SAO Pages

Friday, September 26, 2008

Northern Exposure;The search Continues....Part II

This time of year when the days begin to shorten, the leaves begin to tinge with color, and the air has at times a genuine chill in it , those of us who are passionately attached to the thrill of the fall run of salmonids start to get antsy ... really antsy. We get out the heavier rods , clean up the reels, and sometimes just gaze at the gear we are so anxious to use. It just can't come soon enough. But unfortunately as early September drifts into mid-September and the rivers are nothing more than trickling creeks , despite the unseasonably cool temperatures, we know we are expecting too much too soon ... or are we? Well 15 of us who decided otherwise, took matters firmly in hand recently and took decisive action to rectify the problem. Here in northeast Ohio mother nature is setting the stage for the bounty to come , but just a few hours north of here in the upper great lakes there is a wild party in full swing, and it seems that just about every salmon in the Big Lake was invited!

The Garden River is by no means just around the corner, and it took a real commitment of planning and logistics to arrange the travel and rustic "accomodations" for 15 , not to mention the actual transporting of the faithful. But the power of the mental image of the reward to come was more than enough to sustain us through the hardship of sleep deprivation and hours on the road. Once we arrived at our campsite on the banks of a river that was positively vibrating with running , leaping and splashing fish as they heeded the inexorable call to migrate by the tens of thousands, there was not a man among us who felt his fatigue.

Day one began for most of us with only a cursory nod to our campsites and our gear, preferring instead like kids on Christmas morning, to surrender to the excitement of the gifts and abandon all sense of poise. We donned our waders and threaded our fly lines entirely secure in the knowledge that all of us , every one , just couldn't wait for the moment that our rod would bend and animate with the connection to the life-force of so beautiful a creature... No need to be bashful in our enthusiasm here.

As I waded into the river and caught my first sight of Pink Salmon in so many numbers , I literally had to catch my breath. It is almost hard to know where to begin in the face of such abundance. The bear tracks I stepped over and the huge moose tracks around the next bend gave me pause and time to take in the sense of the North American wilderness in its inestimable beauty. I looked up and counted no less than 10 bald eagles circling overhead with their white pates reflecting the sunlight like halos. Undoubtedly they had their eyes on the smorgasboard that was swimming all around me. As beautiful as it was around the river, my attention just could not wander long from the scene in the water. I quickly established myself in a hold that interested me and began to swing streamers. The "Garden" is a great place to swing, and my plan for the weekend was all about finding the big fish and enticing them on streamers - sculpins , bunny leeches, and tube flies. As far as I was concerned , the Pinks that fell for a streamer would be welcome bonuses. And fell they did , by the dozens. No question, they were more easily had on nymphs or other patterns that were dead-drifted, but what fun on the swing with a big black bunny leech! At any rate it was the Kings that I really wanted. And they were there , scattered about in groups of 2 or 3 or more ,... some holding , some sparring for dominance, staking their territorial rights , and some... crushing flies!

Finding the players was the first level of engagement. Swinging the fly by the group and watching for the fish that shows the interest. That is , the one who faints towards the fly or chases and sometimes outright slams it. After the player fish is identified it can be plied with repeated presentation . Once hooked an angry King is an eminently worthy opponent. Not quite the speedy acrobat that the steelhead is , it is nonetheless mercilessly powerful , tearing line off your reel and ignoring your drag, it feels as though you hooked a passing freight train. It requires skill and strength to turn , tire , and bring to heel. What a fantastic challenge.

As the first day wound down and darkness approached, a front moved through and it began to rain. Lightly at first , it gradually grew more intense. I stayed on the river alone through the dinner hour, opting instead to chase a pod of Kings that were clearly becoming more active and aggressive by the minute. As I was releasing the first one of the pod I hooked , I Iooked up to see three of my friends approaching, rod in hand. It was that time of day, and they were not about to miss out on this opportunity at angry Kings, storm or no storm. As the rain poured down , we had a great time in the remainder of the light, whooping and hollering and taking turns hooking these wonderful fish as they chased and assaulted our tube flies.

