A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of working in Fast Jimmi's second Orvis Cleveland steelhead school. The event was held again at the Conneaut Creek Club, which with its streamside location, trout pond, and rustic cabin, has quickly become a student and instructor favorite. This spring's school was very similar the one held in the fall - lots of great students, lots of opinions (hopefully correct ones) on steelhead shared, some firsts on the river, and a couple midnight trout pond missions.
Since I'm not going to divulge midnight, budweiser-inspired trout pond tactics for Kamloops, we'll move to the next best thing, and that's the time that I was able to spend on the water with the students.
Jimmy had been telling me for months how excited he was for this spring's school. He had a couple students attending that took part in one of his fly tying classes over the winter, two of whom were a local father-son duo that were brand new to steelheading, and pretty new to fly fishing as well.
I remember my first steelhead like it was yesterday. I was ten, fishing with a spinning rod off the concrete embankment alongside the Gates Mills dam on the Chagrin, on Halloween (pre trick-or-treating of course), and the fish ate a pink tube jig. I insisted to my parents that we keep the fish, and they had it mounted and presented it to me on my birthday a few months later. That fish still sits above my bed at my parents house, and each time I'm home it serves as a reminder for how I became hooked on these fish and this fishery.
When William and his father Martin saddled up in my car on Saturday afternoon after a morning of classroom instruction I think I was nearly as excited as they were. It's not often that a guide gets the opportunity to instruct in this type of setting. Usually a guide trip involves fishing, and any guide would be lying if they told you that until the first first found the bottom of the net they were feeling the pressure - it's easier to catch a fish than to pull off the master dog-and-pony show. Regardless, in this setting the goal was learning, and learning only. Neither William or his Dad thought they were going to catch anything all weekend, although each of them had their hopes and they took that hope with them to the river.
After a short walk upstream, we started to fish. I had each of them pick out a spot they though might have fish in it, explain to me why they thought it might be good, and then they got to it. It wasn't long until Will's bobber went down, and he set up on his first...
Sucker! His first fish ever on a fly rod.
For the next fifteen minutes every time Will's indy went under his face lit up with a huge smile. They were all snags until he tied in to this biggun.
After we released the fish Will looked at me and asked politely if we could try to catch another one, and that if we were lucky enough to catch a second, could we take it home and mount it. At that point his Dad told me how they had a carp sitting in their freezer at home that Will had brought home to mount the previous summer. Now that Will was away from home for a weekend, Martin suspected that the woman of the house was going to dispose of Will's frozen bounty and wouldn't approve of a replacement, even if it was a steelhead.
Afternoon turned into evening, and Will and his Dad had some more luck before it was time to head back to the cabin for dinner.
I could feel the excitement from both of these guys the whole way home. They were jazzed up and exhausted at the same time after their first day of steelheading. I was pretty excited for the next day. The water had been up a bit, and we had gotten our behinds handed to us by a few fish. It seemed like there were some hot chromers around, and tomorrow we were going to get another shot at them.
We started day two a little bit earlier, and it was a warm, sunny day. The creek had dropped quite a bit, but was still holding great color. The whole group started out in the same area, and then William, Martin, and I headed off on a long hike upstream. The plan was to hotspot a bit, and see if we could find those chromers that we'd had a taste of the day before.
After a half-dozen suckers in a row out of this hole, Will got one of the fish we'd come back for.
When I first tailed the fish in the net, it's first kick almost dislocated my shoulder. This fish was as fresh as I've ever seen them come in during the spring. Dime bright, dark back, and doodaddies like all steelhead fisherman dream of.
We moved upstream and both Will and his Dad got in to a handful more fish, and eventually got back to the spot where Will had caught his first fish the day before - the sucker hole. This time it was Dad's turn to get "the fish" he'd been after all weekend. It wasn't the longest steelhead Martin had caught this weekend, but it was by far the heaviest.
And, of course, Will wanted to hold it for a few pictures...
As I mentioned above, it isn't often that a guide gets an opportunity to take two first-timers fishing, and when it does happen the trip takes on a whole different character. Will was as eager a fisherman as I can remember, and he's lucky to have parents who are so supportive of him pursuing something that he's passionate about. Being able to play a small part so many firsts for him and his Dad on the river was really rewarding. It isn't often where the guide gets more out of the trip than the fishermen - but on those couple days I think I could make a strong argument that I did.
Finally got a chance to go through some pictures from our Orvis Cleveland Spring Steelhead School. Didn't go as crazy with the camera this time around but still captured some great memories. I really enjoy doing these schools and the pictures below should tell you why!
Everybody involved had a great time, and I owe a special thanks to John Miller, Greg Senyo and Brett for helping make the school a success. Looking forward to the next one guys!
Our buddy Joe Doug recently told The Man to go pound salt and decided he was going back to grad school. Naturally, the only fitting way to celebrate was to pack up and go fishing. His first stop was going to be C-Town for a brief stay at Case De Fast Jimi and a date with some spring chromers. The forecast was ominous but it'd been a while since we'd caught up and besides, we figured between the two of us we could easily tote around enough Budweiser to make a couple rainy days on the river fun nonetheless.
We gave it our best effort Tuesday and managed to squeeze in a pretty damn good day of fishing in the rain before high water chased us back to the car.
And no, we did not take turns posing with the same fish. In fact each of us got to tango with a couple of toads before executing textbook long-line releases. True to my trademark though, only the micro-steel were brought to hand.
Currently Joey is off the grid chasing stream trout over in PA. Expect a guest report from him when his Grand Tour finally comes to an end.
Here's what RA had to say about the piece: "Simms Fishing Products hosted the 1st Annual Ice Out Shoot Out video competition, where 4 groups of shooters were invited to Bozeman MT and given two and a half days to shoot, edit and deliver short film (6 min max). The rules - you could not leave MT, everything had to be shot within the two and a half day window, and it had to include the special prop... a shot glass with the classic Simms logo. We had a fun packed few days - and were able to produce this little piece with the help of the talented Charlie Conn."
Check out more of RA's work at www.beattieoutdoorproductions.com
The piece also features my boss, and my boss' dog. How neat. Come fishing with us this summer and we'll show you all the tricks that Hopper, the black lab in the piece, can do.
By now, unless you've been living in a barn, the threat of Asian Carp invasion into the Great Lakes is not news. But as we examine the threat more and more closely we're finding it's a multi-headed snake capable of striking from more than one direction. Who would have thought that Akron, OH could be the channel through which these monsters could reach Lake Erie? Sounds like, if nothing else, it's a real possibility and one that we need to keep our eyes on...
Back from a busy week in Vermont (pictures to come) and had a bonus Saturday off to "decompress." Was able to spend some quality time on the river with the Old Man and my pup this morning, albeit in the pouring rain. We covered a few different sections of river and on the whole I was pretty disappointed with the fishing, but we did manage to beat the skunk with a spunky drop-back hen.
I've got a bunch of pictures from last weekend's steelhead school plus some shots from VT to post, but it's going to be a few days before I'll be able to get to them. Stay tuned for those...
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.
Been using up every ounce of spare time to ply local steelhead waters this week and have been dragging the V man along for the ride, lest another person should tell me he looks "chunky" (seriously though, the next person that calls my dog fat is getting a size 12 boot laced with tungsten carbide studs to the face. Just sayin'.) Overall results have varied, however on this day we struck gold. Victor likes skippers almost as much as I do and he was really fired up about this one... In all seriousness, it's 65 degrees out right now and it's been raining cats and dogs all day. When the rivers recede I fully expect to see the best fishing of the year to date around here next week. And considering the fact that I'm going to be in Vermont during that time, it's more or less a sure thing.