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