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Fall Steelhead

Posted on October 7, 2019 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)


A large pod of fresh steelhead holding in a shallow tailout of a small creek


Well the guiding season starts next week. In preparation I've been spending a lot of time scouting around. As of writing this, all the creeks in the region are still very low with the exception of the Catt. But that hasn't stopped the run from pushing in, and with the cooler temps and rain in the forecast periodically for the next two weeks, I'm anticipating things to heat up quickly!

More and more I find greater joy in photographing these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat without the harassment of anglers throwing all kinds of offerings at them. This time of year when the water is low the fish congregate in whatever suitable holding places they can find, often stacking up tightly like the picture above shows. So on the smaller creeks, its fun to walk the banks and observe- maybe take a picture or two and move on. When the water comes and the creeks raise it will be time to wet a line. 

I did stop by some of the larger creeks as well. There are fish in all of them. Spent about an hour skating a bomber and a riffle hitched hairwing but no takers. Hopefully that will change soon.


Tight Lines. 




Starting to think about fall steelhead!

Posted on August 29, 2019 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)



Won't be long until we start seeing some of these around!




It's quickly approaching my favorite time of year! You can just feel it in the cool air in the mornings, and the reasonably temperate days we've been seeing recently. Fall is definitely on the way. And with fall comes fall steelheading! With how things have been going over the past week (cooler with periodic spurts of rain) I wouldn't be surprised if a fish or two is hanging around the river mouths, perhaps even nosing their way in. But we are still likely some three or four weeks away from the first real push of the fall, again weather conditions dependent.

For those just getting into the sport of steelhead fishing, the early runners of fall are a totally different animal than spring run fish or even fish returning to the rivers later in the fall in colder water temperatures. To successfully target them over the course of first weeks of the run and not simply luck into a fish or two here and there, you must be willing to adjust your techniques, focus on different water conditions and river structures, and be willing to adapt and overcome the obstacles of fishing to a run that has just started presents. Having the ability to do so by recognizing trends and habits will make you a better steelheader in general, and will increase your early fall success rate. This post is really focused on the larger watersheds, as usually in early fall they have better numbers of fish running, and in the smaller watersheds you can likely spot and stalk steelhead which is a completely different game and success is usually determined by the stealth of the approach and not reading water, recognizing habits, and overall knowledge of the quarry.

First and foremost, as I've said numerous times in the past, if there is enough water (like there is most years on the Catt) early run fall fish can migrate up a river quickly. A key to finding success early in the fall may not be to necessarily fish low in the river. Most people assume that the lower river holds the most fish early on, and this can be true in times of lower and clearer water, where fish may be more hesitant to push upward. However even in lower conditions on rivers like the Catt or Conneaut, fish can and do push upward. The first arrivals of fall are generally smaller fish of one or two summers in the lake and run between 15 and 25 inches or so. These sized fish can easily run through shallow riffles, and frequently hold in water as shallow as a foot, at least temporarily, if certain conditions are met- mostly if there is a broken surface to distort their appearance to predators above and a current seam to make holding easier. If you come to the river early in the season with the expectation that the lower river holds the most fish, it may be true on any given day, but know that because everyone else thinks so you will be fishing to pressured fish. Targeting the portion that has passed this pressure and is now scattered throughout the middle of the river can be more rewarding, and offer an angler better success as unpressured steelhead are a joy to fish to and can be taken on any given method of fly fishing.

So now that you've taken my first piece of advice and find yourself wandering around the middle section of a river, you may think what next? My best answer is to find the shade. In September and the first part of October, days are generally still mild and sunny, and the water this time of year is usually lower and clearer. Finding the shade can mean finding the fish. In the lake, steelhead can and will occupy every zone of water from the surface to the substrate, however steelhead can prefer deeper water in bright sun. As these fish are pushing into the river, they are adjusting to a completely new environment where even the deepest pools have significant light penetration, and warmer river temperatures force a need for greater dissolved oxygen content. The oxygen is frequently found in a riffle. My go to location for finding early fall steelhead is a shallow riffle and run with a broken bottom and canopy that keeps shade on the water most of the day. This may not mean that there are any greater numbers of fish present in this type of run than any other section of good, riffly habitat, but in high sun shaded fish will feel more comfortable and therefore more likely to bite than those exposed diretly to the light. This can even hold true if decent deeper holding pools are located nearby. 

