Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Fly Fishing Ohio's Steelhead Alley Christmas 2013

It was that time of year again, the annual drive to Ohio for the holidays. You can hear all about the trip when the podcast is available for streaming here: Stream Podcast

Here are the visual aids. They were not uploaded in order and I'm a bit tired from the drive home to fix them.


One of the parking lots for Cleveland Metro Parks. You never know if the cars in the lot are anglers (you can usually tell by stickers), dog walkers, or runners.

 My rig for this trip. Orvis Helios 11' 8wt switch with Loop reel, Rio outbound short 425 grain, hand built leader.
 Jim Lampros swinging on the Chagrin. Read his VERY helpful steelhead list here:
 This is a nice buck I flushed along the Chagrin.
 Some tall grasses. I saw a log of these along the road later the next day as I drove west of town.
 My leader rig setup.
 The bluffs along the Chagrin.
 Pipe somehow sticking out of the cliff. Not sure how that was drilled in.
 One of the long runs below the cliffs.
 The next morning. This is somewhere around 0800 and the sun was just breaching the horizon. This is another section where Matt and I fished last year.

 This stretch was completely different than last year. For starters the brush on the other side was washed out so I was able to walk along without bushwacking. Spots that were waist deep last year were ankle deep this year. New runs, riffles, and seams had formed. This all was classic fish holding water but I was unable to locate a fish.
 You can see the riffles and pockets here. No fish for me. I watched as two brothers came in after me and they didn't hook into anything. I made the executive decision to move to the spot from the morning before.
 One of the beautiful houses decorated for the holidays. The Chagrin River Valley is one of the more scenic spots to drive and I don't mind getting a little lost or having to backtrack here.


 I didn't get anything at the previous two spots so I headed out to get a burrito and to the Rocky River. I had the maps printed from the internet and an address from Matt. It took maybe half an hour.
 The Rocky from the small stretch I saw was beautiful and rocky. I found this spot via Matt's map. I was the only angler. The spots did not look like classic holding water- the substrate was too smooth. No gravel, no sand. Just fast water.
 I fished the holes below the falls and above and was packing it in to find another spot when two dads and their kids showed up. They said to stay. That the hole I was next to probably had more than a dozen fish in it.

One dad put on a beetle grub on a jig and dropped it in. He landed a small steelhead on his second cast!
 This spot was super busy as lots of families came through while we were fishing. It looked like a man-made water park but it was all natural.
 Ok back to Xmas Eve. I stopped off at some stores. This is the potential fly tying materials I found at Hobby Lobby

Ostrich plumes
 Tubing for baitfish patterns
 Guinnea fowl for salmon and steelhead flies
 Pom poms for eggs
 Just tie this to a hook. All the work has been done for you
 Goos biots for stonefly tails
 Plenty of shiny eyelash yarn
 More ostrich plumes
 Loads of lady amherst tails, ostrich eyes, and pheasant tails half off
 I then headed to Cabelas which was kind of a bust. Not a whole lot there. It was a small store. From there I headed to Mad River Outfitters for some down low on local muskie or musky and some tying materials.
 With the great info from Lou at the shop (turns out he's friends with a guy who's marrying into the family) I headed to Alum Creek Lake to the tailwater spillway. We learned from Mike Schmidt at the Somerset show last year that there are muskie in the spillway.


 The week before there was a 3" rainfall which melted all the local snow. This turned into runoff and everything was blown out. The creeks driving in were washed out and there was a grotesque amount of water moving through the spillway.
 The bank was a 45 degree angle of ice and snow covered riprapp with what appeared to be a cement wall for walking and fishing along that was under water. The dam was huge and it was very windy.
 Submerged stairs and the walkway.
 Trashcans under water
 This was the most amazing thing. Homes from $350k ??????!!!!???? You can't buy a one bedroom apartment for that around here.
 And this was the house. About a mile from the spillway, on a lake. It barely fit in the Iphone camera view. It is bigger than my condo building. WTF.
 So now I'm back at the inlaws and tying flies for my steelhead box. This is my flash back, soft hackle pheasant tail. I will be tying these up at the Fly Fishing Show in Lancaster and Winston/Salem.
 The pixie wanted to tie too. I had on the Itinerant Angler podcast and tied next to the window for good light. Snow flurries made it better.
 My plan was for blue and purple intruders. Here are the materials I chose:
 And the result. I hate loosing these as they are quite time consuming.
 This is the leader material Lou picked out for me. 80 pounds.
 This is the stream gauge for the spillway for muskie. It needed to go down which it did, then it went back up to unfishable.
 Pink intruders next
 3 intruders took me one podcast to listen to

 The full and organized fly box. My New York patterns don't seem to work on the Ohio tribs
 I dug my phone's macro lens out for some pics

 Super macro San Juan worm



 The next day (Bank Day) I drove over to the spillway again. I had to get out and fish. Just to at least say I tried for the big, toothy fish. I had a 3 day license and two of them would be on the tribs for chrome so I used the first day for muskie.
Lots of ice. I had to put on my very big down jacket for this.
 My rig was an Orvis TLS 10wt with custom top grip, Orvis silver label 10wt sink tip, Loop reel, and some kind of jury rigged leader. My fly was a bunker pattern Orvis sold about 12 years ago.
 The stick for measuring water was quite under water
 I worked my way from the spillway down about 100 yards to the bride with no luck. I crossed the bridge and went up.
 I found what was either a dead walleye or saugeye (sauger x walleye) so I know something lives there. Most of my back casts got caught in the grass at the top of the hill behind me. I packed it in after an hour or so. Throwing this rig was not fun or easy and my hand hurt. I was eager to get back in the car and out of the wind

