Thursday, 26 June 2008

I should be fishing but....

If you're a stillwater fly guy up here in north-central Alberta, you get good fishing weather for five months with two months (April & October) of hit and miss. The lakes are covered with ice for the remaining months and if ice fishing ain't your thing then you spend a lot of time tying flies, surfing the web and dreaming about summer. So now that summer's here, why am I not fishing?

I got out with my buddy Brent last Saturday evening and fished Star Lake from about 5:30-10:30 (we could have actually fished past 11 as there was enough light from the setting sun to tie a fly on but Brent doesn't like loading his boat on the trailer in the dark (wussy). Anyway, I took my camera with me but didn't take any pics as we couldn't find any lunkers at all. Caught lots of stockers from both this year and last but ol' Walter didn't want to come out and play so I didn't bother snapping any shots. I had planned on fishing Monday and then maybe tonight but the weather we're getting is all messed up. These evening storms are really messing up my fishing and they just keep coming. Today we've had these cold fronts moving over one after another. Just when it clears up and the sun starts shining, another front moves in and the wind is gusting to somewhere around 50km/hr. The sun just disappeared behind some low hanging, black clouds as I write this and I would go take a few pics just to get the point across but ya, I'm to lazy. So I've put my time towards other useful things this past week.

My niece had been living with us for the last two years. She went back and finished high school, graduating this year and has now decided to move out and back in with her mother. Her leaving has left me with an empty bedroom which I decided to now make into a den. I've moved in a desk and my tying vise, a 20" TV/VCR combo and a DVD player for my tying/fishing videos (and of course my war movies... Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Full Metal Jacket, The Big Red One, We Were Soldiers, Saving Private Ryan, etc, etc, etc). I've finally got up some pictures that the wife wouldn't let me hang in any other locations of our house (signed Bobby Hull, Oilers run at the cup collage, Gretzky photo, fly-fishing and golf pics, etc). It's starting to look like a "Man Cave" but I need more. It's definitely missing something so if you have any ideas, please let me know. To the right is a photo of my niece Chantell in her graduation dress.

On Wednesday evening, my daughter Cassandra and I went to check out a volunteer seminar put on by St. John Ambulance. Since I decided not to head up to a camp working as an EMR (three weeks in, one week out) I decided to voluntarily use my training to help others as I'm still very interested in this field. I found out that to be a Medical First Responder, you must first have a Basic First Aid certificate which I already had because I needed it to take my EMR schooling. And you must also obtain a Medical First Responder certificate. Because I have my EMR certificate, I get an MFR certificate automatically but my daughter wants to join as well so I told her I'd take the MFR course with her. The course is 40 hrs long and is paid by St. John Ambulance but they don't pay for the basic first aid course which my daughter will also have to take. They don't supply uniforms but they do expect you to dress in black pants and shoes and a white shirt. Over this you wear a really bright yellow with green vest that says St. Johns Ambulance which they do provide. The cool thing about it is not only do you get to give back to your community but you get to go to all sorts of festivals, concerts, hockey games, etc. all for free. There are two catches though, you must attend at least one meeting a month and you must put in 60 hours of volunteer time per year. Hell, I could put in 60 hrs at hockey games easily. I'm really excited about this and the fact that my 18 year old wants to do it with me makes it even better. To the left is my daughter Cassandra in her graduation dress and she too is in the Class Of '08.

I always work late on Fridays and I have a client on Saturday so it looks like Sunday is my fishing day. Wow, over a week without wetting a line. Not the summer I dreamed about so far.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Float Tubes - The Good, Bad And Ugly

I got out to Muir lake again today. Fishing was less than spectacular. I caught about 8 or 9 but they were all stockers with the exception of one 18 incher on a Redd October. I did a throat pump on it and found one small boatman, one chironomid, some lake lint and four damselfly nymphs. I'd give it two or three days and the damselfly nymphs will be in full swing. Here's a couple patterns you might want to try out.

