?” I turned on the gas to the percolator and started breakfast in no hurry.

For the next 4 hours I fiddled around in the camper biding my time hoping the on and off rain would stop and the gusts of wind would calm down. Around noon I got bored enough to take a ride for cell phone service to see what was going on in the world I might be missing. My truck thermometer read 36° and it was still quite windy as I drove along the Clarion River. Up on the hill I got service and backed into a spacious area to park from the roadway. Instantly I got a message from Dennis and three pictures of the big rainbows he caught and netted. 


  That set a spark of hope and excitement in my trout bones. He braved the bad weather conditions, took the drive and fished. I sent him a message that I hadn’t made it. I drove off, back to camp, without checking anything else on my phone.

  At camp I put on warm clothes. I already had my Gortex rain jacket filled with my fly gear. I got in my truck and headed to the stream. After about 9 miles I texted Dennis to let him know I was on my way. He texted back and said he was already on his way to Punxsutawney homeward bound. I looked at the truck thermometer and it read 38°. My windshield wipers showed there was still slight rain falling but it looked like the wind had died down. I was 9 miles away from camp and the 9 miles I was headed would get me to the trout waters. I still had the excitement running through my veins and wasn’t going to turn back.

After parking, assembling my fast action fly rod and getting my gear on I headed to the creek.

  I crossed the creek and waded the shallow section of water upstream to the riffles. Below the riffles the water became much deeper on the roadside. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and started casting into the shallow water stripping the bugger slowly back towards me. The slight wind made it tougher casting down creek but with the 9’ fast action rod and weighted bugger I was able to cut into the wind with a little more casting effort.

  The air was cold. Cold enough that as time went on my fingers were feeling the effect of not being as nimble as when I got there. The rain came and went and I’d cover my tossle cap with the hooded jacket. The wind blew more leaves onto the water surface and my casts had to be pretty accurate not to hit the moving targets. It was like shooting at a turning windmill trying not to hit the blades. The Woolly Bugger just wasn’t happening so I knotted on a Triple Threat streamer. I slowly waded down stream casting out and letting the streamer drift with the current and then slowly stripping it towards me.

  The first take was subtle. As I stripped it towards me, in the slow current, the line straightened and I felt a slight nudge. I yanked the rod back and set the hook. It felt like I had just dislodged a log from the creek floor and it was drifting heavily down stream with the current. I tightened my grip as the fish bullied down creek taking line. I kept tension on the line but let him take line as he wanted till I thought he would settle down some. With the head jolting and powerful turns down creek he was using energy as the arced rod took the brunt of the pressure he was putting on the line. Once he turned and headed for the far bank I started to tighten the tension I was putting on the line and when pauses permitted I’d crank the reel drag a notch or two tighter.

  (Though it may look strange, the advantage of casting right handed and reeling in right handed is that I can adjust the reel drag knob easily with my left hand while fighting a fish. Though I switch the rod to my left hand when reeling in, it has come a custom that I don’t really give it much thought.)

  He evidently didn’t like the more tension I was putting against him. He started to put up a stronger resistance beneath. Swirls of water disturbed the surface as he thrashed around telling where he was at. I got him headed my way briefly but he was in no hurry to give up just yet. He took off down creek and there was no way of trying to stop him. I kept tension on the fly line as he peeled off line from the spinning spool. He subsurfaced in the shallower water down stream splashing about before heading up towards me again. I took in line in a hurry trying to keep tension on the hooked fish. He kept his distance on the far side of the creek by the time he slowed down. I had a lot of line floating around me and I knew I better get it in the spool before I got him any closer. I changed hands and pinched the fly line between my finger and cork grip. I didn’t force him towards me but kept just enough pressure as the rod tip bowed slightly towards him. He struggled at times but didn’t take off as I wound in line. Once I had the slack line wound in I attempted to draw him closer to me to net him. He reluctantly swam towards me but as I lifted the rod he alligator rolled getting the leader and tippet around his thick body. With that he tried to swim away, and being all tangled up, I felt like I was attached to a branchy limb drifting down creek with the current. Now, not only did I have to get him in my undersized net but needed to untangle him before doing so. I thought for sure I was going to lose him.

