Sight fishing Easter Weekend

After a winter of fishing blind with a two handed rod it was a real pleasure to sight fish with a light 4wt rod and dry flies this past weekend. I spent two days walking and wading the Missouri river in Montana. I tossed midges all weekend and on a couple of occasions a small beetle. Most fish were on emergers (bulging the surface). A few could be found eating dries, especially when the wind died down in the flat water sections of the river. Some bulging fish could even be enticed to eat on top; however, many would not. A lot of the midges were clustering in the mid afternoon so cluster fly patterns worked fairly well. A few Blue Winged Olives were out but not many. This hatch should be developing soon which will make the dry fly angling easier. All of the fish below were caught on dries. I spent my time fishing flat, shallow sections; slow wading ankle deep water. Some great fish landed; many more missed. Some humbling moments. Trout fishing doesn’t get much more challenging or better. If you love dry fly fishing you owe it to yourself to one day visit this river.

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misty late day leaving the river

bbrown angle

brown trout on dry fly, beetle

beetle

beetle fly, chewed

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craig, scene

 

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rainbow trout on dry fly

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craig fly shop

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shallow side channel

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rainbow on dry fly

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easter eggs on river island (goose eggs)

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rainbow trout on dry fly

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craig, montana

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caught on dry fly

horsehoes

horse shoe pit at local fly shop

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side channel

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another pic of brown trout

 

A Winter Brown Trout

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe”.

-Voltaire

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brown trout

MID-WEEK I CHECKED THE WEATHER REPORT FOR THE WEEKEND. It predicted temperatures around zero or slightly above for Saturday and Sunday. Next I looked at the wind chart as mild temperatures usually mean a big blow along the eastern slopes. That’s what was in the cards: a wind warning. Saturday looked a bit sunnier and seemed like my best opportunity to fish. Besides on Sunday there were two good football games scheduled.

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side channel

I never really watch a complete NFL game. I just kind of listen to it, do other things and then pay close attention when there is a big play. I’ve learnt that the Championship games are often better than the Super Bowl. Last year the Seattle versus San Francisco game was a classic. In comparison the Super Bowl was anti-climatic.

bridge river

So, Saturday it would be. I was into it as I hadn’t been out since before Christmas as the weather had been arctic like.

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side channel

I went to my local tailwater river as it doesn’t ice over, and swung flies real slow near the bottom while the wind whistled in my ears. The fish weren’t active. I’d often get a slight “tap” but with no hook up. I did best by swinging my fly back to the spot where I had found some life. Sometimes I had to pass the fly through several times before getting another “hit” and the occasional hook up. I caught some rainbows this way.

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rainbow trout

In a side channel I got my first good aggressive strike but no hook up. I kept tossing my fly through the same spot hoping for a repeat hit. After a dozen or so swings, “fish on”; I had made a connection. This one didn’t make the standard run. Instead it tugged a lot, shook its head, stayed deep and zig-zagged. I thought ” brown trout”.

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brown trout

When winter fly fishing you gotta have faith.

ice brown

brown trout

 

Prairie Scenes and a Few Winter Trout

Some photos from the past two weeks while out winter fly fishing and windshield shots while driving to rivers…temperatures cool, river traffic low, trout kind of sleepy, prairie towns also sleepy.

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favorite pic

 

foothills town

main street, prairie town

 

smile barn

smiling barn

 

rough fish

rainbow trout ( had been caught before)

 

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foothill-prairie town

 

guide ice

ice on fly rod guides

 

bow river

bow river

 

cowcountry

bow brown

bow river brown trout, only tail on ice

 

cowboy scupture

sculpture

 

dist grain

prairie town

 

 

Swinging Flies to Jingle Bells

The Winter Solstice is just around the corner and I’m still swinging flies and catching trout. I purchased a two-handed switch rod and have been practicing Spey casting the last couple of weekends. It’s going to be my winter project. The casting movement is certainly much easier on the shoulder especially when fishing a big wide open windy river.

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sw alberta brown trout

 

I was hoping to get away to somewhere exotic like Patagonia (check out First Cast Fly Fishing) or NZ this winter for some dry fly angling but I don’t think that I’ll get the time needed for a DIY trip. So, swinging flies it is.

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sw alberta tailwater river

 

All I need is the temperature to be somewhere around zero and it’s quite comfortable out there, even with the sun just barely arcing above the horizon. From noon until 4:30 works well. The fish seem opportunistic then. I keep the menu real simple: a small leech like pattern (black, dark brown or olive) with black rubber legs. Maybe it’s the wiggle; maybe not.

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Three weeks ago some trout were feeding in the riffles and hanging out in shallow drop offs. They were quite active. Lately most have been down deeper. I hauled one up the other day in cold weather and it had mittens on its fins.

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brown trout

 

Since I’m not heading to the southern hemisphere I’ve been researching winter steelhead opportunities. There is an intriguing river ten hours from my home. It’s a bit of a hike but maybe I’ll get a chance to put a big bend in the two-hander. In the meantime I’ll keep practicing my technique.

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rainbow trout

 

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road home to the rockies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brown on the Swing

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails”.