 This is the morning I drove in the dark to the Chagrin River to meet up with Jim. Sunrise here is about 745. I missed most of the scenery as it was dark 3/4 of the ride. No traffic as always around here. The worst traffic I've encountered in Ohio (sans blizzard) is like the Beltway here on a Sunday morning. It really takes 17 minutes to get to Cabelas about 19 miles away.
 The gazebo was my visual aid from Jim
 I have no idea how there is snow flakes in this picture. Yes it was snowing but how it got animated is beyond my comprehension.
 Jim throwing a Helios with T9 tip and a Nautilus reel


 Jim packed it in at 11 and I stayed a bit later. I changed out of my waders and headed to Chagrin River Outfitters for tying materials.

 Lots of great tying material for a small shop.
 I finally found the Krystal flash I've been looking for (not the saltwater kind, that stuff is nearly impossible to find). What I thought was rainbow color was mixed. I use this in my quick-tie damsel pattern. I will be teaching this fly at the Lancaster show for the first time ever.
 Look at that color selection for steelie patterns. I picked up some purple dub, yellow marabou on sale, and a full skin of black zonker.
 And more
 Shop tying station
 Then off to What About Bob's for an ultimate sandwich. I had been looking forward to a sandwich here for the past year. 

 I get there and the place is empty. One couple ordering and one sitting and talking. There were 2 employees behind the counter. Last year the place had a line out the door, all seats filled, and about a dozen employees.
 I was then informed that the place had new ownership and the menu had changes. I was very concerned.
 
At least they had a parking spot designated for me


I ordered a steak and cheese and tater tots. I had cold PBR in the car to wash it down when I got to the fishing parking spot next door. I got my chow and drove off.

Ok, I'm fine with getting skunked. Especially when it comes to fishing for steelhead, that is to be expected. What I'm not ok with is a mediocre sandwich. This was the biggest disappointment of the entire trip.  The sandwich had no 'wow' factor to it. Sure it was warm and filled me up but it was just fuel.
 The tots were great. How can you screw up deep frying something (well that has happened in the past to me but this place at least got that right)
 I worked my way upriver. This lower stretch was more stained than where I fished with Jim. It was now warm. I was taking off layers.

 This is when I almost lost an eye. I was standing on the elevated bank when it gave out and I slid down the side. A stick went right between my Costas and my face. It scraped my left eyelid. Very close call.
 I got to the top of the section where the flaming pip resides. A nice spot. However if I hooked a fish and had to cross this pipe my line would melt. The other plausible spots down stream were taken. I fished this a bit and decided to hike back down to Todd Field.
 I fished Todd Field for an other hour or so with no luck. Lost an intruder. Then got a text that my crash pad was closed as everyone had the stomach flu. I packed it in and drove over to Chez Sam Walton for the night. I made my bed in the back of the car. This is my wife's car. Much more room than mine. I recorded the day's events in the podcast and went to bed. I got a solid 10 hours.
 These are the next morning pictures from the Iphone. The top pics were from my Nikon.

So I get up at 0730 and head off in the low light to the river. Lot is full. I get to the spot where I landed a hen steelhead three years ago. There are 3 people in the spot. I fish the riffle above with no luck.


 Classic holding water. You have seams where the fish can sit and rest before moving up.
 Oxygenated water moving in. Yet I couldn't find a fish.
 Note how the left side is dry. Where I was standing was waist deep last year.
 The lot on the way out. More anglers had arrived

 I fished this deep run under a bridge. It should have held fish. I got nothing.

 The intruder in the water.
 This is a video of the hydrolic behind a rock in this spot:

I headed to Chipotle for a gut bomb burrito before driving to the Rocky
 View downstream from the bridge.
 View from the bridge looking up at where I fished.
 This was the only time I dipped into the mothership of flies. I tried just about everything.
I watched one steelie try to jump these falls. It made it half way up and went through the falling water. It was kinda funny.
 At that point I drove home. I have always wanted to stop at this sketchy looking bar.

Back at the inlaws I ordered a new sling pack. I went with the Patagonia. I also picked up some new silk weight pants. 
 We stopped at the Japanese market. I punished half of these avocado rolls

And some teriyaki chicken
 With a big bowl of noodles
 Then Scotty and I went to a Blue Jackets game. I ate the 2nd half of sushi during period break. This game was fun except the Penguins fans outnumbered the home crowd and this cannon scared the crap out of me. Standing room tix were $35 and we could see everything.
 A shirtless guy up against the glass
 Fat guy with no shirt is classic
 I liked the ladies who cleaned up the ice during commercial breaks

 The next day I ordered a few hundred rooster tails for my bacon fly for the upcoming shows
 And on the way home I ate a pepparoni roll at a gas station.
 And got home to a new pair of Korkers boots
 And a shirt/hat from Stealthcraft Boats
 1400 miles round trip

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