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.