Ontario Tribs Steelhead 11/6-11/8: Back in the New York Groove

There’s something about steelheading that’s — I don’t know — sad. I’ve written about its emotional rollercoaster, and how when you’re down the track seems like an endless journey into melancholy. The highest percentage play on these tribs, a presentation along the bottom, makes me weary by tedious repetition. Let’s not even mention the weather, which can turn a suck day into shit faster than you can tighten the strings on the hood of your rain jacket.

But when the bite is on and weather is tolerable and the people are pleasant and — this is not insignificant — your luck is good, it’s about as much fun as you can have while wearing rubber pants.

A little crick stompin’ on day one. Up at 4:20am, spot secured by 5:10, waiting for first light. Any day I can land one steelhead is a good day. Skunk off early is even better. Bright, beautiful chrome that shone even in the rain.

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We bounced around from pool to pool. I had to work my butt off for this steelhead. It was a very difficult presentation for a lefty, and in an hour maybe I got maybe a dozen quality drifts. One of them was good enough to fool this sparsely spotted fish.

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Loved the last spot on day one. Best steelhead of the day, and one of the better ones of the trip. I got into some double-digit pounders, and the word was that there was a good mix of bigger fish this year. I hooked this one about a rod’s length away from me, and had to chase her downriver once she left the pool.

UJP

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Why we keep coming back — and why we gird our loins for days like day two: not a freaking touch. Most miserable moment: last two hours, guy below me hooks four. Guy above me hooks three. I snagged the bottom. A lot. Little did I know, tomorrow was going to be great.

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Day three: there’ll be no birthday skunk! A splendid buck, just beginning to color up. I shared the water with several other anglers who couldn’t have been nicer. Thank you, gentlemen. Not the world’s best picture, but you get a good sense of the size of the fish.

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My father always said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” When you’ve got the hot steelhead hand, you recognize the manifest truth of his words.

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If you ever figure out steelhead fly selection, please let me know. I fished this same spot — and some others nearby — last year with little copperhead black stones, and nothing. They were all over the bling. This year, if it was small and black and had a copper head, they wanted it with a sense of urgency. What a strange game we play.

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To be read in your best baseball announcer impersonation voice: “Fouled off. Just got a piece of it.” Upon rig retrieval, it was easy to see why I dropped the fish at hookset. On this day I hooked nine and landed six, which doesn’t suck for a batting average. I lost one on a terrible initial hookset, and no idea what happened with the third.

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The last fish of a memorable day. It was the 91st steelhead I’ve landed. 

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Tell the NOAA no fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone

This is important, folks. The NOAA is considering a rule that would allow recreational striped bass fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone, a part of the EEZ. The BITZ is an important refuge for striped bass, especially breeding age females which sometimes spend the entire summer there. If approved, charter boats will come and wantonly kill the future of this glorious species. Please visit the link below, hit “comment now!” and provide your opinion.

Click here to comment.

She needs your help!

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Billy Mitchell podcast: Steve Culton talks fly fishing

For your listening pleasure, a 50-minute podcast featuring yours truly. I haven’t heard it yet, but I am boldly going forward and posting the link. Here’s what Mr. Mitchell had to say about it: “We talk (the sometimes technical) trout fishing on the Farmington, catching stripers on the fly year-round, and using THE FORCE to find fish.”

You can listen to it here.

He speaks!

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Striper report: and then, there was one

Eleven consecutive months of a striper on the fly from the shore down. One to go.

I decided to start this month’s quest early — ten hours into November, to be exact. The tide was outgoing, of an unremarkable height, slightly stained. I saw some small baitfish, but no birds were working. Another fly angler flogged the water across from me; two dudes with spin rods joined the fray as I was getting ready to leave.

To the fishing. I was using a 3″ September Night on a floating line. As so often is the case this time of year, the fish will hang out on the bottom. I gave it half hour with he floater, then switched to the full sink integrated line. Bingo. I was snagging the occasional mussel, but one time the bottom fought back. A fine 20″ striper, hooked neatly in the corner of the mouth. And since no one else was catching anything, I reeled up and headed back home.

Forgot the camera, but like this one, November’s bass was clean and bright and fresh from the ocean.

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Many questions (rhetorical and otherwise)

I once read that a good way to learn things was to ask a lot of damn fool questions. I tend to do that in my fishing, whether I’m wondering to myself, trying something new, or picking the brain of someone who knows a lot more than me. Here are some recent points I’ve been pondering:

Is “pushing water” the most trite, overused, overhyped concept in streamer construction today?

How do all those stripers find my 1″ long sparse grass shrimp flies at night with no moon in water with visibility of under 2 feet?

Why don’t more striper anglers think in terms of matching the bait, and presenting the fly like the naturals are behaving?

When it comes to choosing lines and leaders, is there a more important question than: “What do you want the fly to do?”

If intermediate lines are the most versatile, why do the vast majority of striper anglers use only one presentation with them?

Is there a striped bass swimming today that cares if your fly turns over?

Last but not least: why the hell didn’t I get out and fish in the wake of last weekend’s storms?

If you want to consistently catch bigger bass on the fly from shore, fish how, where, and when most other people don’t.

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

Taconic TU awarded the Orden de Fed Presenter with Rioja Clusters

Many thanks to the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited for hosting me last night. A super-friendly group of anglers who meet at rustically charming lakeside restaurant in the Berkshires, and who showed their hospitality with fellowship and food. (And a very nice glass of Spanish vino tinto.) My presentation was the original The Little Things. Lots of good questions, and I enjoyed talking fishing with all of you during and after dinner.

That appears to be it for me for for speaking engagements in 2018. Of course, if your club or group needs a presenter, you know where to find me! I already have some dates pencilled in for 2019, and once my schedule for The Fly Fishing Show is confirmed, I’ll let you know.

Thanks to everyone who came out this year, said hello, and asked questions. The pleasure was all mine.

Getcher cameras ready. It’s steelhead season!

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