Monday, 19 May 2008

Happy Birthday To Phil

Saturday, Phil Rowley spent the day with me on Muir Lake for my birthday. Today, I returned the favor and spent the day on Lake Wabamun hunting for big Pike with him and his oldest son in celebration of Phil's birthday. It was a gorgeous day with lots of sunshine for most of the day and not much wind. The Pike action was pretty hot and heavy but only one monster was caught today and lucky for the birthday boy, it came on the end on his line. Don't get me wrong, lots of nice size toothy critters were caught today but only one that was in the 40 inch mark. Popsicle leeches, clouser minnows, bunny leeches and top water poppers all caught fish. Brandon and Phil spent most of the day fishing Pike streamers but I stuck pretty much with top water poppers. I did fish streamers as well and had way better luck with them but to me, the rush with northern pike on a fly rod comes with top water flies and if I would have just hooked into one 40 incher on a popper, it would have made my week. To the left is Phil releasing his monster pike.

We fished near the warm water discharge that enters the lake from the power plant and because of the current, we pretty much fished it like a stream, letting the streamers drift and swing with a strip, pause, strip type of retrieve. We saw lots of monster Pike thrashing for food on the surface as well as some pretty big lake whitefish doing the same. We also saw a great midge hatch and even a nice mayfly hatch. Man, this lake would make one great trout fishery but hey, who's complaining with the size of Pike it's been know to produce. I brought along some striploin steaks , potato salad and corn on the cob and cooked them up on my portable BBQ which made for a nice shore lunch. All in all it was a great day on the water with good company. Happy birthday "Hat Floater", hope you had a fun day.

Here's a video of Phil bringing in a nice size pike.

Here's a pic of that pike.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

I'm not much of a birthday person. I don't ask for gifts or anything special really, just a nice dinner, a day on the water and hopefully some good friends. Yesterday I turned 41 and was lucky enough to spend it on Muir Lake with two good friends. Brent Checkwich and Phil Rowley along with his two sons had joined me for a day of fly-fishing. I got out on the water at about 11am with Phil and his two boys right behind me. Brent had arrived earlier and according to Brent and Ayr (a member of my fly-fishing forum), not many trout were being caught at least not in the hole before the narrows. I decided to make my way over to the south-east end of the lake and see if the deep hole or the flats were producing but just as I got past the narrows I noticed some chironomid shucks floating on the surface. So I rowed over to a spot I had fished in years past. It's not very deep, about 8 & 1/2 ft but with lots of weed growth in the area. Once I anchored I not only noticed more of these shucks but also noticed some bomber shucks on the surface. I know I'm very predictable when fishing chironomids as there are usually only three flies I fish with and rarely have to rely on any other midge patterns. So can you guess which two out of the three I used? If you said the Redd October as the dropper, you'd be wrong. I thought I'd give the ol' X-mas Chronie a go today for the first time in 2008. I rigged up with a black thread midge and a x-mas chronie as a dropper and lickity split I netted a nice 19 incher. I think it took me a whole eight seconds before the indicator went under and yes, it did take the x-mas. I caught a 16 incher and lost another before moving on to the deep hole (I was getting lonely).

I anchored in about 11 feet of water, Ayr was anchored just west of me and Phil made his way over with his boys. Brent came into the area but I think he thought we all smelled or something 'cause he stayed out in the deeper water. I hooked into a couple but lost them both, Phil caught a couple and his son caught a few. I then moved over beside Phil's boat and shared a sandwich with him and after switching to a bloodworm (Redd October) we all started doing well as the bite was on. I got broken off twice here and when rigging back up I tied on a scud as my first fly but didn't get any hits on it although continued to get hits on the bloodworm. I called Brent over and now we were all fishing in a row, Brandon (Phil's son), Phil and his other son Sean, Myself, and Brent all looking like a blockade to the south-easter shore. We were all catching fish but just as quickly as the bite went on, it turned off again. The blockade now disbursed, Phil chose the point off the island, Brent moved over to the narrows and I went to to the north flats and fished in about 10 feet of water. I caught two here and lost two, Phil nor his two sons had any luck at there spot and Brent had the same luck as Phil at the narrows. The temperature today got up to 29 degrees Celsius (about 84F for my U.S. friends) and my sunburned forearms told me it was time to go. We all had a decent day, I caught about seven and lost about the same with my other buddies catch rates in the same ballpark. Big thanks to Phil and Brent for a fun birthday on the water. If things work out, we might be after big toothy critters on the fly for Monday.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Super Star!

In my last post, I shared a day at Muir Lake with you. Muir is my second favorite lake in the Edmonton area. My favorite is a lake called Star Lake, known for quality fish but not for quantity. Star Lake is the fishery I named my Star Scud pattern after which I'll feature in this post. Before that though, I'll tell you how my day went.

