Thursday, October 10, 2013

USGS flow gauges in the Alley

CFS, Flow Gauges, Rain, No Rain, OH MY!!!

One of the most challenging things that I found for myself when learning how to steelhead fish was reading stream flow gauges provided online by the United States Geological Survey. When first looking at the charts, it is a bit intimidating. With a bit of practice, patience, and getting out on the water you can quickly learn how to use these tools to determine which river you can have the best chances at landing fish that day.

In the summer, the rivers are quite low. When the fall rains begin, the rivers will quickly rise, then quickly fall. As the ground begins to get more saturated in the fall and into the frozen winter, the rivers take more time to come down in flow. Some rivers are smaller and hence have less feeder creeks, which in turn allows these rivers to fish first. A river such as the Grand river is much larger and takes longer to come down due to its size, feeder creeks, and length of the river.

Each river has a prime fishable Cubic Foot Per Second of flow. Now known as “CFS”. Each angler has their own preference of what is fishable and what is not. A river such as the Grand River may fish at 400 CFS, while the Rocky River would be considered too high and fast at that rate. Learning what are the prime numbers for you on each river is critical, and highly recommended due to safety reasons.

Too low of numbers and you will have little to no flow. Crossing streams in low flows is little to no issue if you know the stream bed. Too High of numbers and crossing a stream can be deadly and has been in the past to anglers getting swept up in the current. Heed the warnings of other experienced anglers when it comes to flows. If they say it is too fast, listen to them.

Experienced anglers rarely stick to a particular river they will fish. They begin looking at the online CFS charts, and make a determination the night before, and even up to the hour they are leaving the house. While one river may be unfishable, heading east or west another river may be prime. Many anglers use the online resources on their phones as well.

For example, you are trying to sneak out in the morning before a storm hits. You head to your destination and begin fishing, all of a sudden right before your eyes, the flows pickup and the river gets dirty.

It is time to fire up the cell phone and find out that the rain has come, and the river will soon be blowing out. Rather than hanging up the rod for the day, anglers will look to find fishable water based upon experience by looking at the CFS gauges for other rivers.

This is when knowing fishable CFS readings becomes important.

Here are a few tips that I have learned.

1. Know the recommended prime numbers for a few rivers in the vicinity.

2. Is the river rising, falling, or steady?

a. If rising, is the CFS already out of prime range?
b. If Falling, will the CFS be in the prime range during your fishing?
c. Based upon past history during that month, how quickly is the river rising or falling?

3. If it is going to rain the day of fishing, a general guideline is to look back at the last time the river rose, and how long it took. If it took 6 hours to blow out, then you will have a good idea of how long you have to fish that river

4. Not all rivers rise and fall at the same rate. Some rivers may not get any rain at all that day even though a river east or west may be getting hammered with rainfall.

I have grabbed a screenshot of the latest CFS for a few rivers. I will use these as some examples.

Rocky River:
September 14th the river rose to about 400CFS, out of fishable range. September 15th, the river fell to within fishable range. September 19th, the river is low.

My thoughts on this river is that the flow cresting at 400 CFS has allowed fish to push up into the river. Quickly overnight the river fell to a fishable range. Within a few days the water has gotten low and clear. Fish are in the rivers, and holding in the deep pool or below damns.

Chagrin River:

Chagrin River crested around 950 CFS out of fishable range on September 15th, coming down to fishable ranges on September 17th. The next few days has been a steady runoff. The high flow earlier should have allowed fish to push up. Fish are most likely still pushing. At the moment it is raining, so I would expect the rivers to bounce up a bit.

Grand River:
September 12th the grand river was up over 1800 CFS. As you can see, the Grand River takes longer to come down to fishable levels. This is due to the larger watershed size and more feeder creeks dump into the main river channel. 

I have highlighted in red some general windows of prime opportunity when fishing these waters. Several other factors play into what water you decide to fish. Water clarity being a big part of that. You will learn that just because a flow looks good, it may not be the optimal clarity.

With experience you will learn that when flows go up, so does the suspended silt in the water. As the flows come down, so does the silt settle and you get into that Emerald Green water which all steelheaders love to fish in.
There is a lot of data on the USGS site.

By focusing on the CFS charts, you can begin to learn how to choose a river wisely. My recommended flows are by no means the end all be all. Many anglers enjoy fishing in higher or lower flows based upon their own experiences. While one section of a river may be bad fishing at 500 CFS, that same river may be great fishing in another area of the same stream due to the width of the river and depth of the streambed.

I hope this brief tutorial will assist new anglers in learning how to use what they research online, and translate that into more enjoyable fishing on the streams.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The tools we chose to chase the chrome

It is October 1st, and Steelhead Alley rivers are ready for mother nature to provide us with some rain to once again bump the flows and trigger another push of chrome to enter the streams for our fishing pleasures.  As of now most all major tributaries are low and clear in the Ohio and Pennsylvania valley.  The few fish that are in the system at this point are finding refuge in the shale cuts and under the timber.  This leaves us anglers limited opportunity to tangle with the chrome we seek.  Alas we are cleaning the rods and reels and re-checking our gear to ensure we are ready when the time comes that mother nature graces us with her rainy presence.

