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...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cuyahoga Dam Removal

The Cuyahoga River in about to be returned back to her natural flow. 2 dams will be removed within the next few weeks pending safe river flows for workers to do the removal. Below is a live cam look at one of the dams to be removed. While nobody knows exactly what the river will look like afterwards, it is certain that things are going to be different on the ole' mighty Hoga.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CRO Summer Fly Event

Orvis fly tier Steve May shows his summertime favorites for bass, musky, and carp :   Learn to tie Steve's must have summer fly patterns Saturday June 8th at Chagrin River Outfitters and enjoy a North of the border bass, musky, carp seminar.
Seminar- 10-11:30
Fly Tying 12-2

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

CRO shop sale

Chagrin River Outfitters Shop Sale! This Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  If you want it, most likely it is on sale this week.  Support our local shops so they can continue to support us.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Switching it up

Switching it up with Ben See

As we approach the spring steelhead run in the Alley, it comes as no surprise that with each rain we receive, the more fish that are coming into the stream system. While I would normally be searching for chrome with the centerpin and spawn sacs, I am happy to say I am keeping up with the switch rod and fly venture. While I knew in the beginning that trying my hand at spey casting and fly fishing would be a challenge, little did I know how much of a challenge it really would be. I have to admit, I have snuck out the pin and put the smack down just to get some of my mojo back. I am sure I am not the first and certainly won't be the last person to enter into the spey world and be completely confused on this technique, gear, and method of targeting fish. But, as I have said in the past I don't quit, I won't quit.

When swinging a streamer you get plenty of time to observe your surroundings and also do plenty of thinking. For me the next thing I think of with the pin is the next fish. The next thing I think of with the switch rod has nothing really to do with fish. While I am trying to figure out how a fish with a pea sized brain can out think an angler and at the end of the day put them in checkmate, I find myself daydreaming. This in itself is probably one of my issues with the my spey success.

How is it that an angler that knows how to read water, knows fish migration patterns, watches USGS flow gauges like a hawk, can pickup a pin and smash fish daily, knows basically every stocked stream in Steelhead Alley, can zig when he needs to zig and zag when he needs to zag? But, pickup the switch and meet the skunk more often then not? This got me thinking stream side, and to my surprise I found myself off on a tangent again in my own mind.

I am a perfect example of why telling anglers where to fish has little to no advantage. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. Teach an angler how to use a specific technique and they will figure out the where to fish. Telling an angler where to fish when they don't have a good grasp on the their chosen technique doesn't do anything good for the angler or the angling community. As social media has become quite popular over the past few years, these sort of tools are a blessing and a curse to our fishing community. A blessing on one hand as to allow anglers to meet those likeminded to learn from each other. A curse on the other hand as it provides a stage for those ignorant of the true challenges of our fishery. While they spew nonsense, only to be confronted by those anglers who can be seen fishing in sub zero temps in the winter and scorching days in the summer for species other than steelhead. The ignorant then become defensive when those that actually know what is going on with our fishery confront them. They should actually speak less and listen more to the true challenges that are faced in Steelhead Alley. Maybe then, which I doubt, but just maybe they would realize they are contributing to the problem and not the solution.

Team SAA will be back out there on the streams this weekend looking to find the chrome. Hopefully water temps will rise a bit more and that will trigger some good action in the coming week.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CRO Free Spey class Saturday

Chagrin River Outfitters 100 North Main St, Chagrin Falls, OH. 44022
On the water switch and spey seminar with Dan Pribanic. Learn why two handed rods have become so popular for swinging flies along steelhead alley, how to match up lines and rods, choosing the proper sink tips, casting and mending to set up your swing, fishing a run, fly choice, two handed etiquette.
10 am Saturday, March 16th

Be there or be square!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend Wrapup Team SAA

 Anglers both young and old got out and enjoyed the spring like weather conditions this weekend.  With temperatures pushing 60 degrees, spring fever has set in and from the word on the alley, a lot of anglers took advantage.  The Grand River drew anglers with high hopes of finding some pods of fish willing to take their presentation.  The Chagrin river flows made it easy to trek up and down the river hunting for the chromers as well. Rocky river was hot and many fish were observed to be in spawning mode.  We are close to some on fire action the next few weeks!The Chagrin River got some recognition this weekend as well, Team SAA Founder and Pautzke Pro Staffer Ben See submitted an article about the Chagrin and what to expect this spring season.  You can check it out at .  As always, when things get hot on the alley, you can be sure that Team SAA will be out there to report it. 