  So, there I was with this big brown trout on the end of my line. I was twisting and turning the rod trying to untangle the line around him while he was struggling against me. It was like trying to untangle a snagged branch beneath the surface not wanting to lose your favorite streamer. Somehow he got untangled and through it all he was pretty worn out, at least I thought, until I tried to net him. He wiggled, squirmed and fidgeted before and after I got him in the net. I tried to keep the net upright trying to hold him in it till he settled down. Once settled I got a quick picture of the feisty big male brown before I dipped the net fully in the water. It didn’t take much coaxing before he swatted out of the net and swam away.


  No doubt that was encouraging. I don’t remember it being as cold all of a sudden though my fingers weren’t too flexible as I retied another streamer on. I continued in the same manner casting down and across creek letting it drift down stream before stripping it slowly towards me. This time a trout grabbed the streamer and took off like a beagle on a fresh rabbit trail not knowing it was still on a leash attached to my hand. My fore arm jolted down stream with the heavy take. I knew I had another big trout as line unwound from the spool and spat out the tip top. This fish was no easy catch either. I felt my forearm muscles tighten and my cold hand and fingers around the cork grip was tight but the tightness wasn’t as noticeable with my fingers so cold. We struggled back and forth for an advantage like two arm wrestlers in a heavy competition. I eventually won out when I got the beautiful brown in the net successfully.

  His belly was burnt orange in his spawning colors leading up to his buttery yellow jaw. His kype was hooked well and I knew any attempt to lip him would be as dangerous as putting a hand inside a gators mouth. His body was thick and big splattered black fountain ink blotches covered the rest of his lengthy body.

  I wasn’t done quite yet though my body started to feel colder beneath my layers of clothes. The wind got a bit stronger also but I just didn’t want to give up. Normally, by now with two huge fish, I would of called it a day but I was, after all, having fun despite the weather.

  After this one tore up the Triple Threat pretty bad I attempted to knot on another. It wasn’t easy with stiff fingers and it took some time and patience but I managed.

  I caught a smaller rainbow and a smaller brown trout and was about to call it quits. I started to wade down creek towards the shallower water to cross. I was still making cast down and across when I noticed the arc in the line stop. Maybe I struck bottom in the shallower water? I figured if it got stuck I could wade into the knee deep water and just unsnag it. I yanked the rod back to set the hook anyhow. To my surprise, after the line tightened and rod bowed as if caught on an underwater snag, a fish rose to the surface and shook the hooked streamer like trying to get a live bumblebee out of its mouth. Water splashed everywhere like an explosion was set off on the surface. He went under and shot up creek in a haste still head shaking flexing the rod top sections in incomparable positions. Leader cut threw the water heading upstream in the wake of the fleeing trout. I had another biggy! 


 After that I called it quits. I saw no use of torturing my body or fingers any longer. I had an excellent catching day and big trout to prove it. I couldn’t wait to get into a warm truck and back to camp to thaw out.




Friday, September 30, 2022

Yak'n, Bass'n With Glass


Yak’n, Bass’n With Glass


  I assembled my 2 piece 6 weight President Glass Wonderod. My kayak was filled with all the necessities for floating the river including smallmouth poppers and Woolly Buggers if needed. I looped a new 9’ 3X tapered leader to the F6WF fly line and threaded it through the rod guides. By 9:00am I was in the water 2 miles up from my camper and ready to enjoy the day.


  Above me was a clear baby blue sky with streaks of white clouds. The air was already warming up. Green trees lined the river and threw shade upon the lightly stained water half way across the river. There was a slight breeze that didn’t have much effect on the surface water.

  I was casting aimlessly, as I was drifting, getting a feel for the slower action of the fiberglass rod. My first take was a gulp after I watched my popper drift after a couple of strips across the slow current. I reared back on the rod and the line tightened. The rod bowed on the hooked fish as it went deep and gave a tug. The line went limp and the rod straightened. I knew right away what happened. I didn’t yank the rod back hard enough to set the hook into the bass’s mouth. I knew better that with the slow action of the glass rod I have to set the hook with stronger authority than with a graphite rod. Lesson learned!

