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.
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.