cutthroat trout

“WELL THAT FLY DIDN’T WORK and he’s still rising. Change fly! Let’s go smaller. Nope, no response. Try again. Wow, same response. Change fly! Let’s try an ant. Nice cast. He’s looking. Closing in. Nope. He rejected it the last second. Wow, tough fish. Throw the ant again. Hmm. No go. Change fly! Let’s tie on a Klink/Emerger. No response to that. Change fly! I see some Drakes in the flow but the fish is ignoring most of them… but not all. Try this CDC version. Nope, he didn’t even move over to take a look. Toss it again. Change fly! I have a Drake Emerger pattern. Let’s try that. No luck. Maybe we need to rest the fish. Let’s go upstream. We’ll come back later. Hopefully he’ll still be rising then…wow, picky Cutthroat. Hard to walk away. Look at him still feeding. Some naturals passing overhead. He only rises to some; not others. Passing on the Duns, sometimes…maybe he’s mainly cueing in on Emergers. Well he just took a Dun but then let several others drift overhead. He ignores some, then eats the odd one. Yikes, challenging trout…we will come back.”

Cutthroats. Simply beautiful. Some say they are easy to catch. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as challenging as any other trout. It depends on the river. It depends on how much food is in the flow. It depends on angling pressure. It depends on water clarity. It depends…

Late season low water can make things extra challenging. You have to try and stay out of sight; and don’t move too fast; and don’t drag that dry fly; and don’t do this, or that, or they’ll disappear. They’ll go hide in a log-jam. Remember, Cutthroats have been around for several million years. They’ve survived. They’re always on alert…

one of Roman’s best

I recently spent four days fishing with a good friend, Roman, on different sections of one stream. A clear, pristine cutthroat stream. We pulled-up fish in the faster water on dry flies and came across several fish rising occasionally in slow water. The slow, flat water fish often required multiple fly changes in order to be fooled and a few tough customers couldn’t be enticed. With our fly selection we went big, we went small, we went slim, we went chubby, we tried low-riding patterns, emergers, terrestrials of varying sizes, a nymph dropper, lighter tippet…We caught many but a few couldn’t be fooled.

Some say Cutthroats are easy. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as hard and challenging as any other trout. Here are some photos from our four days of walking clear water in pursuit of this beautiful trout. All Cutthroats were taken on dries. All released…

clear water

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terrestrial box
flies that often worked
pool with a log-jam… always a good spot
cutthroats were thick

augusto mosquito

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”–Dalai Lama

THIS AUGUST I MADE THE LONG DRIVE to one of my favorite sight-fishing rivers. On my previous trip, three weeks earlier, the mosquitos drove me off of the river after a few hours of angling. I’ve never seen it that bad. The place is usually very dry and windy, and relatively bug free until nightfall. Not this year. A wet spring and a lot of standing water in the riverside low grasslands created a perfect breeding ground for millions of the pesty creatures.

I picked a hot, full sun and most importantly windy day to go back but the mosquitos were still there. DEET seemed ineffective. I survived for a few hours by standing in the river while encouraging the wind to pick-up. I was ambushed when I hiked through the vegetation to riverside high spots in order to locate fish. In the end I had to sight-fish from water level. Not the best angle in full sun and glare. Not the best angle for spotting the river’s large trout.

Sight-fishing is all about observation, concentration and using the light to your advantage which was hard to do while being constantly harassed and distracted by insects. I did spot a few Rainbow trout and fooled some on terrestrial patterns. After a few hours I had had enough and decided to leave. My dog approved of the sprint back to the car and the quick drive out of the coulee, and on to the highway. Wide open windows at 110km blasted any pesty hitchhikers out of the car. One hour later I removed my wet wading boots and socks at a Walmart parking lot.

