“You can’t force or push around Nature. It just does what it does”
Rivers high but manageable. No Blue Winged Olives. I’m surprised because everything lately looks just right for a good hatch. A few Skwala stones around. Only a few. They are pretty big. Maybe size 12. Easy to spot on flat water. The dark body contrasting well on a grey smooth river surface on a cloudy day. I watched a few drift through the shallows. Most remained untouched. Then a rise. Cast. The impression disappeared. It has been a tough spring. Few dry fly connections…but here’s one.
Local rivers are settling. Water temperatures are rising into the right zone and with that insects are making a strong appearance and trout are becoming much more active. I’m seeing a lot of the small stoneflies, especially hatches of Yellow Sallies. Here is a recent tie for the faster riffle sections: size 16.
And a tie for slower river sections, size 16.
Pale Morning duns are also starting. Like the Sallies they are light yellow/ cream in color. Some have a slight orange or pale green tint to them. I prefer this hatch as they ride the river surface for a fairly long time before taking flight. Trout can relax and sip on them.
The small fly hatches, unlike the big flies, tend to go on for weeks on end and some for months. They tend to be consistent and dependable. Last year I fished Pale Duns from late June into late September on one of the local tailwater rivers. That’s reliability!
Catching a large rising trout on a small fly is always a real challenge and quite special when a connection is made and one landed. Here are a few taken on small dries…
With only a light breeze on Sunday I checked out my local tail-water river. Spring in SW Alberta has been slow in coming. Nothing new. I’ve been itching to get out as there is a ton of snow in the mountains and when the temperature finally heats-up and it begins to rain, a serious run-off will occur and it could last awhile….possibly a couple of months. So, the opportunity is now to sight fish (and hopefully the next couple of weekends) as the water is low and fairly clear.
There were some bugs on the river: midges were the most numerous type; then some Skwala stoneflies; and just a few BWO mayflies. I saw very few rising fish. It was a slow day. However, I managed what looked like a Cuttbow (hybrid) on a dry…a nice one, and missed a good brown trout at the end of day.
Next weekend should be a bit better as hatches intensify. The BWO’s will get the fish looking up and rising.
I just spent a week fishing in my region. Most of the summer I have been a weekend angler. It was nice to be off work and stretch several river days together. I fish better when I have more time. I also tend to stop and take more photos while roaming around searching for trout.
I had one cloud covered rainy day and a strong hatch of tiny olives, and a few larger ones, occurred. The trout were mainly on emergers. I fished a few different dangling fly patterns with some success. The key word is, “some”. That was the easiest day.
emerger pattern, foam post for flotation, hook bent out by trout
caught on olive emerger pattern
blue winged olive flat
The other days were full sun and therefore much more challenging. A few were calm, most were quite breezy. There were still some bugs around but not a lot. The rises were infrequent with the bright sky. And when they did occur they were real subtle. Just spotting the faint sips was an accomplishment. I often had to listen for signs of surface feeding on the blinding sun glazed flats. Most of the good trout located were hovering in just inches of water. It’s my favorite type of angling. In skinny water you have to be “sneakier than sneaky” in order to fool them. Mistakes are rarely tolerated… few second chances. To make things even more challenging the trout were generally only feeding on tiny stuff. Time flew by. Hours seemed like minutes. Relaxing? No. Engrossing? Yes. Fun? Yes.
On another river I used the sun and elevation when possible to my advantage in order to spot fish in the shallows. Then I’d drop down, choose my approach and try to fool them.
snow in the mountains
All week I casted olives when they were around, and fed beetles and ants to located trout when there was no hatch. While roaming around I found some old sheds; hiked some smooth wind sculpted hills; took pictures of small trees ( prairie bonsai) which always attract attention in the stark terrain; and caught a few wonderful trout. I also met a sheep herder taking a nap in the shade of my Jetta. He’s an old friend. Every year without fail we run into each other riverside.
One week, one fly, two feet…
great Pyrenees herder
“August is like the Sunday of summer”
We’ve had some clouds, some summer storms, some sun and cool nights and therefore river temperatures have remained alright even though the water is low. It looks like we might get through August without any angling restrictions. South of the border (Montana) the situation seems quite different.
I’ve been sight fishing small terrestrials and on one river Tricos; one of my favorite hatches. It’s a good time of year as a few trout are rising and the Blue Jays (baseball) are in the hunt for the playoffs. I want to see Jose Bautista hit a late game homer and fling his bat again…the best “take that!” moment in baseball I’ve seen in a long time.
