Copyright 2019 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Rocky River Ohio
Rocky River is the name of both a city or suburb of
Cleveland, Ohio, and a river that flows into Lake Erie. It
is part of what's locally referred to as steelhead alley.
From October through April, it receives some very nice
runs of Lake Erie steelhead making it a popular
destination of the Cleveland anglers as well as visiting
anglers from other locations. Like its neighboring sister
river, the Chagrin River, it has plenty of water that's
ideal for steelhead.
Most of the bottom consist of gravel and coble but
there's some clay substrate. In some areas, sandstone
and shale exit. The fly fishing methods and strategies
used for steelhead fishing on the Rocky River are the
same as those used on most other Lake Erie steelhead
streams. As with any of the Lake Erie tributary streams,
just keep in mind that the distance upstream the
steelhead migrate, mostly has to do with stream levels
as well as the weather conditions. Different water levels
vary the exact location of the majority of the steelhead
and you must keep track of the current location. Local
anglers are a big help in this respect. It isn't complicated
to determine where to fish. You will see where the action
is by the number of anglers present at any location.
Most likely, it means steelhead are being caught there.
You don't want to waste a lot of time casting in water
void of steelhead.
The Cleveland Metroparks provide the best public
access on the Rocky River and its tributaries. There are
plenty of places for the steelhead to hold.
The mostly shale-bottom river water levels can rise and
fall fast after heavy upstream rains. It is very important
to keep a close eye on the flows of the river. It is best
when has reached its high point and begins to fall. Some
color to the water makes it even better. Low, clear flows
are much more difficult to fish. Look for flows averaging
about 300 cfs. The USGS stream data on your left will
give you the stream levels.
The steelhead season is from October to May.
Steelhead can be caught as late as the end of April
depending on the weather.
During the Summer, the water is too low and warm for
salmon or steelhead.
Steelhead begin entering the Rocky River as early as
middle of September. The fishing is good throughout
All but the coldest days of Winter can be good for
steelhead. The extremely cold water of January and
February can make the fish sluggish but otherwise,
fishing remains good throughout the Winter.
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
For Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
11/08/13 Anglers repoting that some steelhead being caught. River a little stained but
clearing. Leaves in water. One customer caught two using our Perfect Fly Green Sedge Larva.
11/22/13 Same customer as above catching more steelhead using our Steelhead Green
Sedge Larva, hook size 12. Called to order more flies. Also using Cinnamon Sedge Larva fly.
12/05/13 Rocky River is running low and clear. Not many steelhead being caught by fly
anglers but some are. The fish are well scattered throughout the river. Small nymphs like our
Green Sedge larva steelhead fly working best.
(Near Bottom Of Page)
Fishing Report Updated 05/18/19
12/29/13 The river has dropped back down and cleared up and steelhead are being
caught. One of our customers reports catching two on our Black Giant Stonefly nymph.
02/04/14 Cold weather and ice is still a big problem. No reports of any fish caught but
Customers buying getting ready for a warm up.
03/23/14 The river has been high and muddy but clearing. More showers likely tonight but
then clearing. The river is dropping and should get into better condition but more cold
weather is expected.
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fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
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04/17/14 The river has been high for a while now but is dropping and anglers have begin
to catch fish. It should get even better. Swinging flies is working well.
06/25/14 Some trout being caught in the East Branch, other than that, you could try for
12/05/14 The lower river has been high but back in good shape and anglers should be
catching some more steelhead. We will resume these reports more often now that our local
contact is back.
12/17/14 The river is flowing high and dingy right now. Wait for it to fall.
01/21/15 Fish have been caught as long as the water is too cold or frozen, however, that has
been the case most of the time for the last month.
02/09/15 Same report - the water is too cold. It should begin to warm up in a few days,
according to the long range forecast.
03/05/15 The river is high but falling. Some stain in the water. It should be good in the
Current Rocky River Fishing Reports:
11/09/15 So far the "catching" has been slow due to the low water levels. Anglers fishing
the deepest runs and pools have caught a few but the action has been slow. The best
producing fly for our customers has been the Veiled Beadhead Crystal egg flies.along with
a few nymphs such as the Giant Black Stonefly nymhs and Green sedge steelhead fly.
There is rain in the forecast and conditions should improve soon.
Rocky River Fishing Report - Archive:
01/01/16 The river has finally dropped down into good shape and is at normal levels for
this time of the season. We recommend nymphs versus swinging due to the lower water
temperature of 38 degrees.
