Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Spring Creek Strategies (by Mike Heck)

Book Review: Spring Creek Strategies, by Mike Heck

Spring creeks, limestoners, chalkstreams, whatever.  These types of waters are known all over the world for their great, but often difficult, trout fishing.  Spring Creek Strategies is a first rate, top notch, well laid out, and brilliantly photographed book that deals with spring creeks. 

Heck tells us that although this book deals largely with eastern limestone creeks, but that the skills will help us catch trout throughout the world, wherever we happen to encounter spring creeks.  Well, I can vouch for that; I live nowhere near the East's famous Letort Spring, for example, but have used skills covered in this book to catch trout in my home province of Alberta, as well as some small creeks in Saskatchewan, and even locales as far reaching as the spring-sourced Gacka River (pronounced like "Gat-ska") in central Croatia. 

Chapters include the typical definitions and discussions regarding spring creeks, including water sources, temperatures, chemistry, etc.  Mike then goes on to discuss everything we have come to expect from fly fishing books: different mayfly hatches, stoneflies, caddis, and midges are all covered between the covers, and all types of techniques and little tips are suggested.  Nymphs, emergers, dries, spent adults and the like are discussed, as are the times of year, day, and any other idiosyncrasy we need to be aware of in order to not get humbled too badly by a tough day on the water.

Of course, non-"hatching" food stuffs are included, such as terrestrials, scuds, and minnows, are thoroughly showcased.
A secret spring creek somewhere in Canada.  That's it for clues...

The notable exception to the tried and true book model we see nowadays in "how to" formats was the lack of an equipment guide.  All well and good, because while I like to know what people prefer to use on their home waters, it it so subjective and takes so many variables into account, and there is so much good gear out there, that you're almost always best off to just use what you are comfortable fishing, be it a 8-foot 3wt or a 9-foot 6wt.  

I appreciate how he included a chapter dedicated to conservation, and for some reason I really liked the sophisticated and cultivated feel of eastern fly fishing the book brought out.  I'm sure it was unintentional.  Maybe I read too much about discovery and exploration in the Wild West, and while I feel that those concepts are precious, taking part in them often myself, this book just brings a refined feel when I sit back in the chair for some quiet time.

The writing is smooth and thorough without getting daunting, but at the same time doesn't seem to leave much out.  For some reason (maybe its newness to me) I reach for it often on the bookshelf.  It is simply pleasing to look through, full of detail-packed chapters that don't drag on with lengthy "One time while I was guiding a fellow from Arkansas..." stories.

If you don't already own this book, maybe see if you can find a copy on the fly shop shelf.  I know at the very least you'll find some good patterns on its pages, and at the most it will help you formulate a strong understanding of what makes spring creeks and their trout tick. 

Nick Sliwkanich

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Favourite Types of Fishing

Cliche: Ask ten fly fishers what their favourite type of fishing is, and you'll get ten different answers and a fist-fight.

Okay, maybe not, because I'd wager a reasonable sum that 4-6 of those guys would say "stream fishing with dries," at least if you asked people involved primarily in trout fishing. 

Well, for some reason I spend a lot time during winter sitting around, reading fishing books, and wondering (for no determined reason) what I enjoy doing most regarding fly fishing.

Maybe it's so I can plan the next season the best.  No.  I play each season by ear pretty much every time 'round.

Maybe it's to rationalise the type of fishing I do most often.  No.  I do a pretty even amount of various fishing types each season.

Most likely it's just to exercise my thoughts, and figure out why I enjoy fishing the way I do.

What are my favourite types of fishing you ask?  Well, trout, for starters. I do spend some time fishing for alternate species, mostly walleye, pike or goldeye (as long as we still consider whitefish and grayling as "trout").  I'm pretty much game to fish for trout wherever, whenever, as long as I get to go and have a reasonable chance of success.

I do prefer to sight fish, if possible, while on streams.  This doesn't always work on the smallest streams, as the trout are frequently too small to see easily, but if I can get those small guys on a light rod and dry flies, I'll be happy enough.
Andy with a good rainbow caught on a small dry during an evening hatch.