The only past bug experiences that were as close or worse would be the relentless black flies while Brook trout fishing on the North Shore of Quebec and beach Snook fishing along the gulf coast of Florida in June where at sunset on heavily vegetated Pine Island the no-see-ums ate me alive while camping. My skin burned. The following morning after no sleep I pulled up tent pegs, rolled up my damp tent, drove to the mainland and got a cheap motel with air conditioning on Tamiami trail where urban sprawl and pavement stretched on forever. Every night after a day of beach fly fishing I retreated to the bugless cool of my room and watched Michael Jordan dominate his opponents in the basketball playoffs. Best B-ball player I ever saw.

Here are some photos of my drive in and out of the prairie river and a few trout pictures. I heard the other day the mosquito situation on the river has abated. I’m not sure whether to believe it or not but I’m willing to go back and check it out…

august

Early August. There is smoke in the air some days. Fires are burning west and southwest of us. Seems that’s a given every Summer. The ground is dry. Rivers are low. The wind is warm. Cloths dry quickly outdoors on the line. My dog is panting a lot. I add a bit of powdered Gatorade to my water bottles when I head out for a day of angling due to the heat.

The Cutthroat streams are fishing well. I need to visit them more often. They are cool and clear, and the trout willing. The tailwater rivers that I frequent have been challenging. Generally poor hatches in comparison to past seasons and therefore often not a lot of opportunity at least until the end of the day, sometimes not even then. If you spot a good trout you want to make it count as there might not be another chance.

I’ve had several fine fish eat my small impressions lately but no hook up. A tiny hook can catch or sometimes simply slip out of a big mouth. That’s all part of the small fly game. Hopefully things will balance out by the end of the angling season.

The past few weeks I’ve walked a number of rivers. Here are some photos. I’m still getting accustomed to a new camera and at times experiencing some framing problems…

Abby snoozing riverside
cutthroat color

trout on the plains

The third week of July. Hot. Summer has finally arrived. It took forever to get here. I took a brief road trip to a river out on the Plains. Very few bugs were on the water. Usually insect life is much more prolific at this time of year. Often Pmd’s pop all summer long. And waves of caddis. Not this year. Finding fish was challenging in the somewhat lifeless, bugless looking water. A couple of trout were eventually spotted after hiking and watching several pools in the bright light. One was a brown trout which surprisingly surfaced in shallow moving water to a size 18 emerger pattern in full mid-day sun.

brown trout

Some photos from the half day outing. Several windshield shots of the road trip to and from the river…

size 18 emerger
rainbow trout
brown trout
dry fly pool
road home
rainbow

low light browns and the mole

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”

RAIN. A LOT OF IT in the past two days. The rivers were starting to drop but now they are pumped-up again. High fast water. Most rivers can’t be crossed.

brown trout on klinkhammer bwo size 18

When the forecast calls for heavy skies and rain I always try to head to one of my favorite rivers, especially if it’s not going to be too windy. My best brown trout of the year usually come in these conditions. They show-up in low light as long as there are insects around. You just have to be there and watch the water, even high water.

high water into shore grasses and willows

On both days I got drenched and my soaked camera started malfunctioning. It’s waterproof but old and has many cracks in it and the battery/SD card door doesn’t always close properly. Water got inside. On the way home I was able to dry the SD card on the car dashboard with the heat on high. I managed to save it. The camera, however, I could not. Time for a new one.

brown trout

There were mayflies around: olives and a few pmd’s. I prospected the slow shallows with a beetle pattern early in the day. Then I fished a size 18 Mole fly when I started seeing some surface disturbances. It’s a simple shuttlecock style pattern by Charlie Craven, a professional fly tyer. He ties his with a CDC wing. Due to the heavy rain I tied mine with polypropylene and some with deer hair, or a combination of both.

