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My dad and I with his personal best from the Catt
It is always difficult fishing on a dropping barometer with dropping temperatures. Fish like consistency, and changing weather patterns frequently result with fish being put off the bite, especially if that change brings falling temperatures. As fish are ectothermic creatures, creatures with a metabolic rate determined by environmental conditions, even a small drop in temperatures slows the metabolism. And a slow metabolism means that fish simply are going to be less interested in our offerings.
Noel and I fished with my dad yesterday on the Catt. When we got there, the water temp was around 44 degrees, and the air temp was in the low 50's. Waterflow was less than 220 cfs and about 3 turbidity. We hiked in quite a ways to get to the first spot I wanted to fish. We call the spot stump hole. The river makes a slight turn to river right as it dumps over a riffle. About 20 feet below the riffle right in the middle of the dump is a big rootwad and tree trunk pointed downstream, then a small gravel bar that turns into a long run. Most anglers that make it to stump hole, fish right next to the trunk of the tree and fish down through the run. But a lot of fish hold up high in the riffle dump in front of the rootwad.
We set my dad fishing the whitewater head, where the riffle dumps in, and within about 15 minutes he was on to a good fish. The fish blew through the dump and into the gravel run. It was about a 10 minute fight as it was a heavy fish and it kept taking line and running for the heart of the run. But we were able to coax it into the net. The fish was a solid 28" and normally a fish that long would be in the 8 pound ballpark. But this fish was stout all the way through to the base of the tail. It's girth was about 17". That puts the fish right around the 10 pound mark. It just goes to show how good forage is out in the lake this season due to the warm winter last year. My dad landed that fish at about 9:30. If you check the USGS site, you'll see that at that time, the water temp was rising.
Next we hiked up a bit further burning water up to slide hole. This hole follows the same general profile as stump hole. The river dumps over a riffle while turning river right and tails out into a long, boulder and slate studded run. In the dump of slide hole are a few big boulders and fish will hold around them in the current breaks. While fishing through it, Noel hooked up on another big stocky fish. This one came to the surface and rolled before making a powerful run. Unfortunately, the hook pulled free, and the fish disappered back into the depths. Noel hooked this one at about noon. Checking the site, this was the high water temp point of the day.
Continuing our trek we jumped up to another good run. By this point, the air temp was noticeably colder. We worked the run well, but no fish wanted to cooperate. The rest of the day was filled with snow squals, wind, and plummeting temperatures, but no more fish. The good thing about doing this kind of fishing is the moment you get cold, just hike up to the next spot. You'll be warm by the time you get there.
If there is anything to take away from this post, it's how important it is to pay attention to conditions. The fish we hit were while the water temps were rising or at the high point. The moment the water temps started to fall, we didn't touch another confirmed fish. All said and done, we did about a 7 mile roundtrip. But I can't think of a better way to spend a snowy Saturday.
Some more pics:
It's beginning to look a lot like... winter steelheading!
I thought this was a really cool shot of Noel crossing the river with the snowy trees in the background
|Posted on October 16, 2016 at 1:40 PM||comments (0)|
Spent yesterday and today out on Cattaraugus Creek. Still beautiful, still very low. Yesterday, again I started below Gowanda. Spent the first few hours working over a really good pool with an intermediate tip and a variety of streamers. My only tug came around ten in the morning on a white woolly bugger, but like last time it was quick and non-committal. The low water has the fish really finicky right now, and if you're out to swing, stay small.
After that, I changed up to a dry line and a ska-opper. Spent the rest of the day yesterday and all of this morning skating and popping the ska-opper and an orange bomber across pools. Yesterday after leaving lower Gowanda, I jumped way upstream, above the valley. The runs up there are beautiful and the trees right now are on fire with fall colors! But where few fish have made it up to Gowanda, even fewer have made it up there. The tradeoff for solitude this time of year is fish.
Today, however, I fished the reservation. It's not my favorite place by a long shot, but this fall is shaping up to be a good year to try to get a few on the surface, and I wanted to fish to more concentrated numbers. When I got there at daybreak, the waterflow was 85 CFS and water temp was 58 degrees. Low and clear but perfect temps for surface techniques. Spent the morning working the ska-opper through shallow runs, around downed trees, and casting to the high banks and popping it out. Had a small fish roll near my fly but I'm pretty sure it was only a coincidence and was not showing interest in my offering. As the sun got higher, again I switched to the bomber for a more buggy presentation. But came away empty handed.