But where I differ from many, is that I love to fly fish for trout on lakes.  I'm not too sure why I enjoy it so much.  Many fishers look at a lake, wonder where to start, get frustrated after a couple mediocre hours, and high-tail it for the nearest river.  Not me.  I grew up fishing them, I love the peacefulness of the waves lapping at the boat, I love the strong pull of a healthy lake-fed trout, and the slight tug from a trout that has just inhaled my offering, regardless of the fact that they can take some time to figure out.

A fat lake-rainbow that succumbed to a small shrimp pattern fished in shallow water.
No doubt streams have their charms.  They are mysterious.  You wander up and down, higher and further into the unknown, and you get to discover different stretches that can be very different from others, making the stream seem even more novel.

I love spotting large trout along the banks of famous rivers that most people fish with heavy nymph rigs, dredging the bottom while I sneak along with a 4wt rod and a dry dropper rig, letting me suspend a tiny nymph in front of a clever trout.  But I enjoy spotting large trout on stillwaters, using the same rig and rod as on streams to fool them, as most people kick along, dragging large leech patterns behind a float tube on a clear sinking line.

Now, don't get me wrong, I use sinking lines, and nymph rigs, and pretty much whatever type of fly is needed to catch trout that day, but I acknowledge my preferences.  I tend to give each preference a shot before getting desperate and begin my searching with my heaviest gear and largest flies. 

Nick with a nice rainbow caught while sight nymphing with a #18 pheasant tail nymph.  Photo by Andy Tchir
Fly fishing should be visual, if it's possible.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I enjoy sight fishing when conditions allow it.  Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it allows me to spend my time on distinct targets, which allows me to concentrate on big fish, if I can find them.  After that, I like to be imitatively searching with flies that are comfortable to cast on my favourite rods, which is a nicely generic qualification that is flexible from person to person.

Only after that, would I say I like to catch fish rather than not. 

Nick Sliwkanich

Friday, November 23, 2012

Winter Cutthroats

Tim with a very nice October Westslopes Cutthroat Trout

Tim and I headed out on a mid-October fly fishing trip to Southwestern Alberta. So the title "Winter Cutthroats" may be a little deceiving, but since winter in Alberta starts in September, it adds to the elusiveness of this trip. We drove through the Highwood Pass to the Trunk Road, which was quite the scenic drive. I highly recommend this drive to anyone when conditions permit safe travel.

Beautiful Upper Kananaskis Lake on a cool fall day, a great sight to take in when heading to the Highwood Pass
Much like early season trips, late season trips can be rather unpredictable. We drove through snow and temperatures around 3 degrees Celsius at higher elevations, but fished in weather closer to 12.....not bad at all. We took a nymph rod, streamer rod and dry fly rod, to cover all the basis down at the crick. Tim had the great idea of bringing along a video camera too, so we look forward to posting a video of the trip in the very near future.

Tim with the first fish of the day: a nicely colored little cutthroat trout

All in all, it ended up being a really solid day of fishing. Tim started off with a pretty little cutthroat on the nymph, and I picked one off on a size 20 dry fly. The coolest part was watching the video back at home because you can actually see the cutthroat come up and sip the dry fly in crystal-clear fall water and then get chased and almost EATEN by a big ol' bull trout while scrapping away!

Myself, with a really big mountain whitefish taken on a nymph

The coolest part of the day for me was near the end, when Tim and I had a double-header....the first double-header of this nature I have EVER encountered. There were some bull trout swimming around and Tim had one chase the streamer. They didn't show any interest in the large presentations after that, so we went back to nymphing for whites and cutts...."GOT ONE!" Tim shouted from the other side of the river. "Its a bull trout on a small nymph!" I threw a cast out and got ready to help him land his little bully...BAM! "I got one on too Tim! DOUBLE HEADER ON THE DIMESTORE!" I yelled, imitating a show we watched way too much of years ago...."Mine's a bull trout too!" Talk about a cool scenario! A double header of bull trout on tiny nymphs! We video taped both fish and released them back into the cool water.

Tim with a smaller bull trout taken on a nymph during the epic double-header

We capped the day off with a cold beer to celebrate what we though might have been the last mountain trip of the year. Overall, it was a really fun day and I can't wait to see the video and share it with you all once it's edited!

