Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Midwest Steel Where Art Thou?

This past weekend I was privileged enough to fish with my best friend and long time fishing partner Nate out on his home turf away from home. Nate has lived in the Northwestern part of Ohio now for a few years and it has given both him and I a great area of fishing. The point of the trip was to not only get me hooked up with my first ever steelhead, but also to just let nature take us away from all our worries. Nate has been under a lot of stress lately working on his thesis and I've been getting my hands on every project at work I possibly can. It also makes it easy to get away and fish for 18 hours a day when both you and your buddies girlfriend have each other to keep company.
My girlfriend and I left the Chicago land area at about 7:30pm on Thursday for the grueling four hour drive to Perrysburg, Ohio. After getting in about 12:30am Ohio time we were lucky enough to sit and wait for Nate get back to his apartment from a long night of college work. After our greetings and unloading the car, Nate and I decide to hit up the Chagrin River at sunup the following day which would mean a 4:45am wake up call.
What seemed to be 25 minutes later our alarms blare and wake us up. Both of us are moving swiftly to get the few items two guys need to fish all day (since the car was basically loaded with our gear). The drive of about two hours east flew by. I love fishing with Nate because our trips aren't just fishing and talking about fish (even though it is the main subject of conversation) but about growing up, our childhood, and where things are going. It's a great sense of friendship that we have especially when we get together and it seems like we hangout everyday still. 
Okay, back to fishing.
We get to a spot that Art at his local fly shop told him about. Gear up and walk to the river. The water was moving pretty fast but we were both eager to get in and wet a line. I was eager to get in and wet my drawers since I usually fall in my first time wading a new river. I just thought I'd get it out of the way first thing in the morning of our first day. We fish a deep pool beneath a low dam that was somewhat removed with nothing to show for it (which is the consistent theme this weekend). We came across another fellow fly fisherman which kind of gave us a scoop on the river and actually asked us if we would be up for trying the East Branch. Since neither of us had any idea, we went for it. Three guys hiked a good two miles of river fishing all the eddies and holes we could spot and didn't even see a single fish.
Nate and I moved onto the Rocky River and worked a few spots before having to head back closer to home. His girlfriends family luckily lives right by a creek that will get steelhead in the spring and fall. We had about an hour to kill before our only set plans (other then fishing) were going to happen. We suit up in our armor and hit the holes that Nate knows. I started working a spot that Nate's buddy has fished that has produced fish in the past. The entire day took a toll on me and I shut down. This is the exact wording out of my on stream journal:
Beaver Creek, OH 3/19. A lot of time on the water today. First cast was about 7:25am on the Chagrin. Worked the East Branch all the way up with zero fish to show for it. We worked the Rocky River at a few Fords and a good bend. I'm starting to question if I'm meant to fly fish, let alone for steelhead. Maybe I should stick to spinning gear and working the ponds. If only I could get a fish of some size on the fly. We'll see what happens...
It didn't help my mood that his buddy showed up and as we took our waders off caught a small steelie in the pool we worked. We later found out he grabbed a 11 pounder out of the same hole I sat off of and wrote my "feel sorry for me" journal entry. We went on with our girlfriend duties that night trying to regroup for the following morning.
It led us to the Rocky again which even in the morning I didn't have high hopes for. Worked a few different rivers but it led us back to the creek that destroyed my will to fly fish the night before. In that same hole that Craig caught the monster, a fish kept surfacing. I moved strategically up stream from the hole and casted about 15 feet down stream so my fly will drift into the hole toward me. Well about my fifth cast, I got the beast to bite. The fight lasted about 20 seconds before he snapped me off. I was discouraged but we both didn't really say much about it.
We came back to the spot later that night to really work the creek when the sun is going down. Nate and his fish eyes saw two steelhead that just came out from a jog jam. I was able to get the larger one to take my trailer fly. The fish led me downstream a little bit, hit the far bank, and came right at me. This allowed the hook to come out. I dropped my pole and shut down again. I think I only took about 5 more casts after that to Nate's 40. I just didn't have it in me anymore and the discouragement really set in.
It was about 25hours of fishing in two days, close to 10 miles hiked, zero fish, and two best friends having the time of their lives. It was easy for me to get frustrated and shut down with the lack of fish we encountered this past weekend, but looking back on it, I wouldn't change the time we had for anything. The two of us still probably haven't laughed harder then we did when it was us being us, exactly how we've been for over 16 years now. We were both able to get lost in the surroundings around us and forget about our jobs, our reports, our life that keeps us stressed and on our toes. And even though it was only for two days, those two days will make a difference. Nate, thank you for a great time on the water, I'll fish with you any time. 
As for the giving up fly fishing and chasing steelhead...not a chance. I'm going to hit the waters harder and with more determination. If this style of fishing was easy, everyone would do it. Until the next time out...


  1. Johnny D., great entry. I really enjoyed our time on the water together. Too many jokes, too much fun. Did you happen to take any notes about the green caddisfly larvae we encountered on the Chagrin? I think that would be a valid note to keep in mind. Make note of the water temp. (estimate), time of year, and the things we found. There were quite a few Rainbow Darters in the riffles too. Also, who could forget the hordes of Emerald Shiners that were making their yearly ascension up the tributaries?

    Until next time (which is soon, by the way).

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