Monday, November 16, 2015

New Video: Episode 1- Stillwater Fly Fishing HD

As promised, we have returned to the fly fishing video scene. We will be featuring a few episodes in a "TV show" format for 2015/2016 like we had done years ago with our DVD's. In this episode, Tim and Andy fly fish for some rainbow trout in an Alberta pothole lake in the Spring. Chironomids and leeches were the hot flies of the day. Please watch and let us know if you enjoyed the first installment through email or any of our Social Media pages!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Celebrating 15 Years of Fly Fishing the West!

2015 is an exciting year for us at Western Sportfishing. We are celebrating the 15th year since we began bringing you all the information you need to fly fish in Western Canada!

For those of you who don't know our history, the four of us started a free website in 1999/2000 called "Fly Fishing the West". Back then we could post maybe a half dozen pictures to our page. After having about 10 views to the site, it would shutdown on overload for a few hours (Something unheard of nowadays). A year later, we discovered another free hosting site that allowed us to have more capacity for pictures, and even videos! That year, a magazine came out with the name "Fly Fishing the West" (not in existence anymore), so we came up with the name "Western Sportfishing".

Fishing videos on the internet were almost unheard of at the time.  They couldn't be long or of a particularly high quality; but we put a few up and had a great response! Those old videos are in our archives on the website. In 2004 or so, we all pitched in some money and bought a domain name, and picked a hosting site.  We have been here ever since.  Over the 15 years we have grown each section of the site. A few years ago, we produced three DVD titles: "2007 Western Sportfishing Video Series", "Hook n' Vise Vol. 1", and lastly "Western Canadian Journey". It was a blast to make these videos, and even cooler that we were mentioned in the reviews section of Fly Fusion Magazine as well as the Fly Fish Alberta blog.

We started doing this as a fun way to share our fishing adventures, while also educating everybody along the way. That is still the goal for this website. It has been great to meet many of you loyal followers in the community or out on the waters. We would like to let everyone know that to celebrate our 15th year, we are hoping to film a few episodes in our TV show format (as shown in our 2007 DVD's) for viewing on our website as well as on our YouTube channel. Look for them later in the year. Also, watch for other exciting announcements throughout the year!

Finally, thank you all for being with us for the last 15 years of this journey! Without you, our website would not still be going. Thank you, and remember that you can keep in touch with us through almost every form of Social Media as well as email.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reflections

As a long winter passes, it gives me a chance to reflect on not only the past season of fly fishing, but what the sport truly means to me and how the obsession began. Also, some things that have been bugging me recently about the sport. The reason many of us start out in anything is the adventure and the "unknown", mixed with the chance to acquire new skills with others, and of course achieve great memories along the way. This simple statement could sum up the reason one gets into sports, changes careers, or even lives their lives.  It is definitely the basis on why I fly fish, work my job, and live my every day life.

For several years now, I have noticed a trend that bothers me, and it is now present in every activity that I mentioned earlier, more than ever.  Image and self promotion is something that is troubling to society, yet is becoming so prevalent that it makes you wonder where values/morals have gone.  Gone (for the most part it seems) are the days of being part of a team/group/activity with common goals and looking out for the good of it all, and it is being replaced by selfish promotion of oneself and putting oneself above the activity/group for (attempted) personal gains.

This statement has a wide range of occupations, activities, etc that it can apply to but you came here to read about fly fishing and that is what I will focus on the rest of the way.

I started fly fishing after Nick brought over some Sport Fishing on the Fly episodes he had recorded on VHS tapes in the mid-to-late 90s.  Of course Andy (my brother), and Trevor (Nick's brother) were getting into it as well. We had all been fishing practically since birth, and had pretty well mastered how to catch pike, walleye, and trout on gear. Along came the thought of this exciting new way (for us) to fish and we were all in.  I credit not only Nick for getting us all interested but also Don and Grant from that fly fishing television program for showcasing the sport of fly fishing as a whole.

There wasn't dance club music blasted in the background and "money shots" of them holding small trout close to the camera to make their catch look bigger. There weren't shots of their sponsored out vehicles or boats, or 20-30 close-ups of their gear throughout those 30 minutes of programming. There weren't hand selected "friends" who had the "image that sells".  Don't get me wrong,  they did have sponsors, but that was in the background to what was most important,  and was NOT the primary goal of the show. What they DID have was 30 minutes of awesome locations in western Canada, the techniques on how to fish those locations, and scenic shots that made it feel like you were out on the water with them for a day or fishing. In other words, promoting the sport and locales...NOT themselves.  Not to mention having fun on the water with good friends and family!

