Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Fly In The Forum Ointment

If you're here looking for information about either The Fishin' Alberta Message Board or the Alberta Fly Fishing Forum, it is not your PC. Stebb's entire site is down including their own forum (which is how I get customer support). Therefore, I can't even tell you what the problem is never mind how long it will be until my two forums are online again. Just have patience and hopefully it won't be to long.

July 31/08 *NOTE: The forums are back up. Enjoy :)

While you're here though, you may as well read my latest fishing report.

I headed out to Muir Lake Monday night with Phil Rowley and his youngest son Shaun. We got on the lake at about 5:30pm and the water was really warm about 72F-74F. We figured the trout would be a lot more comfortable sitting deep so we made out way over to the deep hole south-east of the island. We parked our boats in 11ft of water casting out to 14ft and Phil had one on right away with a leech pattern. He did well with the leech for the rest of the night but I didn't fair as well on my bloodworms, scuds and chironomids. I did hook into a pig not long after Phil's 1st trout but it wrapped himself around Phil's anchor rope and broke me off. Not sure if it took the scud or the Redd October but that sort of set the course for the rest of my night. Phil kept hooking up consistently with most taking the leech pattern and I not so consistent. It seemed every time I did hook up, I'd loose 'em. Not entirely sure how many Phil got to the net but after I changed over to a baby beadhead bugger, I did manage one stocker, one decent female and one big male. I forgot my measure-net in the van so I couldn't tape them but I'd say the male was pushing 21-22 inches. Phil's got the pics so maybe after he reads this he'll e-mail 'em to me and I can put them up. There were frequent aggressive risers throughout the evening but we weren't sure what exactly they were rising for. We saw spent mayflies but not an abundance of them and some very small midges. I also saw what looked like stickleback minnows swirling for the small midges so it's possible the trout were rising for these. The trout I did manage to bring to the boat had severe parasites under their skin. I've seen this in the past on most of our local lakes when the water gets very warm but never this bad. These parasites are very similar to the parasites that cause swimmer-itch. We got off the water at about 10pm. All things considered, it was a great time with good company even with my case of the Ralphy's. (Ralphy- A word created by Don Anderson used to describe a fish getting off your hook after being hooked. Ralph refers to ex Alberta Premiere Ralph Klein who made it illegal to use barbed hooks even though there is no science to support that barbless hooks cause less mortality in fish.)

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Things Are A Buzz In Edmonton

Literally, if you walk outside you hear a buzz. No I haven't started bee keeping, It's the sound of the Indy cars. Not sure if the folks that live on the south side of Edmonton can hear them but on the north side, it sounds like thousands of bee hives in my backyard.

Right now we have the Rexall Edmonton Indy taking place in our fine city. The race takes place at our city center airport and along with Capital-EX (our yearly fair/exhibition), it brings a whole lot of tourists to the city. When I owned Santannas Night-Club, I used to hate the Capital-Ex (back then it was called Klondike Days) as it would just take the population of the city and direct them into the city core. That used to hurt business big time for those of us on not near the EX. I was quite jealous of our rival city to the south as the Calgary Stampede draws people from all over the world and we'd hear stories about how much busier the night-clubs got during their EX. Well times have changed, although I'm not in the club scene any more, it's nice to see how many tourists Edmonton is drawing in with all the summer activities we offer. The Indy race would have to be the biggest draw but we also have festival after festival running right through the summer. Edmonton is actually known as Festival City and the biggest festival of the summer would have to be our Fringe. The Edmonton Fringe is the largest and oldest Fringe Festival in North-America and features more than 140 un-juried and un-censored shows from around the world. A little secret for you; I've never gone. Maybe this year though.

