Steelhead memories bolster gift season

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Ardent angler Alberto Rey and son, Diego, score with a nice steelhead while fishing a local Lake Erie tributary in Chautauqua County. Submitted Photo

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A few days before Christmas, the NYSDEC reports that Lake Erie tributaries received a helpful bump in flow rates, as Chautauqua County streams are at or near prime fishing shape. There are good numbers of steelhead in the tributaries, and a drive past any public access areas will provide a quick view that angler numbers are up.

The creeks have been fishing well despite colder water temperatures due to snowmelt and related runoff. Since that melt has ended, the stream levels have decreased flow a bit and have cleared. With each rainfall, the fish move upstream and are usually ready to eat. The rainfall forecast for this week should bolster fishing action again.

Anglers should note that with cold water conditions, steelhead are more lethargic and hug the bottom in areas that offer a break from the current. Fisheries biologist Mike Todd suggests anglers should slow down the drift and target tail-outs, deep holes and seams. Egg sacs, egg flies, trout beads, nymphs and jigs tipped with a grub are good winter offerings, drifted tight to the bottom.

That’s good advice.

Over the holiday this weekend, Alberto Rey and his son, Diego, and a couple of Diego’s college buddies went to wet their fly lines in the local tributaries. One of the tributaries was a local stream that Diego had played in since he was a kid.

Casting a gray-striped rabbit strip-streamer with a hot orange tungsten bead tied by his father, he swung the fly through a small deep pocket, and a nice steelhead chased the fly out into the shallows but did not take the fly. The fish returned to the pool, and Diego cast the fly again to the upstream portion of the pool.

This time, he waited for the fly to disappear into the depths and then he felt the tug. The fight was on and the fun began. The fish came to the net several minutes later, was held briefly for a picture, then was released unharmed.

The streamer fly was tied at his father’s youth fly fishing class a few months earlier. The youth fly fishing class is officially entitled the Children-In-The-Stream-Youth 4H Fly Fishing Program. The classes are free and are held at the SUNY Fredonia Rockefeller Art Center every Tuesday in the Costello Room from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The highly acclaimed program is open to children over 12 years of age and younger if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Classes and supplies are provided at no cost, and no long-term commitment is needed. For more information, call Alberto Rey at 716-410-7003.

After the holidays, classes will resume on Jan. 9 and every Tuesday through May 14, 2024. Alberto Rey is a distinguished SUNY Fredonia professor and an award-winning Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide.

In June, the 2024 Southtowns Walleye Lake Erie Fishing Derby will celebrate 40 years of fishing contest fun this year. The famous fishing club attracts members from many parts of NYS, other states, and Canada, and Chautauqua County campsites and hotel rooms are usually heavily booked over the 9-day contest.

To kick off the 40th anniversary contest, the club invites members, guests, and the public to join them at their clubhouse on Jan. 6 for an evening of relaxation and fun. Entry is free, with music from the Creekside Drifters starting at 6:30 p.m., though doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The club plans several raffles, a 50-50, and bar and kitchen specials, and a free drink for anyone signing up for the respected and highly-touted fishing contest. The clubhouse is located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg. Call 716-864-2938 for more info.

More locally, the Hanover Fish and Game Club will host a 3-bird fun shoot event this Saturday. Registration opens to the public at 8 a.m., with shooting beginning at 9 a.m. These events are 3-bird sets, so a pump or semi-automatic shotgun is required; the main event cost is $45. The last shoot begins at 11 a.m. The club is located at 780 Overhiser Road in Forestville, call 716-480-2202 for more info or visit Hanover Fish and Game Club on Facebook.

Lastly, the special test program NYS Holiday Deer Season started Tuesday and will run through Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. Note that this special late season is for deer only, no bear. Daily hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise through 30 minutes after sunset.

God bless, and Happy New Year to everyone!

Outdoors Calendar:

Dec. 26-Jan. 1: NYS Southern Zone Special Holiday Deer Season (archery/muzzleloader/crossbow).

Dec. 30: Clay’s for Cash Shoot, Hanover Fish & Game, 780 Overhiser Rd., Silver Creek (Forestville), 8 a.m. registration start, open to the public, $45 for main event, last squad out 11 a.m. NOTE: Submit Calendar items to forrestfisher35@yahoo.com

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Steelhead memories bolster gift season

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