I didn't get on 17 m until the early evening today. However, things seem to be buzzing and the band was pretty much open. I worked up until 9:30 PM with many stations a good 59 while others were not so strong, these guys were mostly using wire antennas.
Propagation is really fascinating, you never know what signals are going to be like on a daily basis. I normally find that if I can hear somebody, I can work them, I don't always get through with the first shout, quite often it takes me quite a long time, depends how strong their signal is and how many other people are shouting. I normally find that if they are giving me a very strong signal then my signal is strong going back.
Somebody once suggested that propagation was reciprocal, by this I mean if I am receiving a 59 signal from someone in the states, then my signal should be the same. I have found that this is certainly not the case and on many occasion where somebody has given me a 59 +20, their signal has been very weak. Obviously if this particular person is using low-power and a very basic antenna then you can't expect miracles. Having said this, I often speak to people who are using wire antennas, quite often the humble G5RV and their signals are arose strong, often over 59. The next QSO may be with someone a few hundred miles away using a directional beam antenna and they are not given me much signal at all. Work that one out? I can only put this down to propagation and how it affects signals whether you are using big powerful antennas or not. I often hear stations upcountry here in the UK working guys in the USA that I can't even hear, so just goes to show that just because publication is hitting central England, it doesn't necessarily mean amateur radio operators in South England will be able to hear the same person.
The grey line is an invisible band around the Earth that separates daylight from darkness. You often find that propagation can be very good along this line, especially just before, and just after darkness. Basically, as it's getting dark here in the UK, signals from the USA can be very strong. It can be very fascinating to watch, you may be hearing a station down in Africa that is quite weak, maybe 52, leave it an hour or two and that station is then a 59+ signal. I find the same thing happens with the Far East and Asia, sometimes the signals are a lot stronger in the morning and they are in the middle of the day. Having said this, for the last few days signals from the USA have been very strong right up until I have closed down, quite a few hours after the sun has gone down and darkness has descended on us. I don't think you can totally rely on the grey line as propagation really does its own thing and doesn't stick to what it says in the book.