The final tip I'd offer is go small and stealthy when swinging. Over the past few years I've written a fair amount about fishing floating lines and dry flies, and fishing from the surface down. Those are very exciting ways to target fall steelhead, and in my opinion taking a decent early fall fish on a floating line and riffle hitched wet fly or true dry fly is about as good as it gets. But that requires quite a bit of confidence that can only come with a significant amount of trial and error. The more productive method is fishing lightly weighted small streamers on a long leader, things like beadhead woolly buggers, small zonkers with light dumbell or bead chain eyes, or traditional steelhead patterns with wire ribbing. All of those will get somewhere around a foot below the surface even in faster water, and if you're fishing the right water a foot below the surface is right in the strike zone. And the neat thing is that fishing this way is the transition from swinging streamers on a sink tip to skating or waking dry flies on the surface. You use the long leader and weighed small streamer approach to form confidence in fishing to certain types of water that eventually will show you how and where to fish those dries. Then when you make the transition to dries, if that is something you want to do, you can do so with a bit of earned confidence built up along the way.

So hopefully you all are getting as fired up as I am, and that this little bit helps in finding success with those early run fall fish. As always be mindful of water temperature so as not to increase the risk of harm. But good luck, and perhaps you will see me wandering around the middle of the river sometime this fall enjoying a day of fall steelheading.


Tight Lines,


 - D 

Fly Fishing in Scotland

Posted on August 20, 2019 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)



My dad with a beautiful wild atlantic salmon!



Went to visit my sister over in Scotland last week with my family. Not really a fishing trip but you better believe I was going to bring a few rods. Fished the Tay one day and a smaller Western Highlands river another morning. Boy what a place! Where we fished the Tay it was big wide salmon river, with long pools and tailouts that fished a floating line and small spey flies well. We watched anglers fishing from the boats with ghillies catch a few but from the shore we didn't have any luck with the salmon. After a good bit of no action, I put on a tip and a whiskey hangover and did manage to swing up a small pike which I was told on the way out was very rare on the river. Surprise surprise the hangover found another victim.

But then one other morning we had a few hours to kill before a falconry demonstration (which was unreal by the way) and we snuck out to a river close to where we were staying. When we met up with the ghillie, I told him we only had like two hours and he put us in the spot. Right off the bat I found a beautiful little wild brown trout. Then a while later I saw a fish roll on the inside of a seam where my dad was working his way through the head of. A short while later his rod bent under the weight of a fish that was not a pike or brown trout. After a bit of a battle, he played the fish in close enough where I could tail it for him. It was what would be considered a grilse in ballpark of five or six pounds, but it was a wild atlantic that passed over no less than three waterfalls up to about eight feet tall to meet us in the pool. And it was magnificent.

Looking ahead, with the end of summer nearing our headlights, we're now well into fall bookings for what should be a good season. There are lots of big browns being caught in Lake O right now, and it wont be long until steelhead start finding their way into the Catt and other Lake Erie creeks. Should be a great season!


Tight Lines

 - D






Dad fighting his atlantic






Tailing the salmon






My brown trout





Pretty pike from the Tay






The money pool



Trout and Smallmouth

Posted on July 2, 2019 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (1)




Kyle with a nice 23" wild Pennsylvania brown trout!



Well the fishing remains very good! Central PA wild trout are still fishing very well with all the water. Fishing streamers to undercut banks and overhanging vegetation is producing great fish up over twenty inches, and we're moving much bigger ones. Lake run smallmouth have slowed down over the last week or two. Prior to that the fishing was very good when the rivers were dropping and clearing. Looking ahead, if we keep having intermittent thunderstorms to keep the flows up we probably have another 3 weeks or so of good streamer fishing. I expect the smallies to be finishing up here fairly quickly.