So last night my wife and I took my youngest daughter (Hunter) to Capital-Ex. On our way to Kiddy Land, we stopped at the Chilkoot Gold Mine and helped Hunter pan for gold. She ended up with one small gold nugget and placed it in the bag they provided. She was all smiles and it brought back some of my own memories when I was a kid and panned for gold at that very same place with my mom and dad. We made our way to Kiddy Land and bought Hunter the all-ride wrist band and since last year I got to enjoy all the kiddy rides, this year it was my wife's turn. The line-ups were long but Hunter had a lot of fun and it was all worth it to see her smiles. While we were waiting in the line for the kiddy roller coaster, I ventured over near the ED Fest stage where a band was playing. I took a couple photos and then noticed a couple of black SUV's parked behind me with cop cars surrounding it. I thought to myself; "who would be here that's important enough to need that kind of security?" Then it dawned on me. GENE SIMMONS! Gene was asked to be the Marshall of the Rexall Edmonton Indy. Now this all kind of ties in you see, 'cause my first memory of going to and exhibition was the Red River EX in Winnipeg when I was nine. There were many games of chance with the prizes being posters of the "new" band Kiss. I wanted a poster so bad (even though I never knew who they were) and although I tried, I just couldn't win a poster. I never even heard one of their songs before but starting right then and there, I was a huge Kiss fan . Of course as I got older I not only filled my room with Kiss posters but had every album they ever made and even purchased the solo albums (Paul and Chris's albums sucked but I listened to them anyway). If you were ever a Kiss fan right now you'd be asking yourself, "Doc who was your favorite?" ('casue every guy had a favorite and probably dressed up like him at least once for Halloween, five Halloweens for me). And my favorite was Peter Chris. My three best friends were also huge kiss fans, Brad was Paul Stanley, Grant was Ace Frehley and Dave was Gene Simmons. So back to the EX. I peaked over the fence and there he was standing under a tent. I tried to get some pics of him but they turned out way to fuzzy. So I waited (more and more cops were showing up so I knew it wouldn't be long) for about 20 mins and he finally came out of the fenced off area. I tried my best to get some good pics but I only got one decent shot and he wasn't facing me. I soooo need a digital SLR! So I made my way over to the wife and daughter who were just getting off the ferriswheel and I told them all about it. We then continued on and enjoyed more rides, the nightly fireworks display and lots of exhibition food.

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with fly-fishing. But sometimes life gets in the way of fly-fishing, and sometimes that's good. Sometimes.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Product Review: The monoMaster

Fly anglers take pride in being stewards of their environment. Pack out what you pack in and bring an extra garbage bag with you to help clean up what others may have left behind. But what about the mono tag ends you clip off from your fly?

I recently had the opportunity to try out an innovative new fishing tool. The monoMaster from Grasshopper Outdoors is small, lightweight, handy and excellent for dealing with mono filament waste. Every angler has days when things just aren’t going right and end up cutting off tangled line from their leader . If you’re anything like me, you probably just roll it up and stick it in one of your pockets then forget about it until later. By that time it’s half hanging out of your vest, unraveling in the back of your vehicle or even getting tangled up in your equipment. No need to worry about that anymore with this environmentally friendly tool. Simply ball up the mono, slide it in the slot and roll it in. I was a little weary about this tool when I first heard about it as my major concern was the small tag ends clipped off after tying on my fly but even these tiny pieces of mono stay secure. This easy to use tool is a must have for any environ-conscience angler.

Kermit the frog once sang about how it wasn’t easy being green. I guess Kermit never had a monoMaster.

You can order one online at www.grasshopperproducts.com or www.Orvis.com for $11.95.

Mike (Doc) Monteith

Edmonton Stillwater adventures

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

My 15 Minutes Of Fame

A couple weeks back, I got a phone call from Citytv's Senior Producer asking me if I would guide the host of a signature segment showcase called 'Nick's Nosh'. Marina had explained to me that she had an idea for a show where the host learns the art of fly fishing, then (hopefully) catches a trout and cooks it up for a nice shore lunch. I had to think about it for a few seconds as the idea of keeping trout didn't sit all that well with me but after some consideration and the agreement that it would take place at a put & take stocked fishery that winterkills almost every year, I agreed to it.