It was with this same attitude that those guys on the show portrayed that really got all of us going in the sport of fly fishing, and I would also like to say that we still hold these values to this day.

My question is this...why has the trend been for some individuals to put themselves above all others and the sport, and why are so many people massaging their egos?  That attitude needs to be left at home, and these people need to start enjoying the sport for what it was made to be (as mentioned earlier)...good friends and family enjoying themselves out on the water creating memories, and acquiring new skills along the way!
Western Sportfishing: Trev, Andy, Tim, and Nick

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Perspective

The Offspring were giving me some half decent energy when we hit the road at 3pm a couple Thursday ago.  Dealing with downtown, pre-rush hour traffic --ugh.  Kristy works right in the heart of Edmonton, and there was no avoiding it if we wanted to leave that day. 

And I needed it, the energy, not so much for that exact day, but for the next 10 or so days that Kristy and I would be loosely travelling and fishing in a couple spots scattered both in Montana and the Wyoming side of Yellowstone Park.

The first night our original plan was to camp just on the Alberta side of the Canada-US border, but as we got further south, it became clear that if we stopped we’d be both setting up and taking down our tent in the rain (about an inch of the wet stuff was predictedto hit), so we instead winged it and crossed the border at about 8pm after driving 5 hours non-stop, except for coffee, gas, and a couple pee breaks.

“Where do you live?” quizzed a rather chummy American border officer. 

“Edmonton,” we respond.

“Which neighbourhood? Terwilliger? Claireview? Jasper Ave?”

“There it is.  We live just off Jasper.”

“You ever been arrested?”

“No.”

“Really?  But you live on Jasper…?”

We were pretty sure he was joking, so we just sort of sat there and he let us through without a big production.


Driving through northern Montana is either pleasant and interesting or deathly boring, depending on exactly where you cross the border.  We took a route that skirted Glacier Park, rather than a mind-numbing interstate farther east that is fast and straight, but treeless and dull. 

The going was slower than the posted speed limit to avoid free range cattle that kept scaring the shit out of me when they darted onto the road, and when we passed a couple too many campgrounds (we had no American cash yet, so couldn't pay even if we wanted to) we just kept driving.  I guess Kristy was fighting off sleep, while I was paying close attention to the pickup swerving dangerously close to both sides of the twisted road, carefully looking for a place to pass this guy.

Eventually the driver relented, picking a consistent speed so I could safely pass him on a rare straightaway, and a couple minutes later pulled the fully packed car into a 24-hour “GAS FOOD BEER” store somewhere just before Kalispell, Montana.  While Kristy was happily enjoying a toilet that flushed, I browsed the obligatory fishing section.

Everywhere in Montana sells flies, and, usually, crappy fly tackle.

Montana apparently used to be a place for hard-core and dedicated fly fishers to head to enjoy rivers and streams that were venerable aspects of the sports literature.  Now, despite the fantastic fishing (everyone who fly fishes should go, honestly) it seems to be some kind of regional quirk that smothers every store in the state as a sort of selling point, and everywhere seems to sell shotty African tied flies right beside Mickey Mouse or Snoopy kids rods, seemingly just because they think they are supposed to. 

"This is Montana, and we fly fish."

Okay, fine.  But do us a favour.  Stop it. 

I don’t know.  Maybe I got to Montana too late (2010), or maybe writers’ words and my own interpretation of them just didn’t jive in a realistic way based on my points of reference.  Whatever the reason, I wasn’t overly impressed with the 7 types of crappy “Montana” flies at the gas station.

Meanwhile, Kristy and I had been wondering if we’d be arrested or ticketed for grabbing a couple hours of sleep in the car in a roadside turnout before heading the rest of the way to Montana’s famous Rock Creek the following morning. 

So I asked the 40-something female clerk, who was polite in a straight forward way.

“Why don’t you two just park in the lot beside the gas station?  My trailer is over there too, and no one will hassle you.  Just don’t park to close to the shop next door, so they have space when they open in the morning.”

By this point, it was raining pretty good, and neither of us felt like driving in the rain, on a twisty highway with dull-painted lines.


At just before 5 am I woke up to some foggy windows and renewed energy (no Offspring this time), so I turned the ignition and we hightailed it past Missoula and up the bumpy as hell Rock Creek Road.  Famous for blowing tires and ruining suspensions, we tackled the road in a four-door 2003 Chevy Cavalier.  Slowly.

After doing a creel survey a few days later, I asked the guy how often the road was grated.  It had seemed worse than last time.

