Tag Archives: fishing in buffalo

The Dog Days of Winter – is That a Thing?

Are the dog days of winter a thing?

I was out fishing on the Lower Niagara River with Chuck and his bride Sara a few days ago when the concept of the “dog days of winter” popped up. Not even a week earlier, he and I both had strong days in the same spot using the same tactics. That day, however, action was sporadic. Not so slow as to make us lose interest but slow enough for us to start considering if the “dog days of winter” was a real thing. This short but interesting conversation got me wondering if there was anything I could do to prevent or minimize prolonged patterns of slow activity. I haven’t landed on a firm position on this idea yet, but I did determine that a look at myself would be a great place to start.

Dog Days or Not, a Nice Steelhead Always Brings a Smile to your Face.
Do Fish Experience the Same Lulls We Do?

Back to the day Chuck, Sara, and I were on the Lower Niagara River. If you’ve never fished this place before, click here to see what it’s like. This time of year, we fish the Lower Niagara River for steelhead and lake trout. The steelhead are there staging for the spawn and the lake trout are there recovering from the spawn and getting full on steelhead eggs and bait. Bottom line – there are many fish around – the challenge is determining what they want to eat. We tried every presentation and every lure/bait we had in the box and could only just pick away at them. What’s up with that? Why did they turn off so quickly? They are all still down there – we can see them on the sonar so why the hell aren’t they
biting?

Sara with a Nice Winter Laker
Dog Days Defined

This lull is what we labeled as the dog days of winter. I don’t typically use the phrase, “dog days,” to describe anything. However, I’m guilty of empathizing with people when they talk about the dog days of summer. The images that pop into my head when I think about the dog days of summer are a bunch of sweaty bodies hanging out on their porches, drinking something cold, just hanging in there. Sluggish. Lazy. I think (read as I’m hoping) that fish behave the same way when they find themselves in the middle of a stable weather pattern and a lot of heat.

So what images pop into the dome when contemplating the idea of the dog days of winter? I conjured a few. If you’re not from the Buffalo Niagara Region or really any of the Great Lakes bordering states, you’ll likely feel sorry for us:
– A slumped over figure
– More than a few pounds heavier than 6 months ago
– Very little skin exposed/likely wearing a hoodie and sweatpants
– The skin that is exposed is pasty
– Mindless gaze on the face caused by binge watching shows on Netflix/Amazon Prime

Mindfulness is the Key to Breaking the Cycle

I want to believe the fish are in the same situation in the middle of winter. Many of them have been in the Lower River for a few months now. They’ve seen all matter of tackle and debris flow by them. They’ve seen more than a few of their compatriots move to grab what they thought was food only to be violently pulled away in a flurry of chaos. I think it’s safe to say they are in a bit of a rut. Maybe I’m humanizing them too much (I probably am). Maybe I’m not. Bottom line, I have to assume this is the case and do everything I can to prove otherwise.

Picking away at the Tribs for Steel
Picking away at the Tribs for Steel – look at that Water Color in the Background

Proving otherwise involves a lot of thinking and physical activity. You have to change speeds, angles, tackle, bait, drifts, etc. – and hope you figure out a pattern. Your eyes have to capture and your mind has to absorb all the little details. Your hands will likely be cold but you can’t let that prevent you from changing lures or bait. You’ll likely be freezing but you can’t let that affect your situational awareness. Remaining mindful throughout the struggle is the best way to stay engaged and your best shot of figuring out a pattern.

Final Thoughts

As charter captains and guides, we spend a lot of time on the water and all of us experience slow periods in fishing. Sometimes it’s only part of the day. Sometimes it can last a couple days. For the most part however, we catch fish regularly (we’d better – it’s our job). That’s not to say it’s easy, just that we spend a lot of time doing this so we can get things dialed in a bit faster than the average angler.

When we find ourselves in a slow period, all we can do is a better job of taking notice of what’s going on and experiment with ways to combat the lull. Most of the time we’re successful. Sometimes we aren’t. Those hard periods are the gems – the learning opportunities – OR they are just a message from Mother Nature reminding you that there is a warm couch back home and that you’d be better off going there than floating down a river in the cold. My mother would tell you that listening to what she said was never a strong suit of mine.