We got to Chickakoo Lake this morning at around 10:00am and I proceeded to get all my equipment and tackle together for the shooting while they prepared their expensive audio and video equipment. They hooked me up with a wireless mic and then explained what they expected from me. I've had some radio experience in the past but this was my first time in front of a camera (my fifteen minutes of fame I guess). My instructions were to keep my conversations directed at the host and never look at the camera. Well, how hard could that be? Actually not hard at all. I just tried to forget it was even there. Ok, I looked at the camera three times in the four hours we were shooting but Nick (the host) told me I was a natural. Could be he was just blowing smoke up my ass but I really hope I did myself justice.

We started the shooting by setting up the float tube that Nick was to use and then the pontoon boat that would float me around for the afternoon. We soon moved on to casting instruction, pretty much the same way I teach my clients but this was sort of a crash course as we needed to get on the lake quickly to secure a trout for the frying pan. So after Nick got the basic idea of casting a fly rod, out on the water we went. It was a nice change for me as once on the water, I didn't have to guide him but rather just keep an eye on him and give him pointers as the producer needed a trout and their hopes were mostly with me (although they were really hoping Nick would bring one to hand). We both got into fish but we were having a real hard time keeping them on the hook. I finally brought one to the net but it had bumps all over it from parasites called cercaria (similar to Swimmers Itch). These parasites can not hurt humans as we are not it's proper host (its proper hosts are snails in its pupa stage and birds in its adult stage) but a trout with these under it's skin sure wouldn't look very tasty on camera. So that little guy went back and luckily I got another to the net and this one made tv history. After we got back into shore, I packed all my equipment while Nick started preparing his salad and garnishings. I then grabbed the trout and brought it over to the picnic table and proceeded to clean it as it seems nobody there had ever cleaned a trout before. The last time I cleaned a trout was probably around 15 years ago but it came pretty easy once they found me a sharper knife. Once cooked up, we again appeared on camera where Nick presented the trout with the salad and garnish and proceeded to eat it. He then asked me if I'd like a bite and I passed. Nick then asked why I don't eat what I catch and I explained that I do occasionally (if it's Walleye) but that I'd rather release it to catch another day.

They appeared to be very happy with what they shot and graciously thanked me. The show is to air during the news hour on Monday, August 18 so keep an eye out for it. Hopefully I didn't embarrass myself to much. They're also sending me a disk with the final footage so I'll try and show that off here on my blog. The funny thing is, my fifteen minutes of fame (and four hours of taping) is really only about four minutes long after editing. I guess that means the universe still owes me 11 minutes.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Finding Walter

Definitely not the summer I dreamed of. In my last post I told you about taking my daughter Hunter out to Cardiff Lake and teaching her to cast. Although I wouldn't trade that day for anything in the world, that was the last time I got near a lake and I didn't even fish. Before I know it, the snow will be flying, the ice will be on the lakes and I'll be full of a bunch of shoulda, woulda, coulda's. I planned on heading out last night and then tonight but we still got this weather thing going on. These thunderstorms come, then pass, then another, then another. It's not even the rain that bothers me, it's the lightening. I can handle a few days of fishin' in the rain but ain't nothing more nerve racking than being out in the middle of a lake with lightening striking all around you. Been there, done that, bought the instructional DVD.

On a brighter note, a local TV station has asked me to shoot a few hours of me teaching the host how to fly fish, then take him out in a float tube and let him catch some trout so he can cook them up as a shore lunch. I agreed and will be shooting next week. I'll post all about it after the fact.

Since I got nothin' else, I thought I'd toss another of my articles at you. This one originally had the title "Can You Read A Lake?". I revamped it about a year ago and Phil Rowley used it for his web site under his Guest Writers feature. I hope you enjoy it.