I got out on the water at 5pm. I was looking for a buddy of mine that was supposed to meet me but I didn't see anyone else on the lake nor did I see his vehicle in the parking lot. It was a windy day and it took me a while to row my pontoon over to the shelter of the island. I stopped in my usual early spring spot near the beaver house and anchored in about 10ft of water. Every spring I usually do well here as this bay seems to get some good chironomid hatches not long after ice out. On the way over to the island I noticed some chironomids on the surface, some big (bombers) and some small, nothing to get overly exited about but enough to maybe start my evening off fishing them. In the bay, I saw a good number of midges hatching but not enough to put "that smile" on my face. So I tied on my usual, a black Thread Midge and Redd October blood worm pattern as a dropper. I measured the depth of the water and fastened my indicator accordingly keeping the bloodworm one foot off the bottom and began casting out my presentation. After about 10 minutes I noticed the indicator slightly bobbing up and down. I went to set the hook but there was nothing. That told me the fish were hitting very soft and for me to be successful, I'll really have to pay attention. It seamed like forever before I had to set the hook again but I finally hooked up. This time I noticed the indicator moving sideways only seconds after I cast my flies. When I lifted my rod, a nice 18 incher was on the other end. I brought it to the 'toon, did a quick throat pump to see what the rainbow as feeding on and let it go. Two black chironomids and a small water boatman. The trout took the top fly being the black thread midge. Seeing how the trout took my fly near the surface I started experimenting with depth. I got it as short as 5ft down when I hooked into my next fish, a fat 17 incher. I continued to fish at this depth and lost a couple trout due to those soft takes. I then see this guy in a float tube heading straight for me and continues until he's right up on me. I was thinking to myself; "Buddy, you got the whole lake. Why you gotta poach my water?" Now he's quite close so I say a friendly hello and he replies; "Hey Doc!". I know that voice. It's my buddy Chuck Harvey (the guy I was suppose to meet). I was expecting him to be in his blow-up raft and two hours earlier. He then explains how he was fishing on the other side of the island for the last two hours and didn't recognize my vehicle in the parking lot even though he parked right beside me. Chuck, like me, is a stillwater nut. Chuck is also a rod builder, making some very fine graphite fly rods and he occasionally works at the north side fishin' hole tackle shop. We talked a bit and did some fishing but we weren't having a whole lot of luck. Chuck had caught three fish on the other side of the island using leech patterns but they didn't seem to be producing over here. By this time the clouds had made there way over head and since it was getting darker I decided to tie on a scud as the dropper and fish it near the bottom. Not long after that I hooked up again but when I netted the trout I took the scud out of the fishes belly ( it was foul hooked). I guess that explained the incredible fight for a 16 incher. It also told me the trout was taking the first fly (thread midge) higher up the water column. I then asked Chuck what depth the fish were showing up on his depth finder. He told me mostly four feet. So once again I shortened my indicator. I caught two more and lost two in the next hour on the scud casting closer to the shore. One 16 incher and one 15 incher. I pumped the throat on one of those and found (in the words of Don Anderson) lake lint. Lake lint is tiny minuscule life forms that you couldn't possibly match with a pattern. The lint looked like hook size #52 scuds. I'll let your imagination come up with that pattern. Anyway the evening ended with five trout for me brought to the 'toon and I believe Chuck caught the same. That's a decent day on Star especially when the only reports we're hearing as of late is "caught one" or "I got skunked."

Star Scud

I invented this pattern in the summer of 2005 after seeing the shallow waters of Star lake littered with thousands of tan colored scuds. A great scud pattern with sparkle attractor qualities.

HOOK: Sizes 12 to 16 C49S Mustad

WEIGHT: Lead wire
RIB: Fine gold wire.
BODY: H&H Rainbow sow scud dubbing
SHELL BACK: Stillwater Solutions calibaetis midge flex 1/8"

Click here for step-by-step tying instructions.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

The Fishing Was Great!

Finally; we have open water around the Edmonton area. Muir, Star, Chickakoo, Hasse, Morrinville Reservoir, Cardiff, etc.. are all open. Brent and I headed out to Muir Lake today for my first full day of stillwater fly-fishing in the Edmonton area since October of '07. Brent had been out to Muir a few times before today and knew a little about where the trout were feeding so around 9am, we made our way over to the south-east end of the lake where the shallow flats are located. The trout were schooling up in these flats feeding and frolicking in two to five feet of water. The odd thing about this is the numbers of trout that were schooling. There were large numbers instead of the two to four trout I usually see. They were stacked up like you see in the streams so I'm thinking maybe they were looking for a confluence to head up and spawn. Unfortunately because I was in my pontoon boat, I couldn't sight fish to the trout but Brent did well sight fishing using an olive baby bugger. I tried many different flies but only hooked into one on a damselfly nymph and lost it right beside the 'toon. At around noon I decided to head back to my vehicle because I forgot something and just as I oared past the island I noticed hundreds quickly turning into thousands of chironomid shucks on the surface. It was one of those hatches that every stillwater fly angler looks forward to and it just so happened we were right in the middle of it on my first day out. I'm sure I don't have to mention (but I will) the huge smile that grew upon on my face when I saw this. Brent came motoring up behind me and I pointed out the midge hatch now taking place. He then towed me into shore and by 1pm, we were back in the middle of the hatch. We tied on black chironomids with a bloodworm dropper to both out lines (not sure what patterns Brent was using but I had on my Thread Midge and Redd October). We were instantly into fish and it stayed pretty much consistent with only a few lulls until we were done at 4:45pm. I lost count of the numbers of trout I caught but Brent kept track of his 17. The biggest of the day was Brent's 22 incher and all were really fat even the 14 incher I caught. Here's one of the 19 inchers I caught today. Great day, glad to get out.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Camping With A Pot-Head