Tight lines!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Late Fall Madness

There comes a time every year in the Fall when we can sense that the next trip out could be one of the last open water trips of the year.  With this mindset, we tend to fish in some crazier situations than we otherwise wouldn't throughout the year.  We might also fish harder and some might even look at us as being a little bit nuts for being out there.  A last ditch effort to take the boat out one more time with Nick would certainly fit this criteria for being a little crazy.

Nick called and asked if I had some time to go fishing.  I told him, yes, we could head out on Thursday.  We both agreed and the forecast looked ok.  That changed in a hurry, and the night before we left saw a few centimetres of snow fall.  I awoke the next morning to a text from Nick questioning if we should go, and upon looking outside and opening the door, I was starting to think along the same lines.

The forecast was calling for a HIGH of -3C, and -10C with the windchill.  Not wanting to waste the day sitting around, we decided to head out anyways to check out the lake situation and the possibility of at least fishing off shore for a few minutes.  As we drove out, ice fell off the top of the boat, and icicles clung to the was cold!  We arrived at the lake, and checked out the lake side.  This particular lake is sheltered on a couple of sides, and it actually helped with a bit of the wind.

"Do you think we should do this?!?" Nick said.

I responded with, "Yup, this will be interesting!"

We layered up and put the waders on, and started to prepare the boat for unloading.  First problem...the ratchet straps were frozen!  After some quick thinking by Nick, we warmed(!) the straps up with water from the lake and they came free.  Success!  Next, we hooked up the controller for the boat winch (my loader is an automatic loader so my boat sits on my truck).  We pushed the button and the winch had power, but the boat was not moving.  Upon further inspection, the boat was frozen to the rollers on the rack.  After an adjustment there, we broke free, and the boat came down and broke the thin layer of ice on the water.  We were in the clear!

After loading up the boat and rigging up rods, we were off.  Of course, there were no other anglers out on the shoreline or in boats, which is always nice!  We were laughing as we had those couple of issues, and because every time we head out fishing together, there is always poor weather conditions.  Analysis of this shows that to usually be the case, but at the same time, it usually leads to good fishing!

Before we headed off, we spotted some fish coming near the surface closer to the shoreline of the lake, so we anchored in a spot that was parallel with the shore.  With our first casts out, and our hands and rod guides already starting to freeze up, we saw both indicators dip down!  Always a good sign to get some action that quickly!   We started to get into a few fish, and lost quite a few others.

We moved spots a few times, and the action continued to be quite steady.  What a day!  You couldn't ask for more after persevering through the few issues at the start and the poor weather.  If the fishing hadn't been so good, I can't guarantee we would have been out for more than an hour, but we made it on the water for a little over 4 hours.  We were still getting hits like crazy but decided to head off as it would be dark in an hour, and we couldn't really feel our fingers anymore.

We got off the water, loaded everything up, and were headed back to the city.  Satisfied with the day, I put the boat into storage for the winter a few days later...even with the better weather you can't really top a day like that to end the boating season.  Some of the best fishing I have ever had with Nick always come under some adverse conditions, but that's part of the adventure and why fly fishing is so amazing.  It's what keeps us coming back for more!
Nick waiting for the bite on a chilly day on the water.

Waiting, and freezing.

A typical size of trout for the day. Fun, especially in sub zero temperatures!

PS: Sorry for the lack of pics from the day as both of our hands were so cold we could barely move them.  I have a little bit of video that I will edit, and hopefully make a short vid soon!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Article in "Canadian Outdoorsman" Online Magazine

Check out Tim's article "Fall Backswimmer Frenzy" and cover photo of Nick on the NSR in the latest edition of Canadian Outdoorsman's online magazine!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Late Summer on the Bow

Fishing at first light on the Blue Ribbon Bow River

I had the pleasure of planning a trip to the Bow River with my long time friend and fishing buddy Nick Sliwkanich in late August. Living on the Bow, I had admittedly become somewhat complacent. Whether it be due to laziness, or just lack of care, I had found myself becoming one of those guys who kept the same San Juan worm, big strike indicator rig on all the time. That all changed on this trip.

