Guided Fly and Spey Fishing Trips for Steelhead and Brown Trout with
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|Posted on March 24, 2021 at 7:50 AM||comments ()|
Jim working a really nice run
Well it is definitely that time of year. We're right at peak season on the Ohio steelhead fisheries, with great numbers of fish in most of the systems. If anybody out there is looking to get their feet wet (pun intended) in spey fishing, anytime between now and the end of April would be a great choice. Spey fishing is such a cool form of fishing, but it is a process that one doesn't master instantly. The nice thing about getting out in Ohio is that even new anglers who are just going to be learning the basics and might only get to the point of casting out the full head can really have a great day fishing. Funny enough, more people call me looking to fish the Catt in the spring. When I tell them they should really think about Ohio, they seem surprised. Still seems like for the most part, our fishery is largely under the radar outside our borders.
Had the pleasure of fishing with Jim a couple days ago. Jim's a solid angler who has fished with many of the greats in steelhead and spey fishing. Listening to him talk about the places he's fished and the people he's bumped into along the way was a treasure. And it was nice from my perspective that he already had more than the foundation down. So my job as far as casting and technique wise was just making minor tweaks. One of the things I tell a lot of anglers who have the basics down on spey fishing but start to lose their cast for one reason or another is simple: start casting cack handed. A signifcant amount of the time, issues with the cast are related to a couple things. Either not using the bottom hand as the driver of the cast, or timing, with improper anchor placement being third.
Anyways, Jim who was casting very nicely at the start of the trip began to have his cast fall apart on him. It can be frustrating. On our second morning, after seeing the same issue creeping up again, I told him to start casting cack handed. Almost instantly his cast was back. The reason for this is simple. When you cast cack handed the bottom hand naturally comes out from the body on the back cast, and because of this on the forward cast you have to clear it out of the way first. This forces you to start the forward cast by driving down with the bottom hand. The other big thing is that because it is a bit awkward, most people don't rush the cast. These two are cures for the biggest two issues in spey casting that I know of. And once that occurs, it's easy to simply say "Hey, why don't you leave the anchor a little farther away from you" or something similar. Boom. Casting's back. It was an old trick I picked up in my Alaska spey days but seeing it work so well with Jim, who is a proficient spey fisherman, was really nice to see.
As for the fishing, Jim hooked 9 fish in two days, and landed three. But I'd like to talk about one we lost at the net. It's no secret among the anglers fishing in Ohio this year that there are some big fish around. Anyways, Jim set the hook on a fish and it didn't move. My first thought was well he's snagged. But I asked him and he said no it was a fish. Then it started to move. It didn't go crazy, but with Jim putting a lot of side pressure on, the fish just slowly swam up to the middle of the pool. I told him I thought it might be a big fish and that I wasn't sure it knew it's hooked yet. We got nearly all the head back in a minute or two. And then it rolled. My personal biggest fish is a 35" 17-18 pound fish you see at the top of the banner on our home page. I've seen a handful more between 13 and 15 pounds. In the water, this fish look broader than all of them but do to the stained water I couldn't see the head fully or the tail at all. Regardless it was clearly well over 30" and just so wide it was difficult to fathom.
It pulled off about twenty yards, over to the other side of the Grand. We got it back. And it was rolloing out about a rod tip away from us so that I saw it two or three more times. It was a large buck, not dark but a bit colored. As Jim was trying to turn his head and ease him into the net, he got the head pointed the right way. Two or three more feet and it would have been in the net. But the hook popped out and that was all she wrote. Jim was cool with it. He was stoked he got to fight it. His only regret was that we didn't get a picture. Sometimes you lose a fight, that's just how it is. It was a big fish. I know based on the girth alone, we were looking at somewhere low-to-mid-teens. Plus fish will sometimes look shorter and smaller in the water than they really are due to refraction making things appear shallower than they really are. That fish had a legit shot at going 15 or better, but who knows. Until you net them and tape them, it's all just speculation. It was a big fish anyways. I'll probably be thinking about it till the end of the season now.
Jeff was also up in the area for four days. He hooked a good amount of fish swinging as well. Between what Jim hooked, what Jeff hooked and what I hooked here and there, I think we're somewhere around 45 hookups on the swing in the last four days, landing maybe a third. It's great fishing. And it's Ohio in the spring.
