Casting for shoreline Steelhead

There are many patterns or specific seasonal efforts fisherman can try on Ohio’s north coast.  In the fall, this includes targeting Steelhead that stage in and around the mouths of tributaries before committing to their upstream migration.  Many of these areas have public access in the form of piers/parks, and they become dotted with anglers hoping to entice a fish to bite.  Whether staging or a fish simply making its way into the tributary, the baitfish are often near shore which brings the trout within casting distance.  Most successful anglers throw an assortment of spoons and spinners, even some crank baits designed to mimic the forage fish.  At times, even perch anglers using live shiners will encounter a trout.  As for me, I find myself choosing spoons and spinners in a plain metal finish, most of the time.  My thought process is I want something that looks like a Gizzard Shad or Emerald Shiner, and it’s as simple as that.

It only takes one bite to change your fortune for the day!

The fish slammed this Little Cleo spoon

Now that I’ve provided a little background, let me proceed to my report from a recent trip.  Mornings and evenings are generally the best times and my intention was to arrive to the water pretty early.  Things didn’t go as planned when I realized I forgot my fishing rods.  You read that correct, I forgot my !@#$% fishing rods!  I have no idea how one does this, but I did it.  I lost considerable time not just with the return home, but all the time I spent wondering if it would be faster to just buy a cheap rod somewhere close.

When I did finally make it to the water (with gear), my mood was pretty bad.  I am a firm believer that mindset, attitude, and confidence can help you catch fish, or not.  I tried to focus on the positives such as even if I didn’t catch fish I was at least fishing and the fact that it was overcast.  I have had many a great day when the sky looked the way it did.  Sadly, the first few hours my blood pressure was still high and I spent more time changing lures than keeping one in the water.  I wanted to punch a well meaning passer-byer that offered commentary about how the wind wasn’t coming from the right direction and the lack of recent success by others.  When you combine everything from the day and add the fact that I always put a little pressure on myself by having this blog and wanting to make enough nice catches to keep people engaged and be esteemed as a relevant Ohio angler, I truly wanted to cave in and leave.

At some point, the therapeutic component of the water kicked in before a decision to quit was realized.  Those of us that love to stand in or around water, cannot deny the healing effect it has.  I took some deep breaths and thankfully some correct perspective set in.  As my new calm was established, I reached for a 2/5 oz. Little Cleo spoon in an all polished metal finish.  A lure I have caught countless fish on that gives me complete confidence.  I looked at my phone for the time and told myself there is absolutely no sane reason not to fish this for an hour.  I stopped messing with tackle and every other item that was distracting me, and simply fished.  Fifteen minutes later I would nearly have the rod ripped from my hands.  A large hungry Steelhead inhaled the spoon no more than 10 feet away from me, and took off in the opposite direction making my drag scream.  Steelhead are known for their fighting ability and this one was as feisty as I have ever encountered.  Only one jump, but multiple changes in direction and one blazing run at me where I had to catch the line up to the reel.  At least 3 times I got the net close and the fish would rebound with another run.  The fish also shook it’s head the entire time and I was praying it wouldn’t work the lure free.  After what seemed like an eternity and I have no idea in real time, the fish began to tire and I was able to guide it into the net.  Once in the net, another explosion of energy from the fish, but victory was mine!

A photo uploaded to Instagram

The adrenaline rush of catching a special fish is incredible.  No matter how many fish I’ve caught, that feeling never gets old.  There were a lot of lessons I learned today, and had I let the stress of the day get the best of me, I might have cheated myself out of that great feeling and the awesome memory I ultimately left with.  In time, I will forget all the drama of the day but I will never forget any detail of catching that fish!

Fall Family Fishing Fest

CWF10102015entranceA historic site for a family fishing event

Fishing a new location is always exciting, and today I got to do that while also participating in a very fun Cleveland Metroparks sponsored event with my son.  The event, “Fall Family Fishing Fest” took place at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation on E49th in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio.  The main attraction for Bryce and I was the fishing derby which gave prizes for kids catching the top 3 lengths of Channel Catfish and Rainbow Trout (the species stocked specifically for the event).  Additionally, there was a category for special catches outside of those two species which made it fun to see what resident fish might turn up.  Along with the fishing, there were educational areas and programs offered that rewarded youths not only with knowledge – but a new fishing pole!  Bryce had already participated in an event that gave him this reward, so we would opt out to ensure that another child would get one.

