CLEVELAND, Ohio — The evolution of fly fishing on Lake Erie and around the Great Lakes has been driven for decades by Jerry Darkes, Jeff Liskay and a gaggle of their friends. They are noted fly fishing instructors and guides, avid sportsmen and the proponents of the annual Castapalooza 2022 to be held Saturday on the Rocky River in the Cleveland Metroparks from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fly anglers of all types, from beginners to experts, are welcome to attend the free event, perhaps catching a few lake-run steelhead trout, smallmouth bass or even a white sucker or common carp roaming the rocky bottom of the Rocky River.

The fly casting and fly-tying demonstrations will be held at the Cleveland Metroparks’ Scenic Park Pavilion on the Rocky River, just upstream of the popular boat launch. There is no cost or pre-registration, said Darkes, of Angling Consulting Services Inc. in Strongsville.

“Show up anytime throughout the day, and you’ll be sure to see something new in fly fishing gear, or have the chance to cast the latest in fly rods and tackle,” said Darkes, author of the acclaimed “Essential Flies for the Great Lakes Region.”

Visitors can get hands-on lessons on the basics of fly fishing, advanced techniques, plus how to fly fish successfully on Lake Erie and other local waters. Women’s programs will be provided by Ohio Women on the Fly.

Liskay has been a cutting-edge fly fishing guide and instructor over the years at Great Lakes Fly Fishing, challenging clients to get off the beaten path and have wonderful fly fishing adventures for walleye, freshwater drum, white bass and many other species, as well as traditional trout fishing.

“We developed the annual Castapalooza as a celebration of all things fly fishing,” said Darkes. “We have an impressive list of experts willing to donate a day to promote their favorite sport. These are men and women who are among the best guides and instructors in the country.”

Cleveland area fishing in transition: The next few days are going to be a chess match if you’re a Cleveland angler. The spring fishing for spawning steelhead trout in the Rocky River is winding down, as post-spawn fish begin heading back to Lake Erie, but will still be very good if weekend rains don’t muddy the waters.

Lake-run smallmouth bass are making an appearance in the Northeast Ohio rivers and streams, and good numbers of trophy 3- to 5-pound bass are hitting tube jigs, live bait, diving plugs and spinners.

The walleye fishing has been very good off Lorain and Cleveland. Night anglers casting from shore are have surprising success around Cleveland Harbor casting diving plugs.

Splurge of rainbows being stocked: The Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Cleveland Metroparks are stocking rainbow trout for spring fishing. The state trout trucks have released 1,600 rainbow trout in the 10- to 13-inch class in Hinckley Lake and another 600 trout in Shadow Lake.

The Cleveland Metroparks will have its final spring rainbow trout release in the East Branch of the Rocky River, splitting 900 of the feisty trout between the river and Wallace Lake in Berea.

The rainbow trout will feast on small marabou jigs or tube jigs tipped with maggots, waxworms and PowerBait, canned corn, pieces of nightcrawler and in-line spinners, small spoons and tiny plugs.

Lake Erie walleye in their hungry mode: Walleye have gathered around the Western Lake reefs and in the Sandusky and Maumee tributaries to spawn, and the fishing has been very good. Anglers on the reefs are tossing hefty hair jigs — green and black are great colors — and both pre- and post-spawn walleye are roaming the deeper waters, waiting for their turn.

Two tournaments last weekend in the Port Clinton and Toledo areas were a rousing success.

In the Lake Erie Walleye Trail’s inaugural Jig & Cast Open, where trolling is not allowed, Capt. Steve Ashley of Hawg’n Charters in Port Clinton and his crew of Kody and Kevin Ferguson and Kevin Leaders weighed a five-fish tournament limit of 30.73 pounds to win the event.

Ashley’s crew started the day casting lead-head jigs. While they caught plenty of smaller walleye, they switched to deeper water around Kelleys Island and began casting spinner rigs and nightcrawler to hook bigger fish. Darryl Brundage’s 8.53-pounder was the heaviest walleye of the day.

Cleveland’s Jake Runyan and his Pennsylvania partner, Chase Cominsky, took home $10,000 in the two-day Rossford Walleye Roundup hosted by Bass Pro Shops on the Maumee River. Runyan and Cominsky captured the crown with their limit of 10 walleye that weighed 68.29 pounds.

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