I didn't bother to arrive at the river until mid-morning on Monday due the extreme cold weather temps. And when I did, I made a half-hearted attempt at trying to break through the slush in the river, but gave up after 2 #3/0 shot wouldn't do the trick. Yep, it was starting to look and feel like our xmas goose was cooked. By the time I left the water nearing one o'clock there was still so much slush in the water it was not fishable. Making one last stop on the way home, the rivers were finally clear by about 3pm. By then, however, I was defeated and couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to slip into my bootfoot waders and cast a line. I beat it on home to tie up a few flies in the hope that the next day's warm weather and rain didn't arrive too soon and blow the rivers out again.
Typical of this fall's crazy weather pattern, Tuesday's temps jumped a good 20 degrees from the 30s to almost 50 and brought with it another round of "slight" precipitation. With fingers crossed, I headed out to meet my guys and see what the day would bring. Fortunately, the warm night temps and early morning drizzle made for favorable water conditions, i.e. NO SLUSH in the water. Flows bumped up to very nice fishable levels and good color - perhaps the best I've seen all fall. So what if we had to dodge a few ice rafts that had melted free and were returning to their natal spawning ground in the lake.
The morning was slow, but after a quick move farther east we started to hit pay dirt... or in this case metal, steel specifically.
Mike Bowman his first fish steelhead on the swing.
Brothers Mike and John came up from Columbus to sample our Lake Erie tribs for the first time. They both had lots of experience fishing for trout and bass, but were brand new to the steelhead game. That's not to say they didn't come unprepared, especially Mike. He came with a game plan in place and stuck to it. Mike had been bitten by the 2H rod bug a year or so past and had quickly accumulated 3 two-handers. He was determined to swing flies and accept the consequences come what may. I respect that commitment to the swung fly and was determined that even with 34 degree water temps we would find a couple silver fish willing to cooperate.
John with a heavy, colored-up steelhead.
John was no slouch either, and after Mike was done celebrating his first steelhead on the swing proceeded to put-on a mini-clinic in the afternoon going 3 for 4 on the indicator.
John with a nicely colored fish number two.
John releasing fish number three.
Unfortunately, by late afternoon the steady drizzle began to start showing signs of taking it's toll on the water conditions. The beautiful emerald green water color grew murky, then slightly off color. Random attacks by pirate ice rafts and shale cliff ice bombs grew increasingly alarming. Determined to get one more for the road on the swing, we high tailed it downstream. How quickly things change. In the time it took us to walk a quarter mile, the river went from off color to a solid lane of mud and rose enough to crack the remaining shelf ice along the bank.
Not daunted by the quick turn of fate and less than optimal conditions, Mike jumped into the run and started to swing. After a dozen casts or so, and with dusk rapidly appraoching, Mike let a loud exlamation and his rod doubled over. FISH ON! After a short fight, with the steelhead getting the better of Mike the river had finally blown out.
It felt good knowing I had made the right call pushing Mike and John's trip to Teusday and making the call to take it on down the line to another river. With a little calculation and luck we had managed to be in the right place at the right time to shake hands with a few of our silver friends.