02/21/16 The water is only 36 degrees and few fish are being caught. The levels are fine
but with lots of slush ice.
03/12/16 The levels was high recently but customers are catching some steelhead just
the last two days on Spey flies swinging and nymphs, especially the Green sedge.
03/28/16 The river is below its normal level for this time of the year. Steelhead are in the
river in good numbers and being caught in good numbers. We do NOT recommend eggs at
this time. Small steelhead nymphs and streamers are working much better with the lower
clearer water. Small nymphs like our Green Sedge , Cinnamon Sedge larva are working.
04/09/16 The river continues to be high and muddy and frankly, not worth fishing. Watch
the stream levels and as soon as they drop back down to the 500-600 range, go.
05/02/16 The river is high and stained but falling. Rain tomorrow through Thursday and
again on the weekend, so expect high levels. Swinging is pricking up a few fish when the
levels are decent.
06/20/16 We received some good reports on trout this past week. The stream is in good
shape and some hatches are taking place. Smallmouth bass are also being caught.
07/18/16 Smallmouth bass fishing is good at this time. Use the Perfect fly Crayfish bass
patterns. The lead dumbell eye crayfish is working best .Get ready for the steelehead. It
isn't that far off.
08/01/16 Smallmouth bass are taking popping bugs early and late in the day, otherwise,
fish our Perfect Fly Crayfish patterns for the best results.
08/15/16 Smallmouth bass are still being caught. They hold in the deeper pools. Recent
rainfall has brought the river levels up but that's good for the overall condition.
08/29/16 Stream levels are fine but the water is still very warm and smallmouth bass the
only game, but it is very good. Our crayfish streamer patterns are working best, especially
those with lead dumbbell eyes. Baby popping Frogs are also working early mornings.
09/12/16 The recent rain and higher water may have brought some of the first fish in the
river in a while. It is still warm but should be getting better all week with lower air temps.
Check out the Perfect Fly steelhead patterns:
10/03/16 The stream levels are up some, at 137 cfs and 1.58 ft. The water is still warm, in
the mid to high sixties. This should be changing soon and more fish entering the river.
10/17/16 The river is low and the water temperature too warm. Conditions would be great
with some rain and cooler weather and that will be coming very soon. Don't wait until it is
crowded and after the fact to fish. Next week or the next one should be an excellent time.
10/31/16 The stream levels are up but in good shape with more steelhead coming in.
Swinging, nymphing and egg flies are working good. Now, is a good time to be on the water.
11/14/16 The river has been up and anglers doing good but the level is back near normal.
Good numbers of steelhead have been being caught on our nymphs and egg flies.
11/21/16 The stream levels are back up a little above normal level and the water much
colder. Nymphs and egg flies are catching a few steelhead.
11/28/16 The levels were up again but back down below normal. The water continues to
be cold. We didn't receive any reports of any steelhead caught but there could have
been. More fish should have entered the river and more rain in on the way.
12/05/16 The recent rain helped bring more fish into the river but the level is back down
again. Steelhead nymphs under indicators will work best. Fish near the lower end.
12/12/16 Higher water levels this past week has brought more steelhead into the river.
Some are being caught by anglers putting up with the snow. The water is cold, averaging
about 35 degrees. Fish Steelhead nymphs like our Cinnamon and Green sedge in the
slower water near the bottom
12/26/16 The stream levels is up and so is the water temperature. That should help the
"catching" of steelhead. We didn't receive any reports this past week, we assume due to
the ice in the water but it should be clear.
01/16/17 The river has been high but back down to near normal stream levels with a
little warmer water averaging about 35-36 degrees. Use steelhead nymphs like our
Giant Black stonefly, Cinnamon or Green sedge larva, for the best results
01/30/17 The stream level is down to normal and the water only slightly stained. It is
about 37 degrees. Nymphs, such as the Perfect fly Giant Black stonefly steelhead
nymph, Green sedge steelhead larva and others are working. Click to see: Perfect fly
Great Lakes steelhead flies.
02/06/17 Good numbers of steelhead have been caught recently.The stream level is
down to normal but there is some slush and bank ice. The water temperature is about
36 or less. Fish steelhead nymphs for the best results
02/20/17 The weather and water is much warmer and the stream levels running about
a normal level. A few steelhead are being caught on nymphs and swinging flies.
02/27/17 The stream is flowing at a normal level and condition otherwise are good.
Steelhead are being caught swinging, nymphing and on eggs.