Forbe's Damsel Nymph:

#12 to 14, Mustad 9671
Thread: Olive monocord
Tail:Olive Marabou
Abdomen: Dubbed green wool, floss, or larva lace
Thorax: Dubbed brown or back wool or seal
Gills: Olive Partridge hackle or dyed ostrich herl
Rib: None
Eyes: Plastic or bead chain

Fly Tying Instructions:

  1. Wrap on the thread and X in the eyes just behind the eye of the hook.
  2. Wrap the thread to the bend of the hook and tie down a moderate clump of olive marabou, extending about a hook shank length past the bend as a tail.
  3. Tie in another clump of marabou and wrap the thread forward to the eyes.
  4. Then wrap the marabou forward forming a slim body, and tie off at the eyes.
  5. Tie in a smaller clump of marabou and X around the eyes to form a small bulbous head.
  6. Tie off behind the eyes.
  7. Tie in the partridge or ostrich and wrap two or three times around
  8. Tie off and whip finish.

Convict Damsel Nymph:

Olive 6/0.
TMC 200R 10-18.
Tail: Grizzly Marabou Olive.
Body: Grizzly Marabou Olive.

Rib: Gold Tinsel.
Wing case:
Peacock Herl.
3/32 Dazl-eyes Black (w/eye polish).

For tying instructions click here.

Here's another of my articles that I recently revised and thought I'd share it here with you.

Float Tubes - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The first time I saw a belly boat, I was rather puzzled and even a little amused. Here was a full-grown man about 150ft out from the shore of a local trout lake in a floating donut smaller than a child’s blow up dinghy. I hoped he was coming in soon so that I may get a closer look at this miniature fishing contraption. At the time I was standing waist deep in the lake and casting a Caddis pattern to any rise forms that I could reach (which weren’t many) and keeping an eye for when this fellow fly fisherman might decide to make his way to shore.

It was about an hour and a half later when he decided to make his way in. I was ready to halt my fishing and make my way to the boat launch to meet him and get a closer look at his water craft but that wasn’t necessary as he decided the beach I was fishing at was better suited to exit the lake. When he got close enough to the shoreline he finally stood up and I wondered why he was walking backwards to shore. Again I was amused at the look of a full-grown man with a child’s flotation devise around his waist. The only thing missing was the inflatable rubber ducky head on the front and the inflatable tail on the back. That’s when I saw the flippers. I don’t remember if I actually laughed out loud or not but I was aching with laughter on the inside. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Does he have any idea of how ridiculous he looks?’ I never did approach him about the inflatable craft like I had planned. I guess once I saw the fins I had an understanding how it worked and a new thought ran through my mind. ‘Not in this lifetime’.

It was three years later that I purchased my first float tube and I’ve never looked back (at least not until now).

Float tubes are compact, lightweight and extremely maneuverable. They are invaluable when fishing lakes that don’t allow boats or when hiking into lakes without road access; but the float tube’s best attribute is its controllability. No other watercraft gives an angler the same ability to fish an area as hard as a float tube (although pontoon boats are a close second). Using just leg power you can literally fish every square foot of water without ever taking your hands of your fly rod. You never have to worry about picking up a paddle or oars and you can spin 360 degrees without even a second thought. In this article I want to go over the different types of float tubes available to anglers and which ones in my opinion are worth your hard earned money.

Float tubes are not as new as some of you would think. Prior to the 1940's, early stillwater anglers fastened some type of seat across a car tire tube providing a means to get to the fish. It was a crude method but it worked. Then sometime after 1940, a company surfaced called the Tucker Duck & Rubber Company. They were a small commercial tube manufacture out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. They started to produce the first inflatable float tube known as the ‘Fish-N-Float’.
These boats were very heavy when wet and the seams would fall apart fairly rapidly but even so, the Fish-N-Float was a success and soon offered attached waders to the canvas tube. In 1947 a new company appeared on the scene out of Oklahoma City. The Fishmaster MFG. Company offered a new quick connect seat release and gave the Fish-N-Float some stiff competition. The Fishmaster Mfg. Company became a major float tube supplier offering more and more models over the next few years. In the 1950’s tubes began to take closer shape of what we see today. Thanks to anglers mostly from Colorado and Idaho float tubes were being modified to include pockets, backrests, stripping aprons and tie down rings. But it wasn’t until the 1980’s that we saw float tubes making a big impact on the fishing communities. Articles and reviews started to pop up in magazines and the float tube finally came into it’s own.

