Monday, October 18, 2010

First Fall Silver and Synthetic Fish

From Oct steelhead 2010
October brought the best kind of weather -- cool nights and steady rains -- but I've been traveling a lot and working more, so I haven't had much chance to check out the early runs of the Fall 2010 season. But on Sunday, Anne (armed with camera) and I (armed with Scott 7-weight) decided to head east and explore. We started on the Conneaut River, which I vow to fish more every season. It's been years since I've caught the Conneaut when the flow/timing was right and Sunday was more of the same. The water was low and the flow slight. Only a handful of spots in the two miles of river that I hiked had deep enough runs to hold fish. The Conneaut carries a tanic color in the fall that helps shield the fish from view, and can tend to discourage the angler on an early season scouting trip.

Because Pennsylvania stocks the Conneaut, it is the Ohio river that gets the earliest run of fall fish. Undoubtedly there are steelies in Conneaut already, but I only saw one skipper caught in the morning and all I managed was a single sucker.

The morning started overcast, and it looked like it might rain so I decided to make the drive along Highway 5 and check out the lower Elk in Pennsylvania. As we pulled into the jammed public access lot it became clear that not enough Browns-Steelers fans had decided to tailgate in advance of the game. As I walked down river the fishermen were stacked up, filling every likely spot. Thankfully two anglers exited as I was considering my options and I moved into a deep run that still held a few fish despite the heavy pressure.

On my first cast I hooked a shiny female on a bead-headed brassy and slowly brought her to hand. Oh, if steelheading were always that easy. Anne got some nice pictures of the second fish of the day (by then the sun had come out and the clouds had vaporized). The bright sun made the fish even more skittish and we decided to end the day early.

After lunch at the Avonia Tavern, we checked out the steelhead at Trout Run. It's always a little sad to see hundreds of steelhead stacked up in the small creek trying in vain to find a way upstream to spawn. Trout Run is where the eggs for future stockings are harvested, so for those of us who love the Pennsylvania steelhead run it's a necessary evil.

From Oct steelhead 2010
While it can be fun to watch the fish try to jump the falls, it is also a reminder that there's nothing truly natural about these rainbow trout. As Anders Halverson points out, these truly are a synthetic fish.

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