parameters…

When you head out to a river for a day or evening of angling you often have a set of parameters that you operate by. For some people these criterion are broad. For some they are very narrow. The longer you’ve been at something like fly fishing, or any other pursuit, the more you have probably refined the way you practice it; the way you go about it; the path you chose to take. Over time you focus more intensely on some things and discard much of the rest.

Here are some fine trout fooled with small dry flies: mostly ants, beetles and pmd’s in contrasting landscapes and rivers. Some wide flat flows in open austere terrain and smaller clear ones in a treed mountainous landscape. Trout, from the Plains to the Rockies…

irresponsible ranching
brown trout
same brown
rainbow
golden retriever hair pmd
cutthroat stream
cutthroat
clear water
cutthroat
cutt
pmd box
some color

small flies

Cooler air and water lately and improved flows with some rain. Mornings chilly. Afternoons really perfect. The wind has been in check. Fewer people around. I’ve been on some creeks and a wider river. A great time to hunt for rising trout in the slower sections. Some found. My success has been with small stuff: cinnamon ants, a hacklestacker pmd pattern, some emergers and most importantly a lucky hat…

lucky hat this week




hacklestacker fly
ant pattern
flat water

Mid August

Due to the drought and intense heat, local reservoirs have dropped significantly. Agricultural irrigation (the aqueduct system) is the priority not main stem stream flows. Low reservoirs mean whatever is released to the rivers now often contains silt which of course affects sight fishing and fishing in general. Two of the three tailwater rivers I fish have been affected.

The good news is we just had a solid 24 hours of rain and lower temperatures. There is even some snow in the high peaks.The intense smoke is gone at least for now.

I’ve been walking a variety of rivers (contrasting water and terrain) and spotting some rising trout….they have been selective, especially on tailwaters…

Cutt Creek

I was told:

“Go try this creek. Take this dirt road then the turn off which is a bumpy smaller dirt road. Follow it for awhile. Eventually you’ll reach this very noticeable road marker. Park there and drop down the steep incline to the creek. Leave a colorful visible ribbon or tape creek side. Then hike back up to your car and take this nearby trail which will eventually take you way downstream. Then spend the afternoon fishing up to your visible marker and hike back out to your car. ”

The creek fishing was as good as it gets: crystal clear water, thick strong Cutthroats and some Cuttbows, character water and solitude.

My source… a wellspring of angling knowledge and always “spot on”.

Visitors

Some friends recently showed up in town. They drove a dusty campervan and a truck camper. After a brief pit stop on main street for supplies and several cinnamon buns and strong coffee, they went up into the mountains in pursuit of cutthroats. Town folk breathed a sigh of relief when they headed to the smokey high country. Up along the Continental Divide the visitors threw tight loops all day and wrangled with some beefy cutts and rainbows in the emerald rivers. Their ammo: foam terrestrials and pale morning duns. They showed no mercy. All caught. Then after a week they holstered their fast action bug launchers and just as quickly as they arrived, they left. A dusty trail was seen heading east…

emerald

emergers

The heat is back on. The smoke is also back. No rain. No moisture. Things crackle when you walk riverside. The sky is an eerie orange at sun set. I’m casting small stuff on the tailwaters I fish. Big flies are generally being ignored. The trout are selective. I have been tying small emergers, size 16 and 18: A shuck of Antron or CDC at the tail; some wire ribbing over thread body for weight to break the surface; dubbing on thorax region; a white or black polypropylene wing at the head for flotation and most importantly visibility. I wet/saliva the shuck before casting. Here are some photos from my last few outings. Trout taken on the emergers.

emerger that fooled rainbow
rainbow
smoke blocking sun
same rainbow
photo by Bruce Johnson
cuttbow

early outing

Went to my favorite river real early. Slightly cooler lately. Cool in the mornings. Felt there was opportunity. So I did the long drive. Fog was mixed in with smoke. A large coffee helped me get there. It kept me on watch for roadside deer in the low light. Water temperatures were good in the river flow; marginal in the shallows. Water levels were the lowest I’ve ever seen. A lot of standing water. A lot of mosquitos. The sun came out when I arrived. I figured I’d give it a few hours and then leave and fish another river on the way home. In SW Alberta you always have angling options. A fellow from B.C. arrived right after me. No other anglers were around. He parked his vehicle one pool upstream from me and started fishing it and then worked his way further up. Hmm….

