The initial run of steelhead into the Pennsylvania tribs to Lake Erie attracts large crowds of fishermen. Anglers line the pools forming a gauntlet for the migratory trout. The crowds attract more crowds. The thinking goes something like this: "Man there must be a lot of fish there, let's squeeze in and get a few." And soon the pools are as crowded as the Livonia Tavern for a Steelers game.
A lot of late arriving anglers get frustrated by these crowded conditions; others of us don't like pools at all instead head for the chutes. Chutes are narrow, short stretches of water that have enough depth to hold a fish or two. Most anglers headed for the pools don't even give the chutes a second look. Even in clear conditions, chutes can offer great camouflage to the steelhead. The seasoned angler senses their presence rather than sees them. During the peak of the run on Elk Creek nearly every chute will hold at least one fish. There can be long walks between chutes on the Elk, but it beats standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a chain smoker.
Fishing chutes requires a little extra weight to get the fly down and short drifts, but it can be highly effective and rewarding. It's not uncommon to pick up a fish on the first drift through a chute, so be ready to set the hook right away. Also, get ready to get some nasty looks from the anglers crowded around the pools as they watch you fight fish in the fast water. And if those anglers start heading your way, it's time to go looking for the next chute.