Guided and Hosted Fishing Trips with
Fish Lake Run Outfitters  

Click here to edit subtitle

Blog

End of Steelhead Season

Posted on April 27, 2020 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)



Still some beautiful chrome, pre-spawn fish around


Hard to believe it's gonna be May in a few days. Seems like each year the season passes by quicker and quicker. I might sneak out one more day sometime in the next week or two for steelhead, but we're mostly geared up to do PA trout trips now. For anglers still wanting to catch steelhead, there are still quite a few around. The cold temps recently and decent water flows have kept them in the rivers. By now most fish are spawning or downriver fish. If you're looking for pre-spawn fish, look in the upper half of rivers. Most fish down low are downriver fish. 

Was out a couple days ago. Swung up four, of which two were dime bright, prespawn fish, including one that went 31". Was nice to see some larger fish around, as is usual this time of year. Two of the others were between 27-29". Both fresh, prespawn fish were does. Seems like a trend I've noticed that signals the end of the season is quickly approaching- a last shot of larger female fish that push quickly upriver. The two bucks were colored up and battle scarred. I was about 28 miles upriver. Also swung up a big smallmouth, somewhere around 5 pounds. By the size I'd say was a lake run fish, but usually they don't make it up that far.

I still think my projection last week will hold up. We probably have a couple weeks of decent-good steelheading, and it looks like water levels and temps aren't gonna be an issue. If we start seeing 70's soon, keep an eye out. If the first half of May is like the second half of April, with days fluctuating between the 40's and 60's and intermittent rain, there may even be a decent number of fish around by the third week of the month, though I doubt very many will be fresh, and tired fish and warm water aren't the greatest combination.


Check out some more pics.




This bright upriver fish was too hot to touch. Easily cleared the water half a dozen times! I just reached down with the hemos and unbuttoned her.





Colored up warhorse of a buck that went airborne with the take. Super cool!


Agent Orange Tying Demo

Posted on March 15, 2020 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Finished Agent Orange



Realized it's been a minute since I did a tying demo. Figured with the prior post, I'd do a pattern for swinging in off colored water. This fly is a staple for swinging when the viz is low.

Step 1: Set up the hookshank- tie in your stinger loop and weighted eyes. Notice I double the intruder wire back and tie it down.




Step 2: Tie in about 3 1/2 inch yellow/barred fluoro orange rabbit strip reversed about a quarter-inch behind the eyes.




Step 3: Tie in fluoro orange polar chenille at the rear of hook.




Step 4: Tie in UV yellow cactus chenile and wrap it up to the bunny strip.




Step 5: Palmer the polar chenille through the UV cactus chenille and up in front of the bunny strip.




Step 6: Tie in chartreuse crinkle flash.




Step 7: Reverse tie in black craft fur and fold over the body of the fly.




Step 8: Tie in a pair of jungle cock cheeks.




Step 9: Tie in black laser dubbing behind the eyes, tie off, and brush out, glue off, catch steelhead. 







Swinging the cold and dirty

Posted on February 24, 2020 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)



Jeff swings to highly stained water




Everybody has "those days." You walk to a river that glistens that perfect color, and flowing with ideal temperature. Your passes through the runs are rewarded, sometimes heavily. It seems that you can do no wrong, and you catch fish seemingly at will. Those are the days you talk about, the ones you tell your buddies about over beers or glasses of whiskey. If you haven't yet experienced a day like that swinging, you just haven't been at the game long enough. It will happen. But most of the time the fish gods aren't quite so generous, and just as often as not you walk down to a river with the simple goal of determining whether or not the color falls within your own range of fishability.

The steelhead in our rivers here are present through the seasons that also coincide with some of the worst weather of the year, and rain, sleet and snow can all spike and stain the flows. For the lucky few of us, a day or two of dirty water is just that- something to wait out and hit as it's dropping and clearing. But for most of us, time is a valuable resource, so the game becomes making the best of the time you have. So before you walk back up from a muddy river, dejected at the sight of chocolate stained and cold water, here are some things that can help you overcome the obstacles and maybe even put a fish on the board.