I carefully walked the long pool I was on from the tail to the head. There were some smaller fish at the bottom end rising. I watched them and figured things were going to heat up fast (air and water temperature) so I decided to focus and search for a good one. The light was good for spotting. At the head of the pool, just on the edge of the flow, I saw a good trout. It was moving around (feeding); nosing into the shallows with a decent flow; working its way right to top of the pool with the best flow (oxygenated water and food) and then cycling back. Several times I lost sight of the trout due to its movements from the shallows to deeper water and when moving over darker bottom sections.

rainbow

The fish ignored a small hopper. Maybe it didn’t see it. A few casts later it took a black beetle. A lot of splashing when I finally landed it. My camera lens got soaked so many blurry pictures but I think it made the fishing net photo even more intriguing. One pool, one fish, a couple of hours and then it was time to go. The fellow from B.C. had left before me.

small beetle fly
same rainbow

Cuttbow

A bank feeding trout. An impressive one. Spotted last week rising to a sparse hatch of Golden Stoneflies and other insects. It ate my offering then but no hook up. I returned this week to the same location hoping it would be there and watched the water under a heavy smoke filled sky. Hundreds of fires are burning west and south west of here. We need rain. A lot of it.

While stalking the trout a few angling boats drifted by. I protected my spot and pretended to watch the bank downstream of me instead of upstream where the fish had been. River traffic has increased the past few years. Sometimes you have to deceive other anglers while trying to deceive a trout. It’s getting tricky out there. A few days ago a Drone flew over my head.

The trout made an appearance mid day when the river started to liven up. It ignored the smaller insects but broke the surface for the mid-sized and larger ones. This time I made a connection. The large stone fly impression held when the fish went downstream through a series of fast riffles with me and a retriever in pursuit. A long 13 foot knotted leader and a steep embankment made landing it challenging. Seconds before netting it I had to grab my leader mid-way to guide the trout to within reach. It’s an angling move that can often result in a lost fish. I had no other option. I got lucky…

river thermometer

I’ve been waiting for a break in the hot weather. The last few days have been somewhat cooler. Somewhat. So I got up early and made the long drive to my favorite river on the Plains. I’ve been avoiding it due to the intense heat and waiting for an opportunity. When I arrived I checked the temperature in the main flow. It was fairly cold. In the shallows it was passable. A kid was standing mid river smiling and casting frenetically. I saw no rises. He said he had the whole day to fish.

I can’t remember a past season where I used my river thermometer as much as I have been. It seems I’m checking water temperatures several times a day. And I’m watching river levels and flows, the 7 day weather forecast and the 14 day forecast at night on the internet. I feel more like a Weatherman, than an angler. And it’s only July 6th, the start of the summertime angling season. Prime time. The best the year has to offer. I can’t imagine what temperatures are going to be like in mid August. Fires are already burning in British Columbia. Smoke could be on the way as I write.

I walked several pools I know well and carefully watched the water. Nothing. I waited until lunch for a hatch. Nothing. The air temperature started climbing. The river pelicans landed and hunkered down.

I decided to venture to a different stretch of the river and hiked back to my car. The kid was still on the same pool smiling and casting away at the same pace. As before I saw no rises.

At the new location I checked a long straight bank where I missed a great fish late last season. I looked it over from high above. The lighting was good for spotting. The trout was there. It was also rising occasionally to small minuscule, invisible stuff. I dropped down and checked the river temperature once again with my thermometer. It was still good.

The trout refused my first offering, a size 14/16 ant. Absolutely no interest. Then a tried a size 18/16 PMD dry fly with some segmented wire wraps on the slim body to make it sit low (in the water). I think any fly the right size and sitting low would have worked. When I finally got the fly on target the fish ate. Luckily the small fly held and I landed it. A wonderful trout. With that I decided to call it a day.

I looked over the river and thought that with the heat I might not get back to it until mid to late September. I pointed my car towards the mountains and drove home windows open thinking about the kid casting away, about how the tiny hook held on a great trout, and about the river I was just on. My favorite one. It could be the best sight-fishing trout river in North America (that you can drive to) if water (reservoir) management slightly increased the flow throughout the summertime, and if ranchers kept their cattle out of the water. On the Plains ranching and farm irrigation take priority over trout and other things but that’s an old story.

POSTCRIPT

That kid is probably still casting. That kid was me fifty years ago…