In this day and age of the world wide web, to pass time anglers turn to the computer and crawl the web.  The west coast anglers look to be having a spectacular fall run!  I am sure I am not alone in wishing I could make it over to the west side to take part in the fun.  Unfortunately I sit here in Steelhead Alley waiting for the rain to get us going again.  

I recently came across a site that I frequent that had a post that got me thinking.  It is the elephant in the room that I am sure many anglers have seen or experienced first hand within their angling regions.

I fish for steelhead with a spinning rod, therefor I am perceived beneath a bait caster, center pinner, fly and spey angler.

I fish for steelhead with a bait caster, therefor I am perceived beneath a center pinner, spin, fly and spey angler.

I fish for steelhead with a pin, therefor I am perceived above a spin and bait cast angler, but below a fly and spey angler.

I fish for steelhead with a fly rod, therefor I am perceived above a spin, bait caster and  pinner, but below the spey angler.

I fish for steelhead with a spey rod, therefor I am perceived above bait casters, center pinners and spin fishing anglers, but get along with traditional fly rod anglers.

The chosen tool should not be the single factor in determining ethics, knowledge or passion of any individual angler.  Some may prefer one over the other or some may be restricted by budget on a chosen tool to target the chrome in our great fishery.  Some may feel more comfortable with a chosen style of fishing but aspire to advance their knowledge and learn more about another style and technique in their angling progression.  Some may chose one style of fishing over another based upon personal preference and what they want to get out of their day of fishing.

If you have fished long enough you will eventually, if not already see the good, bad, and ugly of each and every angling group.  It is those anglers that are willing to take the time and help educate those misinformed and or those that don’t have the knowledge to a specific style of fishing that are the true sportsman of the passion we all love.  We may never be able to change those that could care less about ethics, but surly we can have a significant impact on those younger in the sport and those that are always looking to learn something new.

I think we all need to look within ourselves including me, to realize we may never be able to change or guide those with bad ethics who don’t care, but rather we as anglers can have a significant impact on the those younger and those willing to learn from each other without first labeling them as “Oh that is a “X” style of fisherman, he is not as good or not as ethical as me mentality.”

 Let us never forget, we all share a common bond and that is the pursuit of chrome with our chosen style of fishing.  It is the outdoors, the love of nature, the fresh crisp air, the tug of a hot chromer, the sense of accomplishment we feel when we land one of the great beauties of our streams and the memories created streamside with our fellow anglers.

Steelhead Alley Angler has always and will always support all forms of fishing regardless of region or chosen rod.  We are bonded by the common passion of fishing and that is what makes me feel so great about Team SAA. 

Until Next Time...
Fish Hard...Fish Often...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SAA Fishing Report 9-24-13

The rain received on Friday night and Saturday morning gave us a big jump in flows and kick started the steelhead fishing season.  All rivers in the Ohio Valley area got a good dose of the rain that was very much needed.  The fish responded well to the rain and a push of fish entered the stream systems.  

The name of the game during early season is watching the radar and figuring out which rivers are the best candidates for fishing based upon past experience and first hand knowledge.  Even if it is raining, the fish are already wet so get out there and give it a shot.  Rain often deters anglers from going fishing so you might just find yourself having most of the river to yourself.

As quickly as the rivers come up to fishable levels, they tend to fall just as fast.  Being able to get out and do some fishing during prime time is a small window of opportunity.  While most anglers don't have the luxury of fishing prime days often, being able to adjust to what mother nature gives you is critical.  Low and clear conditions are being seen once again out on a few of the streams.  Beads, streamers and small flies are great choices during the low and clear times.  

It won't be long and we will be into the October fall run of Steelhead Alley fishing.  Soon we will be firing on all cylinders.  Based upon the water temps and rain forecasts, we should be seeing some great action here in the near future.  Hot chrome chasing down your presentation.  Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!

Until Next Time...
Fish Hard...Fish Often...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013-14 SAA Kickoff

The 2013-14 Steelhead Alley Season draws near.  The cool nights and shorter days signal the start of the steelhead run.  Mother nature has yet to release her summer grip though.  This week the region will see highs in the 90’s and lows in the 50’s.  Lake Erie water temps are slowly decreasing.  Low stream flows are slowing the early migration and in return fish are being reported near the mouths of the streams.

While fishing for chrome on the home front is not officially started, anglers are traveling North and West in search of King Salmon.  Many are reporting good numbers and size.  It won’t be long and the Alley will once again be the focus of anglers looking to feel the head shaking, chrome jumping action.

Whether you are a pinner, spinner or fly guy Team SAA will be at it again this year.  Things should begin heating up soon and you can be sure we will be there on location.  We wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2013-14 Steelhead Alley fishing season.

Until Next Time...
Fish Hard...Fish Often...

Monday, August 19, 2013

No Roe, No Problem

No Roe, No Problem!

You can checkout the latest blog entry on the Pautzke website for details on what to do when the fridge has run out of eggs, and how to still get into the fish.

Until Next Time...
Fish Hard...Fish Often...