  It took an hour or so for my next take. I was kind of stopped in a back eddy behind a big exposed boulder casting out from the bank downriver some. My frog popper plopped in the slow current under the shade of over hanging leafy branches like a fallen acorn. I gave a couple of strips towards me and let it drift down with the slow riffles caused by a boulder of some size just below the surface water. A fish rose in a surface swirl and sucked the popper like a high power car wash vacuum cleaner on a floor dropped milk dud. This time I gave a good strong yank and I could feel the glass rod flex almost into the cork grip I held tightly. The bass dove deep and took off with my popper. The glass rod arced as the tapered leader cut through the surface water heading upriver. I lifted the cork handle high as the rod bowed towards the fleeing fish as it took out line. Fly line slipped through my tensioned fingers briefly before I threw out the anchor to try and stop my drifting kayak. My anchor caught and I held the rod steady as the fish fought the tight line and bowed rod. Slowly but surely I brought in line getting the smallmouth closer to the yak’. He stayed deep till he was a couple of yards from the yak’ before rising to the surface. He splashed water in all directions as his body struggled upon the surface. He dove deep and the rod flexed and bowed towards the escaping fish. I put the rod butt into my gut for leverage as tensioned line again slipped through my fingers. He took off downriver with the help f the undercurrent and pulled out more line. I gave an upriver tug as he slowed and he turned upriver.

  Maybe with a medium to fast action rod I may have tired him out sooner but the thrill playing a tough fighting river smallmouth is nothing compared to graphite.

  I thumbed him carefully when he got to the side of the yak’. He inhaled the frog popper which was still firmly within his mouth.


    After a few more casts while anchored I took out a Gilberto Oliva 6x50 and lit up the light brown cameroon stogie. Looking up the puffy clouds started to move in and dot the blue sky. The breeze picked up some now and again and riffled the water surface like a washboard.


  I had to put a little more oomph in my casts to get the popper out further with the soft flexing glass action.

  I was casting the popper out from the banks in deep pockets. I had hooked 2 smallies and missed one as I drifted down river. I was heading towards an exposed boulder so I dropped the anchor to slow my drift. Every so often the anchor would catch and stop my drifting. I covered the area around me as far as the breeze let me cast before lifting the anchor momentarily getting the yak’ drifting downriver closer to the bank side boulder.

  The wind was hampering my casts so after the popper hit the surface I let it drift further downriver with the current before stripping it back towards me. I was stripping it towards me, from a distance, when a smallmouth porpoised after my popper as if the temptation of a swimming frog was too much to ignore. With the eruption he completely missed my popper as I saw it fly up in the air like a popped kernel from an open lid popcorn popper over hot campfire coals. He and the popper came down upon the distorted water surface. I gave a few quick strips that gurgled and splashed waves like a dazed escaping frog. This time the bass wasn’t going to let it get away. He porpoised again and swept the popper in like a Jai Alai player catching a fast moving ball in his wicket cesta. I waited a second and yanked back the rod with authority. The rod arced instantly and I could tell I had another nice size smallie. He took off towards mid river in a flurry. I gave an extra tug to make sure the hook stuck good as he took line. The extra tug must have hit a nerve like a dentist drill hitting a live nerve not completely numb from the Novocaine shot. He exploded out of the water, fully exposed, shaking his body frantically from the pain. He dropped back into the water and exploded again out of the swirls of disturbed water. He gave a big tug in mid air before plopping back into the water surface. He took off and the line tightened again so I knew I had a good hook set.

  I’ve fought hooked largemouth in pond water and steelhead in shallow slow current on my 8 weight glass rod. They don’t compare to the thrill and fight of a struggling smallmouth in river current.

  I got him near and he decided to try and swim under the yak’. I extended my arm out as far as I could holding the line tight in my left hand. The rod bowed in a full arc like a horseshoe magnet. I could feel him rise as the force of the arced rod kept him from getting under the yak’. The bowed rod lessened and the fish swam outward. He than gave a burst of energy across river strong enough I let him take line through my fingers. When he turned down river I tightened the line between my fingers not giving him any more leeway. He turned and swam towards the yak’ again as I took inline. Near the yak’ he rose to the surface splashing water in all directions. It took a few tries to lip him not wanting to get stuck with the sharp hook of the popper that hung from his mouth.