Tight Lines and Good Fishing. I'll leave you with a couple more shots.
|Posted on March 9, 2021 at 9:00 AM||comments ()|
Gary holding the first spring steelhead after ice out!
Well it's official! It is spring steelhead time! We had about 5-6 weeks of solid winter where most of our rivers froze up. But that all changed about a week- 10 days ago with a combination of warmer temps and rain that broke things free! We patiently waited for the spike in flows to recede, wondering what was in store for us. And when it did, our suspicions were confirmed. While the spey fishing was still a bit of a challenge with the colder flows, we found a few willing takers. Things should only improve as the weather warms.
If you haven't already, get on the phone with us to reserve your spot. We don't have a ton of days left, so reach out to us when you can.
|Posted on January 17, 2021 at 12:50 AM||comments ()|
Beautiful chrome fish
The fishing remains very good, with a nice mix of fresh and holdover fish. The fish that have been in the systems a while have taken up winter lies, so dredging the deeper slower runs is often what it takes. Fresh fish can surprise you from a fast water pocket or choppy run, even though the water temps are in the 30's. The fish above was taken in 35 degree water from the choppy head of a riffle where we often find fresh fall run steelhead. So don't overlook every faster water pockets, as fish do have to move through the entire system. Cold water colors of blacks, blues, and purples seem to be producing the best, with the whiskey hangover taking the most fish.
Looking ahead, the next two weeks are calling for dropping temps. Daytime highs in the low to mid thirties and nighttime lows in the mid teens. This will likely cause a moderate amount of ice up. So if you haven't been out yet, get it while you can. This time of year you just never know. We've been fortunate in that we have not seen any real ice-up so far this season. Perhaps it will stay that way, but the weather is nothing if not unpredicatable.
Check out some from the last few weeks, and tight lines!
Browns on the swing are always fun- Steve Vaccariello Photo
CJ with a nice swing fish- his first on the spey rod!
A fat hen from the fast water (they still gotta move through it)
Matt with a steamer! Steve Vaccariello Photo
There's chrome in them there hills (and rivers)! Steve Vaccariello Photo
Cool shot of me trying to tail a fish! Steve Vaccariello Photo
The result! Steve Vaccariello Photo
|Posted on December 15, 2020 at 8:20 AM||comments ()|
I got to swing up a nice bright fish way up on the Catt
Well soon 2020 will be in the books, and that can't come quick enough. It's just been a weird year all the way around and we're looking forward to better on many fronts. One thing that was really nice was just how good the fishing was this past fall and continues to be. It's been a long time that I can remember fishing so many days on the Catt with the decent run that we've had this year. While it for sure wasn't an overload of fish, we've had good numbers and steady fishing since early October. Coupled with the number of fishable days, that's a big win. If memory serves me, might have to look all the way back to 2015 for a similar year. And fishing continues to be good with steady, small influxes of fresh fish pushing into the lower river at regular intervals.
Lake Ontario browns have been another pleasant thing of 2020. Again not like the run of 2018, but much better than last year's run. Good numbers and good size to the fish made getting up there fun. On the flip side, man have there been people out this year, and people doing crazy shit too. But the fishing has been good and looks like it should stay that way.
As remote as you can get in the lower Lakes
Steve with a nice brown
Dan with one of many
Another bright December fish
Winter spey fishing
Matt with a good sized brown
|Posted on November 18, 2020 at 7:25 AM||comments ()|
Tom with a great fish his first day spey fishing with guide Matt Rysak!
I'm going to keep this one short. Things are fishing very well. We had a bit of an unseasonably warm and dry spell for a minute that made fishing a little tough on sunny days. But other than that there are good amounts of fish around. We've had some water of the past two weeks which got things moving even more. The Erie fish, bucks in particular are running large. We've lost a couple I'd say were well over 12 pounds. And from the reports I'm getting up on the Lake O tribs, there are some monster browns around. Watch for a full report on that next time. All in all, great fishing.
