Post Christmas Synopsis

Christmas has come and gone once again.  It seems like it arrives suddenly and is gone all too quickly.

 

This year was special in that there was a new elf in town.  Liam stole the show as he should. The future looks bright for fishing companions.  Perhaps a little young for his first fly rod but it won’t be long.

 

Speaking of fishing there was little to report on the gift front but that is fine.  The one item I had requested was a river knife.  And I was rewarded with an NRS Pilot which will provide a measure of safety on the water. It’s not that I have experienced frequent need for a knife of this sort but emergencies to arise.

 

The knife is sturdy, has a flat tip (always an important consideration around pontoon boats and float tubes) and comes with a rugged sheath.

Goodbye to A Friend

Last week a good friend succumbed to cancer. Though there was nothing formal Brian was an important fly fishing mentor to me. I met him a number of years ago not long after we had moved to Ottawa. I was relatively new to fly fishing and knew even less about local fishing spots.

 

I think we first met at a Trout Unlimited meeting. I listened as the guys there – none of whom I knew talked about fly fishing in the area. I tried to make as many mental notess as possible hoping to capture names of a few hot spots, techniques and whatever other bits of information they shared.

 

I don’t remember how Brian and I connected as a result of that meeting but the upshot was he invited me to fish with him and also introduced me to the local fly fishing club.

 

Those were the true beginnings of my entry into the world of fly fishing.

 

Last year while working in Japan Brian began to have some serious health issues and was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was not good.

 

After what I am sure were difficult deliberations Brian and Ryoko decided to return to Canada for treatment and his final days.

 

Brian arrived in spring and although the cancer was taking a toll in his physical well being his fishing buddies were glad he felt up to joining us for our spring trip to Kenauk. On this trip most of us fish from float tubes so none of us, including Brian were sure how much fishing he would manage.  As it turned out he did pretty well.  The two of us drove up together and headed to a lake where we thought everyone was gathering before we checked into our cabin at Lac Sugarbush.  For what ever reason the plan had changed unbeknownst to us so Brian and I fished alone.  We had a great afternoon catching plenty of feisty rainbows.

 

Following a great start on Sunday, we had a couple days of pretty tough fishing conditions, too much good food and lots of talks and laughs. As usual Brian was full of opinions especially as we anticipated the results of the federal election.

 

Check out was Wednesday morning and different options were discussed as to how people wanted to fish the last few hours. Brian and I decided to try our luck at a brook trout lake that was on the way out of the preserve where we were fishing.

 

We got there to cold and light rain but decided to go for it anyway. From the put in Brian worked one side of the lake while I worked the other. It wasn’t long before I heard his firm “Fish on!”. And it continued for both of us for a couple hours before the cold and rain began to take its toll. I don’t have any photos of Brian catching his favourite square tails but he mentioned several times it was a highlight of the trip.

 

Through the summer it was clear from his weight loss that Brian’s condition was deteriorating. We managed to get out fishing a few more times but when I asked him about another trip in mid October to a local trout-stocked quarry it just wasn’t possible. Shortly after he landed in intensive care and then a hospice.

 

This week the battle came to an end. So I say goodbye to a fine fisherman and a good friend. Tight lines Brian.

 

Fall Colors

The fishing season is coming to an end up here but the transition through autumn is pretty spectacular.

On Canadian Thanksgiving Donna and I headed out for a drive. Strangely we happened to pass by some of my favorite fishing spots. These shots were taken along the Mississippi River (the Canadian version). Besides the great view, it is an excellent spot to fish for smallmouth bass.

Check out other fall color posts at Outdoor Blogger Network

A Week Late and …..

Work has taken me to Iqaluit, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic.  I took a short walk this afternoon to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park just outside town.  Here is the river by the same name.  Apparently it is a great place to fish for Arctic char.  But I am a little late.  Winter comes early and quickly.  Last week most of this ice was not here.  Maybe next time…

Thanksgiving Fishing

I am thankful for the opportunities I have to fish.

Its Canadian thanksgiving this weekend. We start early because winter comes much sooner than it does for those of you south of the board. But aside from the fact that the leaves are turning color and falling off the trees, today seemed more like a summer day. So I jumped at the opportunity to go fishing for a few hours.

With limited time, I headed to a nearby pond that is stocked annually with rainbow trout. It is pretty accessible so I wasn’t sure what to expect since I hadn’t been there for a year.