  After that the wind picked up drastically. It was blowing upriver most of the time into my face. It was around 3:00 when I got the yak’ and gear out of the water and back up to my camper. I didn’t hook many but the two big’ns made for another excited time on the river. Catching and fighting them on glass was an extra thrill.





Monday, September 5, 2022

A Frog Popper Kind of Day


A Frog Popper Kind of Day


  This was one of my best days on the river catching smallmouth. Maybe not the biggest during the day but the action was quick, fast and seemed continuous. From within a ½ hour after I launched the float tube at 9:30 am. I was hooking smallmouth with a frog popper. The smallmouth were hungry for frogs all day so I stuck with them and was just rewarded.

  It was an overcast morning and looked to continue throughout the day. Green trees lined the banks of the Clarion River for as far as the eye could see. Heavy clouds covered the blue sky above like a kids foaming bubble bath. For now the water was calm. Maybe too calm like a calm before the storm. There was barely a breeze which is pleasant for fly rod fishing. I launched the float tube with my smallmouth assortment, fly rod, a few cigars, water, trail mix, and a rain jacket. The water was a tad on the cloudy side still clearing up from the past rains. I found this might be the best time to fish the river. I suppose when the water is real muddy the bigger fish can’t see baitfish to eat. Just as the water becomes clearer they must be hungry enough to go after anything they see beneath or rise to any commotion on top.


  It was around 9:30 when I pushed off for the days adventure. Looking down river along the bank looked deep enough to maybe hold some fish. I kicked off and finned my way just out within casting distance from the bank. With the higher water and clearing up I figured the bass might not be holding along the banks and out in not too deep of water looking for an early meal. As I slowly drifted down river I made a few casts into the slow water along the bank away from the main stem of the river. A fish rose to the surface at my popper with a gulping splash. I reared back on the rod and my first taker was on. Not a big smallmouth by any means but one that came up sooner than I expected.


 Well, that deserved my first cigar. I took out an AB sun grown and lit up the dark cigar. I was ready to relax and enjoy myself.


  Within about 5 minutes after lighting up the stogie I casted out and hooked into another hungry smallmouth.


  I looked at my frog popper and chuckled a bit. I see all kinds of beautiful painted and constructed poppers that people create on Face Book fishing forums. I couldn’t imagine how much time and effort they put into making them,

  Besides the cost of the supplies. I know the simple ones I make take some time and effort but I’m sure not as much as the beauties I’ve seen. Being that mine catch smallmouth and largemouth I have no need to make them look glamorous. I don’t sell them and I’m not in a contest for best of show. I let the smallmouth decide whether my poppers fit their menu. So far, they have been doing an exceptional job.

  Drifting down river I use a longer frog popper in the more wavy water for better visual effect and pop/gurgle it more noisily on deeper sections than in slower current. Today the smallmouth appear to be everywhere looking for food and just not along the banks.


  I’ll try another color when rises slow up but go back to the frog popper. Sometimes I think it’s the commotion on the water that causes a curios take but there are times, after popping it a few times, I just let it rest and a smallmouth will grab it. Kind of tells me my creations must look enough like food that the smallmouth are willing to grab it upon investigation.


 Around noon I was ready for cigar #2. I took out a Don Tomas Robusto Clasico Natural. The mild cigar was smooth and burned evenly throughout.


  The sun shown through the clouds for a moment and brightened the day some. I figured the smallmouth might head for the shady areas along the bank and concentrated on casting that way most of the time. Every once in a while I’d still catch one out mid-river.

There was a lengthy boulder along the bank that looked like it ledged just below the surface. The water along the bank didn’t look very deep but I found you never know how deceiving the shallow water my look than what really is beneath in pockets of deeper water among a rocky bank line. My first cast was just out form the ledge where the water began to flow into it. A smallmouth splashed at the moving popper and I reared back for the hook set. The line tightened. I could tell it wasn’t a big one but it was a frisky one at that. I steadied myself and brought him to the float tube successfully. 


