December 3rd, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Plan "B"

By Mike Skoczen, Cleveland, OH

Thanks to Mr. Murphy and his law, things usually never go exactly as planned, especially true when you have a long time to make the plans. That is why I think it is always nice to have a Plan B. Something to fall back on when your original plans fall through. Nowhere is that more applicable (in fly fishing circles anyhow) than when fly fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead. The very nature of steelhead fishing in Ohio and Pennsylvania makes it nearly impossible to plan a fishing trip more than a week or two in advance and be reasonably assured a chance at a good day of fishing. The weather conditions including rainfall, run-off, temperature, and sunlight to name a few, all combine to trigger the spawning mechanism in the steelhead's brain and create the urge to run up into the rivers.

If all of the factors are not present in the right mix, the fishing simply will not be very good. Having said of this, two of my fishing buddies and I made plans in mid October to go steelhead fishing on November 17th, nearly a month in advance. This was the only weekend that all of our busy schedules allowed for a day the three of us could get together for some fishing before the end of the year.

In the weeks leading up to the big date the weather seemed to be cooperating with us, the temperature dropped down into the 50's and it rained enough on three separate occasions to swell the rivers and trigger a fresh run of Steelhead into the rivers and spread the fish out. Unfortunately, as the date drew closer this all changed. The temperatures steadily rose into the low 70's and there was not a cloud in the sky for two weeks prior to our trip.

The local rivers usually fish well at a flow rate of anywhere from 175 cfs on one river to around 300 cfs on another. The flows on the date of our outing were in the neighborhood of 55 cfs - 75 cfs, virtually no water, and no fish as they seem to drop back to the lake as the water levels recede. The ones that do stick around are as nervous as a long tailed cat in a rocking chair store and are completely stressed from fishing pressure and the claustrophobic feeling that has to come with being trapped in a small hole on a river when just a few days earlier there was nothing but the open waters of the lake all around.

These factors led to less than favorable Steelhead conditions and we decided to go to Plan B.

Running through my parents back yard is a small stream that is just loaded with a variety of pan fish. This past year I caught three different types of Bluegill, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, and even a Yellow Perch. It is also loaded with large, hungry carp. Even though it was the middle of November the fact that the weather was up in the high 60's and low 70's for such an extended period of time led me to believe that the fish would be feeding in order to fatten up for the winter.

So off to my parent's house we went. After a short talk with my parents and a cup of coffee we headed off into the creek. I set my two friends up on the best two locations that I remembered from earlier that summer and we began casting. Soon we were into a very enthusiastic school of Creek Chubs, some of them pushing 10 inches, but no pan fish. As the two other guys engaged in a heated Chub Catching Contest, the title of 'Chub Master' was on the line, I began prospecting a bit and was finally able to locate the honey hole.

I found the spot I was looking for and proceeded to land a few large slabs, Crappie all over 10 inches and one approaching 13 inches. Finding the school of Crappie pretty much ended the Chub wars.

We all gathered around the small hole and took turns pulling fish after wonderful fish out of the hole. We landed 2 different types of Bluegill that were mostly smaller than average size but at first I was the only one regularly tangling with the Crappie.

Being a good host, I (reluctantly) gave up the best spot on the hole to the other two guys and they both proceeded to land their share of the Crappie, although none as big as mine. (Yes, I'm laughing.) After a few hours of catching several dozen fish total we felt that the fish have had enough and decided to pack up.

As we were packing up to head home my one friend commented that he just had one of the best days fishing that he could remember for quite some time. We all agreed that it truly was a great time. It obviously wasn't all about the fish, landing a handful of Crappie does not compare to landing a Steelhead by a long shot, but catching a few fish does help.

It was mostly about being on the water with friends, having fun, sharing many good laughs. I don't think we ever resolved the issue of who was the Creek Chub King, but I know two guys who would love go back there next spring to continue the argument. I had never fished for panfish in the middle of November, I have always been too busy chasing the Steelhead around.

I do know that if it weren't for a Plan B the trip might have gotten cancelled and I never would have had such an enjoyable experience with my two friends. ~ Mike (mskoz) Skoczen

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