The other anglers I spoke to this morning seemed to be doing pretty well, and I saw about a dozen fish caught ranging from 12 to 28 or so inches. There are good numbers of fish in the lower four or five miles of the Catt, but there are people. By about nine, every nook and cranny had at least one if not more anglers fishing it. So if you do come out to fish, find a good pool and get there early. And don't count on there being many open spots by mid-morning.
While I was walking out, I stopped and talked to some centerpinners. They couldn't seem to get over the fact that I haven't caught a fish yet this season, despite about four days of fishing. Most of that is due to the locations I've been fishing and the techniques I've been using. I've been hitting the mid and upper river. I know there aren't a ton of fish up that high, but at least I have space. And, with the exception of fishing one pool in the morning a few days with an intermediate tip, I've been concentrating on skating dries. I've logged about 10 or 11 hours now fishing either the ska-opper or the bomber. If this fall is like seasons past, that means I'm about halfway to a good take. Over the years that I've kept track, it seems like I get one take for every 20-24 hours of fishing the surface. The key is staying dedicated. Today watching the pinners and indicator guys catching quite a few fish was hard. Knowing how easy it would be to put on a bead and pull a fish or three from a falled tree, or even swing a streamer on a sink tip through some of the runs makes it that much more so. But it's been a couple years since I last touched a fish on top, and this year I'm going to keep fishing dries until the weather turns, or I catch a fish or two. After all, catching a steelhead is supposed to be memorable. The image of the last fall fish that ate my dry is still vividly burned onto my soul. I don't think any of those fish caught by the centerpinners leaves such a lasting mark.
So, like last time and until next time, enjoy a scenic shot (who ever said dry fly fishing for steelhead was easy! ;))
|Posted on October 10, 2016 at 10:05 AM||comments (0)|
Spent the last few days on the Catt and the surrounding area creeks. What a beautiful time to be on the rivers! It's no secret that the water is super low right now, and that makes fishing challenging. But there are fish in every creek if you put in the time to find them. Currently the Catt is at base flow of around 90 CFS, but the water temps are good and even in low flow she is glowing green! Most of the fish are holding low on the reservation. Because the lower reservation is often crowded, especially early on, I normally don't spend too much time on it. I'd rather fish where I have some space and risk not bumping into one, than have to stand shoulder to shoulder with guys fishing the lower reservation holding pools.
I started below Gowanda, and was the only car parked in the lot. While working over a few of my favorite pools just after first light, I saw a few fish roll before the sun hit the water. There are definitely steelhead up that high, just not in any great numbers yet. Missed one really good yank, but the fish never turned on the fly. Ended up landing a couple good resident smallmouth in the 12-14 inch range, and that was a pleasant surprise.
Also checked out a few of the smaller area creeks. New York has been putting some effort into habitat restoration such as stream bank stabilization and helping with fish passage, which is really cool. One of the smaller creeks just had another fish passage project completed over the summer. While walking down the smaller creeks, I spotted a handful of fish in every creek. Definitely not great numbers yet, but a pleasant surprise due to just how low the water is right not. Also found some pink salmon spawning in one of the little creeks. Over the summer a couple charter boats out on the big lake were getting into surprisingly high numbers of pink salmon and even a few kings and cohos on Lake Erie. Looks like there are going to be a few in the creeks this year. If there is a message to this post it's just how badly we need rain. This is the lowest I've seen the Catt at this time of year in a long time. Checking the USGS website, you have to go all the way back to 2007 to find the Catt below 100 CFS at any point in October.
But there is good news. The fish that I spotted looked healthy. I didn't really fish to them. They were really spooky in the clear water- so much so that a dry fly on a 14 foot leader tapered to 8 lb fluoro was enough to scatter a group of four. I didn't see a ton of smaller fish that normally make up a good portion of the first trickle of fish, which means a couple of things. The warm winter last year was good for the size of the fish- I expect to see good numbers up to around 12 pounds this year and some legit bigger ones. The smaller fish have probably already made it further up the creeks, so taking a peek around the middle stretches can mean fishing to a few fish without the crowds. But if you're thinking about making a trip up to the area in the next couple weeks, it might be a good idea to reschedule unless you don't mind fishing in a crowd. The spots that are holding fish are no secret, so if you do come up expect company. It's going to take quite a bit of rain to get things really kicked off up here. And it will need to be days of rain that refills the aquifers and doesn't immediately run off. At this point, I don't see that in the cards for the next week or two.
Check out a couple pics:
Catt Smallmouth (And yes, it did take the whiskey hangover!)
Full flow below Gowanda
Recent salmon redd in a small creek
Tight lines guys