Many fly fishing enthusiasts envision the rivers of the American West as the bucket list-level vacation. We may be biased as native Ohioans, but we think Northern Ohio—known affectionately as “Steelhead Alley” for its population of Rainbow Trout—is as great as any.
We spoke with Dan Pribanic, the owner of Chagrin River Outfitters, for what visitors to this region can expect during Fall, a season many consider to be the best for the hobby.
He’s also biased—toward his native Chagrin River, a tributary just east of Cleveland—but he also recommends the nearby Grand River, Conneaut Creek near the Pennsylvania border, and Elk Creek just across the state line. His team of guides travel to a dozen rivers and streams within a two-hour drive from the shop, demonstrating the widespread populations of fish in the area. What do all of these locations share? They all feed into Lake Erie, where the steelhead enter during October and November. Pribanic described them as “very silver, strong and aggressive.”
“While Spring has better numbers of fish, many people prefer Fall angling because there are more fishable days, typically,” he explained. “Other reasons folks like Fall fishing in Ohio is there are, relatively speaking, no crowds on the river, and plenty of room for two-handed rods and swinging flies, which many anglers in the area like to do.”
Ohio, like many Midwestern states, likes to promote its color-changing foliage during the Fall. Pribanic acknowledged that it can be quite scenic...up until a point.
He says the winds and rains typical of the period can make quite a mess in otherwise beautiful waterways.
“For about a week’s time those same leaves that were so pretty to watch glisten in the sun and shimmer in the wind will have you cursing like a sailor because that is all you are catching on the end of your line,” he notes. He suggests that the region’s high, shale cliffs are a less frustrating piece of scenery for Ohio fly fishers, wonderfully accenting both changing colors and winter snowfall.
The name of the region certainly belies what the most popular fish is when Chagrin Falls Outfitters lead trips.
Pribanic clarifies that there are plenty of opportunities for other species, such as the area’s impressive musky and pike population, as well as smallmouth bass. He notes several “non-glamor” options, including carp and freshwater drum.
Some customers at the shop have even branched out to less popular fly fishing targets.
“We also had a guy buy a full sinking line this week to try for perch on the fly,” Pribanic says. “He has not reported back yet on how it went.”
Some new to the hobby may be intimidated by fly tying, and the seemingly thousands of ways to create a fly. It’s important to know that the processes of tying a fly and attaching a fly to your line are very different. In fact, the Chagrin River Outfitters guides aim to keep things simple by using improved clinch knots for attaching flies, whenever possible.
If you’re looking for some fight with quality steelhead, and you’re not looking to compete with crowds on the water, Cleveland and the rest of “Steelhead Alley” are a Fall fly fishing dream.