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Friday, March 25, 2011

A sucker for rough fish...

Dead-Drifting

Many of our rivers hold an amazing bunch of fish that are largely overlooked by fishermen. Hard to catch, hard fighting and growing to nice sizes, you would think these fish would be all the rage. But they suffer from either bad press or no press and an even worse name...suckers. After all don't permit have the same downturned mouth, are hard to catch on a fly and grow to roughly the same sizes? But permit are a glamour fish and suckers are called, well, suckers. Many species are highly intolerant of pollution and used by biologists as canaries in the coal mine when it comes to water quality. Many suckers have special adaptations such as reduced swim bladders to help them stay in place in swift riffles. The hog sucker even has a head shaped to use the water like air on a race cars spoiler to create downforce to hold itself in place. And the hog sucker, like many suckers, uses big pectoral fins like a darter or madtom to brace itself in place on bottom in a riffle's swift water.

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Suckers eat algae and small invertabrates and will hit a nymph if you can present it right in front of them. They will not chase a nymph though, the key is to present the fly right on the sucker's nose. I find the best way to do this is with stealthy wading and a high stick/short line nymphing technique just like you would use for trout in a swift riffle or run. Often in clear water, if you wade carefully enough you can see the fish you are presenting the fly to, but most times the swiftness of the water hides the fish no matter how clear the water is. With this in mind, work thoroughly, keeping in mind the fish will not chase the fly. A good presentation seems much more important than fly pattern, any good beadhead will get bit if you put it on a feeding suckers nose. I do tie some brighter versions of my standard beadhead nymphs to make them more noticeable to a feeding sucker. I find a long fly rod is better, it gives you more range to short line a nymph and a longer follow. A five or six weight is just about right. Suckers sometimes get a bit big to land on little three or four weights and seven weights and up are overkill. When shortlining a nymph you do not need a strike indicator but on longer casts set your indicator up the line just a bit farther than the water is deep. Setting the indicator this deep will insure your nymphs are on the bottom where they need to be. Plan on losing quite a few to snags, if you are not hooking bottom every now and again you are not deep enough. As best I can tell, there are sixteen different species of suckers in the Little Miami. Some like the white sucker are very common and some like the endangered blue sucker are among the rarest sish in the river. If you happen to be lucky enough to hook a blue sucker, handle it carefully and snap a quick picture to send to me before setting it free. Actually all suckers are an important part of the rivers food chain and should be handled carefully no matter how common they are. Other non-traditional fly rod quarry that will hit a fly include carp and buffalo. Both pretty much will eat the same flies as suckers with presentation again being much more important than pattern.

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My sucker and carp fly selection.

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A standard short line nymph rig.

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A good rig to use where you are losing a lot of flies. The shot slides off if they hang up, saving the fly.

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An easy way to add another nymph to your rig without retying everything.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

river otters

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In the last few years a new predator has returned to the Little Miami after long absence, the wonderful otter. I'll never forget my wife and I standing high on a riverbank watching a family group frolic in the shallows. Otter seem to just enjoy life and even the adults spend alot of time at play. In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began to reintroduce the otter to the state. Since then they have spread over two thirds of the state.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

guide to the most common insects/invertebrates found in various places along the Little Miami river:

Peters Cartridge Plant, Kings Mills --Hydropsychid caddisflies, baetid mayflies, heptageniid mayflies

Stubbs Mill Bridge --Hydropsychid caddisflies and baetid mayflies

Middletown Road --Elimia snails very abundant, Hydropsychid caddisflies

Constitution Park, Spring Valley --Baetid mayflies and midges

SR 350, Fort Ancient --Hydropsychid caddisflies, Psychomyia flavida and Elimia sp. snails predominant.

