Late season Steelhead

A good sized fish landed before it’s return to the lake

CLEVELAND EAST SIDE, OH – I rarely chase steel when they have moved upstream to spawn.  Not because of the whole argument over the ethics of fishing for them (and the fish around them at spawn), but rather I just have moved on to other species.  This year, after a friend had an epic outing, I was convinced I needed to spend one more day chasing them.  I ended up choosing a weekday that was as beautiful of a day as we had seen in 2019.  The bad part about that was a resurgence of anglers to compete with for space and fish that could see you just as much as you could see them.  Unless you are talking about park fish that are used to being fed by people, fish that can see you are always weary of feeding.  Adding to all of these things working against me was the fact that I was fly fishing.  Simply put – I am average at best with the fly rod.

What I lack in skill, I make up for with persistence.  When other anglers move on to other pools or different locations, I just keep fishing.  I’m not even sure if this is a good or bad trait, but it does pay off with a fish now and then.  After hours of fishing with only 3 hookups, I finally managed a take that held firm all the way through landing.  The strong fish combined with rather shallow water made for a very chaotic memorable fight.  I’ll consider it a fun day, despite only one catch!

Casting for shoreline Steelhead

Lake Erie Shoreline, OH – 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 single bite and some ‘go to’ hardware

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 and head to the water.

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 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!  I know it is cliché, but clearly, “Don’t ever give up!”.

Small stream chromer and some Brook Trout

finalsteel2013Ohio finally had a week of solid below freezing temperature. Seeing all the great ice fishing reports on all the forums/blogs I visit, I have been itching to do some fishing on the hard water. I’m not one for taking any chances though, and thought I’d give it another week before I try. So today found me back fishing the small spring fed creeks. These creeks usually are fished heavily on a Saturday, but I found myself with only a few people around and at several points I was by myself.

CWF2013JAN26brookiesArriving at the water, I offered my typical 1/64 oz. hair jig tipped with two wax worms. Barely a minute into fishing, a nice strike and a Brook Trout came to the net. About a minute after that, another (yes there was a wardrobe change if you notice the different color sleeves). I was beginning to think today was going to be a record setting day as far as trout numbers. Strangely, after releasing those back to back fish, it went deathly quiet.

Seeing how the area had went from fast action on arrival to absolutely nothing in over an hour, I decided to move to a new stretch. I settled in on an area that was a bit deeper and slower current. I also decided to change the offering to a small white lead head jig with a Berkley Gulp! Minnow. About 10 minutes in and my bobber shot under, and this time I had a much better fish. There is always the hope of a nice Lake Erie Steelhead mixed in with the small trout, and I was sure I had one. The fish put up an incredible fight considering its humble size, and also proved difficult to net. I had been catching so many of the small trout over the last month and a half I decided to bring a smaller landing net. This nearly cost me the fish as I missed it on multiple attempts before successfully getting it landed. The size and freshness of the fish, made it a somewhat easy decision to keep it. I haven’t had smoked Steelhead yet this winter, so it came home with me.

Big Vermilion River Steelhead ends the year

CWF2012DEC16steelheadWith so few fishing trips in 2012, just getting out was a reward in itself. Add the fact that it was 60 degrees on December 16th, and I was having a great day before I even casted.

The water of choice today was the Vermilion River near Mill Hollow-Bacon Woods Park. For it being such a nice weekend day, I was surprised that only a moderate number of anglers were out. Overall, the fishing was slow, but I always say it only takes one bite to change everything. After quite a few hours of fishing, my one bite was the pictured Steelhead that hit on a fresh spawn sac drifted under a bobber. I owe some gratitude to the stranger last week who game me the eggs. A very nice gentleman that said he wasn’t going to be able to use them before they went bad. I guess I had good timing as I wasn’t even fishing that day, just had pulled up to chit chat with other anglers. Anyways, I was happy to put his kind gesture to good use!