By the next morning the rain had stopped and though the dawn came late through the lingering grey of the clouds , we got an early start. As the constant splashing and thrashing from the river through the night had suggested, fresh Kings had moved up, and all day continued their upstream push, looking like speedboats as they shot through the riffles sending up a spray and a wake. The day went much the same as the previous one had , finding the players and fishing to them with swung streamers. Many more fish were taken by our group , some in absolute trophy size.

With the waning of the afternoon came the time to strike camp and head home. The only regret of the weekend was that it was too short a time, but my consolation is that next year is already on the books and reserved. So when it is time to crash that salmon-party ... I'll be there!

Thanks to both Ben and all their friends and family for their tremendous hospitality .. they are fantastic hosts!

John Clouser
SAO steelhead guide

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pinks rule but Chinook are still Kings !

Tim Hess with a Pink Salmon

Well my 3rd trip to the Great White North,was surely not a
disappointing one.Though I was sligtly burned out from a
long week at work, little sleep, and some long hours on the
road,but it was well worth it.

The King's pool on the Garden River.

The fishing was great, the scenery awesome, and the
camaraderie shared by our group was 2nd to none.
What an adventure!!! Exceptional # 's of Pinksin every
pool and run, with plenty of Kings sprinkled about the
river system and to our pleasure they where very cooperative!

Craig Shwarz With a Pink Salmon.

I spent my mornings testing patterns for Pinks,and as
on my previous 2 trips,just about anything pink,was a fish catcher.
Gilbet's Revenge,Showgirls,GR Minnies,Joelianai's, & Jays Pink
Skein-Fly where all productive patterns,for the Salmon. I spent my
afternoons fishing for the roaming pods of Kings,and to my
disapointment found out my 7wt,was no match for the Kings, as most
I tied into; headed quickly for the wood, leaving me fly less,and tying
on another tippet...............LOL !

Greg Senyo Releasing another King.

I was pleasently surprised by the # of Pink Salmon that readily tore into
my stripped #2 Hare ball Leeches.

A nice Pinook..

A special thanks,to Ben,Little Ben & Gilbert,for there hospitality,and all those
who participated in another great Northern Adventure !
And Congrats to Greg on his Orvis Fly Tyer of the Year Award!!!

Tight lines
Joel Bock
Steelhead Alley Outfitters / JAG Fly Co.

Early Season Steelhead Report and Current local events!!!

Despite the tributaries of Lake Erie being in desperate need of some serious rain, anglers have been enjoying the mild weather conditions fishing the creek mouths and the surf to satisfy the itch effecting most steelheaders this time of year.

I had a chance to scout and explore both Elk Creek, Walnut Creek, Trout Run and the Ohio Tribs on Wednesday. Like I stated above the creeks are dangerously low and in need of precipitation. The lower stretch of Elk Creek from the mud hole to the Boat launch had a decent number of fish, but the best action was in the surf off the mouth. Walnut had a few fish scattered around the project area and the best action was off the break wall. On Trout Run anglers were doing well as usual under indicators using nymphs and by stripping woolly buggers and streamers. White streamers and olive woolly buggers seemed to be the best producers for early season PA steel.

As for the Ohio Lake Erie tributaries; well lets just say they are low, low, and low! There have been reports of a few in lower Conneaut, but fishing the stream mouths and break walls double hauling large baitfish imitations have been best bets for early season steelhead. its only a matter of time and mother nature providing the rain to kick off the fall run.The fishing right now is less than worthy of spending on the cost of fuel, So keep tying up all those flies and cleaning the gear. The nights are getting cooler and rain is sure to come....and we will keep you updated!!