FIND YOUR OWN CUT OFF. My cut-off for fishability might be different from yours. Determining your bottomline should be the first thing you do, and it can even be done for specific rivers. What I like to do is try to remember what the approximate visibility for the fish I caught out of the system at the dirtiest flows and then subtract an inch or two. This usually leads me to making a cut-off of between 8 and 10 inches. Why I like to fish water dirtier than what I've ever caught a fish in? Two reasons. It keeps me learning, and I have the genuine belief that fish really do see much better, even in highly stained water, than we give them credit for.



THESE BOULDERS DEMONSTRATE WHAT AN ACTUAL 10 INCHES OF VISIBILITY IS (I MEASURED)

Remember, steelhead will be near the bottom looking up through the water towards a light background. This means that our perspective of standing looking down into the river is obviously not the perspective the fish get. Water with 10-12 inches of visibility can fish surprisingly well when fish are present.

CONTRASTING COLORS. Everybody has their own thoughts on color schemes to match the day's conditions- bright colors for bright days, dark colors for dark water, natural colors for clear water, the list goes on. I don't know of a single rule in steelhead fishing that never fails, fly schemes included. But there are certainly some trends that have proven productive over the long term. In cold and heavily stained water, I like big profile with contrasting colors. For anyone who has ever pulled plugs for salmon, a fire-tiger in heavy sediment is a producer. Translate that to steelhead on the swung fly. Color schemes of black, chartreuse, and orange are some of my most productive flies in heavily stained water.




MY DIRTY WATER RIG

A good indication that a fly is a hunter is when you drop it in the water near your feet and it just glows. I don't know how else to put it other than that, but when you see it you'll know. Start messing around with heavily contrasting colors with brights and darks, keep the profiles big but the fly sparse enough that it sinks well. I like reverse tied craft fur with the under fibers stripped out. It cuts through the water but the reverse tie puffs it out and makes it pulsate in the water.

FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE. It's cool as hell to send bombs across the river and touch a fish way out there. As spey anglers, the casting is very much a large part of the process. But casts don't catch fish. Proper presentation matched to the right water does. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid? Well kind of. Keep inside and short. Don't overthink it. If there's ten inches of visibility, then any depth more than that is adequate to cover and conceal a fish, plus shallower water offers better light penetration. Fish see better.




WE LITERALLY HOOKED FISH WITHIN FIVE FEET OF WHERE THE GRAVEL BECOMES UN-VISIBLE IN THIS SPOT

If there's one piece of information that I think is key, it is concentrate hard on the inside. When I fish dirty water like over the weekend, I find the casts I make are roughly half the distance as those I'd make if I were fishing the same water in clearer conditions, and we hook good numbers in water between 1.5 and 2.5 feet of depth.The inside of runs, the soft water shoulders, the casts that might only put you out the distance of the shooting head or less are the money spots. Fish them well.




JEFF SWINGING SHORT ON THE INSIDE

Fish use these softer water places. In dirty water, they pull off to the side, plus these are the running lanes. If someone forced me to swim up a river, particularly in cold and dirty flows you can bet your boots I'm going to be swimming up it as close to shore as I possibly can. It saves energy. Fish do the same thing, and stained water is migrating water. If you're casting to those mid-river buckets that fish well in ideal conditions then you probably are casting, and fishing, beyond the fish.

DREDGE THE SHIT OUT OF IT. Steelhead hug near the bottom under most conditions, and in clearer high water fishing a light tip on the inside is effective. But in cold, dirty water, the fish might as well be in contact with it and you should be bumping it a little more frequently too. How do I know this? The grabs we get when swinging in those conditions. Over the past couple days, most of our takes came after we found somewhat regular contact with the bottom. And this is normal for high, dirty and cold flows. If you aren't hanging up on the bottom with more regularity than when you're fishing that inside seam in better clarity, you might not be fishing right.

Why does it matter if you know that your tip gets the fly to just above the rocks? It is not that the flies are necessarily fishing different depths. It's that they're fishing at vastly different speeds during the swing. Having your sink tip roll along the bottom during that second half of the swing in cold, dirty water gives you the slowest presentation through the best water. The ticks and taps on the bottom will grind your swing to almost a hault. Throw those big, inside mends and even pull it along with the rod tip if you have to to get it moving again, but just know that your dog's out there hunting. Control your swing. Find the bottom, then get it moving again. Lift the rod tip slowly after an inside mend. Fish it well.




