My trip to the Alley was a great start to the 2015 Fall Steelhead Run. I arrived on the Alley Wednesday with little more than an hour before darkness ended any further fishing opportunities. Building up to this moment there was a lot of advice toward delaying the trip due to the forecasted weather. There is usually opportunity; one just has to find it.
Fortunately, I was able to maximize the time I had Wednesday, and managed two fish on a Gregg Senyo AI streamer. After complete darkness, I found myself standing in the river listening to dozens of fish making their way upstream to find their spawning grounds. I threw a few casts out there, but came to the conclusion feeding time had been replaced by moving day. I was totally content with just standing in the darkness and listening as the fish pushed past my feet, seemingly without caution. I knew I would be returning to this spot early in the morning to find many of these fish in their temporary shelters, dragging them kicking and screaming to my net.
So I thought, upon my return to the river, it had risen two plus feet and the flow went from mellow and clear to extremely fast, turbulent, and on the muddy side. There would be no fishing on this river. With this sinking in, I decided to head towards Pennsylvania, only stopping briefly at Conneaut Creek to find her on the rise, as now every Ohio stream was out of play…Pennsylvania bound.
I went as far as Walnut Creek, and the sadness overtook me when the realization of Western PA not fishing on this day set in. It was time for research and exploration.
I have no idea how many miles I put on the road and feet Thursday, but it was a lot. In the end, I finished the day with numerous access points entered into the Outdoor Adventure Vehicles’ GPS and back at Conneaut, which was now blown and still on the rise, and then back on another Ohio stream, which was showing promise, having dropped about twelve inches, and now with about the same in visibility.
It was time to eat and get some rest. Friday was to have an early start and a long day with plans to meet up with Scott Smallwood and Jordan Rambo, fish all day, then make the five hour trip home.
I woke up on my Birthday to learn Scott was not able to make it due to reasons out of his control, and Rambo had to work. More rain had hit overnight so I decided to place my odds back in PA, planning to arrive at Walnut Creek just after first light.
Upon my arrival at Walnut, I found a full parking lot and shoulder-to-shoulder combat fishing as far as the eye could see. This was disappointing, and I set coordinates to a spot on Elk Creek, finding dozens of cars in one lot, and seven in another. Knowing this meant overcrowding, I decided to try my luck at yet another location on the Elk.
Here I found promise, five cars in total and about a half-mile walk to the river. I decided to give it a shot and geared up trekking my way toward the water. To my dismay, I found the same combat fishing situation I had spent much of the morning running from. Since I was where I was, I decided to follow, I mean slide down the goat trail to the river.
As I walked and greeted the folks along the way, I kept hearing the same story…”that guy three down had one on, nothing else going on around here”…this was truly going to be a pure research trip. I walked, and I walked, and I walked some more; every time I thought I was at the end of the line, I was proven wrong.
It finally happened, I found the last person well over a mile down the river, and five hundred yards downstream from him was a straight span of water without a sole on it. The area was flat with no cover to speak of until about two hundred yards down stream. It was here, a cut behind a root-ball had formed a nice long run with slack-water behind it.
I figured there had to be fish in this run and a few casts of my streamer verified there were. The take was hard and lightening fast….game on…so I thought. Another hour or so proved fruitless. Streamers and tactics were changed many times over and nothing. It was time to set up a Czech rig and see what else might be available in this run.
A few casts of the Czech rig attested there were still fish before me. After every few casts, fish were getting off, breaking off, or, finding my net. Oh, and other characters were moving in!
Fortunately, they did not pressure me too much and only stayed half the time I was there. In total, I managed twelve hookups at this location, netting five fish, and breaking off four. Two of the four that broke off were huge. One gave the ultimate aerial display, leaping several feet into the air and crashing into the wall of the stream, landing behind a log where I figured I had certainly lost it. The fish then sprang several more feet and over the log to continue impressing the small crowd, until finally running downstream, rolling in the line and breaking off the strongest connection in the rig. I would have loved a picture, but this Steelie was having none of it. I think it is time for a GoPro!
In the end there are a few lessons here. First, have fun and practice so when your best opportunities present themselves, you are in a position to best take advantage of them. Next, if you are fishing locations you know contain fish, but are not catching any, change up your flies and techniques until you do find a technique or fly that works. No one style or fly works all the time. I believe my success on this trip was generally due to my use of the Czech rig. Hooking up with twelve fish in four hours, without any other person doing so in the same run, tells me my style was getting the job done.
Finally, this trip was classic Steelhead fishing. What this means is, you as the angler are given numerous variables such as weather, flow rates, and temperatures. You have to weigh this information, project the outcomes, and then determine where your best odds of catching fish remain.
I am always asked where I am going to fish when planning a trip and the answer is always the same. One cannot determine where they are fishing until all the variables are weighed, and a particular stream or area presents as the best opportunity to catch fish. You may have the time available, love fishing the Chagrin, but the only fishable river could be in Pennsylvania. Not knowing the Pennsylvania streams at this moment has likely just killed your only hard earned opportunity to fish Steelhead Alley for the year.
My hope is for you all to get out there and perhaps I will see you on the water as I too enjoy our resources.
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