Will Turek and I head to Michigan Tomorrow afternoon to participate in the Great lakes 1st annual Spey fest at Henning Park on the Muskegon River. Here is the event information if you are interested in attending such a great Event:

Casting Demonstrations by:Andre Scholz of Winston Rod. Pete Humphreys of Guideline USA. Will Turek of Scott and Scientific Anglers. Bruce Richards of Scientific Anglers. Jeff Hire.

Tying Demonstrations by:Jerry Darkes, Kevin Feenstra, Tony Pagliei, Gerry Worden, Pete Humphreys, Greg Senyo And many others.

Manufacturers Representatives for:Abel, Beulah Fly Rods, Cloudveil, Guideline, Dan Bailey’s, Eumer, Nautilus, Renzetti, Rio, Ross Reel, Sage, Scientific Anglers, Scott, Simms, Teeny Line, Temple Fork Outfitters, Thomas & Thomas, Tibor/Pate, Winston, And more…

Hosted by:The Great Lakes Fly Fishing Co.
Come out and cast all of the latest rods and lines. One on one instruction available from many of the finest and most knowledgeable two handed casting instructors. See some of the most talented tiers of Scandinavian tube, Modern Tube, Traditional Spey and Full Dress flies in one location. Lots of door prizes. Casting Games Saturday evening.For more information contact:
The Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company...Phone 616-866-6060.
Tight lines!!
Greg Senyo

Monday, September 22, 2008

Orvis Fly-Tyer of the Year Announced

First of all, let me preface this entry with this....Greg Senyo has no idea I am making this post and probably would wish I hadn't, but he will get over it :)  And don't even think about deleting it when you read it either Greg!

On behalf of the family at Steelhead Alley Outfitters, I am going to take a few minutes here to brag on our fearless me, he deserves it!

Below is a photo of a very cool announcement that came out in recent weeks in the Orvis news.  If you look closely at the middle of the photo, you will notice that it says, "Greg Senyo Named 2008 Orvis Fly-Tyer of the Year."


From all of us on your team Greg, we want to say congratulations!

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One of Greg's new designs to hit the market lately is a dynamic caddis pattern called the wiggle caddis.  Many have used them in recent months and found that it is one heck of a piece of innovation.  That's the thing about Greg.....he isn't just a fly-tyer....he is an innovative fly-tyer!  I am always amazed at how his mind works when he sits down at a vice.  Obviously there are others who think the same thing.

The photo below is on that new Senyo pattern......try them on trout, try them on will be presently surprised!

Below are a few more examples of some of Greg's flies that have been sold all over the country and beyond.  If you haven't fished these, trust me and should!  They are deadly.

Senyo Sculpins

Wiggle Stone

Steak n' Eggs

Once again, I promise you that Greg would not want this kind of attention, but I personally think he deserves the congrats for such an awesome achievement!  

So, Greg, if you are reading this, way to go.....many years of work have paid off.  Not to many people can say they have achieved what you now have!  

Now, give me some flies would ya :)  I want to go fishing!

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Northern Exposure; The pursuit of Salmon. Part I

4x4 trek into Canadian bush counrty.

15 gentleman from OH, PA, NY, NJ, IL started their trek early last Friday morning to meet at my place for a quick BBQ and to begin the long journey north to Ontario, Canada. Our goal this weekend was salmon on the fly, and we knew with the early September dates selected we would hit the migration just right.

A look at base camp along the river.

We made it safe and sound to our outfitters shop on the banks of the St. Mary's River, were we met with our guide Ben, and started the 45 minute off road adventure into the wild. We would be setting up camp deep in the bush along one of the more productive upper sections of the Garden River. This was my third year back to the Garden, but no other trip up to this remote country was more exciting, enjoyable, and as rewarding as this season.

Tim Hess with one of many pigs caught during our stay.

