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!


About Justin Rosander

I am a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. I enjoy playing mainly guitar, uilleann bagpipes, and keyboard. I am a student of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and a Stephen R. Lawhead fan. My wife and I are gamers, and enjoy playing Lord of the Rings Online. When I am not spending time with my loving wife and wonderful son, I am on the river fly fishing, my favorite sport. I especially enjoy fly fishing for steelhead, the fish of a thousand casts.
This entry was posted in Etiquette, Fishing, Flies, Fly Fishing, Rocky River, Steelhead, Water Conditions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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