Monday, November 1, 2010

Lake Erie Steelhead trip: The trip home.

I woke up at around 5am and, knowing that I wasn't going to fall back asleep, I got up and wondered aimlessly down the stream a bit. My buddy was sound asleep, so I thought that I would suit up and sit at the spot where I landed my first fish and wait for enough light to see.

This time I fitted my reel with a sink tip, because yesterday I was having problems using the current to get to the bottom of the pool where the steelies were laying.

As it grew a little lighter I tried a few cast but almost every one got snagged on a rock, I decided to wait a bit. Someone crossed upstream and positioned themselves to fish the tail of the pool that I was working; but that was cool with me.

About 7am it became light enough for me to start working my sink tip. I made a few casts and got a few hits. I changed to the stonefly that I had on to an olive bugger. A few more casts and then, BAM! It was fish on!

The fish tried to head upstream but I held him tight. He zipped back and forth across the stream, but didn't make any headway upstream.

He then zipped behind me and tried to hide under one of the concrete slabs that were in the water from when they took down the old bridge. My first steelie did this and was completely hidden. This fish tried to hide under the same slab, and he didn't even fit! A good 6-8 inches of his tail were still sticking out!

I leaned out and started to work the fish from out behind the slab. Finally, with a tremendous head shake it pulls free of the slab. I finally get a good look at this fish, and it is one of the biggest I've seen all weekend!

My heart beating a little faster, I pull it in a little closer and, thinking that I can reach it, pull the net off of my back and reeeeeaaach....... Just a little to far away.

I think that the fish sees the net and takes off again upstream. We fight for a few minutes more as I try to get it back close enough to reach it with the net.


My line comes fluttering back to me.

As I sit to tie on another fly, a large group of anglers come over and congregate around "my" hole from the other bank. I get a fly on and cast for a couple minutes, but realize that with all of this increased fishing pressure, my odds have just dropped. Considering the adrenaline rush that I just had, I figured let these guys have some fun and I graciously retreat. And by graciously, I mean that I was cursing them under my breath for  fishing "my" spot.....

It was about 8am at this point and my buddy was up. The sky was darkening with rainclouds and i had checked the weather before we came up. It was supposed to start raining sometime today and continue on for most for the week.

We talked it over and decided to pack up the site. The weather was looking unlucky and the stream was already cheek to jowl. Well, by the time we had the site tore down and in the van, it was blue skies and I fisherman as far as we could see. Figures......

Calling it a day we checked out and headed for breakfast. The game plan now was to head back and check the areas as we returned for some spots to fish, as we did cross over several rivers on the way to Erie.

About two hours into the return journey, we crossed over the Allegheny River. Looking over the bridge we saw what looked to be a park on the near side of the river. As we crossed we quickly consulted the GPS map, and saw what looked like a dead end that ended at the river. Thinking that this might be an access area, we made this our new destination.

We made a few turns through a small town and found ourselves on a gravel road. Soon the gravel turned into dirt. I started to feel a little disconcerted, but we were headed in the right direction.

Then we get to the enterence of the "access lane." Calling it a lane is being gracious. It was barely one car width wide and made of even more dirt.

I looked at my buddy. "That's a driveway."

"No it's not, it's on the map. That's XYZ lane."

I thought that my grandparents live on a lane named after them that ends at there house. I also knew that my friend wouldn't give up until he saw the house at the end.

"OK, let's go. But if it's a house, your getting out to ask."


We head back the lane and see Posted signs on each side of the lane. I view my buddy askance, but say nothing.

We get to the end and there was the house. And two German Shepards. Quite large.

"Well, there's the house," I said. "Go knock."

"Man, there's German Shepards!"

"They look friendly, I think he's even wagging his tail. Go ask." I saw the house door open and a middle aged woman stepped out.

My buddy opened the door slowly so he didn't startle the dogs. Quicker than I could blink the dog jumped at the van door, growling and barking. I'm still not sure if my buddy jumped back into the car or if the dog actually pushed him in, but he was in his seat with the German Shepard growling through the window.

The lady called off the dogs and we asked about access to the river. She said that there was no access in that area, as behind her house was a 50 foot cliff to the river. We apologized for disturbing her and turned around.

On the way back I consulted the GPS and saw that the river went through another small town a few miles ahead. We decided to check this area before we headed back.

On our way to the town, we passed by a parking lot. I noticed a nice stream in the valley next to the lot, so I quickly pulled in.

The park was a wilderness area that allowed overnight camping and had a great little stream cutting threw the middle of it. We gear up and head out.

I decided to try the "new" vintage Sila Flex fiberglass rod that I got just before leaving. I didn't have a chance to cast it yet and was pretty excited to give it w whirl. Boy she cast like a dream!

We started fishing a pool but no luck. As my buddy moved on to the next pool, I slowly walked down, fishing through the rapids and small falls trying to see if anything was in the smaller pools. No luck. Eventually I catch up to my friend who was standing there dripping wet.

"I need your keys."


"I fell in, and let's leave it at that." I toss him the keys and chuckle.

Not wanting to take a drink myself, I head back upstream. I finally reach a large pool, and right in the middle are two decent sized trout. As soon as I saw them, they saw me as scatter. This have to be wild trout, I thought.

I make a few cast and try to entice them from their hidey holes, but no luck. I sit back and wait about 5 minutes, then one of the trout slowly leaves from under the rock shelf he was hiding under and swims to the end of the pool.

I slowly slip up behind his position. I have on a pink weenie, and make a cast. I slowly strip in the fly and it seems like the trout follows it with his eyes, but doesn't budge. I make a second and a third cast. I strip in the fly as before and this time the trout slowly follows the fly. He swims up like he's about to take it..... then hesitates.

I give the fly the smallest of twitches.

The trout zips off to the other side of the pool.

I let out a disgusted breath as I pull the fly back in.

The trout swims back to his original spot on this side of the pool. I make a few more casts. Finally, even thought the cast looked exactly the same as the others, the fish goes crazy and takes off.

Knowing that I've thoroughly spooked this fish and it's partner was still underneath the rock it's been under since I got there, I head out back to the car.

Getting back to the car I found my buddy in a change of clothes. He said that he was walking down a slanted rock, slick with moss and leaves, and suddenly found himself up to his chest in the water.

I laugh and shake my head, and we decide to quit while we're ahead.

The rest of the return trip was unevenful.

So in the span of a weekend I found out what it was to really fight a fish, get stumped again and again, and that to fish for wild trout you need to be as sneaky as stalking whitetail and have your presentation consistantly spot on.

The whole experience was great, and I learned a lot about fishing on the fly, just by fishing new locations and new species. The wild trout made our local stockies look like sheep.

The steelie run goes all the way until April. I know I'm already looking forward to Spring!

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