How to keep your head up in the hobby of fly fishing that is filled with jealousy and competitiveness (Fly Fishing is awesome why be so uptight?)

I know I haven’t posted in a while, as things have been a little crazy, but I had to share this. Don’t let others dictate your success. Get out there and enjoy yourselves, and be safe.

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Fly tying: Getting ready while conditions are off

With recent flooding conditions due to rain and snowmelt, I’m anticipating a fresh run of steelhead.  Unfortunately, conditions are still too off for my liking, which presents a good opportunity to tie some flies.

Skagit Mist tied on a 1.5 Alec Jackson.

Skagit Mist tied on a 1.5 Alec Jackson.

I have really taken to this fly pattern and its cousin, the Akroyd.  I look forward to casting these in the water and see what happens.

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Exploring North Chagrin Reservation

I could have cropped this and gotten all "artsy" featuring the reflection on the opposite bank, but I wanted to leave this as-is to illustrate some features of the water.  The water toward the opposite bank is glassy, which features the raised shale bed, making a glassy surface on the water.  Toward the bottom of the picture features water that is broken up.  That is the head of the run that I start from.

I could have cropped this and gotten all “artsy” featuring the reflection on the opposite bank, but I wanted to leave this as-is to illustrate some features of the water. The water toward the opposite bank is glassy, which features the raised shale bed, making a glassy surface on the water. Toward the bottom of the picture features water that is broken up. That is the head of the run that I start from, which is starting as a light riffle.  I probably should have taken a photo the opposite direction as well.

I have spent considerable time exploring the upper portions of the Rocky River.  It has been fun, but I need to expand my knowledge and experience by exploring other waters.  There are quite a few streams to explore in Northeast Ohio, so time to check something off of my list.  We now turn our attention to the North Chagrin Reservation.

One of the unique aspects of Ohio Steelhead Fishing is a weather event that literally blew out a dam, restricting the waterway of the Chagrin River.  This also restricted movement of anadromous fish such as steelhead.  While the event destroyed an historic landmark, it opened up the entire southern portion of the river as a prospective steelhead fishery.  This part of the river is the South Chagrin Reservation, but I call this to attention as this has given rise to popularity of the river.

Purple and Cerise Marabou fly, tied on a Daiichi 2161, which is an odd hook with a short shank.  I will use an Alec Jackson next time.

Purple and Cerise Marabou fly, tied on a Daiichi 2161, which is an odd hook with a short shank; an articulated shank would prove interesting and useful.  I will probably use an Alec Jackson next time and possibly articulated variations.  I will probably add flashabou and a dubbing butt to add some body to the fly next time.  The fly casts very well and turns over nice; in fact you can hardly tell that it is on.  It swims well in fast and slow water.

There is a lot of private land surrounding the river, so accessibility is a challenge.  For myself, I had to drive and circle around a couple times to find public parking.  After driving north on Chagrin River Road, I found Rogers Road Field.  I parked, suited up in my neoprene waders, tied on a Purple and Cerise Marabou fly that I tied earlier that week, and started my lonely hike to the river’s edge.  The sky was kissed with purple and orange hues of a pre-dawn light, casting an ethereal effect on the new fallen snow.  The chill air stung my lungs and I pulled my cap down and zipped the collar of my coat all the way up to stay the cold air from my neck.

Approaching the bank, I noticed the river features a Bedford shale, which is cut and grooved almost like it were carved.  The middle of the river was raised, and the edges, particularly the one closest to my side had runs flanking this raised riverbed.  I judged I could wade on this raised bed and swing a fly from either side.  I began my approach toward the bridge, upstream from which the run flowed more swiftly into a pool where the bridge was situated.  At the head of this run was a small inconspicuous ledge that cut laterally across the river, making a small sort of fall, but more like a “wrinkle” in the water.  This, I guessed, would be a prime spot for steelhead to hold.  I patiently waded and swung my fly in adjacent areas as I approached this specific spot, then made my cast.  I lowered my rod-tip and followed the down-and-across path of my fly. Grab!  My heart nearly jumped out of my chest at the all-too-familiar tug of a fish at the end of my line, but my joy was short-lived as I felt the line go immediately slack.  A steelhead making a short strike may grab the fly and spit it out.  It may also grab a part of the fly without actually grabbing the hook, and when the steelhead turns, the fly pops out of its mouth.  I feel the latter was the most true in this case due to the way the strike felt.

