Sunday, April 01, 2007
Quaker State and Steelhead Alley
Pennsylvania-The Quaker state or Keystone state. Birthplace of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Home of the Hershey chocolate bar and the Liberty Bell. Truly a state richly engrossed in US history but what is most memorable about PA to this Canadian are the 51 miles of Erie shoreline in the heart of Steelhead Alley. Having been intrigued by the Internet reports coming out of "the alley" over the past couple of seasons it was inevitable that we would find ourselves on another road trip in pursuit of our passion. The decision for this trip came at the last minute and almost didn't come to fruition. Through my experience these outings make for the best ones. The better part of 5 hours, a couple tanks of gas, multiple coffee's, countless lines of BS, a PA "Tourist" License, and a secret tip from the local tackle shop attendant we were in to our first PA steelie.
Droppies were plentiful up river hidden under the ledges of this slate lined trib and were more than happy to take our offerings. Being a slate lined trib we found ourselves in long sections of crystal clear water with depths of 2-3 feet. We longed for the deep holes we were accustomed to fishing on our home waters. We ventured up river and found a nice long deep run under a train trestle lined with a large tree on the backside. Exactly what we had hoped to find. It didn't take long to hook into a couple of fish. We shared this run with a local. He was intrigued by our success and ventured over to ask what we were using. He looked at me like I had two heads when I produced a 4" pink worm and handed him one to try. He quickly put it on his hook and cast it onto an extended branch from the sunken tree. :0) "Some men ya just can't reach..."
The droppies were fun but really not the reason we traveled around Lake Erie to Steelhead Alley. The day was slipping away and we had yet to meet up with our hosts. A quick hike back to the steelhead mobile and a quick call on the cel and we were on route to meet up with Wallacio and Tripper at our accommodations. It is always nice to meet up with fellow chrome enthusiasts and it kinda funny how it doesn't take long to break the ice and get the BS flowing. We decided we better hit the local beer store and quickly discovered that PA handles their liquor retail a little different than other states. Being from Ontario we are accustomed to purchasing Beer from a distributor but in PA you have to but from specifically licensed retail outlets and you can only purchase whole case quantities. I can honestly say I have never heard of beer going to waste so it wasn't much of a problem. A few drinks later found us near the mouth of the river where the smolt action was hot and furious. Apparently the annual stocking program had just taken place and the river was full of 4-6" smolts eager to devour roe bags. It truly is a test of ones persistence in conditions like this but we were determined to persevere as we were told of a daily push of fresh chrome in the evening hours. We ventured towards the straight deep sections that lead to the mouth mid evening in anticipation of encountering a pod and were not disappointed. Genes spirits were getting low after the smolt brigade but we quickly remedied that with a barrage of 2-4 lb leaping chromers. We returned to the cabin to reunite with our hosts and share a few Rolling Rocks, hot wings, sausage and hot pepper pizza, and tall tales of the days events. Many laughs were had as tales of infamous GL steelheading characters were retold. Morning was getting closer so we subsided to the sleeping bags for an early rise. Apparently I sound like Darth Vader when I sleep so G thought he was right at home.
The game plan for the morning was to fish the mouth. The strong North winds from the previous day had subsided and this was going to be a posibility. Gene and myself decided to fish the deep straight sections prior to venturing to the mouth. We fished from 7am to 1pm and never made it to the mouth One could only image how many juvenile steelhead were in this section of the river as we landed fish after fish some times 6 drifts in a row. We encountered multiple doubles and at one time broke out into laughter after achieving another. These steelies fought like they were twice their size and jumped like the water was boiling.
At one point in the morning I caught my self prior to complaining that my arm and shoulder was getting sore and quickly ate my words. As a passionate steelheaders we live for moments like these and on this trip we lived indeed. As we were exiting an local angler across the river yelled "way to go guys...you sure had a good day!". What a nice gesture from a fellow angler to end the day on a positive note. We geared down in the parking lot and cracked a cold one to celebrate our success.
We quickly broke into discussion with a couple of fellow anglers from out of state. They reported on little success for the day. We questioned them on their approach and I reached into my vest and gave them my remaining roe bags. We instructed them where to fish that evening and how to do it. Driving home we elaborated on how much we both hoped those fellas were blessed with the success that evening that we had been on this great Steelhead Alley adventure.