SUCCESS

So get out there. Don't be afraid to swing, even when you think the water's a bit dirty. Remember, the worst you can do is not catch a fish. And even that's not so bad, especially if you're spending the day with a good buddy or two. But keep these pointers in mind, and hopefully you can put a fish or two on the board on a tougher day.




THESE GUYS ARE STILL OUT THERE



Tight Lines,



 - D  

Fall fishing update

Posted on October 28, 2019 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)


Jeff with a sweet Atlantic salmon!



The fishing this past week has ranged from very productive to working for a few fish as water levels have fluctuated from lower and clearer to high and stained. The Catt has fished on an off over the past week, with a weather system that came through Tuesday dropping about a half an inch of rain and muddying up the water for a few days. When it dropped, fish the fish in the river from before pushed up and fresh fish pushed into the lower stretch.

The smaller creeks all saw at least a little push on the high water, and fish can be found throughout each of them, though numbers still seem a bit lower than normal for this time of year. I attribute this to the low water and warm temperatures that persisted until about the second week of the month. Based on what I'm seeing, it seems like we're running a week or two behind schedule, which makes sense considering the foregoing.

The Ontario creeks all have fish in them, some more than others. The larger systems like the Oak and 18 Mile have the most due to the more consistent waterflows this fall. We have been pleasantly surprised by the numbers of Atlantics around this fall. Usually we see a couple darting around in the rivers each fall, but this year seems like there are a lot more around. That's really nice to see, and I hope that New York really develops this program. The kings seem to be struggling a bit, and I'm concerned that my predictions from September 2017 about an imbalanced predator-prey population are going to really manifest themselves in the next two or three years. Alewife populations are still really low and there have been a lot of mouths to feed over the past two years. The silver lining in that is with less king salmon, it seems the Atlantics are starting to flourish. But only time will tell.

Anyways, to sum it all up, the fishing is decent but not great. It should be getting better with each passing weather system that moves through, but the Catt will likely become more hit or miss as is usual this time of year. And I'm optimistic to see what the future holds.


Tight Lines.




Monster brown!  





Working a run





Hooked up!





The beauty of fall




Kicking off the season

Posted on October 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)



Jeff with a beauty



The last week was the start of the guiding season for us in New York. Early in the week, the water everywehre was very low with low numbers of fish in the smaller creeks and better numbers in the Catt. Due to how low the flow was, we resorted to swinging smaller flies on scandi heads with floating and light sinking polyleaders and tapered tippets down to 3x. It's a beautiful way to fish steelhead, but the light tippets mean lost fish. Before the mid-week rain hit most days yielded between two and four good grabs with about half resulting in hookups, though the fish we hooked broke us off due to the light line. Regardless, it was really nice to be able to fish the floating line for a while, and we even had a really great take on a riffle hitched muddler and landed a good sized resident smallmouth!

Mid last week, we got some very much needed rain in the area. The creeks spiked up and stayed high for enough time to spur on fish movement and really kick off the fall run. As the smaller creeks were dropping and clearing towards the end of last week, we were seeing decent numbers of fresh fish moving through. Not the big push of fall run fish by any means, but a nice little run with enough numbers that each decent pool held at least a couple fish and sometimes more. Covering all the water well resulted in multiple hookups from both indicator and swing techniques.

Then the Catt dropped back into shape and we were able to get one really nice day out in the mid river. With the water still being good temperature wise, swinging a scandi and a light or medium sinking polyleader was the key. Due to where fish were holding, primarily in the drop-off behind riffles, having the ability to mend well over multiple current seams was key. This is difficult to do well with a skagit due to how heavy the head is. The fish we landed were chrome fish that looked like they hadn't been in the river long. I expect that many of the fish that were holding from Gowanda down due to the low water have now pushed up into the middle river and will continue working up as the conditions allow.

Looking ahead, we have rain in the forecast today. They're calling for half an inch or more. This will likely dirty the Catt up for a few days, and might stain up the smaller creeks for a day as well. But it will mean that fresh fish should push in again, and that fish that entered last week will have the chance to push up higher into the creeks. All in all, pretty excited for how things are shaping up.


Tight Lines



 

























 

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 

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
























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