Greg with a FAT colored up buck
They don't get much nicer than this
Dough with his first fish (of 3) his first day ever spey fishing with fishing buddy John
Another one of Doug's first day fish
John getting it done on the Firestarter second morning
Doug even swung up an elusive Cattaraugus lake run brown way up there
The Lee Party striking silver with Guide Matt
Matt getting ready to put one in the net
Now's the time folks.
|Posted on October 19, 2020 at 4:00 PM||comments ()|
Solid fish on the hangover
Well we're marching along into fall. The fishing continues to be productive if you can adjust and know how to fish low, clear water. Over the past week, we've had ideal water temperatures for very active fish, along with the persistent low flows. In that time we've hooked fish skating dries, swinging clear floating or clear intermediate polys, and even a tip here and there. Despite the low flows, there are good numbers of fish in the river.
The game is stealth mode. If you're going to swing a sinking tip, do it early before the sun gets on the water (if it's a sunny day). Once the sun gets up, back down to clear tips, and long leaders. Natural colored speys are working well. Don't be afraid to skate a dry in choppy pockets. Now's the time to get surprised. Case in point, Jeff was fishing around us. He came to a pool that had been worked through by indicator fishermen and spey fishermen and hooked and lost one on a skated dry. That fish had seen pressure. Yet it still ate off the top. And not just once. The fish ate it twice in the same swing before he hooked it the second time. Unfortunately, like a lot of dry eaters, it threw the hook early. I don't know what it is about fishing that way but you land a lot less than you hook and you hook a lot less than you rise. Props to Jeff for at least sticking his first on the dry.
Looking ahead, we got weather coming through. Hopefully it will really get things rolling, though I don't mind the conditions as they are if you just adjust a bit. But more water will help bring more fish in and get the ones already in moving up higher. That will help the fishing.
Jeff with his first of the year
|Posted on October 12, 2020 at 3:25 PM||comments ()|
The Concord Grape is a quick tie that catches fish.
Check out the video to learn how to tie and fish this productive pattern:
|Posted on October 10, 2020 at 2:40 PM||comments ()|
Perfect fall steelhead on a blue and purple spey
Despite the very low and clear water, there are decent numbers of fish. With flows this morning hovering just north of 100 cfs, I figured early would be the game. Started a nice mid-river stretch of pocket water, good early season floating line water, with a traditional blue and purple spey pattern on a size 4 Alec Jackson. I started out with a 14' clear floating poly with about four feet of 1X, but after a while I decided to shorten up to a 10' floating poly but lengthen the leader out to about 7 feet tapered down to 3x. I liked the initial length I was fishing, but I was afraid that with the shorter leader, the poly would be right on top of the fly and the fish might still see it despite being clear. So I switched it up and started working again.
After I made about ten casts, I looked down and saw the head of a big, usually moderately fished run was open and with the sun cresting over the trees, it was still in the shade. My plan was always to work down through all the pocket water and riffles and fish that run, but I started thinking that people usually fish that run and I don't see people fish the choppy water I was casting to. So why not book down there, fish the run first, then come back up and fish all the water through again. Made sense to me.
So I got down in position and started fishing high on the head of the run. The run is set up on a gradual river-left turn with a riffle up top and a trough that forms against the right bank on the other side. It's not a crazy deep trough in the head, particularly in the flows we had this morning. But about four feet off the right bank puts you somewhere around mid-thigh deep. And there are a couple boulders right near the bank on the other side. It's good water.
As I was fishing through, I was making a conscious effort to not hold the running line against the cork. I wanted any fish that took to be able to pull line from the reel if it needed it. 3x is 3x after all, and I've had many fish break off on the take alone. Lesson learned. When fishing a floating line and super light tippet on the swing, let them take it from the reel. Right as I got into that trough and the current evened out, the fish absolutely annihilated it. It was somehow thrashing on the surface while screaming line off the reel at the same time, even before I lifted the rod. People ask me why I fish the way I do. That's why. You will not find a harder hit than light line on a floating tip on a scandi or long belly. None of the energy is absorbed by a weighted tip so it all goes to the rod.
The fish fought the way you hope an early fall fish does- long, fast runs with a few jumps thrown in for good measure, and it even briefly got around a mid-river snag as I did my best to lose it. But the hook stayed buttoned, my line held, and I was able to bring it in. Not huge, perhaps four or five pounds, but as pretty and clean as can be with perfect fins. Sometimes you can just tell.