Beechmont Road --Rheotanytarsus midges and bryozoan, hydropsychid caddisflies, baetid mayflies, and flatworms

Wooster Pike --Hydropsychid caddisflies, baetid mayflies, Rheotanytarsus sp. midges, Elimia sp. snails

Behind Lake Isabella --Hydropsychid and philopotamid caddisflies, heptageniid mayflies, Elimia sp. snails predominant. Large mussel bed present

Upstream of the mouth of O'Bannon Creek in Loveland --Hydropsychid caddisflies, baetid mayflies, flatworms, heptageniid mayflies, Elimia sp. snails

Old Kings Dam site --Tricorythodes mayflies, Hydropsychid caddisflies

Downstream of Todds Fork --Waterpenny beetles, Hydropsychid caddisflies, Elimia sp. snails

The Narrows

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Located in Greene County, the Narrows Preserve is one of my most favorite spots anywhere. I didn't mean anywhere along the river, I meant anywhere. Here the glacier pushed the river out of it's bed and the river cut this valley in forming a new one.
The Narrows is a long skinny park and a wide level trail offers excellant access to the river. Just above the park the river twists and turns away from the road and offers some great fishing to anyone willing to bushwack. Downstream in the park there are some of the finest trees you will ever see with huge sycamores hundreds of years old lining the river. About a half mile downstream of the parking lot two huge trees, one on each side of the river, are strong candidates to be the biggest tree in the whole watershed.

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The lower half of the park is a great place early and late in the day to spot wildlife such as deer, though on nice evenings the trail fills up with hikers. The big trees draw piliated woodpeckers and the park is a bird watchers delight. Early one spring I heard rustling leaves and stepped off the trail along this lower stretch to investigate and found a half dozen garter snakes just out from hibernation. One of the best looks I've ever had of a mink was also here in the Narrows. The mink foraged along the riverbank, coming within ten feet of me before realizing I was an awfully funny looking tree and bounding off.


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There is quite a bit of beaver sign in the parks lower half. Walking the trail quietly right after daylight and watching the river is a good way to spot these giant rodents. I've also been startled by beaver slapping their tails in alarm when they spotted me first.


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At about a mile and a quarter from the trail head the river turns creating a long riffle/run/riffle called Brenda's Riffle that offers some of the best fishing in the river's upper half. A lovely creek enters the river here too and a primitive campsite (permit only) located nearby is a great base to spend a long weekend exploring the river and surrounding woods.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Basic Fly Selection for the Little Miami

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Fly Selection



A warm water river like the Little Miami holds a tremendous variety of life when compared to a cold water stream like your average trout stream. The fish in the Little Miami are much more likely to eat a fly because it looks like something good to eat rather than an exact copy of a specific insect or fish species. I try to carry good generic flies like the parachute adams that might imitate any of a dozen things on the water at any one time. For smallmouth a generic stonefly/hellgrammite pattern cast upstream and across and allowed to tumble back like an insect caught in the current is most times a top producer. Early and late especially, a deer hair bug
fished in the slick at the tail of a pool and around structure can produce some exciting strikes. I like a slightly smaller bug than is normally thrown in ponds for largemouth. And I really like my smaller version, the googly, for non stop action. Here's my recipe for tying the googly-

First you tie in a tail of fox or squirrel and a peice of tinsel.


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then you wrap the tinsel forward till it covers about 60% of the hook shank and tie it in.

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Next tie in wings from a saddle,I like grizzly but in truth use whatever I have left over from tying dries.

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Then you take some deer hair and loop the thread over it twice. As you pull the thread taut you release the hair with your fingers letting it flare and spin around the hook shank.

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Repeat tying in bunches of deer hair till you fill up the hook shank completely.


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Tye off the thread and trim the deer hair.

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epoxy on your eyes and your done.

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Also don't be afraid to use some flies usually thought of as just trout flies. A good nymph pattern tied in a variety of sizes will draw a strike from just about anything that swims in the river. A generic nymph placed gently in front of a buffalo or carp can sometimes draw a take from these fish usually only taken on bait.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

Way Upstream...

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Above Clifton Gorge, the Little Miami is what the Ohio Department of Natural Resources calls "a small meandering stream". But in the gorge everything changes, pinched in between dolomite cliffs, the meltwater of the retreating glaciers cut straight down and in a series of cascades and deep whirlpools a river was born. Walk the trail that follows the gorge in wet weather and waterfalls from the many springs and seeps in the area cascade over the cliffs into the river below.