I rigged up with a clear intermediate line and a small streamer and after an initial run of rock bass, I was able to confirm there were still trout in the pond. I always find it interesting how different species and even strains within a species behave so differently. The rock bass hoover the fly in and then leave their mouths wide open while one hauls them in – like a small wind sock, giving the impression they are bigger than they are. The rainbow trout were not particularly aggressive in their take but once hooked they shook their heads mightily and were frequently successful in slipping the barbless hook.

Most of the trout were in the 12 inch range although a couple taped out at 15 inches.

At one point I decided to try a few underwater shots. This is not particularly easy when one is in a float tube, is working the fish to the tube with one hand and is trying to keep from dropping the camera with the other. This is the best of a bad bunch. If you look, you can see a trout in the distance. Clearly I need more practice!

Through the afternoon the takes came frequently until about 4 in the afternoon when things died down. Nothing big was caught but it was still a fine afternoon of fishing.

Manitoba Parkland Fly Fishing

Our week of fishing in the Manitoba Parkland is a fading memory.

 

A trip that began as an idea almost a year ago proved to be a fantastic week of hard but rewarding fishing.  The Manitoba Parkland is home to a number of lakes that boast a variety of trout species.  Through the dedicated efforts of local enthusiasts formalized in a program called Fish and Lake Improvement Program for the Parkland Region (FLIPPR) these fertile lakes now are home to trout that grow to double digits.  The big three are rainbow, brown and tiger trout (a hybrid offspring of brook and brown trout).

 

A conversation with a couple friends last fall helped to fuel my interest in a possible trip to the Parkland.  For various reasons the timing that worked best was this past September so the lead up was mostly spent learning and imagining.  Initially our approach was to be a DIY trip that involved flying to Winnipeg, renting a car and arranging accommodations in a local town.  In late winter we learned that Phil Rowley would be organizing and hosting a fall trip so we decided to take advantage of his knowledge of stillwater fishing and numerous previous trips to the Parkland.  The trip was planned for September 19-23 but in the end we extended a couple extra days.

 

Despite benefiting from having Phil and his partner Robert Vanderwater carry the logistical load, the last few weeks were still a scramble.  Rumours of trout that routinely broke off 2x tippet left my office strewn with tying material as I worked to ensure my fly boxes had ample redundancy.

 

George, Wade and I arrived at Arrow Lake Lodge via Winnipeg around 7pm.  This was going to be our home for the next five nights.  We were met by Phil, Robert and nine other members of our fishing party.  After brief introductions and dinner we were given an overview of the lakes we would be fishing, some techniques and plenty of fish pictures to wet our appetite.

 

The first lake on the schedule was Patterson.  We woke Tuesday morning to a cool, overcast and windy day – not exactly what had been forecast a week earlier.  Despite that, we were all anxious to hit the water and after a quick breakfast and preparation of lunches we were off to Paterson.  By the time we got there the wind was howling.

Patterson Lake has lots of accessible fishing but the wind made it hard going in float tubes.  Despite the wind George had a hit almost immediately after we launched.  He hooked into a chunky rainbow along the reeds but after a couple jumps it shook his barbless hook. But it was a good start but unfortunately not a harbinger of more fish.  While some fish were caught by our crew,  they were few and far between and by the end of the day the count was pretty slim.  So not the start we had expected but that didn’t diminish our optimism for the next day.

 

Wednesday fishing was to be at Pybus Lake about half an hour from the lodge but when we got there the wind was howling and we decided that it was not the place to spend the day.  We back tracked to Tokaryk Lake where the conditions were slightly better.  The fishing improved somewhat.  I only managed one fish but it was a very nice rainbow so I was pleased – at least I wasn’t shut out.

The plan for Thursday was to fish Twin Lakes in the western part of the Parkland.  This was the tiger trout lake and we were anticipating numerous, agressive fish and some large ones.   We were on the water around 8:30 and amazingly enough – there was no wind.  Fortunately it was more manageable.  In addition to our crew there were several other people fishing the lake but despite that, there was lots of room.  And people were catching fish.  The morning catches were not large but it was great to catch fish that displayed the unique markings of the tiger trout.

Twin Lakes gets its name from its shape.  There is a main large body of water and a smaller body connected by a narrow channel.  After a break for lunch I decided to make my way into the smaller bay in search of calm water.

 

I found calm and eventually fish.  Wade, Pauline and Barry were fishing the bay when I got there.  Pauline had managed a couple good sized tigers and later in the afternoon Wade started to get into fish including a very nice tiger.  Shortly after he released his, I had a hit from what felt like a decent fish.  Its runs were not long but it fought doggedly and several times when I had worked it to the surface thinking it was time to bring out the next, the fish headed back down to the bottom for more fight.  Eventually it was played out enough to consider the net.  Despite having a relatively large basked it was a challenge to get the tiger trout into the net.  Everything held and I had a nice male tiger trout in the net.

We decided to give Patterson Lake another shot on Friday.  What a change in conditions.  From wind and rain to calm and sun!  We were on the water earlier than the previous days and I managed a couple nice trout in the 15 inch range within the first hour.

 

From there the catching slowed down and went completely dead in the afternoon to the point I decided to go ashore to get out of the heat.

 

By around five it was time to head out again.  George and I decided to fish the south bay while Wade headed north in search of brown trout.  As it turned out George and I had better luck.

 

I decided to go with an I’ve wooly bugger on a floating line and medium sink poly leader and headed into the bay just south of the launch. Shortly after setting out I got a solid hit but missed the hookup. That was followed by another a few minutes later. This time the hook set and the fight was on. This was a big fish. It didn’t try to run but instead kept trying to head for the bottom. George was close by and recognizing this was a big fish offered to come over to get a photo. Eventually I was able to work it to the surface revealing a large male brown trout. He was still full of fight but after a couple more dives it looked like it was possible to net him. Next challenge was actually getting him in the net. The basked on my net is large but he was larger. A couple attempts failed nut amazingly the hook held. On the third try I managed to corral him. While I fumbled with him George grabbed a couple shots and I let him go.

Hooking a large trout quickly restored our enthusiasm which was rewarded by another brown caught casting streamers in close to the reeds and stripping them back into deeper water.  I landed another nice brown, Cam joined us in the south bay and managed to tie into a nice rainbow and on our way back to the put in, George landed a nice rainbow.

It was difficult to call it an evening with the fishing finally turning on but the next morning was checkout and we needed to get back.

 

While most people headed home on Saturday morning George, Wade and I had a bit more time to fish so we headed back to Pybus in search of the rumored trophy fish.  After a few hours of fishing George and I were shut out but Wade had hooked into a couple and managed to land one rainbow he estimated to be over 10 pounds.

 

That marked the end to a great week of fishing.  The conditions were challenging at times but the results in terms of large fish caught was more than enough to wet the appetite for a return trip.

 

 

 

To Switch of Not?

After some deliberation, research, dawdling or whatever I have entered into the world of two handed casting. I have been intrigued by the technique for some time but initially thought it really wasn’t a technique I needed to learn give the style of fishing I most commonly participated in.

I will have to say that the process of researching two handed casting, the equipment, line setup, etc. has been an interesting process.  My experience – lots of disparate information but hard to put together coherently to make a decision about equipment configuration.  I will say that I have found Deneki Outdoors blog to be of considerable help.  They have compiled tons of posts about various aspects of two handed casting.  Andrew Bennett just posted his 1000th blog post so you have to do a bit of digging but they have lots of good stuff.  Andy Larkin’s FlyBlaster Blog also has some posts about two handed technique that I found useful.

The Switch Rod

Based on what I had read and my understanding of how it applied to the type of fishing I do, I started leading towards switch as opposed to full spey rods.  So earlier this summer I bit the bullet and purchased a TFO Deer Creek switch rod.  I purchased a 7wt 11′ model with larger trout, steelhead and larger bass.  While my searching pointed to a variety of rods with favourable reviews, I settled on the TFO partly because of reviews but also because my experience is TFO gives good value for money and customer support.  It didn’t hurt that I was able to pick it up on sale for an even better price.

Next Comes the Line

I am still trying to sort out this line business – Skandi, Skagit, spey, full belly spey…. there are probably more.  A bit mind boggling if you ask me.  Trying to figure out what was best for my circumstances was not easy.  In the end I settled on a RIO Switch line.  It is a floating line with a 55 foot shooting head and from what I read, seemed to provide the kind of versatility I thought I would need.  Read – thought!  I suspect there will be more lines in the future.

Leaders

I am still trying to sort this out. I have purchased a small collection of RIO VersiLeaders (10 foot length) and Orvis PolyLeaders (7 foot) with varying sink rates.  I have these in mind for fishing both moving and still water.  We’ll see how this goes.

So that is the basic equipment – I think.  Next on to casting.

Two Handed Casting

My comment is that while there is lots of discussion on the internet about different casts, it is hard to find clear and through descriptions (or video examples) of the various casts.  They may be there but I haven’t found them in a single convenient spot.  I guess my experience probably points to the need for personal teaching.

Ever Fished a Switch Rod from a Float Tube?

Because of where I live, I do a lot of lot of still water fishing for both trout and bass.  I use a float tube for much of this fishing so as part of the two handed casing consideration.  My experience suggested that a longer rod would benefit casting when one is sitting so low to the water.  On the other hand bits and pieces I red suggested the length would make it difficult to land a fish.  I haven’t found much discussion about two handed casting from a float tube.

My Experience So Far

I have had my switch rod out about half a dozen times so far including a couple ventures with the float tube.  My experience to date:

  • I can see the benefits of two handed casting
  • My casting (what ever specific cast I am using) is pretty inconsistent but when I do what I think I am supposed to do, it works well
  • Casting from a float tube works – both using two hands and when quickly recasting with a single overhand cast
  • Landing fish (including bass to 5 pounds is not too difficult

I know there is much more to learn and I expect I will work my way through it on my own or with the help of others.  Hopefully I will have more updates in the future.

Tuesday was a Good Day

I took a day off on Tuesday to go fishing with Wade and Bob. We headed up to a lake in Quebec noted for its large bass – both largemouth and smallmouth. It is a small lake with structure suitable for bass. It was a perfect day weather wise – warm but not hot, high cloud and no wind.

The morning started off with a few smaller bass before I worked my float tube along the shore to a clump of dead fall trees where the action really started. The first indication of some serious fish came with a hit from a fish I guess to be around 10 inches in length. As we tugged back and forth I noticed a much larger bass come alongside my hooked fish, either trying to figure out what was going on or looking for a food opportunity. I worked as quickly as possible to get the smaller fish alongside and release him. Then it was back to the woodpile.

I don’t think it was the larger fish from the previous encounter but I was soon had a solid hit from a fish that immediately put a strain on my 7wt rod as I put as much pressure on it to keep the fish away from the branches. Eventually I worked him to the float tube, took a couple quick pictures and released him.

This was encouraging and it continued as I was able to hook into half a dozen fish from the same general area. Most were in the 2-3 pound range with one probably closer to 4 pounds.

By the end of the day I probably caught 5 or 6 largemouth in the 3-4 pound range and many more between two and three pounds. There were larger fish to be had but they were usually down deep. I was using my switch road and at the moment only have a floating line so was somewhat limited. Wade and Bob caught several larger fish including one Bob estimated in the 7-8 pound range.

For most of the day I was using variations on a black woolly bugger. I had most of my luck with ones that included a pearlescent chenille body.

It was a lot of fun to cast around dead fall for aggressive bass. It was a challenge to keep them from diving back into the debris. The switch road was very helpful for that. Overall, using the switch rod from a float tube is working out pretty well.

Murphys Point Largemouth

This past Monday was a civic holiday here so Brian, Todd and I headed out to Murphys Point in search of largemouth bass . I didn’t keep track of the temperature but it must have been close to 30C. It was a sunscreen type of day – which I actually remembered to apply before heading out on the water.

First stop (actually the second after meeting Todd and Timmies) was the the Murphys Point Park gate to pay our daily access fee. We were on the water by 10 and already it was warm.

The lake we headed for has a reputation for nice sized largemouth bass so I decided to go with the new 7wt switch rod. This was only my second time out with a two handed rod and it was going to be from my float tube. It promised to be interesting but just in case, I had a spare rod in the car. It didn’t take long to find fish although they were not exactly in keeping with the backbone of the 7wt. The first fish were overachieving bluegills and perch.

As we worked our way along the shore Todd started finding largemouth intermixed with the panfish.

We all managed a few before stopping for lunch. After lunch the fishing slowed although we manage to hook into a few more including one Brian estimated at close to 4 pounds that he lured with a surface popper!

Despite the bright sunshine, the fishing was good.  Good enough to warrant a return trip.

Wednesday Night Fishing

I finally managed to join the OFS weeknight fishing group. Tonight we met at Hog’s Back Falls along the Rideau River – my first time fishing this spot. There are several pools and riffles below the falls.

It was warm and humid and I was sweating by the time I got down to the river. I guess my slip and subsequent filling of the waders was a way to cool off but it didn’t help much.

This was my first real test of the Korker rubber soles on rocks. The rocks were a bit slippery but not seriously so. However it was more than the rubber soles could handle. I will have to switch to the studded soles and see how that works.

As far as fishing was concerned, I caught a number of smaller bass and several fall fish. Todd did pretty well pulling in a couple good sized bass and four walleye.

Nice night out.