Nick sighting fish off of a high bank late afternoon
Nick had been out fishing earlier in the week on the bow and was using a finesse presentation if you will. A small elk hair caddis and a tiny...and I mean tiny emerger behind it. He had told me that every fish he'd caught earlier in the week he spotted before he caught...and most he caught he saw actually open their mouths and take his subsurface offering....Needless to say, I changed my set-up.

Nick netting a nice rainbow that took his dry fly offering in a slow moving stretch of water
The product of spot and stalk fishing on the Bow

We fished the late afternoon/evening and hit the water first thing in the morning the following day. We were rewarded big time. The morning went great on dry flies and as the sun climbed, we spotted a pod of at least a dozen trout against a bank in a smaller run. The trico hatch was massive and many fish were keying on emergers...perfect scenario for our set-ups. We stayed in one stretch of water watching fish for a couple hours and took turns picking off 8 or 9 fish between the two of us...the smallest being a 17" rainbow! Not a bad way to spend an afternoon and a totally unique way of fishing the Bow for me!

A colorful brown trout taken sight fishing late August

One of the most surprising things about the fish that we hooked and/or missed setting the hook on was the fact that they bit so light or quickly that the dry fly didnt even get pulled under when they took the dropper fly. This is where a good pair of polarized glasses come into play. Most times the flash of a white mouth under water was a tell-tale sign on a fish taking the tiny offering.

Nick with a surprise catch, a Bow River Cutt-Bow

We caught a few different fish species and many different size-classes of fish, all on light 4 or 5 weight set-ups with what would be considered light fly rigs on the Bow. Was it worth getting up at 5:00? You bet, it also changed my plan of attack on hot sunny summer days on the mighty Bow River!
Strictly Dry Fly or Dry Dropper Set-Ups were used on this outing
Andy Releasing a Decent Rainbow on the Bow

Thanks for reading, hope to see you all on the water and tight lines on your next adventure!

-Andy Tchir

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Great Info for Rigging Slickshooter or Mono Running Line

I got this from the Whistler Fly Fishing Blog, and it has been favourited ever since.  Just wanted to share with you folks in case you might not know about it.  It is very important if you are using a mono running line like Rio SlickShooter, and rigging it up to your backing and preferred shooting head.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Backswimmer Fishing

As the month of August winds down, we start to get into one of the most spectacular seasons of fishing for the entire year.  Lakes usually become a quiet spot to get out and enjoy the Fall season here in Alberta.  Backswimmers become a major "hatch" as they go into their fall mating migration.  With this key food source, the lack of other anglers, and some very willing trout...its very easy to see why this is a fantastic time of year to fly fish for trout!  I thought I would share a few pictures from this month of fishing.  There are still plenty of days left to get out and enjoy some fine fishing as well!

A nice chunky rainbow trout with cool colours
A busy beaver

A large rainbow trout that fell victim to a #16 foam backswimmer

Fishing near sunset, and the trout were still coming up for backswimmers as you can see in the top left corner!

Real and imitation

This trout was blind in one eye but still managed to hammer the fly!

A trout going back for more

A hefty 21" rainbow on a floating line and backswimmer

Chunky football shaped trout that hit the fly with plenty of power!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vancouver Island Adventure: Part 2

After arriving at Miracle Beach Provincial Park, we went on a drive to check out the Courtenay/Comox area.  We took a walk on the beach at Goose Spit Provincial Park near Comox and checked out both towns. After getting back to camp and having some supper, my cousin Chris met up with us and we headed out to fish the Oyster River.