Dolly Parton

There was a wind warning today. I saw part of my neighbour’s eaves trough tumble down the road. At least I think it was his? I should check mine!

cliff ruble 2

On the eastern slopes of the divide in SW Alberta it’s always windy and if you don’t fish in the wind, well, you’re not going to get out very often. So I decided to go and just deal with it. I’d be casting a streamer and figured if it got real bad I’d just flip the fly and feed line or roll cast a lot. My plan was to fish a section of the river that is braided so I’d could find some protective areas behind islands and gravel bars.

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late november brown trout

 

lit treees

If there is anything good about the wind around here, it’s generally predictable: easterly. The other good thing is that in the summer time it blows terrestrials (grasshoppers, beetles, etc.) into the water. None of that today as we have transitioned to winter.

blur trees

nohand bow

rainbow trout

 

I thought that if things became unbearable out there I would pretend I had travelled a long, long way to the Rio Gallegos in southern Patagonia where sea run brown trout and gale force winds rule the river, and you deal with it by tugging down on your Beret and just keep casting! My shoulder still aches. I’m well past the 100 pitch mark in my 9 inning angling career.

glove bow

rainbow trout

 

brookes hill

I caught several Rainbow trout and coincidently, one Brown (not sea run but resident), which was the prize of the day. I was standing on the bank four feet above the water and swung my fly through a fairly shallow side channel with an even flow. As the fly tightened to the bank a brown trout glided out from some wood structure and nabbed it. I saw the whole thing from my elevated position. It made the day. I fished until dusk and then headed home guided by the North Star, or was that the Southern Cross?

clouds

finger brown

sw alberta brown trout

 

 

 

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Browns on Dries

Some scenery and trout caught on dry flies on a windy Sunday afternoon. The river dropped a bit, it was clearer and some brown trout decided to rise.

smooth hills

smooth hills riverside

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side chan

high water side channel

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windshield shot

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blur brown

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trout spotting cliffs

High Water, Dropper Required

I was out-of-town for awhile and have been at work this past week so I kind of feel out of touch with the rivers in my area. I did get out a few times in the evening after work and fished until dark. My local river has been fishing poorly. Usually post run-off it is dynamite (rising fish) but not this year, so far. Last year was a similar experience. On the weekend I checked the flow rate (cubic meter stuff) on several of my favorite rivers out on the plains and in the foothills. The numbers were high. I then drove around to have an actual look. One tailwater was really off-color. The other tailwater was half off-color. It was clear on the spillway side of the river and dirty on the other side where water is released from the bottom of the dam. Fishing it looked a little dicey so I drove above the sizeable reservoir to where it is simply a large freestone river. There it was high but the clarity slightly better. I decided to fish the edges and reachable slow spots with a dry fly and a dropper. I couldn’t negotiate (wade) much of the river. The angling was slow but I managed several small fish and then eventually one good brown trout which I got a photo of.  All fish were taken subsurface, on a dropper. Usually at this time of the year I see some stoneflies and pmd’s but I saw no noticeable insect life. There are not many sight fishing opportunities on these rivers at present due to high water. I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for levels to drop and keep my fingers crossed for continued heat and little rain. In the meantime I may have to go up into the mountains to find some low, clear streams and search for cutthroats.

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brown trout

 

“Don’t Look Back”

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My dog Brooke, a Golden Retriever, ran up to greet a group of Native men who had their backs to us. They were pitching big round river stones into the back of a pickup truck. Their work was noisy, rock thundering against metal, and they didn’t hear us coming. When she reached the first man he was bent over and preparing to lift a stone. She surprised him and he leaped in fear. Not knowing how he’d react, I called out that she was friendly and harmless. He later laughed and said that for a split second he thought my dog was a cougar… same color, similar size and we were in big cat country.

darker

The man said they were collecting the river stones for an upcoming Sweat Lodge (purification) ceremony at a Sun-dance or Pow Wow on the nearby reserve. He had a white bandana on his head and his face looked like he had lived a hundred lives. The other men stopped working and gathered around.

fish waterton 1 antique

They were from the Blood tribe, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy, a proud plains people who were originally nomadic and followed the buffalo until everything changed. All had jet black hair. In their facial structure there was a trace of ancient Asia and I imagined they had just walked across the Bering straights.

They made a fuss over my dog, kneeling down and playing with her, and remarking about her friendly disposition. We talked about the upcoming Sweat for a while. They spoke about the ritual and said the stones they were collecting would be heated and water poured over them to create steam in an enclosed space. They spoke about people having visions in the intense heat and about other mysterious experiences.

They asked me questions about the river and its secrets saying they were hunters, not fishermen. I departed wishing them a successful ceremony and they said “good luck’ on the river.

As my dog and I headed upstream she kept looking back towards them. Every ten yards or so she’d pause and look back. Then I heard one of the men holler, “Don’t look back”! We both stopped and turned around. Then he said it again, “Don’t look back”. It was the white bandana man. He saw my puzzled expression and explained, “I name your dog, Don’t Look Back!” I nodded and waved goodbye.

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That was several years ago. The river I was on is a solid one hour drive south of my home and I always fish it from late summer through to the fall usually with grasshopper imitations until the first frost occurs. If you take your time on a sunny day and use the stream side bluffs and high banks to your advantage, you can sight fish. It is a challenging place as trout spotting is not always easy. You have to be observant. Over the years Don’t Look Back and I have spent some memorable days angling there. Although the region is predominated by rainbows and cutthroats, this river has some nice brown trout. Browns and the Blackfoot…that makes it special.

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