Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh, the midwinter thaw-before-freeze-up blues

Andy and I have been talking a lot about this next fishing season. I suppose technically we’ve each caught our first trout of the season, that trip we did about a month ago on the Bow, but we both know that the season doesn’t start in earnest until maybe April at the soonest. The foothill streams open then –legally, but maybe not practically– and we can go out fishing from home, on streams, in about a couple hours drive.

It doesn’t matter much, really. Fishing is just fishing, and we just go when we can.

Sometimes we get lucky and local lakes ice-off around mid-late April, giving us the chance to head out 3 or 4 times a week, chasing hungry trout that go anywhere from 10 inches to 10 pounds, depending on which lakes are open, and our general luck.

For the last several seasons a bulk of our stillwater fishing has been on a series of private ponds. These had several undeniable benefits. First, they were only a couple minutes from town, so the driving time was negligible. Second, they were totally fishable from shore, so a quick trip was easy, and even a full-day outing was just enjoyable, with no boat really needed. Third, the fish were large. 22” average large. Last, the membership was cheap like borshch. Around a hundred bucks for a full season.

But then the lake with the 22” average size winterkilled, but the other ponds had smaller, but still good fish. Maybe 17” as an average. Then I also moved to downtown Edmonton because of a convenience to get to university and back, so now the short drive is more like an hour. And I can get to public lakes in maybe 35-minutes. There have been some other changes, too, aesthetic ones, and the experience may have just moved on for me.

Andy and I have been talking about fishing the public lakes as often as possible this year. I know that some of our lakes/ponds are simply mediocre fisheries designed to yield 5-fish limits of cookie cutter 7” trout, but a few select lakes, like the one I fished last fall, have large trout. We’ve neglected the lakes that have always treated us well, but want to go back this year.

Also planned is a backpacking trip for goldens. I don’t know about Andy, but I’ve been tying shrimp and chironomids like mad just dreaming of this trip. In case the flies are a bust, we’re also planning a couple day-hikes to cutty lakes, were I know the flies will work, because the fish are just so willing.

I’ve also neglected a few of these over the years. The reality is, I live far away from them. Maybe a 5 hour drive to the trail head, and I just haven’t had the chance to go in a long time. I sort of miss them. These are often lakes I fished in my teenage years, and they are quite special to me. I need to see how they’ve held up. At least I don’t see fishing reports online about them.

Toss in the inevitable summer brown trout fishing, some sight fishing in early spring with an old friend of mine, a return trip for Dane (hopefully) in fall to tackle some spring creek browns, and this is shaping up to be one hell of a season.

I hope everyone else is having a good winter’s tying and planning.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A few days after New Years

Andy and I had plans for several days. It wasn't last minute, as it so often is in winter. No, I was busy, he was busy, hell, who isn't around Christmas and new years?

Anyway, we went to the Bow River, right in Calgary. The forecast: +7 but windy. Reality? Maybe +4 but calm. I'll take the trade off.

We always like going on these winter trips. We really don't expect much, so it really just means that winter fly fishing in Alberta is a 3-hour BS session, followed by a few hours of fishing and hopefully a few fish, and then the BS is resumed on the drive home. It really is a lot of fun, especially when we get into some trout.

This trip fit the bill. We left Edmonton early; at about 6 AM it was windy as hell here, but we had the faith. We got to Calgary, and the weather was cold, but calm and sunny, and it was promising. Anyway, we dawdled a bit getting our stuff in order, but we hot the water around 9:30 AM, with all the hopes and dreams of a complete geenie.

I think I broke the ice first, with a nice 16 or 17" brown; certainly not the largest we cold hope for on this river, but a good catch for January 4! A few minutes later, Andy got a nice rainbow of similar size, and on a nymph as well (I got mine on a #16 PTN, and Andy on a small Copper John). So far so good.

A while later, I got a nice white-dog of the same size, and we started laughing. Three fish, three species, and all the ones you could expect on the Bow. Sure, other fish are there, but you don't bank on them.

Sure as ever, next cast I got a 6 or 7lb pike of all things, still on the small nymphs! Yikes! I was lucky. I got it on the side of the mouth, so it didn't shred the tippet and leave me fly-less.

We had a nice lunch, laughing all the way to the bank about the fun we were having, even though we couldn't feel our feet, and the hands were cold as hell. After lunch, we put some T-8 sink tips I have on, and fished little spring creek buggers. Boom, I got a sweet brown on the third or fourth cast, then I cast out, but my hands were stinging. I let the line just sit there, and put my gloves back on. I picked up the rod, and lo and behold, I had a fish. Nothing less than a 4 or 5lb sucker. So that was four species for me, and five overall!

Let's get on with it. I got one more sucker of the same size (on a more aggressively fished fly this time) and finally my own nice rainbow! Andy got another 'bow or two, I don't really remember, and it really doesn't matter much anyway.

"Thank god I didn't get skunked!" Andy yelled. "I was worried you'd stop fishing with me!" (The last couple times we were out, he'd had a tough go, but he made up for it).

We made the usual plans for the coming year: lake bows in spring, brown trout, and some summer fishing for cutts and rainbows in mountain streams. It should be a good one.