Low and clear…that’s the conditions on my local river. I’ve been walking it daily after work with Abby looking for some rising or bulging fish. I’ve spotted a few when conditions have been good (calm and overcast) but nothing consistent. Midges and little Black Stone Flies are around. Olives will make an appearance before the end of the month. Anglers who are tossing nymphs are doing well.
Here’s Abby picking up messages delivered by the wind while I check out what the water has to say.
PHOTOS FROM A RECENT angling adventure. It’s the trout that pull you to a far away destination. Part of the tug is also the land. I prefer rivers in open terrain and when in New Zealand I search for that. They can be windy. They can have a lot of glare…but you might as well fish in places you like and the way you like…
It’s mid to late afternoon. I’m hiking downstream back to my vehicle. I’ve been out all day in tough trout spotting conditions: heavy cloud and even worse, high wind. The combination is a deadly deterrent to seeing fish. With the grey ruffled surface I’ve only seen one trout. Unfortunately it saw me first and was fleeing the scene when it caught my eye. An impressive trout. That’s what’s in here. Good ones. Not many but some good ones. I know. I’ve fished this river intensely before. It’s small water, open terrain with nowhere for an angler to hide. I feel the odds have been against me today, in the present conditions. It doesn’t help I’m running low on energy, have flu-like symptoms and the past two nights have been feverish. As I walk downstream it suddenly gets calm. I mean totally still. It hasn’t been this way all day. I appreciate the silence. A long perfectly curved pool with the outside bend/ fully intact stretches out before me. By “intact” I mean it’s a heavily grassed bank, not broken or shingled/ eroded. Here are some examples:
In late season low water conditions intact banks can have some of the deepest water in a moderate sized river pool. They are also some of safest locations for trout to live, feed and hide as many such banks are undercut. When it’s hot and windy I sight-fish from a downstream position, when possible, as trout often hang tight and pick off terrestrial insects which fall or collect in the water along the bank. No such luck seeing much of this on this trip. And when it gets real calm or late day stillness settles in, an intact bank can be a good place to watch for a possible rise; a sign of feeding.
I decide with the sudden stillness to sit, re-fuel and watch the 40 yards of so of perfect bank water. I eat and study the slow outward bend flow with its faint bubble line. It feels good to sit and rest after walking all day. As if on cue, it happens. A solitary rise just slightly off of the bank. A minute later it surfaces again. Same spot. The first opportunity of the day. It’s feeding occasionally. It’s feeding subtly. I think it’s a smallish fish as it’s not displacing much water. But I’ve been fooled before by rises here in NZ. I’ve learned in my three adventures here that NZ trout are always bigger than they first appear.
I’ve seen just a few blue winged olives out with the inclement weather and tie one on and wade slowing and carefully from the shallow, intern side (opposite side) of the river. My disturbance travels almost across stream but fortunately fades before reaching the rising fish. I almost blew-it. I almost communicated my presence. I cast to the fish perpendicularly. I’ve got a long leader. My line will be at least 12 ft from the trout. The size 18 olive passes over the spot. No response. I change flies and go with a size 14/ 16 black foam ant. Something more visible but not outrageous. It’s a simple pattern I’ve done well with when I’ve had my chances. On the first passing it catches the trout’s eye, its head appears and takes the ant while turning downstream. Surprising I remain calm, take a second (pause) and then slowly set the hook and am connected. It races up and down the pool then decides to run the riffle/rapid downstream to the next pool. I scramble and chase, get lucky and land it. A good one. It measures at the 6 lbs mark on my Mclean weigh net.
Because of the continued stillness I decided to hurry to the next intact bank that I know is about one half mile downstream. With Adrenalin I have renewed energy. By the time I get to the next location the wind has picked-up again and it starts to rain heavily. I hunker down hoping it will pass but it doesn’t. I’ve had one opportunity. I’ve taken one good fish today.
The decision during the moment of calmness to sit and watch the long intact bank saved my day. I had two other days on the same challenging river where good fish were taken similarly.
All angling adventures usually get defined by one or two moments no matter how many days one fishes, how many opportunities exist or how many, or few, fish are caught. The moment of calmness which produced the above fine brown trout defined mine. The moment, just a single moment, made my trip…
Late October. It’s closing down. Hard to find rising fish. On Saturday saw a couple of trout surfacing inconsistently on my local river late in the day when the wind died down. Missed them. No other opportunities that day. On Sunday changed it up and took a drive through the mountains into British Columbia. Fished the Elk river in Fernie in the afternoon. Hoped for BWO’s. Hoped for some rising Cutthroats. Found some. Nothing big. Caught several. Missed several. Not a great hatch. Actually quite weak. As I said, it’s closing down. I had to search slow collector areas; back eddies, etc., in order to find some rising fish. Only saw one other angler as I worked my way upstream. It was a young boy and his grandmother. He was fishing. She was supervising. They were standing above at a deep, clear, calm pool next to a huge log-jam, spotting cutthroats and occasionally catching one. When they saw me they said, “We didn’t think there would be anybody else foolish enough to be out today”. With a big smile the boy showed me a photo of a Cutthroat he had just landed. A great fish. He didn’t know what fly he caught it on. I checked. It was a small parachute Adams.
I went just upstream of them and fished a slow area. Two fools casting dry flies in late October in the rain, sleet and snow. Two fools, a grandmother and a wet dog.
Some soggy, foggy photos…
Nice weather for a change. Light sweater conditions in the afternoon and minimal wind. The dry-fly season on the Crowsnest river has been extended a little. Finding rising fish is getting harder but there are still some around. Bug life is weak but there are just enough midges and small olives around to entice some good fish to feed on the surface with the low, slow, clear water conditions. The river is still producing if you’re willing to hunt. I walked it this past Sunday. It’s an afternoon game. The low arcing Autumn sun creates long afternoon shadows and the trout like feeding in these darker river sections once (if) the bugs get going.
I started fishing the Crowsnest river in 2001. Seventeen years later it still amazes me the quality of the trout that inhabit it given its size. Best of all you can search for them with your eyes and try to fool them, often in the shallows, with small dry flies. You get to watch the trout react to your impression; you get to see it all unfold. Engaging, visual angling. It’s why I fly fish…
Here’s a nice Crowsnest rainbow that was located feeding on a shadowy bank. Caught on a size 18, BWO hacklestacker pattern.
A big snow storm this week. Some melting occurring. Rivers still low and clear. Brief angling days for the dry-fly angler. It’s usually a 2 to 5 pm event. This past Saturday trudged through the snow to the Crowsnest river. In the bright sun and low water conditions fished to some surface feeding rainbows on my knees.
Sliding into Autumn. Pale Duns have had their day. Blue Winged Olives are just starting. A few Mahogany may flies around too. The dry-fly angling has been challenging during the transition. Visited four very different rivers over the past few weekends. It was hard to find rising fish. Had to walked a lot and search. Not easy. Not many opportunities. Caught a few nice ones. Missed a couple. Time spent roaming around beautiful SW Alberta in search of trout is always enriching…