The Alley 12/01/18

3 12 2018

Earlier this year I told myself that I was going to put more effort into Steelhead fishing.  Ever since my last successful Huron trip (1/2/2016) I have been half-assing it and not really trying.  I was putting more emphasis on what fly I was using instead of working on my mechanics or presentation.  With that in mind, I made the effort to get my Switch rod and line combos tuned in and practiced whenever I could.  The week in Alaska helped a lot but I should have devoted more time to using my two hand rods.  I’m to the point now where I just need some fine tuning on my casting and presentation.  As with walleye fishing, it doesn’t matter what fly I’m using if I’m not putting it in the strike zone.  Now that walleye fishing is pretty much over for me it’s time to concentrate on Steel.

A few weeks back I contacted Patrick Robinson of Steelhead Alley Outfitters (SAO) to set me up for a full day guided trip.  Pat put my trip together for Alaska and I have already fished with the owner, Greg Senyo, and one of their guides.  I thought about getting a trip booked with my previous guide, Nate Miller, but I wanted to learn more and I figure time spent with other guides would be beneficial.  So I just let Pat decide and he signed me up for a day with Josh Trammell for Saturday, 12/1/18.

Josh kept tabs on the flow rates throughout the week and told me the day before we would be fishing Elk Creek in the morning.  SAO fishes the Erie tributaries from The Vermillion in Ohio to Elk Creek in Pennsylvania.  Flow rates determine which rivers are fishable so the guides pay attention to them daily.  I was doing the same thing and I figured we would be fishing the creeks in the NE corner of Ohio.  Josh told me where to meet him Saturday morning at 6:45 am and from there we headed towards Elk Creek.  SAO has access to some private land on the creek which is nice.  This river can get very crowded but with it being deer season more people were hunting instead of fishing.  Once we got my 7 wt Chromer rigged up Josh pointed out where to start fishing and I did just that.  The first run didn’t produce anything so we moved down to the next run.  At the end of the drift on my 5th or 6th cast I started to go through the motion of giving the fly a couple of “pulses” to try and entice a follower.  I do this by just pulsing the rod back and forth while the fly is straight downstream from me just dangling in the current.  As I was about to strip line in I had a hit.   It caught me completely off guard and instead of keeping my rod parallel to the river with my hook set I did the Orvis straight up and out of his mouth hook set.  Just that quick the fish was gone.  I regrouped and about 5 minutes later I had another hit.  This time I did everything right and I drove that hook home.  A few minutes later my first fish of the day was in the net.

After a few pics and a successful release I made my back up to the start of the run and started over.  On my next cast I had another hit as I was mending my line.  Needless to say I didn’t get a good hook set with the slack line and my rod being pointed upstream.  I fished the rest of the run anyways with no further luck.  While all this was going on Josh was on the phone with another SAO guide who was out with a Father and his 9 year old son.  They weren’t getting into any fish and he was checking to see how we were doing.  Josh asked me if I wanted to fish another river and I agreed.  Josh told them they could have the hole and we moved. on.  I found out later that the boy (Augie) ended up catching his first steelhead from that hole.

While we fished the next run Josh asked me if it was okay for him to point out a few things on my cast.  I said “please do” and he told me to slow down some and quit forcing the cast.  Let the rod do the work and keep that line at a 45 degree angle to the river.  He went on to tell me that when I cast straight across I get a big bow in  my line and the current will point the fly head on to the fish instead of to the side.  A side view of the fly will produce more strikes then a head on shot.  This is what I wanted, to “tweak” my presentation.  That run didn’t produce anything so we decided to try Conneaut Creek next.  That was fine with me since it was west and closer to home.  We stopped along the way and picked up my car before we drove to our next stop.  There were more fishermen here than at Elk so we headed upstream and away form the crowds.  The first two stops didn’t produce any fish and we were running out of time.  We tried one more hole and I started casting.  I was about 20 minutes in when Josh told me that after a few more casts we would be BAM. AIRBORNE, FISH ON!


Talk about a last second fish.  After a couple of pics we sent her on her way and headed in before the rain really started to fall.  After getting rained on all last weekend I wasn’t looking forward to it happening again.  I went 2/4 today, all on the swing so I wasn’t going to complain.  After today’s lessons (leaders, line management, presentation, reading water) I feel confident that I can be a little more consistent with my success.  Of course a lot of that will depend on the fish.  Steelhead are nothing like walleye.

Time to get the boat ready.

9 04 2018

Not that it really needs a lot of attention already but since I just booked my airfare to Alaska I figured it was time.  Fortunately for me I keep my boat in the garage so it doesn’t suffer the winter abuse like other boats in storage.  Never ceases to amaze me how many people forget things or wait until the night before the first trip.  So without further adieu….

  • New Registration stickers
  • Charge Battery
  • Fresh Rec Gas (Ethanol free)
  • Start Engine
  • Check Trailer Lights
  • Boat Plug in
  • Put all the lures I bought over the winter, that I didn’t really need, away
  • New Leaders
  • New Shanks
  • Put new Snaps & Swivels away
  • Check Tire pressures
  • Grease Hubs

In total this should take me about a whole whopping 60 minutes to do.  I’ll probably complete all of it one night this week or Saturday afternoon after I’m done collecting bugs for The Friends of the Rouge Saturday afternoon.  Weather permitting I might go out for my trial walleye run Saturday evening.   Providing the weather cooperates and we actually get the warmer weather they are forecasting.  The never ending winter has to end sometime.  The fish are in, lot’s of eaters right now but they have been finicky because of the ever changing weather patterns.

It’s time.