Float tubes today vary in shape, size and durability. Some are the traditional round shape, some are V-shaped and others U-shaped - some are even smaller versions of a pontoon boat (with or without oars). So how do you pick the one that’s right for you? Well let’s be honest, it’s similar to buying a car, look for one that fits in your price range and gives you what you want out of it. In other words, research what tube will fit your wants and needs.

Round / Closed Tubes
The traditional round tubes have a few major attributes but many negative ones. The most positive attribute a round tube has is its cost. These tubes can be found very cheap today since the U & V shape tubes have become more popular. Most round tubes have a rubber truck tire tube as the air chamber. This is good, at least for durability. The rubber tubes can take a pretty good beating. There are no seams in a rubber tube to worry about and if it gets a hole it’s easily patched. It’s this rubber inner tube that has kept me going back to round tubes. The safety factor is very big with me as I’ve experienced to many problems with vinyl bladders. I’ve always recommended that anyone with a vinyl bladder switch to a rubber tube right away if possible. I have a hard time trusting the seams on vinyl bladders and the seams are very hard to repair if not impossible.

Round tubes are now quite a bit cheaper than the other style of tubes so if money is a concern to you this may be the style of tube you’re looking for. Another good thing about round tubes are the size. I can fit two fully inflated round tubes in the back of my van along with all my other fishing equipment. When I go with my buddy who owns a U-shape tube I have to deflate my tube to about a quarter of its size. The negatives of a round tube are noticeable when you reach the water. The closed front can make it difficult to enter and exit the tube. The shape of the tube will have you moving slower in the water in turn making you work harder to get to and back from different locations on the lake. And the rubber inner tubes are quite a bit heavier than the vinyl bladders other shaped tubes come with. You’ll notice the weight when hiking into a lake.

When purchasing a round tube the things to look for are:

*Weight capacity. Make sure it’s rated with enough capacity that you can add lots of bells and whistles without getting close to your own weight. I weigh 220lbs and my favorite tube has a capacity of 350lbs. This makes me feel safer and the boat feels sturdier when on the water.

* Warranty. Look for a good warranty with the boat you purchase. There are a few manufacturers that offer a lifetime warranty on the boat's shell.

* Durability. Triple stitched seems are the least you should go with. Even with triple stitched seems, I’ve has two float tubes start to come apart on me and had to send them back to the manufacturer (that’s where the warranty comes in).

U or V Shaped Tubes
The great thing about these tubes is the shape. Because it has an open front, entering and exiting the tube is way easier and doesn’t require any sort of balancing act. The shape also helps with speed. The shape of these tubes cut through the water easier making you work less to get to your destination. U & V shape tubes will also have you sit higher in the water with mostly only your legs being submerged. This will keep you dryer and in turn keeping you warmer. In a round tube half of your body is submerged in water and you’ll really notice this on a cold day. These are all key things when considering the purchase of a tube because they all have to do with comfort and if you’re uncomfortable in your tube, your experience will not be as pleasant as it should be. Also if you do get a leak in a bladder while fishing from a U or V shaped tube, you usually have a couple more bladders fully inflated to help you get back to shore. Of course these tubes do have their disadvantages too. Because of how high these boats sit on the water the wind can become a major factor blowing you around more so than in a round tube. The bladders are mostly vinyl and these vinyl air chambers are not as durable as rubber inner tubes. The set up time can be quite a bit longer then the round tubes, as there are usually several large bladders to fill in different sections of the tube as opposed to one inner tube and a backrest in the round tube.

When purchasing a U or V shape tube the things to look for are:

* Weight capacity. Like the round tube you want to make sure it doesn’t just hold your weight. You may want to add a fish finder, extra rods, a life jacket, fly vest, an anchor and other accessories.

* Warranty. Again a lifetime warranty is best and will keep your boat around forever, the least you’ll want to go with is a five year warranty. It's especially important here to get a real good warranty on the bladders.

* Durability. Triple stitched seems are a must, don’t settle for anything less. There are some U & V shaped tubes that now offer Urethane bladders and I would highly recommend purchasing a tube that offers these, as the durability is somewhat better. There are also some that offer PVC on the bottom of the tube, which is also more durable then the nylon as the PVC will resist snags. As far as the nylon shell, don’t buy anything with a denier lower than 400. A denier of 600 to 800 is best.