After an off road adventure well worth the use of our 4x4 vehicles, We reached our destination and began to set up camp on one of many remote sandy beaches, thousands of pink salmon where rushing through the rapids and aggressively spawning and fighting off king Salmon directly in front of where our tents were being set up, for the guys who have never experienced this before; The sounds of Kings crashing the water brought ear to ear smiles and most couldn't resist getting their waders on and setting up camp later in the day.

Ben Johnson Fighting a King Salmon on the upper Garden.

The deep pools where filled with fresh king salmon and loads of pinks. This years run seen many more Pinook of considerable size than in the past seasons, and native trout and steelhead were ever present ghosts that struck a fly with a vengeance.

King Salmon that smacked one of Senyo's Tube flies.

I dedicated this trip to the two hand and swinging tubes exclusively, the Garden River has such beautiful water it was almost a shame to fish it any other way.. It didn't take long for me to tie into a few very good "players".

Herb Imondi with a fly caught male pink salmon.

Chartreuse/White and purple/blue/black color combos were hot. I fished 4"Scandi style tubes constructed on Eumer 22mm and 15mm brass, black, and silver tear drops with matching monster cones. The Chinook could not resist a swung streamer or Attack them fast enough.

Greg Senyo with one of many that could not resist a 4" Scandi style tube fly.

Besides swinging tubes guys did well indicator fishing eggs, nymphs, and small streamers through the large pools and deeper runs catching steelhead, native rainbows, pinks, kings, and pinook. Bottom bouncing and stripping clouser minnows and woolly buggers through the runs and pools with woody debris was also highly effective.

John Clouser with a night time king caught swinging flies through the dark pools.

After each days fishing nothing was better than the dinners of fresh and smoked polish sausage and brats with green peppers and onion. We ate and drank like kings even if only for a few days.. The fellowship and friendships built was second to none and to share in this experience with so many great guys was the best part of the whole trip for me. Thank you all for making this such a memorable trip.

Cooking Fresh polish sausage and trimmings for the guys!!!

We have already locked our days in for September 2009 and will be going back.. if interested give me a call at 419-466-9382. All of the guys that went had a great time and it seemed they had a mutual dismay when we finally departed for home and the usual grind of daily life; but theres always next year.. :)

Remember the fall run is upon us and we have expanded our guide service once again, and we are always available if you are still looking to experience Ohio's steelhead on the fly and on the swing. All packages are customized to your preferences and held to a high standard of excellence... Report is that fish have already headed into the Lower PA Tribs in smaller numbers, and from what I hear there are as many fisherman as fish in the tribs.. No need to get too excited yet!!! Its really early and water levels are still to low and clear. With the next couple really good rains, we should see a good push of fish. For those who are fishing or looking to make the trip anyway Emerald shiner patterns and white woolly buggers have been picking up a few fish in and around the tributary mouths and in the lake surf. Light tippets and small nymphs, wiggle stones, mini buggers are top producers for spooky fish in the clear pools. Better fishing still to come!! Once the season is in full swing check in for daily up to date stream conditions, hot fly patterns, guide tips, and pics..

Tight Lines!!
Part II of Northern exposure still to come..

Greg Senyo

Thursday, September 18, 2008

California's Sierra Nevada's - Part 5

The trip continued as we explored up stream from camp.  All I have to say is, what a spectacular stretch of water!  I mean the awesomeness of this part of the adventure was mind blowing!  

It all started with the average boulder hopping that is the norm for this area.  Everything is granite no matter where you look.  It just varies in its shape and form depending on where you are.  Below you can see an average area around camp.

As we fished our way up river, it was mostly your average western pocket water, with the occasional riffle, run, tailout combo......these where the good holes.  Most were loaded with fish that were more than eager to rise....if.....if you made the right presentation.  I don't want to say that these fish are hard to catch, but the big ones aren't stupid.  They are wild....and they will let you know!!!

In the above hole I caught the colorful bow below.  It is hard to see it in the small format of this photo, but the hot, red stripe down its side was unprecedented on the trip.  Very beautiful to say the least.