Saturday morning I headed out to Prairie Creek campground near Rocky Mountain House for the Alberta Fly Fishing Forum 1st annual conclave. Originally we had about 15 people interested in showing up but because of the weather reports calling for bad weather and the fact that the local stream and lake reports for the area were less than desirable, only five members and a wife showed up. The participants included; Jokey, EHC, Tee and his wife, Troutfisherwill and myself. Turned out the weather was absolutely beautiful and we didn't see any rain or snow. Will showed up late on Saturday afternoon and we had all taken off to fish Mitchell lake by that time so he just hung out in the campground and made himself some supper. Word has it that Nordegg Sonya showed up as well on Saturday afternoon but Tee's wife couldn't remember where we went fishing so Sonya left and unfortunately didn't return on Sunday. The boys tied up some flies after lunch but before hitting Mitchell lake we checked out Ironside Pond. Only the shallow water was ice-free so that made our choice easy. Fishing was decent, Tee seemed to hook into quite a few, not sure what his final numbers were. I netted eight rainbows with the biggest taping in at 18 inches and I lost three. All were caught on either the Redd October blood worm or my Black Thread Midge pattern. EHC & Jokey both caught fish as well so nobody got skunked. Talked for a bit with Don Anderson, that's always interesting as Mr. Anderson is such an interesting gentleman with a wealth of information.

When we got back to the campground, we introduced ourselves to Troutfisherwill and then cooked up some supper. After dinner we all headed over to Jokey's campsite and sat around the fire telling jokes and sharing stories. It was worth the trip just for this portion of the evening as things got quite interesting.

Once it got dark and the fire was roaring I noticed Jokey look over to the picnic table. I wasn't really sure if he was looking at the table or looking beyond it into the woods so I asked him what he heard thinking that he may have heard a bear or something. He said he thought he heard something fall off the picnic table. Then a few minutes later he looked again. Jokey then gets up and says he thinks the water in his frying pan may be freezing as the temperature had really fallen by this time and that's what he thinks he hears. As he inspects the pan I see something hit the ground at a very high speed. So I got up and grabbed one of the two Coleman lanterns on the picnic table and lower it to the ground by Jokey's chair. That's when I saw it. One big ass bug. It's called a Giant Diving Beetle (Dytiscus spp) and are seen throughout Alberta. So now that I knew what was making the noise, I felt better especially knowing that it wasn't a bear. But the satisfaction quickly turned into hysterics as these falling bugs became more frequent in the next half hour or so. So frequent, It got to the point where they started hitting folks in the head. Now, I found this all rather amusing but Jokey was rather disturbed by the whole 'attacking beetle thing' and after getting hit by one of the bugs in the head he decided a helmet was the appropriate course of action. At this point he decides to place a pot on his head. Of course upon seeing this I'm laughing so hard that my eyes are tearing. None of us know much about these bugs like whether they bite or not nor did we want to find out but luckily the frequency of the diving beetles eventually diminished and Jokey's helmet came off but not before we all had a good laugh. Who would have known that Jokey was a pot-head.

Sunday we made the decision to fish Prairie Creek. Jokey packed it in and didn't fish with us on this day as he wanted to get home in time to play hockey for his men's league team and he had come a day earlier so had already done some fishing with EHC on Friday. The lower potion of Prairie was like most of the streams in the Rocky Mountain House area looking a little like chocolate milk but up stream of our campground, it was fairly clear. I always wanted to fish Prairie Creek but my interests lie in the sections that hold the bigger brown trout and not so much the sections we were fishing for small brookies. That of course didn't stop me from enjoying a fun day on a stream with good company so after packing up our camping gear into our vehicles we drove to the nearest bridge. Tee and Troutfisherwill set out up the stream and EHC and myself followed. We found some really nice water with many very fishy looking pockets of water but the brookies were not interested in any of our offerings on this day as no fish were caught. After a few hours and a sandwich on the stream we decided it was time time to start the second half of our day and head back to Mitchell Lake. Not sure how many fish were caught on this outing but EHC and myself both netted one 16 inch rainbow and I lost a nice 18 inch brown. This was my first trout trip of 2008 and I want to thank all the folks that showed up, I had a blast. I hope the next conclave sees more anglers come out.