“Usually once a year, but this year there is no budget for it.”

A nice Rock Creek cutthroat caught road-side, and in knee deep water. 

There was also no budget to inspect the pump water either, and it was locked up.  I guess sub-adequate environmental budgets aren’t just an Alberta and Canada problem right now.

Setting up camp when you’re going to be spending a few days somewhere is always an interesting proposition.  If you’re just stopping for one or maybe two nights, you can half-ass it.  You know, throw the tent down anywhere that is more or less level, maybe on the downwind side of the fire ring and directly underneath the tree that the squirrel lives in, the same squirrel that's going to through pine cones on the roof of your tent at 5 o’clock every morning.

Kristy with a nice cutthroat

Kristy's first Montana brown

But we’d be staying four nights.  We got a nice site (only 2 were taken when we got there) and set the tent up beside where we’d park the car, on level ground, and far from the tree-bombing squirrels.  Up went a tarp that we sloped neatly to the west, a sort of combination wind-rain-sun blocker that gave the camp a homey feeling; like we weren’t just staying for a night and we could lounge around a bit more in the late afternoons that apparently weren’t fishing well anyway.


Rock Creek is a famous stream.  Maybe more of a smallish river to some, including myself, it is a good stream to all.  With something like 50 miles of fishable water, a healthy dose of brown, rainbow, cutthroat, cuttbow and whitefish from 8-16 inches, not to mention the odd bull trout and occasional torpedo sized fish, there is something for everyone.
An upper-average size rainbow for Rock Creek

Rock Creek has lots of trout, and much of your fishing will be in runs, riffles, and pocket water.  Move slowly and hit each seem and pocket.  You'll be shocked where you find fish.
Pretty much the entire river is easily accessed, with the sections nearer the paved, downstream end of Rock Creek Road being most heavily fished, and the road dispersing pressure over the rest of the creek.  There are some unique and easily identified sections, such as the Dalles, where Buick sized boulders create huge pockets and mini-pools, but for the most part Rock creek is a perfectly familiar and recognizable western trout stream.  If you’ve fished the west, you’ll be comfortable fishing here.

You'll catch pretty even numbers of browns and rainbows, with good numbers of cutthroats some days.
We spent the majority of our days fishing the few miles of creek upstream from camp.  We’d wake up, have a hearty breakfast involving a couple hot cups of coffee, sausage, potatoes, and eggs, then by the time our energy wore off around 2pm, the fishing had pretty much wound down (several other streams in the area were on Hoot Owl restrictions, banning fishing during the heat of the day) and it was time for a break and some lunch.  Later on, we’d head downstream of camp for a couple hours fishing right at dusk. 

The worst part about Rock Creek is the fact that the road goes right along it, so really you can never be certain that around the next bend there won’t be a small herd of fishermen.  The best part about Rock creek is that the road goes right along it, so you can easily access new sections of river types; if one stretch is a bust, you can be back at the truck heading to a new reach in about 5 minutes. 

It really doesn’t matter where you’re fishing.  The entire river has good water, and we spent our most productive hours fishing riffles and runs right beside the road, where steep cliffs and rock slides wouldn’t let it go anyplace else, other than right through the creek. 

The road clearly doesn’t affect the fishing negatively.  It might even help the creek by spreading out the fishermen somewhat evenly along the whole river.  Some streams here in Alberta only have one or two major access points, and for the most part, while the fishing might be good a couple hours up from the bridge or whatever, the first series of runs and pools are often pretty marginal.  Even with few guys fishing, they have nowhere else to start and that close section gets beat down pretty hard. 

And on Rock, the slippery ass rocks (seriously, I’m taking a staff next time, and doubling the number of studs in my boots) keep people from covering 4 miles of river a day, which means that when you find a stretch of good, unoccupied water, you can be assured that no one short of an asshole will jump in right in front of you can spook up all the fish; you simply can’t move that fast.  So, you spend your days moving slowly and fishing all the little pockets and seams with at least as much fervor as the deep runs and pools, and you get a good education on how little water you need to house a sixteen or seventeen-inch brown or cutthroat.