Tight Lines,


 - D






Nice smallie





Jeff with a pretty brown





Matt with a nice upper teens fish






Pennsylvanian Trout

Posted on May 21, 2019 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)




Jeff with a nice wild streamer eating brown



Spent the last few days hitting the wild browns in Pennsylvania and man it was too much fun! A good day streamer fishing is moving ten quality fish and hooking maybe three or four. On our float we moved somewhere around thirty up to around 25", hooked nine or ten and landed six- unreal! Jeff's fish above took a double white streamer literally as it hit the water looking exactly like a take on a mouse pattern- DID YOU SEE THAT!!!! Too much fun!

With steelhead in the rearview mirror, were hoping to get another few trout trips with the streamers before the water drops low for summer. When that happens big trout tend to stay deep, though terrestrials can tempt some up. 



Tight Lines,


 - D





Matt with the prettiest fish of the trip ( I don't know why this pic will only load upside down)






Jeff with another 



 




2018-19 Season Review

Posted on May 14, 2019 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Our big trout of the season!



Well it's getting to be that time of year again. Though there are still decent numbers of steelhead around, particularly in the Grand River, and that we still have decent temperatures due to the cool rainy beginning of May that we've had, steelhead season is coming to an end. So it's time to look back at what the '18-'19 season had to offer.

Starting with last fall, the end of September was very hot, something that we are starting to see frequently. When I first started fly fishing for steelhead twenty some years ago, we used to really see decent numbers of fish in our New York rivers by mid-September, sometimes even earlier. My earliest steelhead I can remember catching was August 27. This was due to the fact that twenty years ago, mid-September was what early October is now weather-wise. Going forward, it looks like the season shift that has been noticably occurring over the past decade or so with warmer early fall temperatures will become the new normal, and that's a shame because early fall before the main run gets in is my favorite time.

Then by the first or second day of October the rains came. And it didn't stop for two months. There was a stretch of 45 days or so right in the middle of peak fall season where it rained 39 days. Despite the flows the overall numbers of steelhead throughout the New York Erie creeks was lower than normal, with most fish running between 20 and 24 inches. It was as though a year class was missing. In recent years, New York has struggled with smolt size due to cold flows at the hatchery. This combined with the very high populations of walleye and cormorants likely has had an effect on adult steelhead numbers. 

Whereas Lake Erie creeks and rivers were inconsistent, the Lake Ontario brown trout run was unreal. Beginning in earnest the first week of November and continuining all through the winter into the spring, the lake run brown fishing was the best I've seen it in years. Average days were double digit hookups, with many, many brown trout between 28 and 32" taken. Swinging streamers for the browns was just too much fun. This year our biggest trout of the entire season was a 32" lake run brown with about a 20" girth. The big hen went 15 maybe 16 pounds!

As for spring in Ohio, we had very good and consistent fishing. I'd say the run was right about average numbers and size wise. It was good fishing with the average day spey fishing being 2 or 3 hookups per rod. We did have some banner days, particularly in mid-April when spey fishing hookups approached or exceeded double digits, though the Grand started to get less consistent flows due to significant amounts of rain the last two weeks of April which is the timeframe we usually see the best spey fishing.

As is normal for the first week of May, the smallmouth have started making a strong showing. Those guys should stick around for the next month or so, providing good fishing. If this cool wet weather keeps up, there may even be a steelhead or two still in the Grand or the Catt in June, but it wont take them long to drop out to the lake if there is a prolonged heat spell.

If there was one factor that determined success all season long, I'd say it would have to be adaptability. Being able to recognize and react to changing and inconsistent conditions was key to consistently finding success, whether it be finding new spots that were holding fish, fishing different rivers more frequently, or even targeting different species such as lake run browns. We found success by keeping an open mind and not falling into the rhythm of complacency. I guess in steelhead fishing, that's about as good as you can strive for- the ability to meet the challenges that present themselves and hopefully find a fish or two along the way.

We're already excited for next fall.




Until we meet again, tight lines.