As beautiful as the bow was, there is something about the browns!  This one in particular had a striking appearance.  We were careful to not admire for too long.  Instead we snapped a few photos in hope of capturing the beauty and moved on.  Like all other attempts, the true beauty escaped at some know how it is?

Below is another brown caught, but this time with the fly in it's mouth.  This fly produced most of my fish for the trip and many, many fish for others as well.  It is a modified hopper pattern that I designed before going out this year.  I knew what size pattern I wanted, knew that it had to float high, and be nearly indestructible.  After some working and reworking, I finally got a good looking fly......and the good thing is that it fishes almost better than it looks....and my buddies will vouch for that!

Here is my friend Ben who fished this entire stretch with me.  I dare say that some of the best fishing of the trip was had by Ben and I.  It was on this day that we had a micro caddis hatch take place for about thirty minutes that we were able to dial in on........I dare say we owned those fish!  They shut down on the big flies as soon as the hatch ensued.  We got dialed in and pulled out some large fish, one after another until that magic know....the moment when it all stops, just like it all started.

Ben landed some nice browns on this day!

The below photos were shot on a different day, but really capture some of the beauty of the river in this gorge section.  This was an amazing granite gorge!!!  At times we had rods in our mouths and needed climbing gear to get to the next hole.  Sometimes you just had to throw your hands in the air and climb out, over, and around to the next access point.

The next three photos are much larger so that you can click on them and enlarge them for greater detail.

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This was my favorite stretch of the South Fork of the San Joaquin hands down!  I can't describe for you here what it was really like.  You just have to take my word for it or better yet, go experience it for yourself.

Until next time, tight lines!

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Monday, September 15, 2008

California's Sierra Nevada's - Part 4

Well, as promised, here is the next installment albeit a bit later than I wanted it to be :)

In the last blog, I said we would be moving to the next camp, so here we go.  After packing up camp and carefully practicing "No Trace," we shouldered the packs again and began the three mile trek to camp two.  This camp was located at the confluence of Piute Creek and the South Fork of the San Joaquin River.

Shortly after leaving camp, we came up on a Mule Deer doe.  After snapping several shots of her, we noticed that she was looking over shoulder....most likely another deer and most possibly her fawn as she was a good size deer.  Sure enough, a rather excited fawn came rushing up behind to find her mother and immediately tried to suckle.  We were lucky enough to get this on video.  Here is a photo that I snapped shortly after shutting off the video camera....

After a morning worth of hiking, we arrived at our next camp and what would be considered our base camp.  It was a beautiful location sitting right on the river.  Below is a shot standing on the bank next to camp and shooting upstream just prior to sundown.

After spending the rest of that first day in camp, we organized a trip down river with a plan to fish it back up.  It was a decent stretch of river with some holes holding large numbers of fish (that we could see).  Who knows what was there that we couldn't see?  At any rate, here is a photo of my buddy Ben throwing a cast to an upstream lie.

And here is a the subsequent reward for his labors.   This fish was feisty and did not want to be photographed, so this impromptu was the only one documenting his downfall :)  He is back in his home ready for the next eager angler.  Numerous fish we caught or missed in this area, but regardless of the outcome, we had a blast exploring new areas of water.

As we moved upstream, the river wound through different types of terrain, but the most interesting was the zone just downstream from where this photo was taken.  The area was so loaded with downed evergreens of differing species, that we could walk for untold hundreds of yards along the river without touching the ground.  Later we found out about an amazing Sierra phenomena called Mono Winds.  They have been clocked at 100mph in the Yosemite Valley which was in the vicinity (within a couple hundred miles) of where we were camped.  I guess you needed to see it to believe it.