These boats are another option for anglers. Some come with oars some do not. I don’t really understand the concept of the ones that don’t come with oars, as I don’t see the advantage over a U or V shaped tube. The obvious advantage to the boats that come with oars is speed. You can get to where you are going much easier and faster while on the water. Other then that though the advantages are minimal. The negative thing about having the metal frame on the tube is it limits your leg movement and your legs continually banging into the frame can become annoying. I’ve found this same problem when fishing from my pontoon boat. It’s a fairly minor complaint but thought I would point it out.


Round Tubes
I’ve always been partial to Trout Traps. I do recommend them for anyone that is looking for a used tube but will not recommend them to new buyers, as the company no longer exists meaning there is no longer a warranty on any of their products. So my recommendation goes to the Caddis Proline II. The Proline II has a 350lb weight capacity and is triple stitched on important seams. You can order one online for $105.00 US.

U & V Shape
Caddis has put together an impressive Navigator series of U shaped tubes. I am overly impressed with the Navigator II specifically. The Nav II features 420 denier nylon pack cloth, triple stitched on critical seams, front rod holder, side rod holder, removable front padded stabilizer bar, two large cargo pockets, two medium size auxiliary pockets, 1000 denier cordura seat and a weight capacity of 350 lbs. You can purchase a Nav II online for $150.00 USD.

Outcast has also put together a great line of boats. The Fish Cat & Fat Cat V shaped series are very durable. They come with a five-year warranty, 1000 denier PVC bottom / Pack-cloth top, urethane bladder, foam seat & seat back. You can purchase the highly recommended Fat Cat online for $300 USD.

So many inflatable boat companies come and go that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the latest boats on the market. It’s for this reason that the only pontube boat I recommend is the Outcast Discovery Trekker. You know this company will be around for a while with the top quality boats they manufacture. Unfortunately the backpacker does not come with oars but it does include some other great features like a one piece aluminum frame, 14 mil. Urethane bladders, a 300 lb weight capacity, five year warranty and the seat and backrest convert to a pack frame that carries the pontoons. You can purchase the Discovery Trekker online for $399.00 USD.

Float tubes are an important tool for many stillwater anglers. What type of tube you choose for your fishing adventures will have a great impact on how much you enjoy your time out on the water. Choose wisely and do your homework as to what tube best fits your needs and wants. Round tubes are great as an entry-level tube as they don’t cost much and if you find that tubing isn’t your thing, you won’t be stuck with something that put a big dent on the 'ol pocket book. U & V shaped tubes have come a long way and some are even more durable then the round tubes but include all the added bonuses of the open front. Whatever styles you may purchase in the future, wear a life jacket or some form of certified PFD and play safe. Oh and don’t worry about the laughter, they’re used to seeing them now.

About the author:
Mike (Doc) Monteith has been fishing Edmonton's local lakes for 28 years and is the owner/guide of Edmonton Stillwater Adventures, owner of the information web site Fly Fishing Edmonton, editor/publisher of the information web site Float Tube Fly Fishing and owner/moderator for the Alberta Fly Fishing Forum.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Overlooking Midge Larva?

It's been a while since I last posted. I've only been fishing once since then and forgot the camera at home. That was last Wednesday at Muir Lake. Wasn't a banner day by any means but I did net five trout and lost three. One of those was the biggest I've caught at Muir to date taping in at 20 inches. My Muir Lake personal record fought very hard and came close to taking me into my backing and had me believe that I wasn't going to see it in my net when it went screaming through all those weeds but luckily, even with the burning forearms, it eventually came to papa.

I was planning on heading out to Muir on Saturday with a client and then finishing the cleaning of my #@$%ing garage on Sunday but when Friday morning rolled around, I felt sandpaper in my throat and started sneezing like crazy. That's the sign. I knew it was coming. I was bragging just the other day of how I actually couldn't remember the last time I got sick. I should have known right then and there that I jinxed myself and sickness was imminent. Anyway, I stayed home in bed all weekend and took Monday off from work. I have to admit, I truly am the biggest baby when I'm sick. I'm feeling better now though other then a bit of a cough so fishing is definitely in my immediate future.

So since I have nothing more to share with you, I thought I would post an article about bloodworms that I wrote a few years ago. I recently revised it a bit, so enjoy.

