Sunday, November 21, 2010

Connie Teaches a Lesson

Steelhead are not supposed to be easy to catch. Along with musky and Atlantic Salmon, they are often called the fish of a thousand casts. But the transplanted steelheads that return to the tributaries of the southern shore of Lake Erie can spoil the avid steelheader. While not necessarily easy to catch, they are generally at least easy to find -- particularly when the conditions are right.

Thousands of fish begin to return to the rivers in the fall and large pods of fish can be found holding in pools and runs this time of year.

But on some days, like today, even the Lake Erie steelhead can be elusive. The conditions on Conneaut (Connie to her friends) Creek this morning seemed nearly perfect. The new USGS gauge read just above 200 cfs and was dropping this morning. We arrived at dawn to a river carrying a strong flow and tanic stain from the upstream bogs. Several cars parked along the access in the town of Conneaut (a small town in Northeast Ohio that is far past its prime, but still holds some charm) indicated that several us had the same idea.

We fished about a mile upstream and back. We saw one fish hooked, and rumors of a few others, but that was it. Hiking back I tried the inside portion of a fast run where the river narrowed. On the first drift the line stopped, I set the hook and the fish screamed downstream. The hook popped out before I had a chance to try and turn the fish. After a few hours of fishing without any action, I wasn't ready and paid the price.

We headed upstream and fished a beautiful stretch full of some nice riffles and runs. The scenery was marred by the constant soundtrack of I-90 in the distance.

Several spots looked promising as we walked upstream, but no fish could be seen in the stained water. I spotted a large male at the tale of a run. He spooked, but Jon picked up three fish in the head of that run while drifting a jelly stonefly alongside a rootball. I continued to cast without results.

We hiked upstream more than a mile and only encountered two other anglers. Jon landed one more female hen in a pool. Andy and I just continued to cast. The water never rose about 41 degrees; which may have contributed to the slow fishing.

The Connie hid her fish well today, and taught us that steelhead takes patience, focus and skill. Today there were likely 1,000 casts and not a single fish to show for it. Nonetheless, I have much to be thankful for as we head into Thanksgiving week.

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