Notes on Recent Fishing Activity

Dog days of winter or not, we’ve been on the water.  Yeah, it was a bit slow toward the end of this past week.  All that rain and high temperatures melted every bit of snow and completely saturated the ground and our regional, Great Lakes tributaries.  Just about everything was blown out over the weekend but we hung in there, tried a bunch of techniques and flies, and managed to land some fish.

Although the tributaries were a bit problematic due to high water, the Niagara River didn’t have that problem.  Devils Hole is still running clear and fishing well for this time of year.  Below the power authority, all the mud from Cayuga Creek, the Erie Canal, and Buffalo Creek caused by the rain and snow melt is clouding up the water quite a bit.  The upper Niagara River, although clear, is full of icebergs now as yesterday’s gale force winds blew them downstream from Lake Erie.  We won’t head back out on the Upper until that stuff clears out.

Josh – just happy to be out there.
Josh – this was the first time he had ever gone fishing and he managed to land a steelhead on a fly rod. Nice work, Josh!
Ruben – having a blast. This was his first time fishing – EVER. He hooked 3 steelhead – all of which broke him off (and bewildered the hell out of him). We’re glad he had fun.
Mark – intensely trying to figure this fly fishing thing out.
A Bro Vacation on the Water – Mark, Josh, and Ruben visiting WNY from Cleveland. They planned on going skiing – Mother Nature had different plans
Notes on Upcoming Fishing

We are about to experience a very mild stretch of water.  The tribs will clear up quickly now that all the snow is gone so we plan on spending some time walking over the next few days.  The Lower River continues to fish well for steelhead and the sporadic lake trout so we’ll be spending time on the big water as well.  If you find yourself lookin for a cure to the dog days of winter – give us a call! 

Buffalo Niagara Fishing Report – 21071024

Buffalo Niagara Fishing Is At Its Finest Right Now

Buffalo Niagara fishing is at its finest right now. Well, at least that’s our opinion. Big fish are eating readily everywhere and an angler with the will…will catch many. Salmon, smallmouth bass, musky, trout, and steelhead are all making an appearance in our favorite hero shots. All these species are available to avid anglers of all tackle types – from fly to center pin to conventional – and every tackle type is producing well.

Doug and Ben up from Pittsburg to see what this Buffalo Niagara Scene is all About
Get outside!

Incredible fishing this time of year is only one part of what anglers can experience in Buffalo Niagara fishing. Fall foliage in this region is at its peak now. Gold, purple, red, and orange leaves form a breathtaking backdrop as anglers pursue their quarry. What’s going on above and below the surface of our waters will captivate for hours on end.

The Ideal – it’s Rare but Wonderful When you Hit it Right

Just getting out and exploring Buffalo Niagara fishing opportunities is often the hard part for most of us. It’s rare that a weekend angler will hit it just right. By just right I mean – slight breeze, dense cloud cover, stable weather pattern for a couple days, decent (slight stain) water clarity, and in some people’s religion – moon phase (full or new moon).

I’m not a conditions hunter – it’s tough to be that way if you’re a guide. I’d argue that hunting for the ideal conditions limits your skills as an angler. You have to get out there, rain or shine, cold or hot, just to see how the fish are behaving and in turn, determine what angling approach works best. Besides – if you are a conditions hunter and will only fish when it’s “ideal,” you’ll rarely go fishing.

Lately, there have been more than a couple “ideal” or damn near “ideal” days. Cool nights, good flows, decent precipitation, and somewhat stable wx patterns have been prevalent. We’ve been lucky enough to be out there fishing with clients on these days and what an experience! We’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Get out there and explore Buffalo Niagara fishing – it won’t disappoint. If you don’t know where to start – give us a call or click here.

Exploring a Slice of Ohio

It’s been nearly a year now since I started following Josh McQueen of Mad River Outfitters on social media. I began following him because he was posting pics of some beautiful pike – all caught on the fly. Over time, only looking at those fish on a little screen became too much for me to take. When I found out they were natives and Josh gave me the back story on the fish – I had to experience this place for myself. What an awesome experience!

