Sunday, October 18, 2009
Hidden Fish and Pocket Water
Avid Lake Erie steelheaders encounter three kinds of fishing situations. First, one often has the chance to site fish to pods of steelhead in murky to clear water. Second, is blind fishing in a spot where fish have been caught before. You may not see the fish, but experience guides both your expectations and your drift. Finally, and most challenging, is fishing a new stretch of river where one has to think and study the water to find fish.
On Saturday, after hooking a few fish on a familiar stretch of Elk Creek, we went for long hike to fish a stretch that I had never tried before. The water was a little murky, particularly in the faster runs. And the fish seemed to be avoiding the slower pools. The strategy was simple. Find fast, deep water and probe the depths for steelhead. There are very few spots on Elk Creek with good pocket water, so there was a lot of hiking and occasional fishing. The key was finding spots where busted shale and rare boulders conspired to channel the current through narrow chutes. Whitewater would bubble up as the water crashed into the rocks, or tumbled over shale shelfs. The whitewater provided additional cover to the steelhead. The water rushes through the chutes so fast that it can pick up and carry even weighted flies past the fish so fast that the fish don't even notice. The conflicting currents can create small areas of slack water; that is why it's know as pocket water. A well placed cast, followed by a few strategic mends can slow the drift and get your fly down deep in the pocket, and out will pop a silver-as-a-dime steelie. At least that's the theory.
The above female proved out the theory on Saturday. After inhaling the pink and red egg, she took off screaming downstream. The reel spun and I chased. At one point, she charged back at me and I quickly picked up as much slack as I could. After a few minutes, I was able to bring her to the bank and snap this picture before returning her to the stream.
I learned a few more spots that hold fish on Saturday, and look forward to the next chance to pick some steelies out of the pockets along Steelhead Alley.