I made a few more casts in this spot, slightly changing my presentation to a slower swing, a faster swing, a dead-drift.  This fish was not giving me second chances, which can happen.  That being the case, other options which were not available to me were to use a smaller fly to reduce the likelihood of a short strike, or to employ a stinger hook which extends beyond the butt of the fly.

Some thoughts on my exploration to consider:

  • The Bedford shale in the riverbed is very grooved, so it is easy for a wet streamer to get wedged into these grooves.  Consider a wider, longer cast to keep the fly moving.
  • Said shale is also extremely slippery, so wade with caution.
  • Parts of the river are also rather pitted; watch your step.
  • Consider having multiple sizes of the same type of fly; if refusal or a short strike, progress to a smaller fly.
  • The unique “cutting” of the riverbed into the land situates the fly-fisher next to banks and high brush.  Getting handy with roll-casting and single-hand spey casting would be beneficial.  A spey or switch rod would definitely be useful.

More to come later on the Chagrin River, especially South Chagrin Reservation.

 

Posted in Chagrin, Fishing, Flies, Fly Fishing, Marabou, Steelhead | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skunked: Fish of a thousand casts

Sometimes, all you catch is a snapshot of ducks.

Sometimes, all you catch is a snapshot of ducks.

The 2013 steelhead season is upon us!  Lots of new flies to try, lots of water to explore, and yes, lots of time to devote to the river.  This is the fish of a thousand casts, and sometimes, we get skunked.  There are some tips to put in your bag, that will help put a fish also in your bag.

I managed to get out on Saturday morning, unluckily missing my alarm.  At least, I barely remember shutting it off and going back to sleep.  After shoving some oatmeal down and getting the coffee ready in the thermos, I double-checked my fishing gear inventory, checked my maps and head out the door.  I started driving with NPR spouting liberal drivel about how great Obamacare was.  This nonsense was quickly replaced by some Uilleann Bagpipe music to get the blood flowing.

Arriving at the Rocky River marina, it was easy to see I was going to have a hard day fishing by the amount of folks parked along the river’s edge–most of which were joggers dressed in spandex.  Rocky River joggers wear spandex.  Not sure why, but they do, and I find it amusing.  So guys and gals can watch their curves jiggle?  Maybe, maybe not.  I wear neoprene waders.  I probably look like a chocolate-dipped fisherman to them, so fair enough.

I started from my usual spot from the bridge near the marina.  The river was running low and slow, so I judged a floating line and monofilament leader would suffice.  The “soft” water approach was what I was aiming for, so I tied on a hot pink Rambulance tube fly I recently purchased.  Wading my way through the slot, I swung my fly patiently.  No hits.  With all the cars parked, I assumed there would be more fisherman clogging the river’s edge, but there was not, so I had a clear run until the river started to bend toward the marina.  I not only had a clear run, but no hits the entire pass.  After chatting a bit with a fly-fisherman from Springfield, OH, I made a few more paces and decided to move upstream.

I moved on toward the ballpark and found the sunken sidewalk occupied by four fly fishermen.  I walked downstream and found a nice stretch of stream that was absent of people, situating myself at the upper end of the slot.  To my chagrin, four guys that I was yielding the sunken walkway to just a few minutes ago, they start parking themselves just downstream from me.  These were “parkers” and they weren’t really moving.  I slowly wade downstream and make additional casts, hoping they get the drift (no pun intended).  Thankfully, one of them observed good stream etiquette and moved on.

As an aside, please practice good fishing etiquette.  If you are a “parker”, please be cognizant of others who are not–consider wading downstream, as this is an easy way to share the river, and it gives you a chance to explore other potential missed areas in the river that you may overlook.  Also, if you are a wader, please find a different spot if the area you wish to explore is otherwise occupied.

Back to the topic at hand . . . While wading and casting fruitlessly, the sun started to cast a yellow-orange hue across the autumn afternoon sky, telling me I had been there long.  My efforts were dogged with every cast, but I waded and cast on.  I discovered in a pool that I had carefully waded through, leaves piled up in the river nearly up to my knees.  They had just fallen last week, and had yet to be flushed out of the river.  This, I surmise, was the reason for my and other fishermen’s failed attempts this day, as the leaves can make the water more acidic. Hence, my following tip:

Fishing right after leaves fall can be very challenging, as the acidic water will present an “off” water condition that is not ideal for steelhead.