Finding Walter
by Mike (Doc) Monteith

In 1981, the movie ‘On Golden Pond’ found one of it’s main characters -Norman Thayer- bragging about an illusive lunker trout in the lake that his New England country home looked out upon. That big Rainbow always seemed to elude the old man but Norman’s grandson Billy Ray finally caught that big fish before the summer was up. The trout was affectionately named Walter, and Walter is exactly what most of us are after when we head out in search of stillwater trout.

Most cities and towns throughout Canada can find trout lakes and ponds fairly close to home. You may be fortunate enough to live close to some self-sustaining trout lakes but for most of us, the lakes we fish are stocked annually by our provincial governments.

Although newly stocked trout (stockers) are fairly easy to catch, many anglers report that the larger trout –the Walters- in these
stillwater fisheries are hard to find and not as cooperative as they should be. Or maybe it’s that the average fly angler doesn’t know where to look.

To achieve positive
results, reading the water at a lake is a secret best discovered sooner than later and knowing where big trout are holding or at least where they should be holding really is half the battle. Reading stillwater fisheries can be intimidating but like anything, practice makes perfect and lake fly anglers can learn where the high probability and prime holding areas are in the stillwater’s they fish.

So how do you read a lake where there are no obvious fast riffles, deep runs or fish-holding boulders? There may be no obvious structure like in a stream, but there is structure even if it is in a different form. A prime lie in a stream would be considered anywhere that the trout can find food, shelter from predators and suitable levels of oxygen (comfort zone). These are the three basic necessities of trout and the same needs must be met in a lake or pond. One primary difference between streams and lakes is that trout in streams tend to hold in one place waiting for food to come to them. However, in lakes, trout cruise around looking for food in specific, prime areas, and these are the places you’ll want to concentrate on. Stillwater trout search for most of their food at the drop-offs and shoal areas. But what are drop-offs, what are shoals and how does a lake fly angler find them?

A drop-off is the part of the lake bottom that, well, like the name implies, drops off. From the shoreline to the drop-off, you will find a shallow area known as the shoal. Usually somewhat weedy, the shoal is home to many insects like chironomids, dragonfly nymphs and damselfly nymphs as well as aquatic life including Scuds, minnows and leeches. Trout swim up from the drop-off, feed on the shoal and drop back down again. According to the amount of light, how warm the water is and how much weed cover a trout has on the shoal will usually dictate when and how much time a trout will spend in the shoal area. The shoal is usually quite shallow making it to easy for predators, like Osprey, to see trout. And trout being as cautious as they are will not stay on the shoal for long. During the day, trout usually make quick trips onto the shoal then drop back down the drop-off. The water in the shoal area can also be very warm and uncomfortable for the trout, which also make trips to the shoal brief. It’s in the evening, throughout the night and early mornings as well as cool overcast days where we'll see trout spending more time in these shoal areas feeding. Autumn also sees trout spending more time on the shoals fattening up for winter. And early spring after ice-out will see trout in these shallow areas, as the water in the shoal area will warm up faster increasing insect activity quicker than in the deeper, colder sections of the lake. Sometimes when there is a lot of insect activity like the late spring damselfly migration, the trout throw caution to the wind and hang on the shoal feeding for long periods of time even on bright, sunny, warm days.

The shoal and drop-off transition is an important structure for fish—and for anglers. Aquatic insects and small forag
e fish will frequently move near or beyond the drop-off area making easy meals for searching trout. This is what I like to refer to as the ‘Strike Zone’ and it’s where you’ll get most of your strikes and hook-ups on your flies. Anglers fishing these structures are best to get their presentation right down to wear the trout are feeding into this transition area.