CWF10102015crowdHopeful anglers line the grassy banks of the canal

The weather was perfect, hardly a trace of wind and plenty warm for an October day.  The venue itself was neat due to its history (can read here) and was quite scenic.  As with any Cleveland Metroparks event, their staff and volunteers always make it fun and enjoyable for all participants.  I’m impressed that even with hundreds of kids running around and all the chaos, there are countless examples of each kid getting personal attention and being made to feel special.

CWF10102015dadbryceIf one photo describes being a dad to me, this is it

Bryce and I set up a couple rods with jigs tipped with waxworms in the hopes of enticing a trout to bite.  I also thought this offering might have a bit of ‘universal appeal’ to other species.  Taking a newly 4 year old fishing, I mostly just hoped to keep bites happening so he didn’t grow bored and end our day prematurely.


The plan worked rather well and Bryce caught a decent catfish within minutes of our arrival.  He was thrilled to watch his fish get measured, his name written on the leaderboard, and see his fish go into an onsite aquarium for the day.  While the day would eventually see his name completely off the board, I had to laugh that he coped with this by saying he still was first because he caught the first one.  It was also funny that people who asked him how long his catch was would get, “600 hundred and 27 hundred pounds”.  Along with inheriting his dad’s love of fishing, he may have gotten my math skills.

CWF10102015bassfightThat’s a big fish bending the fly rod like that!

CWF10102015evanWay to go Evan!

The two photos above, were a story that just had to be told.  I watched a boy not far from us get instructed on fly fishing and he proceeded to cast for hours.  With that kind of persistence I was hoping he would be rewarded with a bite, and boy did it happen!  I looked over and saw a huge bend in the rod and knew it was a substantial fish.  After a spirited battle with the fish, it made it to the net.  We all were a bit shocked to see a dandy Largemouth Bass.  I venture to say there are many accomplished fly fisherman that haven’t caught a bass of that size.  Congratulations to Evan, and I think it is safe to say he is hooked on fly fishing!

CWF10102015aquariumThe aquarium that held a sampling of catches, Bryce was enthralled

While maybe nothing quite as exciting as Evan’s catch, similar joyous moments of fishing success were playing out all along the canal.  From first catches to special catches, big fish to little fish and everything in between, yes even a rock that was caught – people of all ages were having a good time.  These events are amazing in the life long memories they create and the way it instills an appreciation of nature for the kids participating.

CWF10102015mikeMike Durkalec, Cleveland Metroparks, handing out the awards

The day ended with awards being distributed to the kids that had the top catches.  Many arms and hands were holding some serious fishing swag, prompting a lot of smiling faces.  I heard a lot of fishing stories being exchanged, including a few of the ‘ones that got away’.  Even with a few lost fish it seemed everyone had some level of success.  The metroparks staff and volunteers were largely responsible for why this was the case by offering equipment for loan, some free equipment, free bait, and some expert fishing guidance.  Folks even canvassed the fishing area with long handled nets indicating to me that every detail had been well thought out.

If you missed this event, make sure you don’t miss the next.  I would like to personally extend a big thank you to the Cleveland Metroparks and the volunteers for providing such a fun day for my son and I.

Cooler weather, bass still hot

It wont be long before we are all longing for the warm weather and days with more light.  Even on the north coast of Ohio where the colder weather months reward us with Steelhead fishing and excellent ice fishing opportunities, I still find myself wanting to hold on to every day of ‘T-shirt weather’.  I’ve done an excellent job getting out fishing lately, but only one notable fish worthy of sharing.

CWF09272015lmbAfter countless Bluegill, a good Largemouth Bass

Certain water I fish has an abundance of Bluegill and Pumpkinseed, so much so that it is hard to catch anything else.  If you are persistent and patient, at times you can be rewarded with some nice fish.  This was the case recently when a solid Largemouth Bass showed the panfish who was boss, and beat everyone else to the fly.  Maybe one day I will get good enough to figure out some flies the panfish ignore and only trigger the bass, but for now I enjoy the work of catching everything and the excitement when a fish like this is landed.  My 4 year old son has been joining me and catching plenty of bass on bait, so the bass truly are still very active.  I hope it stays this way for awhile!

CWF09302015bullA surprise bullhead on an olive Woolly Bugger

Anyone who fishes regularly knows what you expect to catch and what decides to bite can be surprising.  This recently proved true for me when a bullhead decided to take my fly.  For whatever reason, even when bottom fishing with bait, I just don’t encounter bullhead often so it was cool to see something different.


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