Overlooking Midge Larva?
When it comes to stillwaters, few bugs matter as much in a trout’s diet as the midge. A true staple for trout, the midge will hatch all year on open water and up north, from ice-out, ‘til ice-on on most of our stillwater fisheries. There are four stages in the midge’s life cycle, these stages include the egg, larva, pupa and adult, with the last three of these four stages being quite important to trout and to stillwater fly anglers. The second of these three stages -the larval stage- frequently gets overlooked.

Midges come in many colors and sizes. The adult midge looks very similar to a mosquito but lucky for us lacks the mosquito’s proboscis. The most obvious stage of a midge’s life cycle -the adult- can be seen on top of the water both when it sheds its pupa shuck and again when it returns to lay its eggs. Although trout prefer the larval and pupa stages of the midge, trout may key in on this stage while the adult is ridding itself of its extol pupa skeleton, or while it waits for its wings to dry before flying off. When the adult midge returns to lay its eggs, the midge will skim across the surface of the water depositing its eggs leaving a come eat me wake behind it, which seams to attract trout well enough.

The pupa stage of the midg
e –the chironomid- receives a lot of attention from both stillwater fly anglers and the stream guys. Although the chironomid (from the name chironomidae meaning non-biting midge) is actually a midge in any stag of it's life cycle, most fly anglers refer to the chironomid as the pupa stag of the midge's life cycle. Fly fishermen concentrate more on this stage of the midge because the chironomid can be found at any depth of a stillwater fishery as it rises from the lake bottom very slowly until it reaches the surface where it transforms into the adult. Because of this, chironomids give trout an easy meal throughout the entire column of water meaning anglers can fish a pupa pattern at nearly any depth of the fishery with a good chance at finding trout. It’s during the heat of summer when trout move to deeper, more comfortable water and the pupa activity slows down or when trout start keying in on active larger food items that the chironomid may not get the consistent results one is after.

The larval stage of the midge, known as -the bloodworm- is not a true worm due to it's
exoskeleton and small clawed legs. The chironomid larva will spend its time living at the bottom of a lake in the mud or sediment feeding on decaying matter known as detritus. In stillwaters, you will find midge larva in a few different colors but red larva are typical. The blood of a midge, like humans, is iron based and because most stillwater bloodworms live in anoxic environments, need a protein called hemoglobin. This hemoglobin is carried by red blood cells and stores oxygen which maintain the viability of it's cells keeping it alive and giving the larva a blood red appearance when little oxygen is available.

Bloodworms of
ten get overlooked by many anglers but quite the opposite when it comes to feeding trout. Trout will often key in on the abundance of larva available and due to its familiarity, will readily feed upon larva even when other aquatic life is plentiful. Because you can find Bloodworms on or near the bottom of the lake, anglers will do well to keep their bloodworm patterns one or two feet off any bottom structure they may be fishing. The size of fly you choose to represent a midge larva should be up to three sizes larger then the adult midges seen hatching on the surface as the midge’s body length decrease in size from larva, to pupa, then to adult.

Fishing The Bloodworm

Fishing a bloodworm is much the same as fishing a chironomid. You’ll need a strike indicator (Quick Release indicators work well), floating line and a long leader. The length of your leader will depend on the depth you are fishing but unlike the chironomid, the bloodworm will not stray far from the bottom so a foot or two off the bottom will be the required depth.
To find this depth, take a bell weight or hemostats and place it on your bloodworm pattern. Now lower your fly down until it reaches the bottom. Using your thumb and index finger,
mark the spot where your leader is even with the surface of the water and secure the strike indicator one foot below this mark. Now retrieve your fly and remove the bell weight. Your indicator will now float your fly one foot off the bottom. In early mornings when the water is at a cooler temperature, trout will be found closer to the shoreline and fishing your bloodworm in shallow water should produce fish. In the heat of the day however, trout may go deeper in search of colder, more comfortable water. Work your way out to deeper water trying different depths from 12 to 22 feet of water or more but always keeping your fly in that one to two foot section off the bottom. Your retrieve should imitate the natural so little to no movement usually produces the best results. Slow short strips or a slow hand twist with long pauses are usually the key to success. There are times however that attention may be what’s required to get a hook-up so a couple of quick short strips with long pauses may produce the results you’re looking for. Depths of twenty feet or more make for a very long leader and if you’ve ever tried casting a leader this long, you know it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. When fishing depths of 20 plus feet, a fast sink line may be more to your liking.

