Friday is the last day of summer, but by no means is it the last day of fishing. As the water begins to cool, fishing is expected to pick up in lakes, rivers and streams throughout Western Pennsylvania. And already, long bullets of silver have been seen near the mouths of Walnut and Crooked creeks, although no catches have been reported yet in generally low, clear Erie County steelhead streams.
No one is born knowing how to catch fish. Beginners need mentors, and even experienced anglers could pick up a few tips at fishing eduction classes planned for the coming weeks.
Noon-2 p.m. today. L.L. Bean, Ross Park Mall. Free. 888-552-5571.
It's still early for the autumn runs, but if you've never experienced the adrenaline rush of 21/2 feet of muscle tail-walking at the end of your line, now's the time to start learning about steelheads. L.L. Bean's annual workshop will include spin, fly and float-fishing techniques, equipment, lure and fly selection, and steelheading strategies that begin before the drive north.
"I do my homework before I leave and find out what the weather's like there, are the rivers going up or down and what's happened the last couple of days," said instructor Bill Nagle. "A lot of people gear up and elbow their way in and do their thing, but I don't fish in a crowd. I tend to first take a long look at what's going on and look for deeper runs."
6:30 p.m. Mondays Sept. 17-Nov. 5. Community College of Allegheny County at Carson Middle School, McCandless. $99, 412-369-3701.
CCAC's noncredit fishing course breaks it down step by step, week by week, covering rods and reels, lures and tackle, trout and panfish, walleyes, bass, pike and muskies, ending with a primer on fly fishing basics, cleaning and fillet fish and catch and release. But state-certified instructor Karen Gainey, host of "Karen's Fishing Corner" on Pittsburgh cable access PCTV, said the most important lesson anglers might take home from the eight-week course is simple: Fish where the fish are.
"In the spring, someone fishes in the shallows and they're biting like crazy. They go back two months later and there's no fish -- they get very frustrated," said Gainey. "They don't understand how fish relate to a lake or stream over the course of a year. ... The best picnic tables are not necessarily where the best fishing is."
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 29. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at the Bill Mazeroski Memorial, North Shore, Downtown. Free with registration at www.fishandboat.com.
The Fish and Boat Commission's Family Fishing programs are almost always well attended. But expect a crowd when a dozen top fishing pros volunteer to help, and the first 300 families to register win free rods and reels, at a special program held during the Three Rivers Challenge fishing tournament in the waters surrounding The Point.
The workshop covers fishing fundamentals including knot tying, rigging up, casting, baiting the hook and fishing ethics. No fishing license is required during the program.
"The goal is to make the entire fishing experience more positive," said Fish and Boat education coordinator Denny Tubbs. "Not getting tangled, not getting hooked in trees, how to target a spot on the water and cast to it. We want people to know how simple it is to go out and fish -- it's not complicated or expensive."
The tournament is sponsored by FLW and the Marcellus Shale Coalition and runs Sept. 27-29.
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays Oct. 3-Nov. 14. Family Tyes at Harrison Middle School, Baldwin. Student membership $15 year, family membership $30 year, 412-780-3787.
Depending on how you look at it, Family Tyes is a fly fishing club that mentors kids or a youth mentoring program disguised as a fly fishing group. Either way it works, for the kids and for fishing. Family Tyes' annual steelhead course includes tying effective steelhead flies and catching the big fish.
"Working the drag on a fly reel would be right up there among things beginners often get wrong," said Baldwin program codirector Jeff Allison. "You want the drag to be fairly light at the beginning -- if you have to adjust it during the fight, you want it to get tighter, not the other way around. Another thing, with beginners, is having slack line at their feet and not being able to control the fish's behavior."
6:30 p.m Tuesdays Oct. 16-Dec. 18. Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited at Gander Mountain, West Mifflin. $20, 412-655-3337, 412-389-6037.
"Believe it or not, putting the hook in the vise and putting the thread on the hook -- the very first steps -- are the first things beginner fly tiers usually get wrong," said the group's Vic Ball.
Instructors from TU and the regional fly tying community start with the basics: place the hook in the vise at the lower part of the bend with the hook exposed; apply thread from the head back over-wrapping the line to secure it to the shaft. Tools and materials included.