Downstream, you will see a light riffle on the left, and a tailout feeding into a run on the right.  One may not consider a riffle to be holding water, but steelhead are known to hug tight to even a small rock in surprisingly shallow riffles.  One can swing a presentation either way and get results.  Be open-minded.

Downstream, you will see a light riffle on the left, and a tailout feeding into a run on the right. One may not consider a riffle to be holding water, but steelhead are known to hug tight to even a small rock in surprisingly shallow riffles. One can swing a presentation either way and get results. Be open-minded.

This was going to be the last run; the sun was setting, I was hungry, and it was time for a changeup.  I was at a portion of the river that featured a bend, with a pool featuring froggy water toward the near bank, and a run on the other end.  The light was getting dim, so I switched to a purple Fish Taco, then settled on a black and blue Signature Intruder.  I cast aiming toward the transition between the still water and the run.  This seemed to get some results, as I got a couple taps at the end of the line.  I believe these were fish, as the taps became infrequent as I made a couple more casts into the same spot with fewer taps to no tap at all.  I decided to get creative at this point and present a nymph while swinging it.  A couple more taps, then no interest.  I admitted defeat, then made my way home.

Presentation Tips:

  • For cloudy weather, consider a darker pattern.  For bright weather, consider a lighter pattern.
  • Present your fly in transition areas, as steelhead tend to favor areas that have moving water, well oxygenated, but not moving too fast.  These are transitory areas that fish will rest in before moving on between faster currents.
  • Present your fly transitioning from slower to faster waters and vice versa.  Explore!  Think outside the box.  Fish are in the whole river.
  • If a larger pattern is not working out, or you get a refusal, try a smaller fly to provoke further interest.

Rejection happens.  It is a part of the sport of chasing steelhead in the Great Lakes.  The title “Fish of a Thousand Casts” has been well-earned, so get out there and do some river time!  Give me one thousand!  Good luck, stay safe, and tight lines!

Posted in Etiquette, Fishing, Flies, Fly Fishing, Rocky River, Steelhead, Water Conditions | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where “firsts” are found in several forms

First Chrome

23″ 5.6 lb hen taken from Rocky River

 

New Year’s Day.  The first day of the year would be an auspicious occasion in which my first steelhead was landed (though it was the fourth that I hooked into).  It is also the first chromer of the year and of the steelhead season.  It is also the first steelhead hooked on a Fish Taco fly.  This is how it all came about:

On a lovely, white New Year’s morning, I got up and head out about 9 am to the South Chagrin Reservation, and had some difficulty finding a place somewhat accessible owing to the snow cover.    The white sky  cast a gloomy, grey light over the snow covered ground, and snowflakes slowly danced their way down from their heavenly origin to the white blanket down below.  I found a spot near Jackson Field that required an exhausting  1/2 mile hike through 4″ snow.  I cast several times down a 1/4 mile stretch, which was unfortunately unproductive.  This led to my decision to head over to the Rocky River.

I started at the bridge upstream from the marina, and after a few casts was met by another fisherman just arriving.  He suggested that I resort to fly fishing in the spring as it is unproductive in the winter.  I smugly informed him that I hooked into one on the fly just a half mile downstream one week before.  He didn’t say anything after that.  I plodded on, lost my purple and cherise maribou fly, then decided on a red Fish Taco with an orange butt and flash.  I settled on the red over the purple because I felt I needed to get the attention of fish in this gloomy overcast weather.

Casting a few more times, I moved on to the bend of the river featuring a run and some varied transition water around a riffle.  A very interesting part of the river.    I usually start here because some other fishermen usually occupy the pool at the head of this run, and they never move from it.  I’m glad to start at the run, because there is some oft overlooked parts of the river here.  Moving toward the small pool  on the inside of the bend, I start to get some hits, but very soft.  I kept plodding on, making an adjustment here or there, changing my presentation just slightly.  Wham!  I got a solid strike, and a fish was on the other end of my line.  Learning from my previous mistakes on setting the hook, I set the hook once, twice, and three times for good measure.  Fish on!  The game was afoot, and a 23″ hen broke the water a few times, made a short run, and before it could try for a second, I had finally landed my first steelhead!    What an awesome achievement for the first day of the year!