Kristy and I managed to get the Rock Creek Grand Slam (whites, browns, rainbows, cutts, and cuttbows) each day, getting good numbers usually, and while there are apparently some bulls around, the fact that you can’t legally target them sort of puts a damper on my desire to add them to the grand slam list…

Like is standard with Rock Creek, most of our fish were 10-14 inches, a relatively equal mix of those fish I mentioned above (never caught a bull trout) with some sections giving up more browns, or rainbows, or cutthroats, or whatever.  We caught a bunch of white-dogs during mornings when we used dropper nymphs (something like a Frenchie PTN worked very well), but we typically nipped those off mid-morning when the dropper tag seemed to just get in the way of getting good hook sets on the dries, which by the way tended to be Chubby Chernobyls, or #10-12 Elk Hair Caddises that looked like the spruce moths that were flying around during certain parts of the day. 

The fishing was so good that we didn’t even mind sleeping on the rocks for 4 nights when we discovered a series of leaks in our new (only used two times previously) air mattress. 

After several good days, we moved on to Yellowstone, stopping in Gardiner to pick up a new mattress.  The loose plan was to sight see the geysers and other famous areas for a day and to fish some streams I’ve been planning to fish since I was 12 or 13 years old.  As it turned out, I only fished one of the creeks I'd initially wanted to (for a few days, rather than run around trying to figure out new water every day), but it was super enjoyable, and to knock off the suspense now, yes, I did catch my first native Yellowstone cutthroat.  And also my second, third, and so on.  I'd caught some in Alberta where they'd been planted into barren lakes decades ago, but there is something special about true native fish.  

 Kristy caught several trout each day herself, and was a trooper when the wind was blowing, when the tourists and fishermen were driving us crazy, and when the static electricity in the air was giving her shocks through her rod over an hour after the last thunder rolled through the valley. 

We got the hell off the water fast on that last one. 

Yellowstone fishing was something I’m glad I did.  On my last trip to Montana, three years ago, things didn’t really pan out.  Rock Creek was good, the Madison worked out for the first afternoon, but then we were plagued by misfortune that included 40 mph winds, sleet, and entirely too much for the next 4 days until we just bailed back to Alberta where we had sunny September skies and good fishing. 

So in Yellowstone we drove along the Lamar Valley that follows the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek.  It was Soda Butte that I’ve read about for years (also Slough, but we never did take the plunge on that one.  I needed some reason to go back, you know?).  My heart sank when I saw it.

Casting on beautiful Soda Butte Creek
For years I read about great fishing and scenery and all that in Yellowstone.  But when I saw the number of fishermen at each pullout, each 200 metres after the last, it worried me.  Some guys looked to know what was going on, using good technique and etiquette, but so many looked like people who drag the gear out of the closet once a year and swing dry flies through pools for a couple hours on fashionable rivers. 

Don’t get me wrong, fishermen all need to start somewhere, but back home, if someone hacks their way through a cutthroat river, you may as well sleep ‘til the next day then try again, because the trout will all be shaking shittless on the bottom of the deepest holes.

Well, when we fished we managed to somehow, miraculously, avoid the nut show.  By fishing farther up the valley, or above the Ice Box Canyon, the number of people tended to shrink a bit.  From what I understand, this also corresponds with the average size of the trout, but I’ll trade off a bit of fish size in favour of more room, especially when we consider that the average size is really only varying by an inch or two.  And the top end size is purported to be about the same. 

Kristy with an average size cutthroat during a morning fish.
So by getting up early (on Soda Butte this worked, as it is known as an afternoon fishery) we caught fish before anyone else was bothering, and by hitting water a bit further across the meadow we managed to fish in relative solitude.  Sure, it wasn’t as good as the afternoon fishing, but there was no one out, and I wasn’t getting any cutthroats by sitting around getting high on coffee.  The one exception to the great solitude was during a morning rainstorm, when a group of four guys thought it would be a good idea to hop in right in front of us and then proceeded to spread out.

Soda Butte creek in the meadow section.
So we called it for a couple hours, then when I went back in late afternoon, I managed to get a dark, golden bodied 16” cutthroat that I’d hooked but lost the previous morning, as well as a few other healthy Yellowstones from twelve to fifteen inches.


I couldn’t help but think of Alberta at this point.  Here within a couple miles of me are dozens of fishermen in Yellowstone, most fishing the same creek as me.  A catch and release cutthroat trout stream; a small one populated with large, scrutinizing (sort of) trout.  Shallow, slow, clear, and loads of fishermen, many of whom are rookies.

In Alberta, you’d easily cover 3 to 6 km of this sort of creek in a single session, catching some fish and spooking the rest in the process of moving up the creek.  It's just how it usually happens, and I usually do it too -fish a dry-dropper and catch a bunch and cover some stream.  But here in Yellowstone you move slowly.  You’ll fish a small run, riffle, pool or whatever with a small terrestrial or something, then see what happens.  Usually you'll get a couple fish from an obvious piece of good water, miss another couple and maybe spot another few.  Because there is most likely another guy or two a couple hundred yards (or less) upstream, moving on right away is counterproductive; you’ll run out of unoccupied stream pretty damn quickly. 