03/05/17 The stream levels are in good shape and the water a little warmer. Our
customers are catching steelhead in good numbers. Good conditions exist.
03/13/17 The stream level is down to just below normal and the water mostly clear. It
is much colder but still okay around 36 degrees right now.
03/27/17 There are plenty fresh steehead in the river and decent numbers were being
caught. The stream levels has just jumped up, so make sure you check the levels.
Swinging has been the most effective method.
04/24/17 The stream levels is back down to normal and the water clear. Steelhead are
being caught spawning and dropbacks. Lake Run smallmouth are coming in good.
05/01/17 The flows are back up high at 1070 cfs at 2.46 ft.
05/08/17 The flows are down to 620 cfs. Normal is about 130-140 cfs, so it need to
fall some more.
Key Lime Popper - click to enlarge
05/15/17 Flow are down to 263 cfs, or still a little too high for wading but it is
dropping down fast. Smallmouth bass fishing is picking up big time.
05/22/17 There are lots of smallmouth bass being caught.
Stream levels are in good shape.
06/26/17 The stream levels have often been high but okay now. Smallmouth
bass fishing is red hot and they are taking popper on the surface.
07/24/17 Sorry for the missed reports. Smallmouth bass fishing has been superb.
Poppers and Crayfish work great for out customers. The river is warm and quite low.
08/07/17 The stream levels are back down to a normal level. The great Smallmouth
bass fishing continues. The cooler weather and cloud cover will help.
08/21/17 The good smallmouth bass fishing is continuing. Fish poppers early and
late in the day, and our crayfish patterns during the day.
09/04/17 Tow good reports on Smallmouth for customers this past week. Using
popper early and late and our Brown crayfish, weighted and unweighted during day.
09/18/17 The river is still low and warm. No reports of any steelhead yet. Smallmouth
bass fishing continues to be excellent. Use poppers in the mornings, and our crayfish
patterns during the day.
09/25/17 There are a few steelhead near the month. Smallmouth bass fishing is still
very good. The stream is low and the water warm.
10/02/17 The stream levels are still low and rain in needed to bring the steelhead in.
Smallmouth bass fishing continues to be good. Use poppers and our crayfish patterns.
Now is the time to get your steelhead flies. Send an email and let us help you. .
10/09/17 The river is up high, flowing at 587 cfs at 2.27 ft. This will bring steelhead
in but will need to drop some to be fished. This is good news.
10/24/17 The river is a little high but okay and steelhead are coming in good. Send us an
email for a fly list.
10/31/17 The stream levels are at a normal level and good numbers of steelhead are
being caught. Swinging flies has worked good but nymphs are currently producing well.
11/15/17 The river is a little low. Anglers fishing the deepest runs and pools have
caught some. As usual with low levels, the best producing fly for our customers has
been the Veiled Beadhead Crystal egg flies.along with a few nymphs such as the Giant
Black Stonefly nymhs and Green sedge steelhead fly. T
11/22/17 The river has been high and stained but back down not too far above normal.
There are lots of steelhead in the river and lots of them being caught when levels are okay.
11/29/17 Getting good reports from customers. Stream levels are a little low. SH
nymphs, Extaz egg flies and some streamers are catching steelhead in decent numbers.
12/05/17 The stream is still a little below normal level but good numbers of steelhead
are still being caught by our customers.
12/12/17 The river is still low and cold, with water about 35 degrees. Steelhead are still
12/20/17 The stream levels are up high but at least the water is warmer. Fish as soon
as the levels subside some. It can be fished now, but may be tough.
01/03/18 The stream levels are just a little high and in good shape but the water is
cold. There is slush ice in much of it. Steelhead are present, but use SH nymphs.
They are sluggish.
01/16/18 The stream levels are back down in good shape near a normal level. The
water is (34 F) cold. Use steelhead nymphs like our Giant Black Stonefly nymph.
02/01/18 The stream levels are normal and the water in good shape except it is very
cold, averaging about 32-36 degrees. Use steelhead nymphs and keep them in the
slower water near the bottom.
02/13/18 The stream levels are still high and the water very cold. There is some slush
ice in the water. Nymphs such as the Green Sedge Steelhead fly and Giant Black
stoneflies should do best.
03/06/18 The river is a little above normal. Fish the lower sections. There are plenty
of steelhead and some being caught. Swinging, SH nymphs and eggs are working.
03/20/18 Stream levels are low and the water clear. There are plenty of steelhead in
the river. We recommend steelhead nymphs, like the Perfect fly, Giant black stonefly
nymph, and other PF steelhead nymphs..