Posted in Fish Taco, Fishing, Flies, Fly Fishing, Rocky River, Steelhead | Leave a comment

In which I think I am going to have a Christmas Eve to myself on the river . . .

Rocky 12242012

Erp, nope.  Not at all.  This is what happened.

I arrived at the Emerald Marina during the grey twilight the dawn of Christmas Eve, and only saw one other truck.  Good, I have this river to myself! I thought to myself.  I set myself at the head of one of my favorite runs, which is the area downstream of the bridge.  It is a nice spot because on one side there is a sunk piece of pavement at the base of a pool on one side, and a deep pool on the other side.  So there are two tailouts feeding into two runs, thus feeding into one large tailout.  There are large boulders all along the riverbed, some nice transition water throughout, and before  the river reaches an eyot, there’s a nice run leading to a pool.  A lot of other folk seem to have caught onto reading this unique section of the river, as I have seen many fishermen come to this spot often times over other spots around the marina downstream.  There’s a lot of room for opportunity, and a lot of room to fish from both sides of the run.

I tied on a purple and pink maribou fly today, as the flows were a little slower (around 400 cfs), and I was mainly after pocket water here.  With moderate flow and a sink tip, I thought this would be a better approach than using an intruder that would just sink to the bottom.  By the time I threw my second or third cast, I noticed some others filing in around me, two of which started to hook into some large steelhead.  Not daunted by the luck that was not mine, I pressed on downstream.  More folk started to file in, and by this time in this same section of water, there were maybe ten of us.  The combat fishing had begun, and I turned around and left, as in my experience in Ohio, when people start to file in they usually hog a spot and stay there all day instead of moving on to a different part of the stream.

I made my way downstream to the head of the run where I had some success yesterday, and found myself casting foul and losing flies to some bad knots.  With the foul casting signalling fatigue in my casting arm, the cold, and the pressure from all the other fishermen crowding the marina, I decided to call it a day and let the steelies have their little victory for now.  Until next time, Merry Christmas, and tight lines to all.

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Tight lines the day before Christmas Eve

I got up this morning at 5:30, crammed some oatmeal and eggs down my throat, grabbed some coffee in a thermos, and my gear, and rushed out the door so I could hit the Rocky River at first light.  I made it on time, and thankfully there was hardly a soul there, giving me assurances that fishing pressure would be very light.  It’s not very fun when there’s a hundred yahoos on the river slapping the water with their lines and competing with you to get a fish.

Finding a nice spot to park near the marina, I slipped my waders and boots on quick as I could, prepped my line and head out.  It wasn’t fifteen minutes before my fingers were numb from the cold, but that was soon amended when the sun started creeping over the horizon.  I tied on a black and blue intruder to my fly line, let out a few casts and snagged a rock, losing a fly.  Inspecting my line, I saw it was owing to the perfection loop between my leader and tippet.  This is a setup suggested by Dec Hogan, which I have decided is not worth adopting over a well-tied blood knot (he suggests it for quick changes while serving as a guide . . . I have since called it a lazy guide’s knot).  Deferring to a good blood knot, I tied in again, losing the fly to some bad casts.  Rats.  Lesson learned:  Cast smooth and easy when using Intruders.  The temptation will be to utilize the weight to chuck-and-duck, it is likely the speed of the fly will break the knot, and it did several times.

In spite of snags and losses, sticking with the black and blue intruder paid off today when I waded around the bend and swung my fly toward some transition water close to the shoreline.  Tap!  I felt a slight nudge on the end of my line.  Encouraged, I cast again to the same spot, and Tap!  A lighter tap that time, around the same area.  I knew this was a fish.  Another cast, and the line was tapped again, but this time with a rigorous shake and a tug.  Fish on!  My set was a little half-hearted as I was a little surprised with the little chrome beastie jumping out of the water.  It started to swim towards me, back downstream, and it shook the fly off.  Laughing a little, I cast again a few times, got a few more taps, and then nothing.

It was encouraging today to lay into some chrome today.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have better luck.  Another lesson:  don’t be half-hearted in setting the hook.  Set that sucker and hold the line tight.

Posted in Fishing, Flies, Fly Fishing, Intruder, Rocky River, Steelhead | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment