Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Happy New Year

Another Christmas come and gone.  Mine was filled with friends, family and good food.  I hope you got together with loved ones as I did.  Soon another year will be upon us.  Looking back on 2011, with the late spring we had here coupled with a really wet summer, the season seemed to appear and then vanish in the blink of an eye.  2011 saw my first classroom setting fly fishing clinic which I taught along side fly fishing guru Phil Rowley.  I also introduced beginner fly casting lessons this last year and spent many evenings teaching those new to our sport as well as many weekends on the water with my one-on-one introductory stillwater clinics.  I finally put my plan into play to visit the Parklands region of Manitoba last June but things didn't work out quite the way I had hoped. New plans are now being made to make it there in May 2012.  I did manage to make my way back up to Swan Lake after many years and spent some successful days fly fishing the Blackstone River with some great company.  I also spent a few days fishing some of the nice lakes in the Caroline/RMH area, the lakes there are much more scenic than our lakes around the Edmonton area and just as productive.  I hope when you reflect back on 2011, your fly fishing experiences also draw as big a smile on your face as they do on mine.  I'd now like to take this opportunity to thanks all of those who booked with AlbertaStillwaters.Com in 2011, thanks for making us a part of your fly fishing experience.  And I'd also like to wish each and everyone of you reading this, a happy new year and an enjoyable but safe 2012 fly fishing season.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Stillwater Fly Fishing... "it's the most wonderful time of the year".

If there were only two months that I could be out on a stillwater fishery, they would have to be June while the chironomids are presenting themselves throughout the water column in huge numbers and then again in September.  Staples office supplies has focused a lot of their advertising around this time of year with a Chistmas jingle... "it's the most wonderful time of the year".  Of course they are referring to our kids going back to school but I like to think more along the lines of waterboatman and backswimmers.  These air breathing insects are maturing now and becoming more active as they start their migration/mating flights and the trout are starting to key in on them in a big way.

Waterboatman Mottled Shellback
Boatman & backswimmers both need to surface for air.  They trap a bubble of air once they've surfaced and head back down into the water. Boatman are the smaller of the two with a tan or masking tape colored underside and a dark mottled shell back or wing case. A mature boatman usually doesn't get any bigger than a size 12 and patterns using a size 14 hook would be typical.  Water boatman feed under the surface on plant life like algae although some species are carnivorous.  Backswimmers are the larger of the two and have a dark underside with a light, often cream colored wing case with darker markings.  Backswimmers typically hang upside down in the surface film when looking for prey and when it finds it, with lightening speed will attack, then using it's piercing mouth parts, it will suck the juices of it's victim.  Backswimmers will feed on water boatman, snails and other aquatic life forms but be careful, those that incorrectly handle a backswimmer could get a nasty bite similar to that of a bee sting.  Mature backswimmer patterns can be tied up to size 8 but sizes 10 & 12 are typical.  Propulsion of both species come from large oar like legs and are the key ingredient in pattern imitation.

Waterboatman Underside
The observant fly angler will notice these insects constantly rising to the surface then heading back down.  As they use their long legs to descend, an erratic motion will also be seen caused by the boatman or backswimmer fighting the needed air bubble that wants to bob the insect back up to the surface.  Using floating patterns and an erratic retrieve does an excellent job at imitating how the naturals move under the surface.  Sinking lines and especially tradition sink lines will have your patterns working in a "U" shape as your patterns are stripped in.  Most takes will come when the flies are ascending to the surface as trout will follow them up.  Stopping your retrieve and hanging your flies near the surface will often be productive.  On a day that triggers a mass migration/mating flight (usually a very cool night followed by a warm, sunny, autumn day), you may see what looks like little rain drops.  These are the boatman/backswimmers falling from the sky.  If there is enough boatman & backswimmers hitting the water, it will cause a trout feeding frenzy where the trout will stay near to the surface attacking rain drop after rain drop.  The fishing on these days can be unforgettable and simply casting into or near a rise ring will bring instant success. Both waterboatman & backswimmers can dive down to 30ft or more to deposit eggs but shallower water will hold more of these insects.  Try depths of 15ft or less.
If you would like to learn about stillwater fly fishing, book a clinic with me and experience how great this time of year can be.  For more information on my stillwater clinics or casting lessons, visit my stillwater site at www.albertastillwaters.com.

Here are some patterns that have worked well for me, tie up some for yourself and go out and enjoy... "the most wonderful time of the year".

Doc Swimmer

For step-by-step:

Water Docman


HOOK: Dry sizes 16 to 12
BODY: Tan nymph skin
SHELL:  Brown sheet foam
LEGS: Super stretch floss

L.R. Boatman

For step-by-step:

Jennings Ultimate Boatman Video From SFOTF

Tying the ultimate boatman using white body foam and coloring up the top with a dark marker while mottling the bottom of the fly makes a great backswimmer pattern as well.

Monday, 1 August 2011

July 31st, Summer Finally Here?

Another wet month for Alberta and summer, as we are used to, just never seemed to arrive.  The rivers have remained high due to continuous rain, many are still unfishable but some are finally flowing clear and low enough to cast some dries and catch some fish.

Last year around this time, a buddy of mine talked me into fishing the Blackstone with him.  Not being much of a moving water guy, I reluctantly accepted his request and ended up having a fantastic day on the river.  So when the phone rang and Garnet asked if I would be interested in coming down to fish the Eastern Slopes with him, the name Blackstone popped out of my mouth instantly.  After an ok from the better half and a confirmation from Joe that he too would be joining us, plans were made.

After a bit of exploring in Garnet's 4X4, we decided to park and get geared up.  It was close to noon when we decided on a spot to park and hike down to the river.  It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday and the weather report didn't call for any rain.  We really didn't know what to expect when we started heading into the bush from so high up or how we would make our way down to the river but things worked out nicely as we were fortunate to come across a little camp atop a ridge overlooking the river. The camp was surprisingly in good shape featuring a good size fire pit, lots of cut wood, a prep table, an outdoor shower and what we have to believe is a bathroom.  Although we all thought this little camp was quite clever, the fortunate part came while starting down the steep ridge.  As Joe was traversing down he came upon a set of steps that have been carved into the side of the mountain.  The creators of this little camp really did think of everything.

Outdoor Shower

This section of the Blackstone was new to us and a lot more remote than the section we usually fish from the bridge to the gap.  It proved to be a good choice as the cutthroats were very willing to take a drifted fly.  I decided to fish with a foam stimulator as we headed up stream and then switched to a large white and purple popsicle leech to fish on the way back downstream (hoping to hook into a bull), Garnet started with a small mayfly and later switched up to a stimulator and Joe enjoyed experimenting with several different flies and set-ups throughout the day.  Between the three of us, we hooked up with about 60 cutties all between 6 to 18 inches.  What's really sweet about the Blackstone is how close you are to the next great run or pool.  Although we did a lot of walking, we also did a lot of fishing. It was hard to actually decide what pool we would stop at and start to make our way back, the thought of all the great pools to come could get a guy in trouble as time flies by quickly when the fishing is this good.  I think one more trip before the snow flies is in order.  Garnet, you can call me with an invite anytime buddy.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Dog Days Of Summer Special

If you've always wanted to learn how to cast a fly rod or wanted help in figuring out the secrets to stillwater fly fishing, the time is now.  Between July 15 and August 15, take advantage of these great specials at AlbertaStillwaters.Com.  During 'The Dog Days Of Summer' we're offering 2 for 1, two hour fly casting lessons and $50.00 off one-on-one introduction to stillwater fly fishing clinics. Fall fishing, whether you're fishing streams or stillwaters, are known as some of the best fly fishing of the season.  Get ready for fall now and by the time the leaves change color, you'll be practiced up and in prime condition to take full advantage of what autumn has to offer.  Casting lessons take place on the north side of Edmonton and our clinics are just 30 minutes away. For more on beginner casting lessons and our stillwater clinics, visit AlbertaStillwaters.Com now.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Wet June

The month of June was a wet one. I believe the Edmonton region ended up with over 100mm of rain which was great for the our local lakes as we saw water levels rise significantly. It didn't seem to effect most of my clients as they proved to be real sports and showed up for casting lessons and stillwater clinics ready for a wet day. Although Muir Lake is showing signs of improved water levels, due to a partial winterkill, it hasn't been fishing as well as in the past. Gone are those days of 6-8 fish per hour but don't let it dishearten you, there are still some slabs to be found with trout still being caught up to 23 inches and I'm sure there are bigger ones yet.

On June 21st, I took some vacation time and headed up to northern Alberta's Swan Lake. My original plans of hitting the trophy lakes of Manitoba's Parkland Region fell through but I was happy to revisit some old stomping grounds in the Peace River Region.

I got to the lake around noon and set up camp. After pitching my tent I went looking for the pay box and after inquiring about it's location with my neighbors, I was pleasantly surprises to find out the camp sites were free. I had never camped at Swan before, only fished it and the sites aren't many nor are they all that pretty but free works for me. It was a windy first day but by the time evening fell, the wind died down and all was peaceful on this great fishery. That evening on the water saw lots of trout in my net but as with many fishing stories, the big ones got away. I was a little surprised to see the blue-green algae bloom so thick this early in the season, to compensate, I rigged up an olive wooly bugger with a BA Bloodworm on the point fished a foot off the bottom. For algae to flourish, it needs sunlight and plenty of it so it usually won't be found more than 10ft down from the surface. Getting my presentation below the 10ft mark proved to be successful. The two guys camped beside me were also fly fishermen from Edmonton and we spent some time on the water chatting. I helped out one of them in showing some chironomid techniques and then I ended the night fishing caddis dry flies near the boat launch and hooking up with a few risers.
Doc's BA (Big Ass) Bloodworm

Day two was hot, damn hot! I was on the lake early after a couple of campsite-made egg mcmuffins and a couple cups of instant coffee. I did well fishing in the center of the lake this time with a white beadhead Snow Cone chironomid as the dropper and a Red October bloodworm on the point fished in 15ft of water. I did get some 20+ inch trout to the net but again the big one got away and took my bloodworm with it. The algae bloom was thicker today and getting thicker by the minute. By the the time I got off the water at 1pm, the algae was starting to mat on the shore lines. To escape the heat, I took a drive into Valleyview with the air conditioning cranked and picked up some ice for the cooler and some sunblock. When I got back to camp, I decided it was still too hot to fish so I took a nap in the tent. I got back on the water at about 6:30pm and fought a strong wind while I worked my way over to the east side of the lake to find some shelter from the trees. The algae bloom was pretty intense so I looked for water deeper than 10ft. I finally found a spot that was 11ft and dropped my chironomid rig in the water. Success was quick and the trout were big. I got a 22 incher to the net and quite a few just under that mark but also lost a few bigger ones. The action finally slowed down near sunset so I drifted with the strong wind casting a black bead head wooly bugger on a clear intermediate sinking line. I landed another four on the way back to the launch.

Day three was not as much fun. I drove out to East Dollar hoping to hook into a few browns but the weather was not cooperating. After I set up the pontoon I got about a half hour worth of fishing in before the lightening forced me off. In that short time, I had to switch from a chironomid rig to a wooly bugger as the stockers wouldn't leave my chironomids alone. They wouldn't even let the flies sink before attacking them. Once off the water, I waited in my car for the thunderstorm to roll over. Two hours later I got back out on the water and again it was stocker after stocker. The action didn't last long however as the lightening was back and I left for cover again. After the heavy downpour was done I walked up to the highway to take a look at what was coming next. It appeared the thunderstorms were stacked up one after another with some very low cloud formations. Not quite funnel clouds but could have easily manifested into one with the rotation I could see in these storms. I decided I would head back to Swan and hopefully some better weather. After packing up and heading out onto the highway, I searched for a weather report on the radio and finally found one. A rainfall advisory for the Peace River Region including Valleyview and Grand Prairie. Great! As I got closer to Valleyview I could still see lightening but the cloud formations couldn't be made out anymore, it was just grey and dark with heavy monsoon type rains. It was so dark, the street lights were on when I entered Valleyview. I finally got back to Swan, not easy on those dirt roads and I thought I might end up in the ditch a few times as the car got pulled left and right with the soft, wet gravel. Once back at Swan, I sat in my car for a few minutes, staring at my soaked tent while the rain pounded down and I made my decision. I packed everything up as quickly as I could and got my wet butt out of there. They ended up with 70mm of rain in two days, kinda makes our 100mm for the month of June look like a sprinkle don't it?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

1st Stillwater Trip In '11

Another season underway.  Spring came late to Alberta this year and I've been just as anxious to wet a line as my clients.  2011 is the first year I've offered beginner casting lessons and the response has been overwhelming with so many e-mails and phone calls.  In the two weeks we've been open this season, I've managed several clients for lessons as well as the introduction to stillwater fly fishing clinics, all while still working my full time job.  The wind hasn't been any help what so ever with many days of wind gusts to 100km/hr but luckily we've only had to alter the one clinic to a half day with the on the water stuff coming up on June 5th.  I just hope the wind has showed the majority of it's temper for this season.  If you or someone you know maybe interested in a stillwater clinic or beginner casting lessons, drop me an e-mail at mike@albertastillwaters.com.

Working with clients on their casting had really given me the itch to get out on the water and do some casting of my own.  I had gotten out once this May to Salters Lake but the majority of the lake was still iced over so I'm not counting that one.  My good buddy Joe (Jokey) and I headed out to Millers Lake on May 16th in hopes to get into some football shaped rainbows and maybe even hook into the odd brown that's known to be cruising around the lake.  I watched the weather reports closely as once again the winds were wreaking havoc in Alberta.  After some careful consideration of where we could stand a few hours of hurricane like winds with some possible shelter, we decided on Millers lake near Edson.  The weather report for Edson stated; winds of 20km/hr gusting to 40 which was far better than what we could find in other areas relatively close to Edmonton.  It was a pleasant surprise when we reached the lake and had to fight a stiff breeze at best.  It did get a little windier later on in the day but I don't think the wind got stronger that 20km/hr the whole time we were on the lake.

Once on the water Joe headed into the shallows and picked up a few stockers while I headed straight to the drop-off at the south shoal.  After some time Joe made his way over to my location and and anchored down about 40ft from me.  We both hooked into a few but after about 10 mins I noticed Joe was hooking up on almost every other cast.  After we realized we both were fishing the same flies, I switched over to a leach dropper with a bloodworm on the point.  While I had no success, Joe continued hooking up.  I then changed back to my original set up of a chironomid pupa as the dropper and leaving the blood worm on the point. I started hooking up again but nothing like what Joe had been doing.  After some verbal abuse from Joe, he convinced me to move closer and start casting into his water.  So I did. First cast, fish on.  It appears Joe found a feeding lane right near the drop off.  I should have poached his water a lot sooner.  We never did hook into any browns but those little footballs fought very well. Final count, Joe 24 - Mike 13.  All trout were between 14 and 18 inches.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Catch 22

The last seven years in Alberta or at least in north-central Alberta had see very little precipitation.  Water levels were the lowest I've seen on most of our stillwater fisheries with water tables getting lower each year.  The spring of 2010 saw some much needed rain that appeared to halt the lowering water tables but was really just a drop of water in the proverbial bucket. Predictions for the 2010/2011 winter were optimistic as they called for a lot of snow.  The predictions were correct as a lot of snow is exactly what we got.  Although we'll most likely need another three or four winters like this year to get our water levels back up to where they were, it's sure to help but comes at a price. That same snow we needed so bad to help our fisheries has also been a detriment at the same time.  A catch 22 if you will.  All that snow has caused winter kill issues on many of our shallower lakes with reports coming in of dead fish being seen on the bottom of these lakes.  Even Muir Lake which is aerated throughout the winter months was not safe from this snowfall as oxygen levels tests in early 2011 showed low levels.   The last O2 tests showed an increase in oxygen and is now out of danger, let's just hope the trout made it through those tough times.

From Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Homepage:
Edmonton... The long winter with cold temperatures and heavy snowfall may cause low oxygen levels and winter kills of fish, especially in shallow lakes. Albertans can assist the government’s monitoring of fish populations by reporting any fish kills seen on lakes after spring break-up.

Many small, shallow lakes in Alberta, whether they contain native fish or stocked trout, can suffer winter kills. Thicker ice and above average snowfall minimize light penetration, reducing aquatic plant activity, which is a source of new oxygen in winter. In shallow lakes, the combination of decomposing plants using oxygen and a long winter can also result in low oxygen levels. Larger, deeper lakes may be able to better sustain the oxygen levels necessary for fish survival over winter.

Fish and wildlife staff have been monitoring oxygen levels on selected lakes in the province. They will continue to monitor fish populations and make adjustments as necessary. Albertans are encouraged to contact Fish and Wildlife offices of Sustainable Resource Development, if they see dead fish after spring ice break-up. Phone 310-0000 (toll-free within Alberta) to contact the nearest office.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Taking One For The Team

Check out this true story of two Alberta fly guys who take one for the team and end up in court.  With a little help from a F&W officer, they use the high water mark rule to win their case in court.  Check out "Truth Prevailed" from the guys at For The Fly.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Floating Lines & Stillwaters

Floating lines are by far the most popular fly lines amongst steam fly anglers. They are such a versatile tool when fishing moving waters, allowing anglers to fish dry flies, streamers or nymphs. But are you aware of just how versatile these lines are when fishing stillwaters?
Crossing over from fly fishing streams to stillwaters can look intimidating. Although the techniques used for stillwaters are not exactly the same, it isn’t quite as problematic as it may appear.  [read more...]

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Introduction To Fly Fishing Seminar/Clinic

Back in November, I was approached by Camp Van-ES located just East of Sherwood Park in regards to a classroom style introduction to fly fishing clinic/seminar.  Since I specialize in one-on-one stillwater clinics and have little experience teaching clinics in a classroom setting, I called up my buddy Phil who has a vasts amount of experience in these settings and we soon worked out a seminar featuring the two of us.  The clinic is geared towards those brand new to fly fishing and will include basics for both stillwater fly fishing and river fly fishing.  We originally had geared the clinic to 20 students and as of today have signed up 19.  We are able to fit in another six students for a maximum number of 25 so if you or someone you know is thinking of getting into fly fishing or maybe you have a fly rod sitting in you garage and have always wanted to know how to use it, give Camp Van-Es a call at (780)796-3066 and take advantage of this opportunity. The following is the course outline.

Introduction To Fly Fishing Seminar/Clinic

 Saturday April 2, 2011 9am-4:30pm

Presenters:  Phil Rowley and Mike Monteith

Course Agenda:

9:00-9:15 Introduction and Opening including gathering class 
expectations and agenda review

9:15-10:15 Fly Rods, Equipment & Casting Basics

10:15-10:30 Coffee Break

10:30-12:00 Hands on Casting Instruction

12:00-1:00 Lunch (Served on site)

1:00-2:00 Terminal Basics (Understanding leaders and essential
Knots for Fly Fishing-Hands On)

2:00-2:15 Coffee Break

2:15-3:15 Entomology 101

3:15-4:45 River Fishing 101

4:45-4:15 Lake Fishing 101

4:15-4:30 Conservation review, how to handle fish, conclusion
and wrap-up

Only 6 spaces left. All students will receive instructional booklets to keep and will learn on Sage fly rods. Clinic includes coffee, donuts and lunch.

Located just 15 min south-east of Sherwook Park. To Register call (780)796-3066 or email van-escamp@shaw.ca . Camp Van-Es Business Manager Bonnie Hauch.
Cost per person $75.00, cheque made payable to Camp Van-Es.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Fly Fishing Central Podcast

Fly Fishing Central editor Paul Schmur and I made our way down to Calgary last Sunday for the Western Canadian Fly Fishing Expo.  Paul was interested in meeting some of the contributors to our site face to face and introduce himself to others that we may be working with in the future. I had made arrangements to do a podcast with Phil Rowley but before the podcast, we visited a few of the booths and took notice of some featured products.  I've never tied a tube fly before and honestly never gave them much thought but after visiting the Superfly booth, I think there might be some pike that will be quite upset this spring.  Spey rods don't really have any place in my future plans but I found the casting demonstration to be both interesting and educational.  I was also impressed with the Rite Bobbin, it gives the fly tier the ability to perform a hatch hitch and a whip finish with the bobbin itself. And of course saying hi to old buddies like Bill Robertson from the fishin' hole is always fun.  As I had already stated, the main reason for going to the show was to record our first Fly Fishing Central podcast.  This will be one of many podcasts to come and we kicked it off with stillwater expert and good friend Phil Rowley.  Take a listen to the podcast here. [Phil Rowley Podcast].

Friday, 21 January 2011

Traditional Sink Lines

The traditional sink line, also known as a standard sink line, forms a belly in the line as it sinks leaving the thinner tip section of line higher up in the water column. These older style lines have, for the most part, been replaced with uniform lines but can still be found and still perform extremely well in certain situations. I have to admit, when I reach for a sinking line, I’ll put on a uniform line 90% of time but there are still situations when the traditional sink line is exactly what is needed. [read more...]

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Stillwater Retrieves

The retrieve when fishing stillwaters should, for the most part, imitate the natural movement of the flies you’re fishing. Making your flies behave in a life-like manner is an important aspect of fly fishing and even though you may find at times a retrieve that in no way mimics the naturals seen in the water may induce a strike, concentrating your efforts to closely resemble the speed and swimming motion of the naturals [read more...]

Monday, 3 January 2011

Gettin' Our Fix

My good buddy Joe and I headed down to the Bow River a few days after Christmas.  We checked the weather in Calgary and it looked like it would be manageable.  I'm sure it never got over the freezing mark as I was removing ice build up on my rod guides the entire day but as long as the sun stayed out we were pretty comfortable.  When we first arrived there was another fly guy already in the run we wanted to fish chuckin' a nymphing rig with a big indicator (same thing we planned on doing) so small talk was made and we eventually asked him if he wouldn't mind us jumping into his run.  He said he was moving on anyway so no problem, we thanked him and watched him disappear down stream.  The fishing was less than stellar, I've had way better December days on the Bow than this day and only managed to net one Rainbow and one Brown.  Joe?  Well even worse for him.  Petty sure he landed a few sticks (gotta get my jabs in where I can) and even had a couple of hits but nothing to the net.  I'm really ok with how the day went, we got our fix and shook off the shack nasties.  I'll be honest with you, I am 'not' one of those guys that are ok with catching nothing but on this particular day in December I can honestly say...it was nice just being out in the water.

Photo by Joe Belehorec

Here's another article I wrote for Fly Fishing Central about hanging flies under indicators.

When stillwater fly fishing, hanging chironomid patterns under an indicator is one of the most popular if not highly preferred methods of fishing a midge. This technique works whether fishing the larval or pupa stag of the chironomid although the pupa gets far more attention because of it’s slow assent to the surface and availability throughout the water column. For fisheries that allow using two or more flies, your options open up which can lead to improved success. When searching for the strike zone, a multi-fly system can both speed up your search by targeting different depths on the same rig and using various colors of patterns can more quickly determine color preference by selective trout. Another window that opens up [read more...]