 - D 

Spring Steelhead Update- April 15

Posted on April 15, 2019 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (2)



There are still good numbers of fresh steelhead running the Ohio rivers




Ohio has been fishing very well over the last two weeks. We had a decent amount of rain the last day of March that pushed in a good run of fresh fish into all major tributaries, then again last night we had another system move through with rain and low temps. This should extend the season an extra week or two. I expect good fishing as the water drops again, with what will probably be the last significant push of fresh fish of the spring. Based on what I'm seeing, I'd expect all but the largest tributaries to be wrapping things up by the end of the month, as these late runners are usually quick in the rivers. The biggest rivers in the area will probably continue to fish until about the second week of May, water temperatures permitting. This is based on the ratio of fresh fish to drop backs that we're seeing. On the big river that ratio is about 60/40 dropbacks to fresh, while everywhere else is more like 80/20. We still have some excellent fishing ahead, but the '18-'19 steelhead season is nearing the end. Going forward it will be important to keep a thermometer for taking water temperatures on those warmer afternoons. Get out there and enjoy it while you can. Won't be long till it's the smallie show.




Tight Lines,


 - D
























Float Trip

Posted on March 31, 2019 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)


Tim and me with a nice fish!




Got out to do a float in the drift boat before things blew out. Before we got rain the past few days things we very low. The Grand had the best flow and also the most people fishing as a result. Everything else was at flows we'd expect to see late in the summer or early in the fall. The rain we got blew everything out for the next three days or so, but we need it. The fishing has been pretty good despite the low water, and we tangled with more than a few, catching some nice fish up to around eight pounds or so and losing one that probably went closer to ten. So far this spring haven't hooked or landed anything that I could tell was better than ten, but it won't be long now. April is usually the month we hit the biggest spring fish, and once this water drops down again in the next three or four days, we should be set with a fresh push of fish!


Tight Lines

 - D





Funny pic of taking a pic




Bruce with a good steelhead!











Spring Steelhead Update

Posted on March 26, 2019 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)



John with a really nice swing fish


Spent the weekend fishing with John again, and we just had too much fun. This '18-'19 steelhead season has been weird. In the fall it was all water. Everyday was rainy, the Catt was out of the pic. Now in the spring, when we usually see the most water due to rain and snowmelt, everything is super low. Go figure! But it isn't preclusive of success, and we caught our fair share of fish. In fact judging by the looks of the people we saw fishing around us, we might have caught their fair share of fish too haha.

The focus, as it usually is when fishing with me, was spey fishing. Towards the end of the trip on the last morning John's casting was really coming together, and he had a good couple hours were most of his casts were tight loops out to 60 feet or so. Impressive for a guy with only a couple days time working a two hander! As a result of his progress he landed an absolute stunner of a buck. Not big but beautiful. We fished both the Chagrin and the Grand. The Chagrin is gin clear and if we don't get meaningful rain it may fall below 100 CFS. The Grand has some flow right now but again it's still very low considering what is normal this time of year. All in all, John landed four swinging and lost about as many. We did a little indicator fishing too, and he picked up another half dozen or so, and hooked many more. Not bad for a weekend of fishing!



Tight Lines,


 - D




Gorgeous little buck




John working a run




Another pretty swing fish

 







Spring is around the corner!

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)



Swinging a good run on the Grand!



Got out with John for some spey fishing a few days ago on the Grand. John drove in from PA to get his feet wet in the spey game, and he picked it up really quickly. Our first stop of the morning was over on the Chagrin, but it was slush central. I figured there would be some, but it was coming through pretty heavy and there was just no way to get a line in until it burned off. So we jetted over to the Grand to fish the big water, and the upper river was slush free!

Spent the rest of the morning working some really good runs. About an hour into it we had a great grab but the fish simply didnt connect, then about an hour later we hooked a nice fish but lost it during the fight. I didn't take a water temperature, but I can tell you it would have been around 33 degrees or so. The two fish that grabbed were both in the slow winter water, though the fish we lost looked like a fresher fish when it came up. Nice to see the spring fish getting up that high.

After that we went to a mid river run that has changed quite a bit recently. The wind picked up and the sun went away making it really cold and blustery. Iced guides became a problem again. Kept at it until about 5 in the afternoon but didn't get a third chance. All in all though for winter swinging on the Grand two grabs and one hookup is a good day! Won't be long now until we start really seeing numbers!  



Tight Lines,

 - D






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