Weed beds are another important structure for fish and anglers. Like the weed cover we see in the shoal areas, mid-lake weed beds also hold insects and aquatic life forms and g
ive good cover to cruising trout. Anglers will often find large numbers of trout at anytime of day searching for food here even when the water is quite warm. You can find weed beds in many different areas of a stillwater fishery, many times right in the middle of the lake. Mid-lake weed beds usually grow on humps where the water is relatively shallow, quite often giving us smaller drop-offs to fish. Some weed beds can be seen from the surface and some are sub surface. You can have unbelievable catch rates fishing weed beds just by concentrating on this structure alone. Leech, damselfly nymph and many dry fly patterns work incredibly well when casting around the edges, directly into or over top of these weed beds. Several presentations will work here and experimenting with floating and sinking lines will be the key to success.

Another structure that is highly overlooked when stillwater fishing is along the shoreline. Many aquatic life forms are fou
nd very close to the shoreline in shallow water including water boatmen, scuds and leeches. Although you will find these life forms throughout the lake, concentrations will be much higher closer to the shorelines. In low light conditions trout will be less cautious and feed in these areas due to the vast number of bugs here. It’s not uncommon to arrive at a body of water at first light and see trout swirling only a few feet away from the shore. On windy days, it’s in the angler’s best interest to head over to the shoreline being pounded by the wind driven waves. These waves will not only give the trout a choppy cover from predators but will also stir up insects from the bottom and force then into these shorelines. A floating line or a slow sinking line will produce well along shorelines while keeping your fly from consistently picking up weeds and debris.

The deeper sections of a lake will also see big trout. On hot summer days you’ll find trout moving deeper where conditions are cooler and more oxygen rich, feeding on bloodworm, chironomid pupa, dragonfly nymphs and other aquatic life forms but oxygen levels usually dictate how deep fish will hold. A section of a lake may be 50 feet deep but trout may only hold as fa
r as thirty feet if the water below that depth is anoxic. A full sink line, fast sink tip or a floating line with a long leader, strike indicator and a weighted fly will do you well in these deeper waters. Finding out what depth the trout are holding at will be the key to success here so experimenting with your presentation is very important.

The biggest problem angler’s seam to have while trying to find structure is seeing it. Of course you can’t see a lot of structure when it’s underwater, or how deep the section of water is that you may be fishing. The shoreline of a lake however, can give away some secrets about what’s under the surface. Try and study the contour of the shoreline. These land features often continue below the water. A steep bank at the shoreline usually means a quick drop-off and a very flat shoreline usually continues on that way well below the surface. Also look for clusters of stumps, downed logs, brush piles, river and creek mouths or other si
gns that may look like fishy hangouts. Try getting a hold of some depth charts or hydrographic maps of the lake you wish to fish as these maps can either confirm or contest what the shoreline is telling you and will also give you an idea where you can find deep holes, underwater humps, shallow flats and old river or creek channels. Also consider purchasing a fish finder or depth finder. A fish finder is a great way to find depth and structure in a lake and can easily be attached to your float tube or pontoon boat with a homemade or commercially available bracket kit. The small gel cell batteries needed to power these units will easily fit in the storage pockets on your tube and there is no need to get anything expensive, as even the cheapest units will have the two most important features, depth and bottom structure.

Prairie Potholes

It’s important to note here that in many prairie pothole lakes there may not be a drop-off making the lake more like one big shoal. These prairie potholes may gradually drop down as deep as twenty feet or even more but don’t actually offer a transition from shoal to drop-off. If you find yourself fishing a lake like this it’s important to concentrate your efforts on other structures. Prairie pothole lakes are usually very fertile meaning lots of plant life and insect activity, which can produce some very big trout but because most of these lakes tend to have both a lack of depth and surface area, winterkill and summerkill are quite common. As of late, aeration in Alberta prairie pothole lakes is becoming popular and some angler research as to what lakes are hosting these aerators and what lakes will be coming on line next will be beneficial. These new project lakes also tend to have special regulations giving anglers higher catch rates and a greater opportunity at catching Walter.