At these depths, you can fish directly below your boat without fear of spooking the trout. When fishing with a sinking line, find the depth you want to fish at using your bell weight. Drop your weighted fly down to the bottom with your rod tip just an inch off the surface of the water. When your fly hits the bottom, reel up one foot of line. Now remove the bell weight and drop your fly back down. Keep the rod tip one inch from the waters surface and when the tip drops, set the hook. Great attention must be taken with these methods, as takes can be very soft. At times, just a slight movement of the strike indicator or the rod tip is all an angler may see and with such little warning one must set the hook or possibly lose out on an opportunity.

Bloodworms are a true staple for trout at any time of year even when the lakes are frozen over. Paying no attention to the bloodworm is like overlooking scuds, leeches or chironomids themselves. On those slow warm days when nothing seems to be working, toss a midge larva pattern out into some deep water about a foot of the bottom and find out for yourself what you’ve been overlooking. It may just save a fish-less day.

Photos courtesy Phil Rowley and are
© copy write protected.

Mike (Doc) Monteith has been fishing Edmonton's local lakes for 28 years and is the owner/guide of Edmonton Stillwater Adventures, owner of the information web site Fly Fishing Edmonton, editor/publisher of the information web site Float Tube Fly Fishing and owner/moderator of the Alberta Fly Fishing Forum.

Article Copyright © 2008 Mike Monteith - All Rights Reserved

Monday, 2 June 2008

#%&@ing Garage

You may remember back in April when I was doing the spring cleaning around the house. That was no big deal, there wasn't any fly-fishing available anyway. What I was dreading was the cleaning of the garage.

A buddy of mine (Chris) just moved back to Edmonton from Manitoba. His family owns a lodge up in Northern Manitoba called Athapap Lodge. Chris used to work for me at my night club as the manager. I took him out fly-fishing a few times and hooked him good but he met a girl and they got married and moved back to Manitoba to raise their family. Would you believe while he was there for the last seven years he took up golf and did very little fishing? Ya, I don't get it either. Anyway, he's just moved back as a job opportunity opened up for him that he couldn't refuse. He asked me to join him on Saturday afternoon for a round of golf at Sturgeon Valley in St. Albert. So I went along instead of keeping with my plans to hit a local lake. I should have just went fishing, especially after my second snowman. I used to play quite a bit when I was in the club scene but now I may get out four or five times a year and to be perfectly blunt; I suck now.

So Sunday comes along and the plan is for me and the entire family to clean the garage and then I would take off and get some fishing in. I've been waiting since October to get out and fish my favorite lakes so letting a weekend go by without wetting a line seems to me like the Pope missing Sunday Mass. Now you're probably wondering how my fishing went. Ya, I didn't go. As a matter of fact, we didn't even finish the garage. I don't know where all that stuff came from but man, it was like removing a mountain. Three (not kidding), three truck loads of garbage bag filled clothes went to charity on Sunday. My garbage pile at the end of the driveway was up to the sky. I threw away things I didn't even knew I had (but i figured if I never used it before I sure won't use it now). I still got half a garage filled with stuff but it's stuff I need so I gotta figure out what I'm gonna do with it. So now, next Sunday is a write off too. #%&@ing Garage.

On a positive note. The days are getting longer so getting in some fishing time after work will make a guy feel a whole lot better. I did get out to Chickakoo lake last Tuesday after hearing some reports that the lake may have overwintered (not winterkilled). I caught only Brookies even though the lake has been stocked with both Rainbows and Brook Trout. And yes, it does appear that the lake did overwinter as I caught Brookies in the both the six inch mark and the 11 inch mark. For those that live in the Edmonton area, if you haven't heard... Chickakoo has been stocked with triploid brookies and Muir with triploid rainbows this year. Wooo Whoo!!! So what time can you fish 'til up here at this time of year? Right now, at least 'til 10:30pm. The latest I've ever fished and still been able to see is 11:20pm on Star Lake with a client. The date was June 22, 2006.

Saw this fun shark fishing/surfing video (crazy bastard). Check it out .