So you have two options.  One, you switch flies.  Try and get a couple of those trout that you’d missed or lost, or those ones you saw rise but wouldn’t budge for a small ant pattern.  Or maybe you add a small dropper nymph.  I wouldn’t spend an hour on a small pool, but I’d certainly try at least a couple patterns before moving on, repeating the process at each new hole, and then even fishing that first hole again on my way back to the car.  The other option is to fish say 75 or a hundred yards with a pattern, then go back to where you started and try something else through that same 75 yards.  This isn’t effective if there are too many people, because someone will be in you’re spot before you hit the next corner, but it is a good method if you don’t even see a fish in your first run or pool.

It all seems to make sense.  There are more fishermen in Yellowstone, so while you’ll see other guys in the valley and on the stream, you can still stay out of sight and feel like you’re in the wilderness.  And by fishing more slowly and thoughtfully, more relaxed even.  And because I know I’m not in a race to the next stretch, I would end up having at least as good fishing as I do in Alberta fishing on cutthroat streams.  I often didn’t feel  pressured, like if I took the time to change flies a couple times, someone wouldn’t jump past me, ruining my fishing for the rest of the day unless I jump past him in return. 

A few weeks back I was fishing with my best friends and brother on a sort of stag fishing trip for me.  My brother Trevor and I got down and set up camp by 11am on the Friday, and headed up the creek.  We did well for the first couple hours, but then the catching dried up.  I turned a corner and saw a couple guys upstream.  So we figured they’d just fished this water and had either spooked the trout or given them sore lips. 

After a brief chat with them so that we were all on the same page, Trevor and I headed up the trail for nearly a half hour to give these guys at least 2-3 hours of water before even getting to where we started.  So we hit the water again, and work hard for a single trout.  Then as we turn the first corner we see another guy in a red t-shirt about a hundred yards upstream.  We fished for another couple hours, catching a few more trout, mostly from obscure pockets or shallowish runs, then hiked back to camp to wait for the other guys.

After a sufficient number of Old Milwaukees, Trev and I got to talking about fishing etiquette in Alberta on some of our more popular rivers and streams.  To generalize, the good rivers that flow through public land are pressured.  Damn near all of them, and don’t let people tell you that fishing in Alberta is all wilderness.  If you can get a truck, ATV, trailer, motohome, RV, dirt bike, helicopter, or any type of motorized machine to within a couple hundred yards of it, there will be a lot of people.  And each of these guys fishes at breakneck speeds, moving upstream, pounding each hole and wading through, leaving a poorer than necessary experience for those following. 

Ironically, it's our National and Provincial Park waters that get less pressure than standard forest reserve streams, thought the fishing in many cases is better and more wild.

And keep in mind that roads tend to follow creeks, not just cross them, and that, if what I read is true, Alberta has more roads per square mile than anywhere else on earth.  We have great fishing and lots of solitude too, it’s just not all wilderness and a friendly small-town atmosphere like some people have us believe.

Anyway, we were discussing that perhaps in certain areas it is time to start fishing more slowly, changing flies often, reworking water you’ve already covered.  Fish all the little riffles with some effort instead of just wading though and tossing around a couple Hail Mary casts.  Hell, I got my biggest Yellowstone cutt, about eighteen-inches, in an ankle deep riffle.  We spooked it crossing the river earlier in the day (a mistake I didn’t make again) but went back after fishing another couple runs.  He took on my first cast over his tiny depression. 

A tiny back eddy and a careful presentation = result.

It was an amazing sight to watch this cutthroat come and gently suck back my sulphur dry.

But in Alberta fishing slowly won’t always work.  Some brown trout creeks we have only hold a couple hundred trout per kilometre.  If you don’t cover water, you won’t get much action, especially because they do get fished some, but because they flow through mostly private property, not nearly as much pressure as streams in the southern forest reserves.  Our cutthroat trout and rainbow rivers tend to have a lot of fish per mile, or at least more than most of our brown trout creeks.  And this is small water, so you could cover everything if you take your time and are careful. 

To illustrate this point, take Day 3 of my stag trip, when the four of us fished a tiny cutthroat creek (about 10 or less feet across on average).  Trevor and Tim used dry flies (different ones), I had a couple nymphs and was high-stick nymphing, and Andy was fishing a small streamer.  We'd let the big dry go through, then a small mayfly, then either Andy or I or both would run through with sunken stuff. 