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Due to the fact its reasonably flat right up until you step off into space it's almost impossible to convey in a photograph the scale of the gorge. All the photos I've seen do no better than my poor attempts, trust me this is one place that is a hundred times more impressive in person. In this stretch the normally knee to waist deep upper little miami rages along between the cliff walls at an average depth of 34feet.

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Darnell's leap: In January 1778, Daniel Boone and his party of 28 were captured by the Shawnees. Cornelius Darnell was able to escape and with Shawnee in hot pursuit Darnell lept across the twenty five foot gap between the cliffs to freedom. Of course he could not make the entire leap but branches hung out over the 80 foot drop and Darnell went crashing across into them finally grabbing one as he fell and climbing up the cliff to safety! It makes me uneasy here to lean out over the safe rail of the overlook, I cannot begin to imagine the courage it took to even attempt the leap.

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The setting of the "The Blue Hole" a painting by Robert Duncanson in 1851 that now hangs in the Cincinnati Art Museum.




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Famous steamboat rock, so named because, well, it looks like a big steamboat floating midstream.

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The river here drops at a powerfull rate of 35 feet per mile. Just downstream in John Bryan State park the rock is slightly softer and the gorge opens to a quarter mile or so wide but still retains impressive cliffs.

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Below Clifton gorge the trails enter John Bryan State park. The two parks are really separated only by name as they fit seamlessly togethor and you cannot tell walking the river when you cross the boundary.


John Bryan purchased, in 1896, 335 acres along the Clifton gorge area and called these acres "Riverside Farm." The Cincinnati-Pittsburgh stagecoach road served the area and settlers began establishing water-powered industries such as a textile mill, grist mills and sawmills in the gorge.
After the turn of the century water power was no longer as economical as electricity and the industries in the rugged gorge closed. At the top of the gorge in Clifton the only surviving mill still is in operation and is famous for its Christmas light displays, one of the best in the state.
John Bryan gave Riverside Farm to the state of Ohio in 1918, "...to be cultivated by the state as a forestry, botanic and wildlife reserve park and experiment station," which would bear his name. John Bryans park and Clifton gorge have been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Over 340 types of wildflowers and 100 plus species of trees and shrubs are found in John Bryan State park. The cool gorge has created an "island" that has enabled plants usually found much further north to survive after the last ice age.In the gorge are found two quite rare plants, Ground Hemlock (Taxus canadensis), found nowhere else in the county, and Asplenium ruta-muraria, found nowhere else in the State.




The best base for exploring these upper reaches of the river has to be the town of Yellow Springs. Located just a few miles from John Bryan and Clifton Gorge, Yellow Springs is named after the huge spring that adds it's water thru beautifull Glen Helen Nature Preserve to the river. The spring gets it's name from the rocks of the spring colored by the minerals in the water. Supposedly the waters of the spring cure all that ail you and spas and resorts were even built nearby in the early
1900's.Long before that however the village was founded in 1825 by Robert Owen. Robert Owen wanted to build a commune where everyone would work together for the common good. Well this seems to have worked better in theory than in practice as a year later the experiment had broken up. The town today has one of the funkiest little downtowns you will ever see. There are dozens of small shops offering everything from psychic readings, to handmade pottery, tie die shirts, used books, buddha statues or parkas made out of alpaca wool. A large portion of the tiny town's population seem to be right out of a sixties reunion as every other car is covered with bumper sticker stating "save the whales" or "make love not war". Yellow Springs is the best place I know to buy that one of a kind gift that you know no one else has ever seen much less bought. My favorite gift idea from our last trip there was the crazy cat lady action figure, complete with a half dozen cats and kittens in addition to the frazzle haired, house slipper wearing heroine. By the way, the quaint little tavern downtown might just serve the perfect steak fries. Adding to Yellow Springs charm are the legends surrounding Glen Helen. The beautiful valley, according to local lore was a sort of lover's lane for the Shawnee. Supposedly visitors have seen a ghostly Indian maiden or heard her call out for her long lost love. Glen Helen is a 1000-acre nature preserve owned by by Antioch College. Filled with cliffs, interesting rock formations, and the famous spring, the preserve is on my must see list for anyone in upper watershed.

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