The spate steelhead streams of northeast Ohio can be pretty temperamental. Too little rain and we're faced with low and clear water conditions, too much and the streams look like your morning coffee (with an extra cream thrown in there). This spring it has been tough for mother nature to find a middle ground; in April alone we've already seen snow, high temperatures approaching the upper 80's, and a couple inches of rain. It seems like we're in the clear for a bit now, but last week with canceled trips, and a couple of real soakers I was looking for something else to do.
I'm a firm believer that no matter where you are, or what the season is, there's almost always a place for an eager fly fisherman to wet a line. Fishing versus not fishing is typically a question of willingness rather than opportunity.
I was slated to help fast Jimmi out with the Orvis Cleveland steelhead school this past weekend, so when Friday came along, despite the blown out rivers I knew I was going to end up spending the weekend at the Conneaut Creek Club. That said, I was in the mood to fish, and after getting a couple of things done in the morning I called up a guide buddy of mine, John Miller, and we decided on a plan to fish Presque Isle for pike. Even though I'd fished Presque Isle before for bass, it was the first time I'd headed out there for northerns.
Miller and I didn't exactly get an early start, and by the time we were rigged up and in the water it was already mid-afternoon. My first couple steps in to the water made me think that the little excursion was a waste of time. First step...shin deep in muck, second...knee keep, and on the third I was in up to my thigh. After a quick change of course Miller and I were able to find some solid ground and we started fishing.
I was throwing an angry shark fly. Yeah, it's exactly what it sounds like - a big, bright, flashy hunk of bucktail and synthetic flash lashed to a hook. I rigged a couple of light coneheads and plastic beads in front so it would sink a bit, but would also make a whole lot of noise with every strip. Being new to the pike game out there I wasn't really sure what to do or how to start. Nonetheless, between sheets of rain we had some pretty steady action. Long casts, covering lots of water, and a steady retrieve triggered some explosive strikes. The fights were a bit lacking, but the way the fish hit the fly more than made up for it.
Most of the fish were about the same size, but each eat was distinctive and memorable as these guys chased down and took the fly with reckless abandon.
During the course of a steelhead season there is going to be crappy weather, it just goes with the territory. Rain will come, and rivers will blow out. It always feels good to salvage a day that could have been lost. At the end of the day it seems like you actually cheated mother nature, and somehow made out like a bandit. That's a good feeling for a angler in northeast Ohio...too bad it doesn't happen very often.