November 2013 Steelhead Outing Reportt

Early Sunday morning, Joe Robinson, Bob O'Donnell, Alan Burrows and I started our migration to Erie for our November steelhead outing. We enjoyed breakfast at Denny's in Breezewood and after the drive up, made a quick check of the upper access of Elk Creek which looked a little high but in fishable condition, and a another stop at Dick's Sporting Goods where Alan picked up a rain jacket vest since his jacket was still at home. We arrived at the middle access point to 20 Mile Creek (the tomato fields) at about noon where there were strong winds and a temperature in the mid 40s. I called Mike Abramowitz and left a message telling him we arrived. He and Art Friedlander had arrived the day before after fishing Oak Orchard and Sandy in NY on Friday. They had originally planned to fish the Cattaraugus on Saturday but it was blown out so they fished 20 Mile Creek instead where they reported lots of fisherman and caught 5-6 but half were foul hooked.

While Joe and I ate lunch, Bob and Alan suited up and headed down to the stream. Some fisherman that were heading out reported that the stream started to muddy up. While Joe and I were hiking down to the stream some people reported that two fishermen had gone for an involuntary swim. When we got to the stream, 20 Mile was high and muddy and definitely not fishable or safe to cross. Moments later we saw that Bob and Alan were the fishermen that fell in. Alan reported; "I was into my backing within minutes of hitting the water, literally. Bob and I were crossing when we should not have. He got knocked down by the force of the river and took out my legs (would have happened anyways). We went about 50 yards down stream before getting to a shallow enough spot that we could stop. All I had in my hand was the fly line so I kept pulling it in, then backing, until here came the rod and reel. Bent and broke some guides but I had a back up rod. So much for Sunday." Bob reported "As Alan Burrows and I geared up and walked down to 20 Mile Creek, I was looking forward to seeing some steelhead in the water. Didn't consider the steelhead would soon be looking at us. The creek was rising a little high, running strong and off colored. We waded about 3/4 of the way across before getting into a spot of trouble and then ultimately being swept downstream. I've worked with fire department personnel on 'Swift Water Rescue' courses, never thought I would experience one myself. Initially, it was kind of a surreal moment looking up at the sky from under water. I promptly let go of whatever I had been hanging onto to and did my best drag free drift downstream. We both popped up like corks about 50 yards from where we started. Alan was hanging onto his fly line. We reeled in his rod and then with help from another angler we both got pulled out of the stream. A few minutes later, someone fishing downstream found my rod - still rigged up and ready to go. We both were a bit soaked and headed back to the hotel for a change of clothes. Not the best way to start the day." While Bob and Alan went to the motel to get into dry cloths and make sure both were ok, Joe and I drove to 16 Mile Creek. We arrived there to a flooded section of stream because the strong winds from the north had high waves from Lake Erie pounding 16 Mile at the mouth. The short fishable section above the first falls and up to "Big Falls" (a little ways above Rt. 5), was already occupied by other fishermen. When I saw the conditions of 16 Mile, I decided 12 Mile would also be flooded from the pounding of Lake Erie waves. We decided to return to the motel to see how Bob and Alan were doing. They said they were ok which was a relief to us. We met for dinner at Torrero's Mexican Restaurant where Art reported that he had caught one in the high and muddy water at 20 Mile that afternoon. To cross the stream at the end of the day, he and Mike crossed safely by locking arm in arm. Based on this day's event, PPTU bought their accident insurance just in time and we are very thankful that Alan and Bob suffered only minor bruises. One final note on the accident, Bob called his mom to say hello and told her what happened. She promptly said, "you tell those guys you are NOT allowed to wade in the creeks anymore". Bob's 54 ... got to love your mother. You are forever her child!

The Crew at Torrero's

Monday morning, we went to Elk Creek at Folly's End Campground. Art and Mike went upstream while Joe, Bob, Alan, and I went down stream. I put Alan onto a few steelhead that were at the tail end of the long pool behind Folly's Shop. Bob, Joe, and I briefly fished just around the first bend finding one lone fish (for many years, I had always found fish in this pool but this is the 3rd year in a row that this section has been void of fish). While Bob continued to fish here, Joe and I continued downstream. About mid way down to the next bend, we encountered two fishermen crossing in what was waste deep water. Joe and I found an easier place to cross a little farther downstream. Just before the bend we found a fisherman that had caught a nice one. Around the bend, the long pool was full of fishermen. Joe and I checked the next couple of pools without finding any fish (5 years ago, Dennis Covert, Will Amland, and Tim Bowers had caught several fish in these pools) but again they were void of fish for the 3rd year in a row. We headed back to the parking lot where we found Alan at the shop. When he and Bob had gone upstream above the bridge, Alan met a local who gave him some direction, a fly and an area to cast to and to nymph. Soon a steelhead was landed and only at the cost of his St. Croix 8 weight, and "on it's first fish!". At the Fly Shop, he bought a $39.95 special 7/8 weight 9 foot Chinese fly rod. After that, Bob and Alan went to Streuchen Flats but encountered too many fishermen and returned to Folly's where they went down stream around the bend about 200 yards where Alan happened upon a local guide putting his client on steelhead. After the second fish in 15 minutes, he applauded and begged for help. The guide was Mark DeFrank. He looked at Alan's rig, told him it was all wrong, and showed him how he had his client set up. In the next 30 minutes, Alan had hooked up two more fish. DeFrank also had some great looking flies and has tying instruction on his web site. Bob also had some hookups in this section as the fish had been active during their time there.