A blogger/angler I follow (Jim) often fishes the Mole pattern and that’s were I first took notice of it. I pay attention to his fly selections as he visits some of the most challenging tailwater rivers and spring creeks anywhere and consistently catches impressive trout on dry flies. Check him out at: http://jims-wanderings.blogspot.com

simple mole fly size 18

When my casts were on target trout ate the Mole fly without hesitation.

brown on size 18 mole fly

Here are some photos. Some are blurry due to the conditions.

rainbow on size 18 mole fly
mole
cuttbow on mole fly size 18
mole gathering and beetle…all that I fished in two days
brown on mole fly

late june

Most local rivers are still high but subsiding. We are in the tail end of run off. I visited two rivers recently. One that was low (controlled flow) and one fairly fast and high. I walked a lot and found a few nice fish rising. Hatches are starting. I saw some pmds mid-afternoon when things warmed-up; some small (yellow and lime sallies) and larger caddis; a few small western green drakes (flavs); some golden stones…

low and slow

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rainbow caught on size 18 pmd
pmd hacklestacker
small western green drake
rainbow caught on small caddis fly
high and fast
healthy riverside grasses
stonefly

wolf creek

wolf creek bridge

ANOTHER ROAD TRIP.

It was much warmer three hours south of home. Almost Summer-like for a day or two. Even some classic warm weather thunderstorms. It was also greener. There were blossoms. There were Pale Morning Duns (pmd’s) on the river I was on; another sign of approaching summer. There were Olives. There were Midges. There were Callibaetis in a slow (lake like) section of the river that I spent too much time on. In the evening there were shimmering clouds of size 22, Olive colored mayflies, that behaved like Tricos. Tiny olive spinners? I don’t know. After a long day I was too tired to inspect them closely. Suffice it to say, there were plenty of bugs around from morning until nightfall.

slow flat water, always challenging
rainbow

The Pmd’s were small, size 18, but much easier to spot than the Midges and Olives, especially when sunlight touches them and they illuminate.

pmd box
cotton candy series pmds for riffled water

I’ve learnt more about dry fly fishing and trout behavior on this river and one back at home in Alberta, the Crowsnest River, than anywhere else. It’s the combination of prolific insect life, many rising fish, and clear water that allows you to observe the reaction of every single trout targeted. You cast, watch and learn. You are constantly getting feedback. The amount of feedback condensed into a single day on this type of water is like a whole season of learning on some other, less insect rich, rivers.

brown trout
rainbow
river in distance

I camped near Wolf Creek. In the mornings I visited the On the Fly Coffee cabana for a breakfast burrito and a coffee. Then I went to the aptly named Wolf Creek Angler Fly Shop. It’s a great little shop. In the past I’ve stayed in some of their cabins. It’s decent lodging and a reasonable price for the region. The Shop changed hands several years ago. Author Neale Streeks used to guide there and might have been a co-owner. If my memory serves me correctly it was called Montana River Outfitters then. One of his books, Small fly Adventures in the West– Angling for Larger Trout, is an excellent resource for fishing tailwater rivers. I read it from cover to cover several times over 20 years ago when I first started visiting the river having mainly fished small freestone rivers in the east. I still refer to it today. It made me a better angler on tailwater rivers, spring creeks and other rich rivers, which I gravitate towards whenever I get the chance.

wolf creek eatery, tavern
don’t mess with shotgun annie

Here are more scenes from Wolf Creek and this road trip….

brown trout
midge
storms
rainbow
slow side channel
brown trout
easy walking along river
brown trout
brown trout

road trip: midges, olives and browns

drift boats

SOME IMAGES FROM ANOTHER BRIEF ROAD TRIP SOUTH. I focused on a river section where I’ve had some of the best small dry fly fishing that I’ve experienced anywhere. It’s a shallow flat water section on a large river. In the Spring and Fall often there are midges in the morning, olives in the afternoon, then sometimes midges again late in the day. Insect life, a fairly calm day and low light conditions can bring out some fine brown trout. I hit it right on this road trip. On most days the weather was cooperative, and the small hooks (size 18 and 20) and fine tippet held.

flat water
midges on tent, riverside
olive spinners
brown trout
brown trout
size 18, bwo fly, hacklestacker
size 20 midge dry, fooled largest brown trout
brown trout
unused railway tracks great path to river sections
brown trout
fly shop
brown trout
shucks and spent flies
brown trout
rainbow
drift boats
river guide

a black post

” ALL OTHER COLORS are reflections of light, except black. Black is the absence of light”.