Tara with a sand dollar at Miracle Beach
Tara was set up with a dry fly, Chris had a wooly bugger, and I used my lucky streamer that I had on from fishing the Quinsam River.  Chris and Tara were getting into some cutthroats, but I wasn't having any luck at the start.  Chris mentioned that he had seen a larger fish rising in a nice run, but was unable to get it to take the fly.  I slid up in there and after numerous casts, still hadn't seen anything.  All of a sudden a fish came out of the wood and striked at my fly but didn't latch on.  Two casts later, I had a really good slam, and was into a good sized fish!  I thought it might be a pink salmon or something, but as I got it closer to me, realized it was a very nice sea run cutt!
Beauty sea run Cutt!
Underwater release shot
We were all super excited to see a beauty trout like that, and we started to fish a little harder to see if one of us could get another nice trout like that!  We moved up river and I had another slam and fish on after a few casts!  This time it popped off, but we could see pink salmon jumping around so knew what was in the run this time.  Tara had a nice 12" cutt on the dry fly, so I went downstream to help her with it, and while that was going on, Chris hooked into a beauty fish!
Chris battling a hefty pink salmon
After a short battle, the fish won and took off.  Chris got his line back in the water though, and within a couple of casts, he hooked into another fish and the battle was on.  After a few minutes, we got a glimpse and initially thought it was another pig cutthroat, but after getting it in closer we realized it was a nice chunky pink salmon!  We took a couple of pics and the fish was released back to the river.
Success!  Chris with a chunky pink
It was starting to get dark and we headed back downstream.  More trout were rising to the dry fly and we caught a couple on the way down.  We arrived back at camp happy to have a great evening on the river!

The next day we fished the Oyster in a couple of different stretches with Chris and his girlfriend Karen.  It was a sunny, hot day and we fished some fine water and saw some cool scenery.  Fishing was slow but we managed to get a few cutts and had a great time on the water. We all went for supper and finished off the day by fishing the Puntledge River.
The Oyster-shell-like bottom of Oyster River
The Puntledge was a beautiful river and it was great to get in the water as it was still pretty hot out in the evening.  Many people were rafting/tubing down the river on this day and I don't blame them.  It looked like a lot of fun, but fly fishing is pretty damn fun too!  We fished a few runs and the fishing was a little slow here too, but Chris got a few nice cutts, and near the end Tara got a cutt or two.
Tara with a crayfish from the Puntledge 
Chris with a nice silver cutty on Puntledge
We changed spots just before dark because Chris really wanted to show me a beautiful spot he knew of.  Just me and him headed up with rods, and we started swinging streamers.  I cast a few times, then stepped downstream and worked that water.  Within 15-20 minutes of swinging, I hooked into something nice!  I battled the fish as it ran downstream, then came up and jumped a couple of times.  We thought it might be a nice cutthroat, but as it came to the net our excitement went up even more.  It was a smaller summer run steelhead, but hey it was a steelhead and we were both excited!  I stopped fishing after releasing it back to the water.  It was a satisfying I'll remember for awhile!  Even with it being a slow day, the few fish we did catch were great, and we had great company too.  Chris kept fishing down but was unsuccessful in the next run.  It was getting dark so we all piled in the truck and headed back to camp.
Summer steel!
Tara and I headed to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park the next day and set up camp.  The area has plenty to see and do, so we checked out Coombs with the whole "Goats on the roof" thing. We ate a huge seafood dinner at the Clam Bucket in Port Alberni, and checked out the Cathedral Grove old cedar forest on the way back.  The next day, we went to Cameron Lake in the heat (so no fishing), checked out the Falls on the river, and later in the evening, Chris came by the campground and we fished the Little Qualicum.

An Arbutus tree. They shed their own bark and leave a smooth tree trunk..pretty cool!
Little Qualicum Falls
Beautiful, gin-clear Cameron Lake

We used dry flies at the beginning and Chris got a couple, but I wasn't catching so I switched to a nymph.  After a few casts I was into 3 nice rainbows on 3 casts, but after that....nothing for a while.  Chris was starting to get a couple in every run on the dry fly so I switched back to a dry as well.  As we walked further away from camp, we were getting some awesome hits on the dry fly and having a blast! After a brief walk through the "jungle" in the dark, we made it back to camp, pretty satisfied with this little creek and the trip as a whole.  

Chris waiting for a rise
Fish on! Nice rainbow trout on the dry!
Tara and I left back to the mainland of BC the next morning, but we both know we will be back next summer.  The fishing was a blast, the company was great, and the scenery was stunning!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vancouver Island Adventure: Part 1

With my very first trip to Vancouver Island back in May still fresh in my mind, my wife and I decided to head out and do some more exploring/visiting further North from Victoria on our summer vacation. After a night's stay at Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park near Kamloops, we were on our way to Horseshoe Bay to catch a ferry to Nanaimo.