Sometimes a trout would look at a dry, but only take the nymph.  Sometimes we wouldn’t see a fish on the dry, then get three nice cutts on the Clouser, and once Andy had a nice cutthroat chase his Clouser three or four times before he hung up, then I went in there with my nymphs and caught him after only about 4 casts.  We’d used all the tactics that would likely work on that creek, and each hole or run got fished with more than just a single method for 5 minutes.  We saw a lot of fish using a second, third, or even fourth tactic that we would have simply spooked had we tried one single fly then kept on walking.

By the end of the day when we bush whacked back to the road (after about 7 hours of straight fishing) we only walked 1km of road, or maybe 2 km of creek, to get back to the camp.  In 7 hours on that creek, if I was just fishing an elk hair caddis and maybe a dropper, I’d have caught the same number of fish but I’d typically cover 4 road kilometres, or maybe 8 stream km.

I took my time and reworked the water.  I was rewarded. ** Notice the Soda Butte in the background.**
How many people could have had a fun day in those 6 extra kilometres I’d have fished and scared up?  Did taking up more river make my day more fun?  If people fished in pairs, that could have been 6 more fun days for people, at about 2km per pair, not to mention the stream they’d cleared up in turn, by not fishing 6km each further upstream. 

While I don’t think this slow type of fishing can work everywhere, I think that Alberta does have some road-followed streams and areas with enough trout and enough fishermen and enough access that this might be what we need to progress to.  You’ll catch the same number of trout, give or take a couple, but more people will fit into our finite wild areas without having a frustrating experience caused by people racing from one hole to the next, or cutting in front of other groups, with little regard for their impact on others' experiences.

We already fish like this on places like the Bow or Crowsnest, and I really think this could become accepted practice on streams like the Oldman and Livingstone, and their tributaries, too. 

We have enough water for everyone in Alberta, we just need to be willing to share it. 


A big head came up in the shallow riffle, and the game was on.

5x tippet and a good fish --I had to chase it downstream a little ways to keep it out of some root balls.

A happy angler.

Fish the water well.  Good fish live in subtle places.

Once I became accustomed to the fishing culture of Yellowstone I managed to enjoy myself a lot more.  Kristy too.  We caught enough fish that we knew we had them wired; we could have raced around and caught a lot more trout, but what would that prove?  We also got enough refusals and false rises that we could fish for specific trout that didn’t like what we were doing at first.  We spent our last night in Yellowstone fishing right near the camp, just across the meadow.  Kristy was getting lots of false rises to her #16 cream caddis she’d been using successfully for pretty well 3 straight days.  I switched her up to a #16 Sulphur Harrop Hairwing Dun to match the bugs hatching at the time that were either Ephemeralla or Epeorus, depending on if you think it matters. 

The nose-pokes stopped, and she caught a few trout from the next couple holes while I used a small terrestrial to rework the water and raise a couple more trout in what was left of the evening light. 

We refished those first few holes, and we didn’t crowd the guy downstream of us.  The fish we had unsuccessfully hooked the first time through were feeding again. 

There was plenty of water for everyone.

...
Nick Sliwkanich

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stag Fly Fishing and Camping Trip

Just over a week ago, the four of us from Western Sportfishing (Nick, Trev, Andy, and myself) embarked on a few days of cutthroat trout fishing and camping (which of course was accompanied by a few drinks).  You see, Nick will be the third one of us to fall to married life since 2009, and it makes for a damn fun weekend every 2 years!  I think we all agree that it should be a once per year thing at Kamp Kaleb!

Andy and I met in Calgary and headed on down to Southwestern Alberta.  Nick and Trev had travelled  down earlier in the day.  After stopping for some groceries and some booze, we were on our way down.  We didn't know if Nick and Trev were going to be on the creek when we arrived, or tired from the day and slamming back a few beers.  As we pulled up, it was the latter of the two scenarios, as a nice little pile of beer was ploughed back by the boys!  We hopped out of the truck and congratulated them on their progress and choice for the evening lol.  It would be the start of a great weekend!

The next morning, we woke up early to beat the weekend rush.  The water was cool and the air was too, but we trudged up the creek and hit into a few beautiful cutthroats on dry flies.  Andy followed us up with streamers to work the system.
Nick casts a dry fly to a rising cutthroat

We fished until about 2:30 in the afternoon and had a blast as the day warmed up and the fish became more aggressive.