After that I spent the rest of the morning jumping around to spots and switching it up between a riffle hitched muddler and a foam waker, but none wanted to play all the way up top. But that didn't matter. I got my fish. I could go another year if I have to, but a sink tip won't be on my line anytime soon.
Check out a few extra pics.
The fly that did the damage
|Posted on October 8, 2020 at 12:00 AM||comments ()|
One of the coolest things I find about steelhead fishing is the absolute variability in flies that one can catch them on. Sure, it's fun to have old standbys. Finding a confidence pattern is like finding a twenty on the sidewalk- money in the bank. Those are the patterns to tie on your line when you need to feel like you're still a somewhat capable steelheader. Whether that's fishing in slightly off conditions, trying to break a dry spell (we all have those), or simply fishing a new stretch of water where you're looking for feedback as quickly as possible- confidence patterns have a crucial place in a fly box.
But as fun as it is to catch a steelhead in general, I think if it's possible, it might be even more fun catching one on a new pattern or profile scheme or color. Part of the reason behind that is until a fly pattern is proven, you just don't know if it will catch a fish. I've tied lots of flies I thought looked great. But it's not me those flies have to catch, and sometimes the fish don't share my opinions. Maybe that's due more to confidence- again until a fly is proven you don't know how a fish will react, and the longer you fish it without a fish the more you can second guess whether it's a good pattern or not. It is often right about then that I find myself switching out to a proven pattern and relegating the previous to my infamous drawer of misfit flies.This coming fall, however, I've set out to add as much variety to my steelhead game as possible. So of the flies I've been tying, while many are old standbys, perhaps even more are new patterns.
To accomplish variety, in the leadup to fall steelhead, I've put quite a lot of emphasis on tying different patterns with different materials. And one material I've recently rediscovered is bucktail. While I've always had a few hanging around in my fly tying supplies, I haven't really used them for tying steelhead flies. That changed recently. I've gone on a bit of a bucktail kick, tying everything from templedog style patterns to muddlers and I have to say, I'm really impressed with the results. But more importantly, though I've only got out once so far, I had a nice fish eat a natural bucktail bugger. Now I can't wait to go through my bucktail lineup.
|Posted on October 5, 2020 at 10:55 AM||comments ()|
My dad working the head of a familiar run
Well made it out for the first time this year, if only for a few hours in the morning with my dad. With drought conditions towards the second half of September, while I thought there'd be a fish or two somewhere, wasn't sure how many fish would be in. And overnight before getting out we got much needed rain, but it dirtied up the river quite a bit, while not adding excessive volume to the flows. But my dad doesn't get as much time to fish as either of us would like, so you have to make the best of it.
Went to an old standard for me, and we worked it over. With visibility somewhere around 14", it wasn't prime, but it is a spot that holds fish. My dad worked it through with a light tip and bigger fly and didn't get so much as a bump in the money spot. Then a good fish rolled a couple times. I fished through with a long belly, floating poly, and a smaller wet in blue and black but didn't get bumped either. Then I put on a natural colored bucktail minnow. The fish rolled a couple more times in the bucket. I swung out there and got a grab. I didn't set on it because I didn't feel weight on the line, but then he was still on there and trashing the surface with rolls so that when I finally did set it was too late.
Trouble with fishing light lines in slow water is sometimes without good water current pushing your line, a fish can grab and still be on the line but all you feel is the sharp pluck, especially from a good distance away. My casts were out there, so there was a lot of line between me and that fish. I can sit here and armchair quarterback what I did wrong. But getting a nice grab on the floating line is fun, and having a fish take in off conditions that way is even better. Seems like every year I feel more confident fishing that way. To be sure, the fly was lightly weighted, but it would still have been in the top half and not scaping bottom. Then a bit later I got the consolation prize of a smallmouth. And right after that my dad hooked and lost a fish at the head of the run.
We checked out a couple other places. Cast a bit, but we only had a few hours and had to call it before noon. But still, was a great time. Glad to see some fish have made it well upriver even before the rains came. Should only pick up from here.
My natural bucktail minnow
After the take
Decent smallmouth from 90 feet away