Small, clear rivers. Tons of timber and over hanging trees. Numerous challenges for the fly caster. My kind of place. It’s a tough watershed to fish even for the best of casters. However, all the risky casts and snags that sometimes follow are well worth it. Missiles shoot out of nowhere, startle the hell out of you, and just destroy your fly. This pattern persists throughout the day. Every down tree, root ball, and impingement presents an opportunity. We caught over 400 inches of fish in 2 days.

Accompanying great fishing was an even better guy. Josh is an awesome guide. He’s passionate about his fishery and his craft. I felt like I’d known him for years within minutes of meeting him. Oh yeah – within minutes of meeting him, I caught a pike over 30 minutes and the action didn’t stop all day. Josh told me that this place fishes well year so I’m already planning on another visit during the winter. Stay tuned!

 

Fishing Buffalo Niagara – Fall 2017 Update

Fishing Buffalo Niagara  2017-10-11

Fishing Buffalo Niagara Fishing this fall has been excellent. From salmon to smallmouth bass to steelhead to musky – choosing what to fish for is a tough call. We’ve been focused mainly on salmon and musky lately. Although our love for smalljaws is powerful, it’s nice for us to give them a break for a bit. Both for our sake and for the benefit of the fish. Steelhead are in the tribs but some of the daytime temperatures have kept water temperatures prohibitively warm. Recent cooling trends and rain will divert some of our focus to the fall steelhead run this weekend!

On Salmon

Salmon fishing in the Buffalo Niagara region is strong right now. There are certainly kings in the Lake Ontario tributaries but the Lower Niagara River in in the middle of prime time. Water temperatures are a bit warm for this time of year so the run is getting stretched out perfectly. Although some of the fish we are catching have been in the river for a while, bright fish pop up regularly.

We’ve been starting every outing dragging 3-way rigs with skein. This usually produces fish somewhat quickly. However, patience wanes rapidly on the “skein train.” In order to keep things engaging, we’ve introduced “crankbaiting” for salmon to our last few clients. It’s been a blast! Catch rates may be a bit lower than on skein (experiment in progress) but when a king smashes a crankbait, it’s an unforgettable experience. Those hits come frequently and after experiencing one, we’ve noticed our clients reel enthusiastically in anticipation of the next one. That “next one” often comes soon thereafter.

On Musky

The musky action keeps getting better in the upper Niagara River. Cooling water temperatures and schooling shad are causing musky to move to their fall haunts and feed regularly.

On Angling Nirvana While Fishing Buffalo Niagara

Nate said it best – I’ve reached a point of angling nirvana. Although our culture butchered the real definition of that word, I’ll try to repair that a bit by providing this definition. Nirvana: a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, nor desire, nor sense of self.
Not to get too deep here but if you fish often, or you’ve been at this angling-thing for a long time, this mindset happens naturally. I’ve written about this before in a previous essay but I am going to walk a different path on this little piece. I want to discuss how I reached this mindset fishing our local waters in the Buffalo Niagara Region.

Just a Dude Who Likes to Fish

I just like catching fish – remember, “Just a dude who likes to fish.” I prefer to do so with fly fishing tackle. In fact, I have done just that in many ways (streamers, nymphs, dries, etc), on many bodies of water, for many types of fish. However, these days, if the situation warrants it (like deep water, raging wind, crazy currents) I’m just as happy to use conventional tackle

In some fly fishing circles that comment would be blasphemous. The fact is, I really don’t care. Remember…nirvana. If anyone wants to question my abilities with a fly rod or wants to label me as a sellout – please do. I’d love to have the conversation.

The Benefits of Being a Jack-Of-All-Trades in Angling

Notwithstanding judgement from some purists in the fly fishing world, being a jack-of-all-trades in the world of fishing and guiding just makes sense. The biggest reason for this is: not everyone fly fishes. Moreover, many anglers that claim they fly fish only wet a line a couple times a year. The reality is there are FAR MORE conventional anglers out there than fly anglers. Many of these conventional anglers want to hire a guide. Why would I deny someone that opportunity because I don’t use a particular type of tackle? Their intentions are the same as someone wanting to hire me for a fly fishing trip. They just want to fish, experience the outdoors, and have a good time. So do I! Plus, I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and teaching them about responsible angling practices and how to fish in general. It’s a win-win!