Andy nets T-rev's fish. Trev was just resting his eyes in this pic lol
"Dead Man Walking" (Nick) and Andy fish a nice run
After retiring to camp for a mid-afternoon lunch, some beers, and some BS'ing we decided to hit a lower part of the creek for some evening fishing.  Nick had a special license to keep rainbow trout on this particular water body so we were all hoping he would land one for a fish fry.  While it didn't happen, we had a good time anyways.  Fishing wasn't super hot, but we managed a few decent cutts!

Nick casting for a (hopeful) rainbow trout

T-rev doing the honours while Andy holds his nice cutt caught on the streamer
As the sun began to set, we headed back to camp for a fire and some more drinking and BS'ing.  With everybody busy, we all don't get the chance to get together too often as a group so there were a lot of stories to be told.
The beer of the 80's lol...Old V...
The campground Buck makes an appearance
The second day of fishing began with all of us fishing a smaller creek.  On this day, Trev and myself would run dry flies through each run, then either Nick would swing a double nymph rig through, or Andy would swing a streamer through for bull trout or aggressive cutts.  The system worked well and we were pretty successful.  The scenery was also great on this gem of a stream.

Nick working the nymphs

Nice pool for the streamers and nymphs...and a picture

Andy with a monster on my dry fly

Nick with an aggressive cutt that took a couple of runs at Andy's streamer before slamming Nick's Hoover nymph...or was it the Dyson Nymph??
Typical Westslope Cutt

Soaking in the scenery

T-rev spotting some bull trout. Then a rock fell off the cliff randomly about 10 seconds later, and landed in the water just in front of him.  Needless to say he wasn't standing there after that lol.
Nick with a 24"er...no wait he's just doing the fly nation pose haha
"I SEEN one that COME up just over THURR"

We fished til later in the afternoon/evening, then retired back to camp for some supper and festivities.  All in all, it was a great weekend with the boys and hopefully we can all get together to do it again soon!

Until next time "Kamp Kaleb" haha...still laughing at that name




Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spring Updates and Looking Forward to Summer

It has been a crazy spring to say the least. With a late ice-off for stillwaters to southern Alberta flooding and now a heat wave. The weather has been all over the map. With that being said we have still had some enjoyable trips out on the water. For myself, it has been one of the slowest seasons for catching, but the days out with friends and family have made up for the poor success rates.  Hopefully the success picks up but here are a few shots from the spring season.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Best Fly in the World

The best fly in the world is the one that catches the most fish.  It doesn't need to be switched out when the going gets tough, but it's also versatile and catches fish across a wide variety of conditions.  The best fly in the world catches trout when other patterns fail.  The best fly pattern is easy enough to tie that I don't cringe at the sight of a near-empty fly box compartment.  It should be relatively inexpensive, requiring only 3 or 4 materials and about as many tying steps.

Okay, I guess that's all well and good, but I don't really have a single pattern that exactly fits all the criteria.  I do have a few dry flies in my repertoire that are versatile, reasonably durable, simple and cheap to tie, sit low for a good presentation, but float for a long time, catch little brookies as well as pain-in-the-ass browns, and require just a minimal bit of general maintenance.  I can even tie them down to a #24 without needing to alter the pattern to make it possible...

So what am I actually talking about here?  Well, before I keep going, let's backtrack a hair over a dozen years ago, to the late days of the '90s and early 2000s....

After a few of my rookie influenced teenaged attempts to plump up my fly selection, I took the Comparadun fly that I used so often with good success and bought a few of the new to me CDC feathers from my local shop after seeing an SFOTF episode.  I tied up a small variety of Comparadun styled flies using some #16 light wire hooks, hackle fibres for a tail, either ginger or olive CDC chopped up for some rough dubbing, and some paired white or dun CDC tips for wings.

The result?  A supremely cheap, easy to tie mayfly, that floats well in a decent chop, can float a small nymph below it if it came to it, and after rinsing the fly off in the water, squeezing it dry with a handkerchief, and adding a tiny amount of CDC oil, lasted forever.  This thing worked wonders and accounted for a lot of trout during my misspent youth.  Well, not really misspent because I was fly fishing after all, but you know...

I caught a lot of small stream trout on those simple CDC flies, trout that had already seemed to wise up to the attractors being used by an onslaught of fly fishers that joined the ranks back then.

Okay, back to 2013, where there are more fishermen than ever, less good public water, smarter fish in many streams, not to mention less dry fly hackle thanks to some sort of recently deceased fad that involved horrendous prices and Steven Tyler. 