Joe and I went to Rick Road which was full of fishermen and briefly considered fishing below the bridge at the I-79 southbound off ramp before heading for Crooked Creek. We checked out all the access points starting south of I-90 and heading north until we found a fishable section at the Holliday Road access. We talked to a fisherman who had caught one earlier in the day but was waiting for his 2 sons who were still fishing. We went upstream past several fishermen including the 2 sons (who said there were plenty of fish in the stream but not active that day) searching for fish. We hiked and fished over a half mile of the stream without seeing a fish. Around 3 PM it starting raining as we returned to the parking lot. Talking with the 2 sons again we all thought that maybe the fish had migrated back to the nursery waters because the water level had receded. With it raining hard, we started heading back towards the motel, but decided to stop at the BAC Bait and Tackle Shop on the way. The name is now Trout Run Bait and Tackle and is owned by Ric and Karen Gauriloff, former Northern Virginia residents who bought the place two years ago. They still will clean, freeze, and store your fish for $2. Ric told us about the Elk Park access on lower Elk where he had caught 6 that morning on a white woolly bugger. Since Joe hadn't seen the Trout Run Nursery Waters, we stopped there to observer all the steelhead coming into the nursery. We also observed that Lake Erie was still pounding the shoreline with high waves. We had dinner at the Texas Roadhouse Monday evening where Art reported that he caught one on Elk near the bridge at West Road and lost another one. While we were having dinner, the rain had changed to snow and about a 1/2" had already fallen.

One of Art's Steelheads

Tuesday morning we woke up to 2.3 inches of snow according to Accuweather plus Erie had received 1/2" of precipitation on Monday according to the Weather Channel. This meant that Elk, Walnut (according to the USGS gage), and 20 Mile Creek were probably unfishable so our best bet would be 16 Mile or 12 Mile to the east. However, when I checked the Brandy Run gage (Brandy Run is a tributary of Elk Creek with the mouth near the Legion Pool at Girard) it looked like Elk Creek might be fishable. After bidding farewell to Art who had to return home to leave on a business trip, we drove to Folly's via Rt. 832 so that we could check the condition of Elk near Sterrettania as we drove by the stream. It appeared high but fishable so we continued to Folly's where it was 25 degrees when we parked at about 10 AM. Joe, Bob, Alan, and I returned to the pool down stream around the bend where Bob and Alan had found active fish Monday afternoon. Mike said he'd catch up with us as he was still rigging up. We fished this pool for about 2 hours without a strike. We tried to go down stream around the next bend but the place where Joe and I had crossed the day before was too high to safely cross. We decided to head back upstream and fish near the bridge and also look for Mike. We fished at the bridge for a while without any strikes and decided we would head east to the Mile creeks. When I called Mike, he was up stream a little farther and noticed in the two hours of fishing that the stream level had started receding. Based on that, we decided to try Elk farther up stream at the West Road access just up stream from the KOA Campground. We fished there until about 3:30 with Mike and Joe each having a hookup but unable to bring them to net. By then we were all frozen, it was snowing/hailing and I think it was still only in the low 30s with a cold wind. Alan went back to the hotel while the rest of us found a Burger King where we warmed up with coffee or hot chocolate. After getting some knot tying lessons from Mike, we checked out the Mill Creek Access on upper Walnut Creek. This looked fishable but nobody was interested in wetting a line there. That evening we enjoyed dinner at the Olive Garden where Mike informed us that he was heading home first thing Wednesday morning.

Wednesday morning, we headed to the Elk Park Access on lower Elk Creek (the owner of Trout Run Bait and Tackle referred Joe and I to this place on Monday) where we fish just up stream from the bridge for about 3 hours. Elk was still receding but very fishable. Bob had several hits and landed a steelhead that was at least 18" on a fat pheasant tail nymph and Alan landed one on an orange crystal meth. Alan lost two others as did Joe. I think Joe's took a black stonefly nymph. I fished with them part of the time but also went up stream and fished a large section of pocket water, riffles, and runs searching for steelhead but not finding any. We left there at 11:15 AM and headed for home.

Bob's Steelhead

To sum up this trip, the fishing should have been better as this was the first time in several years that the streams were not low and clear. All streams were stained and above average on the flows (except for 20 Mile which turned high and muddy just prior to our arrival). It was hard to locate any steelhead through the murky water. Most of the time we were casting blind to obvious holding spots. A few people hooked up here and there. We didn't realize at the time that the fish were onto really small flies, in the 16-18 region. Nymphs, small egg patterns, and small streamers were attracting fish. Everybody was into fish except for me but not many were brought to net. I've been going to Erie, PA steelhead fishing at least once a year since 2001. Every trip, I had always landed one or more fish and on several occasions double digit numbers. This trip, I was not only skunked but I didn't even have a single strike! I lost the following flies to rockfish; 2 white woolly buggers, 1 black woolly bugger, 1 super pax special, 1 golden stonefly nymph, 1 black stonefly nymph, 3 crystal meth (1 pearl, 1 peach, and 1 orange), 2 trout beads (1 orange and 1 peach blood dot), 1 prince nymph, 1 chamois worm, and 2 bead head brassies (1 red and 1 green). I also tried numerous other patterns during the trip. That being said, I will be back to try again in the near future as I'm addicted to steelhead fishing!

Ken Bowyer

Art's Brown

Combat Fishing on Oak Orchard

Ken, Joe, Alan,and Bob freezing on Elk Creek

Art's Steelhead Video by Mike from John Benoit on Vimeo.