If you’re a guide that isn’t completely booked with clients who want to fish ONLY the way you want to fish – you’re selling yourself short not becoming a jack of all angling trades. Every time I’m on the water with a client, my goals are simple:

1. Give them the opportunity to catch as many fish as possible (the bigger the better)
2. Ensure they learn something – a new technique, how to be a responsible angler, etc.
3. Laugh and have a good time
4. Advocate for the Buffalo Niagara fishery/represent the region proudly

Skilled, knowledgeable, and responsible use of every tackle type is the ticket to accomplishing goals 1 & 2. Goals 3 & 4 – that’s a separate topic entirely based on your personality.

To Beef or Not to Beef – That’s the Question

It’s somewhat sad that I need to address this but I feel compelled to do so. Call it a tinge of guilt I think I may be experiencing if this ends up disappointing someone that thought I was fly fishing purist. Beefs between the fly fishing, conventional tackle, tenkara, and centerpin community are well cataloged. Why these beefs exist are numerous but overall this proclivity toward trash talking is nothing but divisive and unproductive. There’s a lot we can learn from each other.

Personally, I’ve never played into it. From age 5 until my mid twenties, I was purely conventional tackle. I was cocky about it too until my boss, who was a fly angler, smoked me in a weekend competition in South Florida. It wasn’t long after that when I purchased my first fly rod and I remained purely fly for nearly a decade. I went that route mainly to hone my skills. I stayed on that path for a long time because the waters flowing around the places I lived and traveled during that period were ideally suited for fly fishing.  Since moving back to the Buffalo Niagara region (where I’m from and where my angling life started) I’ve re-introduced conventional tackle into my arsenal. I have no regrets.

Reconciling the Differences

I try to be reflectively skeptical about my positions and arguments. So allow me to take the position of a fly fishing purist for a minute. Let’s assume that I remained pure to fly angling since starting our guide service. A client calls me wanting to fish. I tell that client that I’d love the chance to give him/her that day of memories. I follow that comment up with something like:

“Have you ever fly fished before?”
“No.”
“Well, I only do fly fishing trips. But don’t worry – I can teach you and we’ll get into some fish.”
“Ummmm – OK.” Or worse, “Never mind, I’ll find someone else. Thank you!”

How to Respond

Here’s the one problem with that situation: that person had a picture in his/her mind that I just clouded with a complete unknown. Another problem is that fishing Buffalo Niagara, especially on the big water like Lake Erie and the Niagara River is not easy for entry-level fly anglers. I can clarify that further but that’d be another essay altogether. Yet another problem is that even if I could teach a brand new fly caster how to throw a type 7, 250 grain, sinking line over 60 ft in about an hour – the catch rate is dramatically lower when compared to conventional tackle in most instances.

The point is why would I force a potential client (and myself for that matter) into a situation that dramatically reduces the probability of actually catching fish? Or, revisiting the original question – why would I deny a person the opportunity to catch fish and experience the bounty of the Buffalo Niagara region (and turn down business) by limiting myself to one type of tackle?

The Transition to the “Dark Side”

I couldn’t come up with an answer as to why I would deny potential clients based on tackle type. In turn, I had to re-acquaint myself to the conventional tackle world. It was so much fun! With the help of a couple local fishing buddies (Chuch Yauch and Kyle Gordon) and charter captains (Jim Hanley and Larry Jones) I spent day after day on the water pursuing fish the “conventional” way. Learning new tricks and patterns every time I went out, I caught a ton of fish and my clients benefitted from my efforts.

These days, I’m far more apt to use conventional tackle on the big water (Lake Erie and the Niagara River) than fly tackle. There are a few reasons for this:

1. I catch WAY more fish that way
2. That’s how the vast majority of my clients and potential clients want to catch fish so I need to put myself in their shoes as often as possible
3. I’m genuinely enjoying myself…nirvana

Conclusion

As shown in our Re-Discover Your Region Series, I still throw flies regularly – all over the country in fact. My 50 states on-the-fly before I’m 50 goal remains and will never die. However, these days, I’m the kind of angler that prefers catching fish using the method most likely to lead to success (snagging not included). The security of high probability is comforting – it brings me to that nirvana mind set. Still, I use all tackle types to keep the sword sharp. Maybe an angler can reach nirvana by remaining pure to one way of fishing. All I know is that I couldn’t get there. I guess the purist won’t know either – unless he/she tries something different.

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