Re-enter CDC.  I would have to say that for any kind of dry fly, save for the largest hoppers, stones, attractors and the like, this is possibly my favourite material.  You can buy a bag of dun/dark beige Petitjean CDC for around ten bucks: enough to tie well more mayflies and caddisflies than you could reasonably expect to go through in a normal year.  You can even use it for hackle on an Elk Hair Caddis type pattern, and those long, mobile feathers just scream "life-like."  I like to collar some of my nymphs with it; it traps air bubbles, flows extremely well, and moves just right.

And trout are suckers for that.

I guess I would encourage people to try CDC if you haven't yet.  I know that CDC is one of the most popular dry fly materials in much of Europe, but it is often on of the last-resort type of fly tried out here.

...
I'm thinking of a story here, that happened early last fall on the Bow River.  I was working my way back to the truck in the late afternoon.  I'd sight-fished a mile or so or river edge, and slowly worked my way back down, picking up a couple of the trout I'd flubbed the first time and maybe a couple others ones too.  That part isn't really important.

I came across a couple anglers standing high on the bank looking at either a slow back bay or trying to see into a shallow riffle about 70 feet off the bank.  It was difficult to tell from a hundred yards away.

As it turned out, they were doing both.  There were a couple trout rising out in the riffle, and another one slowly cruising in the back eddy.  I guess they had fished the eddy for a while with no luck; I told them I had a similar experience earlier in the day, and encouraged the guy who was actually holding a rod to go try for the active risers.  He said he had been, but hadn't gotten a take.

Taking the situation into account, I suggested a slightly longer leader (I think he was using a total leader/tippet of about 9 or 10' to 4x), including a 2.5' 5x tippet and a low floating caddis.  There were caddis around us, but no fresh ones.  The rises were slow and deliberate, meaning the bugs in question weren't moving much, probably caddis that finished laying their eggs upstream a little ways, then just sort of sat there drifting until either time or a trout finished them off.

As it turned out, the flies he had tried were popular but heavily hackled and high floating caddis dries.  I offered the guy a Henry's Fork Caddis; it's made of a biot body, a CDC (and mallard flank, if you are into following the original recipe to a T) wing, and a medium dun hackle over a peacock herl head.  Brilliant, easy, and a great trout-fooler. 

The result?  A perfect 18 or 19" Bow River rainbow on his first cast.  He was happy, I was happy, and when he told me he had recently taken up tying, but had never used CDC before, I offered another H.F. Caddis as a model.  It isn't like I suggested he do something off the wall or bizarre, but a low-floater with CDC sure seemed to work well, and I was genuinely pleased that he caught that fish. 

A week or so later, Andy and I caught a few nice Bow River rainbows during an evening hatch, again using CDC caddis (well, at least I was).  Later in the fall I caught more than a few browns from a small spring creek near (sort of) where I live on a Stalcup Biot Dun (a size 18 of the blue winged olive variety).

For some great patterns, Rene Harrop and Shane Stalcup are well known "local" tyers who generously created patterns with CDC.  There are tons of great European CDC tyers, probably most notably Marc Petitjean. If this interests you, check out the book Fly Tying With CDC

I would say that the best, or at least some of the best, flies to tie if you're going to start tying with CDC would be the Henry's Fork Caddis (Harrop) and the CDC Biot Dun (Stalcup).  Both flies are simple and use roughly the same ingredients to complete (some Superfine/fine antron dubbing, turkey biots, CDC, and some half decent cape hackle.  I've substituted the original peacock herl for dubbing on the caddis' head, with no noticeable ill effects).  They also both catch fish.  The only concession I make to the fly, and subsequently the speed at which they can be churned out, is the small layer of Zap I lay over the thread-base before wrapping the biot; it's simply a matter of better longevity and fly survival rate.
Henry's Fork Caddis.  A very productive Rene Harrop fly.  #14, olive body with a grey wing.

Stalcup's CDC Biot Dun, minus the mallard quill overwing. #16 Pale Morning Dun.
As far as Marc Petitjean goes, his flies are even more simple, but no less effective.  He ties caddis flies that literally use nothing but hooks, thread, and CDC.  I tie them and use them, and they work really well.  His patterns just have this great bugginess to them that trout, especially clear water trout, cant get over.  You're also likely to see a pile of specialty Petitjean CDC tying tools, and while these are certainly nice, just as certainly they aren't absolutely necessary to tie great CDC flies. 
Petitjean Caddis. #16, grey/tan (marketed as beige), and just awesome-as-hell looking.


Happy tying.  Only a few more weeks guys.  Hang in there.

Nick