  I was steady with my booted fins holding beneath on the rocky river bed. I made another cast near half the length of the boulder ledge and a fish surfaced almost as soon as my popper hit the water like it was trying to take it before another hungry fish did. I reared back and another smallmouth was hooked. I got him to the apron also. I actually caught 2 more along that boulder and missed one hook up. It was if I was catering to a training seminar of a small group of hungry repair technicians!


  Further down river there was a tree down, stripped of its bark, top siding the surface with branches extending in the air. It looked real fishy. I was able to stop just upriver from it and gave a few casts onto the water along the bank. One cast I laid the popper onto the surface of the water that flowed right into the downed tree limbs. I gurgled it a few times the closer it got to the limbs and a bass exploded up at it. I waited a second or two after he took it under and yanked back hard. The line shot up and tightened and I could feel I had a good smallie. I had to keep him from swimming back into the tree limbs so I gave him no line and had to really test my knots and rod strength. I got him to swim upriver away from the tree hazard. The rod arced deep as I drew him closer. He hurriedly swam between the bank and I upriver a piece. I could see big submerged boulders in the shallow water between me and the bank where the smallmouth was swimming through. I held the rod high and gave him some line as I turned the rod trying to guide him out away from the boulder strewn shallows and into the main stem. He followed with some forceful hesitation. Once in the main stem of the river I felt more positive about the situation ad carefully got him to the float tube. 


  I was tying another frog popper on do to the fact the recent smallies loosened the popper around the hook besides ripping the eyes off of it. As I was doing this I had a visitor stop by. I’m not sure if he was interested in what I was doing or just looking for a place to land and take a rest. He didn’t seem too worried about parking his butt on the float tube.


  There was kind of a lull in the action for an hour or so. The water was pretty shallow as I floated so I didn’t cast many times and just put my fins up in front of me and drifted. When I got into deeper water I was ready for more action. I was pretty far from the bank. Down river I could see a big long fallen log just out from the bank aligned with the flow of the water. I kind of walked my way on the shallow bedrocks within casting distance. Being the water was shallow I didn’t want to get too close to it and cause a water disturbance. ‘Just maybe’ I thought ‘there were a few smallies underneath or near the log in the shade of it.’ I hauled off a strong cast towards the log that fell well short. I gave a couple of hard noisy gurgles to draw attention and then started swimming the frog popper back towards me. The commotion did the trick. A fish surfaced with an audible gulp and took it under. I reared back and the line tightened. I could feel this was a weighty smallmouth also. He made for a good time battling before I got him close enough to lip him. Nice one!


  ‘Just maybe’ I thought there might be another close by. I gave another long cast towards the log. I didn’t make much of a commotion this time but hesitantly popped it towards me with short pauses. A smallmouth exploded on the popper as if he thought it was hurriedly escaping from him. Again I reared back after he took it under and again the line tightened. This one was cleaver enough to escape from my grasp though before I got it too close.

  By now I was pretty close to my exit point. In fact I was able to see the garage my bicycle was parked at across the road. I kept within casting distance to the roadside bank and casting over towards it. The water appeared to be pretty shallow but I kept casting as if there was nothing else to do before getting to my bike.

  There was one huge boulder up against the bank and ¾ of it was in the water. Maybe that boulder held enough water back to make it a deeper pocket of water. What ever the reason, after my popper hit the surface and after a couple of short pops, a smallmouth inhaled the frog popper in an overwhelming disturbance that sprayed water in all directions. It surprised me, no doubt, that I thought I was going to be late on the hook set after he took it under. I yanked back like I was going to rip the lips off of this one. The rod arced deep and I felt the fish tussle on the straight tight line. I watched as the wake was noticeable upon the shallow surface as he swam upriver through the shallows. He circled around me in deeper water and into the stronger current and I gave him some line. After he swam downriver some I held tight and I could feel him turn. He burst out of the water, full bodied, shaking the popper stuck to his lip. A big splash followed as he submerged beneath. I’m not sure if this one was ever caught before but he wasn’t giving up too easily coming to the float tube. Even once there I had to be real careful lipping him, not wanting to get hook stuck, as he pulled and tugged on the bowing rod near the tube.

Well, that ended one of my best, most hooked smallmouth fishing on the river.

It doesn’t get much better then that!