Here are some river images from the past couple of weekends…I struck out several times but did manage to hit a few long ones…
With the cloudy, drizzly and calm weather predicted for the weekend I drove to the Missouri (M0) river anticipating a hatch of BWO’s. And presto, just like that, the little May Fly appeared. In spite of their teeming numbers a lot of the flat water sections I frequent year after year were void of rising trout. It was hard to believe the fish weren’t sipping on the tiny flies collecting in the more gentle/quiet areas of the river. They should have been on them like kids on candy!
blue winged olives and perfect raindrop circles
I watched and waited but little happened. So eventually I went for a walk and hunted, and found some good fish in the Mo’s broad riffles, or more specifically, at the tail end of these sections where the riffles started to flatten out/expire.
brown trout caught on dry fly
Most trout in these spots were focusing on emergers. This is usually the case. I saw many anglers wading right through these sections, never noticing the sometimes quite intense feeding and multiple fish. I’ve done the same in the past. It’s very easy to miss these fish with the grey glare that exists on such a wide river. Riffles also camouflage/mask any sort of surface disturbance made by trout. It can make spotting more challenging. Experience has taught me that if I just stand still and watch (when bugs are around) often I’ll see signs of feeding trout: bulging water or boils, or other subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, surface disturbances. Listening carefully can also save the day as some trout will break the surface and the odd one will occasionally eat on top. I often hear them before I see them. Once you catch that sound, you can then intensify your visual search.
Although most fish were caught in the riffles and some tail-out spots on large pools, early in the day and then late I picked up a few good fish eating duns on the more enjoyable classic flat water sections. Most trout were caught on a Klinkhammer (body dangling below surface) style fly: dry/emerger. The best brown refused all my surface offerings and was hooked sight nymphing. The nice thing about this time of year is that if you see a fish moving water there is a chance it might be a brown trout as many of the river’s rainbows are still spawning in feeder creeks, and thus are absent. I catch some of my nicest browns in the Spring. Some rainbows were around as the photos show.
The Mo is an incredible sight fishing river. I hope to return in May or June… and Catch that Sound!
I stayed overnight at Wolf Creek Angler, in Wolf Creek (great name for a town). Basic lodging and manageable price. They also have an excellent little fly shop.
brown trout caught sight fishing with nymph
rainbow on dry fly
Some simple, durable, quick ties (size 18 flies) that often get the attention of trout on rivers nearby and afar. Tied on a hook that dangles: trailing shuck; some weight (wire) on body to hopefully tug it below the surface (saliva on shuck and body helps); exaggerated thorax dubbed; wing of polypro or deer hair, sometimes hackle used to keep top half (head) floating and most importantly visible. A white or black wing allows you to see the small fly in most light conditions. If I can see a small fly then I feel I can get it on the nose of a feeding fish, and then I at least have a chance. If I can’t see and follow the drift then I might as well be blindfolded! Deer hair and hackle is often less visible but can be seen if you can get close to a trout. The pattern can be fished as a dry/ emerger (mayfly hatch). I simply change body and thorax color and size depending on the season/hatch. The wing can be tied or clipped real sparse (less wing) for flat water, or CDC used. No fly works in all situations but some flies work in a lot of them.
master fly tyer (abby) taking a break
lower oldman river
I managed to hit a local tailwater river after work the other evening. It is one of the few waterways in my region that has insect life. Some PMD’s were hatching and spinners falling. The river was low so it was perfect for searching for rising trout and trying to spot some good ones.
Most of the larger trout appeared to be on emergers. I fished a pattern that floated but had a dangling body (Klinkhammer style): deer hair wing tied forward for flotation; thorax dubbed a PMD yellow/cream color; rust colored body with gold wire ribbing to add weight so part of the fly broke through surface; an amber/golden shuck for the tail (zelon/antron). I spread some saliva on the body and tail to help it protrude through the meniscus.
The fish were on it. I spotted several nice ones while searching the shallow flats in a foot or less of water, and a few took me into my backing. Trout hooked in skinny water take off like a dragster. Here’s a couple photos of one of the fine trout I caught.
cutthroat on size 16 pmd
“I once gave up fishing. It was the most terrifying weekend of my life”.
Skwala! Not many around but enough to get some trout looking up. Bugs are always appreciated as this is a blog about dry fly fishing, and I need them if I’m going to have material; something to write about. I’ve been going out a few evenings after work looking for rising trout and also checking things out on weekends. It has been an early Spring in SW Alberta but my home rivers have been quiet. Usually I’m into surface feeding fish at the beginning of April. We are in the third week and things still aren’t under way in spite of the Crocuses being up; calves spotted streamside; campers running the highways; neighbours aerating their lawns; some midge flies in the air in the evening and even some olives riding the currents in the afternoon. It was the Skwala (a stonefly) that got the attention of a few trout on a local tailwater river this Saturday and I managed to hook several mid-sized fish. Here is a picture of the best one of the bunch.
oldman river tailwater section
rainbow trout on dry fly
deer on crowsnest river
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.
misty late day leaving the river
brown trout on dry fly, beetle
beetle fly, chewed
rainbow trout on dry fly
craig fly shop
shallow side channel
rainbow on dry fly
easter eggs on river island (goose eggs)
rainbow trout on dry fly
caught on dry fly
horse shoe pit at local fly shop
another pic of brown trout