Sunday, 22 August 2010

Smoke On The Water

Joe and I decided on heading out to Dolberg Lake last Thursday.  Joe is a good fishing buddy of mine, you may know Joe as the moderator of my Alberta Fly Fishing Forum (A.K.A Jokey).  We always try and fish together but our schedules don't usually work out that way. Dolberg Lake is a two hour drive from Edmonton not far from the town of Barrhead and is known for producing some nice size rainbow trout and during the spring and fall is also known for decent catch rates.  In the heat of summer however, the fishing can shut down quite often and may not be as productive.  We were hoping this day would not be one of those days.  Joe picked me up at 6am and as I loaded my 'toon into his van, I noticed how humid and foggy it was.  When we got in Joe's van I checked the temperature and it read 15c but it felt like 19 or 20c.  It wasn't until we turned onto highway 33 that I found it odd to still have all this fog in the air and it wasn't until we reached the lake that I clued in and realized that it was smoke in the air and not fog at all.  We set up our boats and tackle and got on the water quickly.  This was Joe's first time to Dolberg and asked what productive areas I've fished before.  I pointed out five decent spots on the lake where I've had success before and since neither of us wanted to fish with 30ft leaders, we headed over to the old inflow. We both immediately got into fish, nothing big but they were biting and eventually I hooked into my biggest of the day at 18 inches.

After some time on the water, Joe and I both wondered if we were close to a forest fire as the smoke got so thick we could barely see the shore line. It wasn't until I got home that that I heard the reports that the smoke was due to BC forest fires out of the Williams Lake area. It was around supper time that I noticed the smoke starting to clear and as the sun started getting lower in the sky, the bugs came out to play.  Caddis, boatman, backswimmers, midges and mayflies all became active.

Joe was catching a ton now but it wasn't until later that he started hooking into bigger ones and eventually beat me with about a 22 incher. He did hook into quite a few decent size bows but he just couldn't keep them on. 

Joe stuck to the leech patterns and continued catching fish and I, like most of the day, kept experimenting with different flies.  I finished the day off fishing dry flies without much luck.  All in all though, a great day on the water with a good friend and many trout caught.  What else could a guy ask for?

Tuesday, 10 August 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.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Outcast Pontoon Boats & Customer Service

In todays world, we are constantly hearing bad things about company policies when it comes to warranties, guarantees and returned merchandise.  More than likely you can think of more than a couple of times that you feel you were treated unjustly or felt shafted by a company regarding a product.  I can personally think of at least a handful of unpleasant experiences without even producing smoke from my ears.  As a consumer who's got the short end of the stick more than a few times I think I now expect the worst when dealing with damaged products.  I go into situations with the gloves held high ready to come out swinging before I even get a response.  And a lot of times my pessimism is just.  In my last experience however, I was not only pleasantly surprised but almost a little embarrassed with the slightly annoyed tone in the e-mail I had sent.  As I had posted on my blog a few months back, I've been having trouble with some air bladders for my Fishcat 9IR pontoon boat.  My right pontoon had a leak in it.  The punctured bladder was returned to the fishin' hole tackle shop and when the new bladder came in it was picked up and installed.  During a trip to a local Edmonton area lake with Jokey and Tee, the bladder went flat just as I got out on the water due to a seam leak.  That bladder was also returned.  The next new bladder came and it was also installed.  I then took the boat out to Star Lake after work and sure enough it lost air as well.  I found the leak and decided to fix it myself using Aqua Seal as the leak although near the seam was not on the seam.  After fixing it I took the boat out to MIller's Lake and it seemed to be fine.  Then the bladder started loosing air, agian the leak was right on the seam and just FYI, the Aqua Seal worked fine.  At this point I decided instead of taking the bladder back to the fishin' hole again, I would send an e-mail.  I thought about sending the e-mail to Outcast but since the problem was with the bladder and not the boat, I chose to send the e-mail to Aire.  Aire is a pretty big company in it's own right with a ton of products and is owned by Outcast Sporting Gear.  In my e-mail I explained the problems I've been having and the inconvenience the bladders have caused.  Their reply was unexpected, at least by this pessimistic consumer.  They started off by apologizing for the trouble I've had with my aircells and then went on to write "We have a new airecell design with a lapweld on the seam which should eliminate the issues we’ve had in the past.  They are universal bladders so I will send to you four new bladders which would give you spares should any of the others not work properly.  Please forward me the mailing address and going forward please deal with us directly".  The aircells arrived yesterday, and I'm happy to say, no problems with leaking yet.  Of course we'll have to wait and see how the new bladder performs once it's on the water but what a breath of fresh air from the folks at Aire.  I'm very happy to say, I'll stay a loyal customer to Outcast for many years to come and want to say a big thank you to Chris.  I've already sent Chris an e-mail expressing those thoughts.  Customer service is still alive and well folks and there are still companies around that will back it's product.  Now if I can just figure out how to put the bladder in the the pontoon without any twists.  He makes it look so easy in this video.