I recently spent a few days fishing a large wide tailwater river. Most of the time the water’s surface was a silvery-grey due to glare. It looked like the element: Mercury. Many trout were feeding on tiny BWO emergers and bulging in the riffles. The wind was also constantly blowing which further ruffled the river’s surface. All of these conditions (glare, riffles, wind blown water) made seeing a small size 18 fly impossible, even when relatively short casts were made. Deer hair winged emerger patterns and comparaduns didn’t show-up. Same with a parachute pattern tied with a white post. Hackled flies also pulled a Houdini on me (vanished). Hi Vis orange post flies also couldn’t be seen. Hi Vis ended up being No Vis!

The secret to success on the insect rich river that I was on is to consistently place your fly right in front of a selected feeding trout as there are thousands of naturals (insects) drifting towards it and the fish isn’t going to move any distance to eat your fly. Your impression has to be right on target. It is all about accuracy. And in order to be on target you need to see your fly.

The only fly that showed up in the aforementioned challenging conditions was one with a black post or a black wing. And I found that the flies that I had tied with a very exaggerated, robust tuft of black obviously showed best in the silvery-grey, ruffled water.

Many of my favorite trout rivers are wide and flow in open terrain under a big western sky. These conditions give birth to glare which is a serious hinderance to seeing a small fly. One third of the flies in my boxes have black material incorporated onto them in the form of a post, a wing, etc. In the flies below (photo) I used black polypropylene. In some other flies I’ll use black cdc or comparadun deer hair which has been dyed black. The key is something dark; a dark beacon.

Sometimes you can see your fly better by changing your positioning to a fish on a river. However, this is not always possible. Some people fish a two fly rig with one fly being much larger than what is hatching. The large fly is used as a sight and strike indicator to help an angler spot or at least hone in on the approximate location of the small fly. Even large flies, however, tossed some distance on silvery-grey wide open water tend to disappear. Also two fly rigs in windy conditions often get tangled, at least mine do. I always prefer casting a single fly. I simply cast and fish better with one fly.

Trout that are feeding aggressively on a dense hatch don’t seem to notice the color of a post or wing. The size of the fly, its attitude/positioning in the water (on top, in the film, or dangling below) and a natural drift (presentation) are much more important, as is casting accuracy and being a stealthy angler. You want the body color of the fly to be somewhat similar to the naturals but the wing color is less important.

Black polypropylene is inexpensive and with one package you will be able to tie hundreds of flies.

Here are some small size 18 parachutes tied with a black post…

scenes: brief road trip south

rainbow on size 18 BWO dry

Cold at home. In fact snow hit the ground. So I headed south across the border to a Trout Town on a wide tailwater river. The weather was slightly better but still behind schedule for May. Most days it was fairly cool. My dog’s water bowl was frozen most mornings.

I camped in a section called Mid-Canyon to try an avoid the ever present wind. The dry fly fishing was for the most part poor. I rarely saw a head/nose break the surface in spite of some good hatches. Most surface disturbances were trout displacing water when feeding on emergers an inch or two below: BWO’s. I still managed to catch several on dries: Klinkhammers and Parachutes while sight fishing.

There were no sipping trout on the banks or even in collector areas, or on the flats. And there were few fish feeding in some of my favorite side channels. The water was as low as I have ever seen it. That’s a ongoing condition out West. There was high wind and a lot of sun. Not the best conditions to find large rising trout.

side channel

Trout would bulge (emerger feeding) in the riffles when clouds rolled in, then disappeared when direct sun light returned. It was a yo yo (fish up, fish down) event on days with a mix of sun and cloud. Fun to watch as it became so predictable.

home
3 feet of shucks and spent insects against shore
main river
fly shop
another fly shop
side channel