The photo below was just the standard view for this trip.  Sick to look at, I know :)

And last but no least, here is a sneak peak at a Golden Trout.  I have had a number of people request some photos of the Golden's and given the pace of my blogging, they couldn't stand to wait any longer :)  So, here is a photo of a nice Golden caught on the South Fork of the San Joaquin upstream a mile or so from our base camp.  Rest assured there will be some more Golden Trout photos to come.

In closing, if you are interested in more specifics on how to get to the area that I fished on this trip, go to your nearest bookstore that carries a good selection of magazines (Barnes & Nobles) and get the latest issue of Southwest Fly Fishing.  I have a short published there this month that gives details.

Until the next installment, get those Steelhead rods cleaned up and ready to roll.  The fish are already moving in and we will be swinging flies soon.

Tight Lines,

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Father and Sons; fly fishing Adirondack Lakes and Ponds.

Timmy Clouser fly casting the Lake during a summer sun set.

As I stood on the bank of one of my favorite Adirondack ponds, threading my fly line through the guides of my rod and eyeing the surface of the water for any signs of life , a fellow approached me and quipped .. " not looking for trout here are ya'?" Being that this pond was dominated by warm water species , his question was a little tongue-in-cheek , but I realized right away that it was his association of my fly tackle with trout and river fishing that motivated his question.

Timmy with a nice grip and grin Large Mouth.

While I certainly understood this association , I couldn't help wondering why people would put the fly rod away once trout are not in the forecast. Don't they know what a blast a hefty smallmouth or toothy pike can be on a fly rod? There are largemouths lurking as big as small dogs. Even the yellow perch and the bluegills can be loads of fun on lightweight rods and wispy tippets. And especially here in the Adirondack Mountains of New York , where the opportunities for all these tremendous warm water fish are legion, does it seem appropriate to expect more than just spinning rods on the lakes and ponds.

Young Teddy Clouser with a Fly caught blue gill.

Oh, and by the way , there are plenty of trout in the lakes as well , you just have to know what you are doing.I love trout and salmon and spend more of my time chasing them than any other fish , but I am certainly not beyond the thrill of a leaping, battling smallmouth or slashing, ambushing pike. And there are evenings when a serene paddle while casting or trolling streamers for brookies or casting dries for surface feeding rainbows is just the way I feel.

John Clouser with a Land lock Salmon

The supply of lakes and ponds , one for every purpose , seems endless up here , and their deep clean waters in all their variations are a constant alluring presence....Especially when you bring children into the picture. Wading a river is too much for a young child but standing lakeside or sitting in a canoe or small boat is well within reach, and can be an exciting new world.On a cool mountain evening in late June I am in my Radisson canoe with my oldest son.

Timmy with a fine fly caught Small Mouth bass!

I am slowly rowing it , trolling behind us our sparkling Clouser minnows on our sink tip lines. We are the only people on this large and less accessible pond and the wildlife is doing a dance for us , keeping us entertained as we relax into the rythym of the oars. Loons are calling and splashing , hawks circle and call, while an occasional beaver slides silently by at a distance. It is so pristine and timeless that we feel special just being there. Then comes the tug on the line and we leap from our reverie to the rods ... it is indeed a fish and not a snag. For a small brookie, it fights well and adds perfection to a night that needed nothing more.

Timmy with his first brook Trout.

On a warm evening in July I am standing in the shallows of a blue gem of a lake just before sunset. My oldest son is beside me and together we are casting into the dropoff that I know is just out beyond us. We are looking for whatever will take our fly. I am showing my son how to strip streamers and make them look real to a fish. He is so enthusiastic and i am touched. He repeats everything I tell him back to me , explaining it to me with extra details that he adds himself.

Timmy Completeing the Adirondack Grand Slam !!!

He is improving quickly and is in fact doing it quite well , though I occasionally cast for him or bail him out of a tangle. When the pull does come , he screams with delight and fights the fish as though it were a grizzly bear. He is so proud and so happy when he holds his fish up for the camera. If he could only know how much I love him.

John Clouser
SAO Fly fishing guide