The highlight of the weekend on the alley was the birth of a new future angler.  Our friend Bob Sparent  took his 2 youngest children out to the river and was able to put them on fish pretty quick.  While the first fish popped off at the shore, the second fish a nice buck fell prey to the Pautzke spawn sac.  I am sure Abby will never forget the day, and certainly Bob will cherish the memory forever.  It is good to see anglers taking the kids out to enjoy the great fishery we are blessed to have here in Steelhead Alley.  I think the picture speaks loud and clear on the pride of a father and daughter.

Team SAA member Sean Armer representing  on the west coast with his new drift boat. 

Until Next Time…
Fish Hard…Fish Often…

Thursday, March 7, 2013

CRO Free Tying Class

 Egg and bugger/minnow patterns workshop at Chagrin River Outfitters on Saturday 11-2. Learn some great springtime guide patterns for steelhead from CRO guides.

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

Switching it up with Ben See – Part 4

Switching it up with Ben See – Part 4

It has been a while since a new episode of “Switching it up” has been published.  I would have loved to come to the computer and write a great success story of how I have been able to pick up a switch rod, throw on some sink tips, swing hobo spey patterns and land some fish.  Unfortunately I still have a lot to learn and every trip out to the streams produced another skunk.  Like the movie Goundhog Day, it was the same ole thing.  Head out to the river, conditions a bit different then the last, but hopes of hooking up with some steelhead still the same as the first day I started spey casting.

This skunk scenario repeated itself 9 times. Yes 9 trips out to the rivers!!!  As frustration levels increased and confidence levels in my fly fishing skills in general decreased I had to reassess a few things.  Is it my casting?  Is it my presentation of a fly?  Could it be the fly itself?  Am I using the right sink tip?  Are the fish just not biting?  Am I fishing the wrong areas?  Where are the fish?  What am I doing wrong?  It is cold, windy and miserable out here.  What in the hell am I doing!!!

Giving up isn’t an option, but I am truly humbled by the spey and the swing.  I never thought I would crush the fish and put up numbers, but rather would find a new way to target the species that I love so much.  As I have said in the past and still believe today, the method an angler chooses to fish for steelhead is of personal choice.  While it is no secret that using bait presentations can and does put up the numbers per say, the fly presentation is a different mentality.  It isn’t about the numbers but rather the experience.

On the bright side, my fly tying skills have grown leaps and bounds from when I first started with fly fishing.  I have grown fond of the Snap T, and feel confident I can put a fly where I want it.  Unfortunately, the fish gods just haven’t blessed me very often yet with actually catching a few fish.  I attribute a lot of this to the conditions I am fishing this winter, and also the learning curve of spey casting with the switch rod.  I won’t quit, I never quit.  

2 months of fishing and no fish, so I figured I would dust off the centerpin and see if I could get my mojo back.  I am a firm believer that if you believe you will catch fish you will, and if you don’t believe you won’t.  I believe every time I go out with the centerpin that I will catch fish, and on Sunday I did just that.  It was nice to have a double digit day on the Chagrin River.  A mix of chrome and colored up bucks, and the action was fast and furious.  

Many have asked me if I have gone back to the centerpin.  The rod and reel you use is a tool.  While I enjoy my time on the water, it is also nice to be rewarded with a few fish as well.  I will be back using the switch rod soon.  I don’t quit and I won’t quit.

Until Next Time…
Fish Hard…Fish Often…

Monday, February 25, 2013

CRO Seminar 3/2/2013

Free seminars this weekend, tell a friend, bring a beginner and see you Saturday.

10 am Seminar will cover: Choosing the proper gear, fly selection, reading the water, hooking and landing your catch, understanding river flows and river maps.

11:30 seminar is expert instruction from veteran fly fishing guide John Fabian on how to best rig your flies, leaders, and tippet for steelhead fishing. Johns techniques for rigging up will make you a better steelhead angler.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CRO welcomes Tom Larimer

Chagrin River Outfitters welcomes Tom Larimer Saturday February 23rd: 1:30-4pm FREE fly tying demo 4-4:30 pm Q and A with Tom. Flies included in this demo will be Reverse marabous(above with Chagrin river steelhead), reverse intruder, tube leech, tube sculpin, and a new never before seen secret weapon. Toms flies have proven very effective for great lakes steelhead, come learn a new favorite.
Owner Dan Pribanic of Chagrin River Outfitters says:

Tom's reverse marabou shown above has been very good for great lakes steelhead this season. Come to the shop Saturday to learn how to tie this great fish catcher.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mike Durkalec Fundraiser

Fundraiser for fellow angler Mike Durkalec

If you are an angler in Steelhead Alley, you have likely heard that fellow angler and friend Mike Durkalec was involved in a bad car accident and in ICU at Cleveland Metro.  Mike is the Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist and member of many groups including the Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders.  Mike has been a friend to many and always took the time to teach others about the great fishery we have here in Steelhead Alley.