Alpine Lakes

High mountain lakes are known for gin clear water, this means a stealthy approach is important. Float Tubes and Pontoon boats are both advantageous but good results can come from a rowboat as well. Fish tend to be a little more skittish in these mountain lakes due to this clear water as well as the lack of bottom vegetation compared to the lower mainland and prairie pothole lakes but because of this crystal clear water, sight fishing is an exciting bonus. Rocks and sunken logs or other structures that may provide protection for the trout are places to concentrate here in early mornings and evenings. Drop-offs will do you well during the heat of the day.

Like stream fishing, reading the water and knowing where the fish are holding is half the battle. Being able to read a lake will at the very least have you fishing in the high probability areas and in no time, you to will be pulling in Walter at your favorite fishin’ hole.

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, 2 July 2008

Hunter's A Natural

Yesterday was Canada Day. For my American friends, that's the same as your 4th Of July. We celebrated Canada's 141st birthday, it's easy for me to remember 'cause I'm a centennial baby born in 1967, the same year Canada celebrated it's 100th. There's always lots of stuff going on all over the country and here in Edmonton it was no different. The Alberta Government had a free pancake breakfast at the Legislative Grounds, the city had a free BBQ at Rundle Park and many, many other activities throughout the city and the surrounding cities and towns had their own festivities. There were lots of firework displays all over the county with the biggest Edmonton display in the river valley. Every year our family packs up the camping chairs and head to one of the great spots near the valley to partake in the Canada Day events and of course to watch the fireworks (usually at the leg grounds) but this year was a bit different.

Some time around February, my youngest daughter Hunter (9 yrs old), had asked me to teach her to cast a fly rod so she could fly-fish with me. That was music to my ears. My wife Sharmaine doesn't fish and has no interest to learn. My oldest daughter Cassandra thinks fishing is stupid and absolutely hates (or is scared) of every bug on the planet (alive or dead). So hearing Hunter tell me she wanted to learn how to fly-fish gave me hope that I may one day have a fishing buddy like my father had with me. So Hunter and I made plans to hit Cardiff Pond on the morning of Canada Day. I stayed up a little later than I should have on the Monday night and was pretty tired come Tuesday morning but Hunter kept at me and soon we were off. When we got to the lake, I started her off with the tip top section, showing her the side arm 11:00 / 1:00 casting stroke, then moved to the but section with the reel attached and continued with the same casting stroke. She eventually got to practice with the whole rod in a vertical position. I then showed her how to string the line and how to tie on a fly using the improved clinch knot. Now she was ready to cast the fly. Holy S#&t, she's a natural. Although I had to keep giving her guidance with her tendency to bunch line before she cast and keeping her rod in the 11:00 / 1:00 position, she was casting great. And she was all about the casting, no real interest in fly presentation or even catching fish but loved to cast the fly out onto the water. Although she was tired, she didn't stop casting the whole time we were there except to take a bathroom break. I had to actually ask her if she was getting tired, and she was. So after a good two hours of fishing, we made our way home. Before we packed up though, she came over to me and gave me a big hug and said; "Dad, thanks for teaching me, this was the best day ever." Yeah, I think a tear started to form in my eye (but I kept my composure) and replied back with a very heart felt; "you're welcome honey." Being a father really does have it's paydays doesn't it?

So as I wrote earlier, we usually pack up the family and go watch the fireworks. I think we've only missed one year as a family since my oldest daughter was born (unless I was working at my old night club in which the family all went without me). But this year we decided to do something different. We went to see a movie. Although we love watching movies, we rarely go to the theater but rather rent and stay home. So this was a first for Canada day and when we entered the theater low and behold, there was no line-ups at either the ticket center or candy counter and there were lots of places to sit with a good view of the screen in the theater. To top it off we watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I'm an old Indiana fan and will be definitely be adding this one to my trilogy at home. We all enjoyed the movie very much and had a great Canada Day, I hope you had the same. And I hope all my American friends have a wonderful Independence Day too.