Waiting for the ferry
We knew the price of a ferry with a travel trailer and truck might be a little pricey, but lets face it, things aren't getting any cheaper these days...and I had some fish to catch that were on my list!  A relatively quick 1.5 hour ferry ride to Nanaimo, and we were off to Campbell River to stay at Elk Fall Provincial Park.  The park is one of the nicest I have seen, and is situated close to the Campbell and Quinsam Rivers, and other attractions in the area as well.  My cousin Chris dropped by the first night we got there and we talked fly fishing and where to try in the area.  We would meet up a few days later and fish closer to his hometown of Courtenay, but he let us know some great spots to fish and sight-see while we were in Campbell River.

My anticipation was killing me the next morning, and I woke up early to hit the Quinsam and see what it was all about.  I pulled my waders and boots on, and tied on a dry fly on my 4wt with some 6lb tippet and slipped into the river behind our camp spot.  I worked my way up a few runs and landed a couple of small Coastal Cutthroats (my first Coastal/Sea-run cutts!), but all of a sudden took a look into the water at some commotion and realized that there was a good amount of pink salmon running through.  I quickly switched over to a rabbit strip streamer, and thought that my tippet would be good enough.  After all, these salmon didn't look THAT tough! Boy was I wrong...

After swinging flies for an hour and hooking Cutthroats instead, I finally hooked into a good pink salmon. I lifted the rod tip and the fish turned downstream faster than I could blink. With a quick "SNAP", my tippet and fly were gone, and I was forced to beef up the leader I was using quite significantly!  By this time I realized that it was probably close to lunch time, so I headed back to camp for some lunch, and to see if Tara wanted to go upstream for some trout.  We spent the afternoon catching Coastal Cutthroats on dry and wet flies, so we had a great time!
Tara by a massive downed tree in the river!
Nice cutthroat on a dry fly!
The next morning I woke up early to fish for pinks again.  I still hadn't landed one, and still wasn't hooking up on this day.  I tried a few flies, mostly in pink as I had heard that people had good success on pink coloured flies.  I had a few on, then finally landed my first pink salmon on a pink rabbit strip streamer.  They fight great, and it took me up and downstream before being subdued.  In the afternoon we checked out the Campbell River, but after seeing everyone fishing shoulder to shoulder, I decided not to wet a line in there.
My first Pink Salmon landed!
The last full day in the area, I finally had enough of the pink coloured flies and thought that trying a new colour or style of fly might boost my success.  To that point I had hooked a few pinks, but had only landed one!  This theory changed my whole trip, and the fly was a success!  Within minutes of switching up, I hooked and landed 3 pinks.  A fourth was landed after a 200 yard trip downstream, and a jog down the middle of the slippery river by me!  I had to take a rest after this excitement, but couldn't wait too long as fish were still there to be caught!  The next cast swung down, and I was into my 5th pink of the morning!  Wooo, I finally figured these things out and found the right fly!  Uh oh...the fish ran down about 50 yards and snapped my 8 lb leader!  I was devastated and thought that it was the only fly I had like that, so back up to camp I went.

After searching through my box, I found one more fly exactly like it, but this one was black.  Hmmm...would this work as well as the purple streamer?  After tying on an even heavier leader, I was ready to hit the water again.  Two casts through the run, and I was into another pink!  Success!  They liked this fly just as much as the lost one.  I lost count of how many pinks I hooked and/or landed after that but that day now ranks up there as one of the most memorable on a fly rod I have had so far!
Underwater view of a nice pink salmon
We did some sight seeing at beautiful Elk Falls later that afternoon, and toured around the city of Campbell River.  Also, had a great lunch right on the docks at the Ocean.

The next morning, I hit the river once again and had great success, but had to get back up to camp and hitch up the trailer.  We were on our way closer to the Courtenay/Comox area, and were staying at Miracle Beach Provincial Park located on one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen.  I will post a part 2 to this report, starting at Miracle Beach soon!  I hope you enjoyed this first part.  Tight lines!