04/03/18 Flowing at 6440 cfs at 5.85, a record for this date. In other words, blown out
and muddy. Check back with us. It will clear out soon.
04/12/18 Stream levels are down to 214 cfs, or normal levels and fish being caught.
Steelhead nymphs, eggs, especially our Estaz flies are working good.
04/18/18 Stream levels have been very high but falling fast. Down to 626 cfs at 2.21
ft. It need to drop down below 400 cfs for better conditions. Swinging is the best
method for the high levels.
04/25/18 Stream levels are just a little above normal levels and falling. Both steelhead
and smallmouth bass are being caught. Fish crayfish patterns for the smallies.
05/16/18 The smallmouth bass fishing is great. The Perfect fly crayfish patterns,
popping bugs, and stealth bombers are catching fish.
05/23/18 Both steelhead and smallmouth bass fishing is good right now. Send us an
email for a fly list for both species.
06/07/18 The river is turning out some very good smallmouth bass. Our Perfect Fly
Poppers, crayfish patterns, and stealth bombers are working great for them.
06/20/18 Smallmouth bass fishing is very good. The stream is back down near normal
levels. Fish our crayfish patterns and new Popping bugs. Early and late in the day are
the best times.
09/05/18 Smallmouth bass fishing is still excellent. Steelhead will be entering the river
this month, so stay in touch. Normally, it is the first to the middle of September.
09/20/18 Steelhead are moving into the river and some are being caught.
09/29/18 There are good numbers of steelhead in the river. The stream level is down
near normal and you should do good. Send us an email for a fly list.
10/06/18 The river is flowing at 640 cfs at 6.41 ft. which is very high. This will be
bringing in the steelhead but too high to fish for them.
10/16/18 The stream is still a little above normal level, bringing more fish in. Conditions
remain very good. The water temperature is down and that is helping as well.
10/23/18 Stream levels are a little above normal which is good for swinging flies. Good
numbers of steelhead are being caught. Fish the lower to middle sections of the river.
10/30/18 The stream levels are high. Swinging is working when the levels permit
fishing. There is more rain the first of this week but hopefully, it will be down soon.
11/06/18 The river is still a little high but steelhead are being caught. Swinging flies
is producing the most fish.
11/18/18 The river has been falling but still a little high. You have to wade around the
edges in most places. Swinging flies is producing the most fish.
11/25/18 The river is flowing very high. Keep an eye on the levels and fish as soon as it
drops down. Swinging should be the best method when it is still a little high.
12/02/18 The river is flowing high, 614 cfs at 6.4 ft. Steelhead were being caught in
good number before the high water. You can fish from the bank in a few places. It should
be good when it falls back out.
12/16/18 The river is flowing a little high but clearing and in good shape otherwise. The
water is warmer and fish are being caught in good numbers.
12/23/18 The river is very near a normal level and steelhead are being caught swinging
and on our steelhead nymphs. Conditions are good and now is the time.
01/01/18 The river level is high but falling back down very fast. It should be fine to wade
within a day or two. Steelhead are being caught in good numbers.
01/08/19 Stream levels are down to normal levels and the river in good shape.
Steelhead are being caught in good numbers. Send us an email for a fly list.
01/15/19 Conditons remain good with good levels. The water is colder and we
recommend fishing our steelhead nymphs under an indicator.
01/22/19 The flows are 7990 cfs at 10.34 ft, or far too high to fish. Check back with us
soon. It should fall out rather fast.
02/06/19 The flows are currently 1010 cfs at 6.77, which is high. There are very few
fish being caught. Check back with us soon.
02/19/19 Stream levels are currently normal and the river in good shape. There is
more rain on the way. Steelhead are being caught but the cold water makes it slow.
Use our steelhead nymphs.
02/28/19 The stream is running at a normal level. The water is still cold and you need
to use mostly steelhead nymphs. Swinging flies generally isn't that effective in water as
cold as it is.
03/07/19 We received two good reports from this past week. Stream levels are still low
and the water cold and nymphs the best way to go.
03/24/19 The stream is flowing a little below normal level and clear. Steelhead are being
caught in good numbers. The water is a little warmer, up to 43 degrees.
04/23/19 The stream level is down to normal and the river in good shape. It should be
good conditions fo steelhead.
05/18/19 We are getting good reports on smallmouth bass being caught. Shoot us an
email for a recommended fly list.