An online fundraiser has been setup for Mike due to the increasing costs of medical expenses that may not be covered.  His injuries have been extensive and has been in ICU for several weeks.  Mike is the type of guy that would do for others without question,and now it is time for us to do for him. 

Keep on fighting the good fight Mike, and we pray for your speedy return to good health and many more fun days catching chromers with your fellow anglers and friends.  Please join me in donating to the online fund setup for Mike.

Tie for a Cause Effort

Tie for a Cause

Tie for a Cause! What is 3 flies really worth to you? Help me reach a unified goal of 3000 flies to be split up into 1000 fly packs to donate to 3 fly fishing Organizations in need of our help! You can send as many flies as you like, but three is all that is required! Asking very little for a chance to be apart of a big deal for someone else! Each person who contributes will be listed on the Thank you card submitted with the flies... Lets try to reach this goal and have all flies submitted by April 1,2013. Mailing info below...

Any style, species, and all flies accepted! I'm not looking for specifics, you choose what you want to tie and we are grateful for your participation...

Because you all are willing to do something good foe others, we are offering an incentive to participate! Everyone who signs up and submits 3 flies will be entered into a drawling for a complete Switch set up, Ross Fly Rise Reel donated by Geoff Samples of Ross/SA, SA Skagit Extreme and running Lines, and a TFO Deer Creek Switch Rod Donated by Schultz Outfitters and Steelhead Alley Outfitters!

3000 flies is our goal, lets reach it for these charities:
Project Healing Waters
Casting For Recovery
Make A Wish Foundation

Send flies to:
Greg Senyo
7363 Crosscut Rd
Holland Ohio 43528

Braden Kemp
472 Masson St
Oshawa, ON, Canada L1G 4Z9

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cabin Fever in Full Effect

Cabin Fever in Full Effect

As anglers sit here on this last day of January, the cabin fever is beginning to set in.  Steelhead Alley regional weather patterns have varied from one extreme to another this month.  Last week we set some records for cold, while yesterday we set a record for heat.  Frigid evening temperatures locked up the streams across the alley last week, but the upper 60 degree weather on Wednesday has thawed out the ice in the rivers and melted the snow on the ground.  This has caused the river flows to shoot up.

Either way you slice it, the cold weather last week made it difficult for anglers to chase the fish, flicking ice from their guides and fighting the windburn on the face.  With the rising river flows due to the recent snow melt, we wait for the weather to stabilize so that we can get out there and get onto some fishable conditions.   

Tis the season to look for other ways to occupy the time that is typically spent streamside.  There are seminars and expo’s to attend, fly boxes to fill, YouTube videos to watch and learn a new trick, and Facebook to pass the time with fellow anglers.  If you haven’t already, the party is started over at the Team SAA Facebook Group.  If you aren’t there, you are missing the party.  

With my adventure down this switch rod path, most of my time has been spent with learning to tie my own flies.  Chagrin River Outfitters in Chagrin Falls has all the goodies for tying the streamer patterns I have been stocking up on.  When it comes to learning a thing or two, here in Steelhead Alley a lot of area anglers have been participating in not only Steelhead Alley Angler, but also on the Ohio Fly Fishing group page on Facebook.  With Social Media becoming so popular, this is a great way to connect with anglers of all experience levels.  As a relatively new angler to the world of fly fishing, social media such as Facebook and the groups within have been helping me with my learning curve.  

Team SAA has their Meet and Greet on February 19th at Chagrin River Outfitters and we are looking forward to putting faces to names.  Bob and I have been video conferencing weekly and brainstorming some new ideas to bring to our loyal followers new content in ways never done here in Steelhead Alley.  Stay tuned for details!  Keep your eyes peeled as we are going to make some great things happen!

Mario found some Chrome!

Justin found Chrome!

Fabian found Chrome!

Until Next Time…
Fish Hard…Fish Often…