Night Time Tarpon

4 05 2015


I knew that someday the Weather Gods would smile down on me and take pity.  Late Wednesday, April 29th, was that time.  It had rained all day long and the wind was in the 20mph range again.  The weather forecasts for the evening weren’t looking any better.  There was a 70% chance of thunderstorms before midnight and the winds weren’t showing any signs of diminishing.  I kept waiting for Gabe to call and say the trip was cancelled but it never came.  The last of the storms blew through around 5:00 pm and the winds died down.  I got a text shortly after from Gabe saying we were still on and to meet him at the marina around 9:45 pm.


We weren’t launching from the same place we started Tuesday.  Gabe pulled up and told me to follow him about 4 or 5 miles north on US 1 to a different launch area.  By 10:00 pm we were in the water and heading to his “Secret Spot”……another bridge.  He gave me a quick run down of the situation and then handed me a 10 wt. rod for which I was to use to do battle with my quarry.  Gabe told me that with the all day rain he was hoping that the shrimp would get flushed out of the mangroves and that the Tarpon would be feeding on them.  Prime time would be in that first hour of high tide and we were in position to take advantage of it.  He told me to cast in between the arches of the bridge and listen for the sounds of a bowling ball hitting the water.  As if on cue, when he said that we heard the tell tale splash of a tarpon feeding.  I was making short 30 foot casts under the bridge arches.  I let the line glide between the handle and my right trigger finger as I made slow short strips with my left hand.  When a fish hit I was supposed to give a hard pull on the line with my left hand to set the hook.  Once that happens I was supposed to let go of the line with my left hand and let it slide between my right trigger finger and the handle until all the slack was taken up and I was tight with the reel.  Only then could I pull back on the rod and let it bend.

Easier said than done.

After hooking and landing thousands of fish handlining, ranging from Y.O.Y. Smallmouth to 4 foot long Muskie’s, letting go of the line isn’t part of my DNA.  It just doesn’t happen.  A very wise Jedi Master once told his young Padawan that “You must unlearn what you have learned”.  It took a little doing (3 busted leaders to be exact) but I finally got it figured out.  Gabe just laughed with each busted leader and lost fly but he said they were busting the water tonight and it was only going to be a matter of time before I got one to the boat.  Things started to change on the 4th fish I “stuck”.  I didn’t bust the leader but she jumped about 3 feet in the air and when she landed she took off for the boat.  I never got a chance to reel in the slack line and she was gone.  Gabe checked the leader once again and re tied the fly.  He would do this after every strike.  Gabe explained the a Tarpon’s head is like a cinder block that is lined with sandpaper.  It is hard to drive that hook home and the 40 pound test mono leader I was using was taking a beating.  Once I was set up again, I went back to casting and it wasn’t long before I stuck another.  This time I did everything right and the fight was on.  This was a bigger fish than the previous ones and instead of staying near the boat he took off between the arches of the old bridge.  We gave chase and I was now fighting the fish in between the old and new bridge.  All I had to do was keep him away from the pilings and out in clear water.  He had other ideas.  Of course, he swam right between two pilings, fortunately for me they were wide enough and we were able to maneuver the boat between them.  Once we did, he took off for open water and we were in the clear.  With some coaching from Gabe I was able to get him to the side of the boat where we could get a light on him and see how big he was.  Gabe estimated him to be in the 70 pound range.  I wasn’t going to argue, he was a beast to me.  We turned our headlamps on and Gabe grabbed hold of the leader to try and remove the hook.  One he got hold of his lower jaw the fish came back to life and he broke free.


I was hooked now.  After a few high fives and fist bumps, Gabe showed me the leader and just how trashed it was.  I could now see first hand just how easy it is for one of these fish to bust the leader.  It was a frayed mess.  Gabe tied on a new section of leader and another little white rabbit strip streamer and I got ready for more.  We headed back “up front” (Atlantic Side) since we landed this fish “out back” (Gulf Side).  A few casts later and I was hooked into another fish.  This turned out to be a Mangrove Snapper, the Bluegill of the Ocean.  We dropped him in the live well and I went back to my routine.  I “stuck” a few more, some jumped and threw the hook, others I just never really got the hook set deep enough.  Eventually I did hook into another smaller Tarpon and after a few brief jumps and short runs we were able to get her to the boat for a quick pic and a release.  This one stayed up front so it wasn’t long before I hooked into another fish.  This one turned out to be a Snook and unfortunately the leader busted before I ever got him to the boat.  It was after midnight now and we were nearing the end of the bridge.  Gabe told me that we had time for a few more casts.  Just like my first steelhead on a fly, on my last cast, at the last arch I hooked into another Tarpon.  This one took off through the arch and we had to give chase.  He was smaller and easier to control so I was able to keep him in between the bridges.  A few more jumps and he was tired enough to bring him to the boat for another pic and release.

That was my night, 3 Tarpon landed, a Mangrove Snapper, 1 lost Snook and I stuck well over a dozen Tarpon.  I have a cut on my trigger finger where the fly line kept rubbing.  My right arm and wrist are very sore and I would do this again in a heart beat.  I love handlining walleye but I would give that up in a second for the opportunity to do this in the evening.  The best thing was that we were the only boat out here.  Gabe told me that he is the only guide that does these night fly fishing trips.  No one else wants to do them.  I can’t understand why, it was a blast!  I was fortunate enough to see what this fishery has to offer.  So many different species and so many different scenario’s.  I could spend a lifetime down here trying to learn it all.  Of course I would still have to make a few trips north to put some walleye in the freezer and freeze my butt off catching steelhead but I would have no problem spending the rest of my time down in the flats chasing Tarpon.

Mangrove Snapper Tarpon 2 Tarpon 3