Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Day On The Blackstone

I haven't spent a lot of my fly fishing life on streams.  As a matter of fact, other than the Bow River, the Little Smokey and the NSR, I could probably count on two hands how many times I've fly fished moving water here in Alberta.  This last weekend, I was planning on at least one day to get away from my home stillwaters and head out to some waters I was less familiar with.  Dolberg Lake, Swan Lake, Beaver Lake and Ironside Pond all came to mind.  A couple streams did briefly enter my mind but hey, I'm a stillwater guy and there's nothing I enjoy more than spending a day figuring out and then catching big trout from my boat.  It was during this debate of which water to fish that I received a phone call from one of my fishing buddies.  I don't fish with Garnet near enough, usually once a year and when he called me and asked if I'd like to join him up near Rocky Mountain House I automatically started blurting out the names of the local lakes in the area.  When Garnet mentioned a few streams, I was a little hesitant.  Other than the streams I mentioned above, I've never had a banner day on moving water.  Of course I've never really given them a chance either.  So after a couple days of contemplation, I agreed to hit a stream with Garnet and we decided our short list would include Shunda, Prairie or the Blackstone.

I got an early start and left the city knowing the weather reports called for morning thunderstorms in and around the Rocky Mountain House area.  I packed the pontoon boat into the car just in case the rivers got blown out (and I was almost hoping they did).  About 70km's this side of RMH I did indeed drive through a thunderstorm and wondered how the weather was closer to the mountains.  I called Garnet from my cell to get directions to the gun club he was camped at and after a quick stop in RMH for a packable lunch and some refreshments, I drove to the gun club and met up with him.  We packed my tackle into his truck and headed out, still unsure which stream we would be fishing today.  After some chat in the truck we narrowed it down to Shunda Creek or the Blackstone and made our way towards Nordegg.  We took a look at Shunda and it looked small with a lots of trees and branches to loose flies on so I recommended we hit the Blackstone.  I fished the Blackstone once before with another buddy but things didn't go so well for me that day, not even sure if I caught anything that trip, I don't think I did.  A bit further up from the Blackstone camp ground the road came to an end.  It appears to have been washed out and someone had made a small bridge big enough for ATV's or horses to cross but not a truck.  We thought about hiking down to the river from there but neither of us could remember how far it was.  So we turned around and figured we'd fish upstream of the random camping ground beside the river.  As we got there we saw a Fish & Wildlife truck so we stopped and looked for the fish cops.  They were up the river writing a guy a ticket, not sure what he did but it was good to see some enforcement just the same.  As the young officer made his way back to the truck I stopped him and asked about the washed out road and how far the hike was.  He smiled and said "no need to hike, there's another road that'll take you down" and proceeded to give me directions.  So off we went and it's a dam good thing we didn't try and hike that, it would have been one long walk.

We could have drove right to the gap but instead we decided to park at the closed bridge and fish up to the gap, then hike back to the truck.  As we were gearing up, the two F&W officers showed up again and explained to us how the younger officer was a part of the Streamwatch program and has been writing quite a few tickets since he started.  We offered up our fishing licenses, talked some fishing and then they took off as did we.  We started our day under the bridge and right off the bat, trout were rising to our flies.  They were small but aggressive and we both changed flies to smaller versions of what we had on.  I changed to a size 10 foam hopper and I think garnet changed to a smaller stimulator.  We made our way up the river fishing every good pool and run we could find and hooked into quite a few, nothing big but we were having fun and Garnet caught his first Bull Trout ever and on a dry.  We eventually made our way to a corner pool and it was Garnet's turn.  I was slightly around the corner fishing the water he already fished when he told me there was a cutty rising and that he stung it once but now was going to sit down and have his lunch with hopes it'll start rising again by the time lunch is done.  So I made my way over to Garnet and started eating my lunch as well.  As we were eating we saw some huge mayflies coming off.  Not a prolific hatch by any means but maybe one every couple minutes.  The mayflies were a good inch in length, I didn't see one up close so I'm not sure if they were those big Hex's that has been getting a lot of talk in the last few weeks or they may have been green drakes.  Just as garnet was finishing his lunch, sure enough that cutty started rising again.  Garnet tossed his presentation at it a couple times with no success so I asked him what he had for big mayflies in his box.  He handed me his fly box and I picked out the biggest mayfly I could find.  He tied it on and started casting but no takes.  From my vantage point I could see a large flat rock under the surface and told him it's probably hiding behind it so I explained to Garnet where to cast and as the fly drifted over, bam! fish on.  I'm not sure who was more excited me or Garnet but it was the biggest fish of the day and a very satisfying team effort.

We continued our efforts up stream and came upon what looked like a really good run.  It was my turn so I started casting to what looked like good holding water.  I pointed out a particular seam to garnet and started casting to it and just like it should be, there was a nice cutty sitting there just waiting for my fly.  Another nice size cutthroat and my biggest of the day.  I was really enjoying myself.

We made our way up to the gap and caught a ton more fish on the way.  I added a rocky mountain white fish to my list and Garnet added two more small bulls to his.  The gap has changed since we were both there last, and the cutties were stacked up in there pretty good.  Mostly small ones but we both hooked into a few larger ones as well.  It turned out to be a beautiful day and although we heard thunder, the sun shone all day without a drop of rain.  The gap was fun but it was getting late so we decided to head back.  We only stopped at one run on the hike back and I hooked into a nice cutthroat there.

When we got back to camp, Garnet cooked us up some great steaks and we talked about the fantastic day we had.  I really enjoyed the Blackstone and for sure will be planning a few more trips up that way for more stream fishing.  Big thanks to Garnet for talking me into it and for being such good company.  I think I'll leave the pontoon boat at home next time.

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