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.

tree

misty late day leaving the river

bbrown angle

brown trout on dry fly, beetle

beetle

beetle fly, chewed

pboxes

craig, scene

 

arm tiltfish

rainbow trout on dry fly

fly shop

craig fly shop

channeltrack

shallow side channel

bbowfat

rainbow on dry fly

goose eggs

easter eggs on river island (goose eggs)

netbowreflec

rainbow trout on dry fly

wagon wheel

craig, montana

misscurve

caught on dry fly

horsehoes

horse shoe pit at local fly shop

side chanmiss

side channel

bbrown 2

another pic of brown trout

 

On the Way to a Creek

Two or three times I’ve driven a great distance across a high plains desert to fish dry flies on a wonderful spring creek. It’s just miles and miles of sagebrush, the odd cow, then an unexpected crystal clear serpentine creek. Kind of a mirage.

I grew up in an eastern region with a lot of precipitation; green and lush three seasons of the year and where many small trout streams are canopied; and yet my favorite rivers in the west are out on the dry alkaline flats or ones that flow through barren rolling windswept hills. Go figure. I like the openness and the light, and that the trout are where it seems they shouldn’t be.

Here are some high-speed car shots on the way to the creek from several years ago…and the creek.

snow shot

dist sprink

 

sage poles

sagebrush

 

cows far

sprinkler

 

bit of rd

creek shot

glimpse of creek

 

IM000617.JPG

the creek

 

 

 

 

A Winter Brown Trout

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

-Voltaire

013

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.

014

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.

reeel

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.

003

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”.

brown full

brown trout

When winter fly fishing you gotta have faith.

ice brown

brown trout

 

“Go And Catch a Trout”

“At one stage I fished the Yellow Breeches Creek, along which I lived, almost eight evenings a week.”

Charles K. Fox – This Wonderful World of Trout

beetle thumb

photo r dewey

GETTING GOOD PHOTOS OF TROUT IS ALWAYS CHALLENGING especially when you fish alone, which is what I do most of the time. Fish aren’t cooperative. After you land one you have to do a number of things in order to get a picture. All seem easy but aren’t, especially when you’re kneeling in moving water, and often in imperfect weather conditions. You have to gently control the fish; keep it in the water and unhook it; dig your camera out of a deep pocket; turn it on without dropping it into the river; focus the shot; ensure there is no water on the lens (I still have trouble with that one); check where the sun is in order to avoid shadow; etc. And you want to do all of this fast so that you can safely release the trout. I have had many great fish bolt on me before I got all of the aforementioned tasks done, and therefore missed a wanted image.

riv sheep

photo r dewey

I was lucky this past August to have a photographer with me for part of an afternoon. I felt no pressure when I was directed to, “Go and catch a trout…I’m all set up to shoot”.

back shot

photo r dewey

 

running

photo r dewey

Although SW Alberta has great rivers, quite a few people fish here (angling pressure) and the trout are wild, wary and usually not easy. The river that I was sight fishing is especially challenging. It is a quality not quantity fishery. It runs through wide open terrain where it is often sunny and there are few places for an angler to hide. The trout are spooky; some even seem clairvoyant. In order to have a “crack” at a great fish you generally have to do things well. In mid summer when the water is low and clear the resident rainbows simply don’t tolerate mistakes and catching one on a dry-fly in my mind is always an accomplishment. Usually each good fish takes some time.

girth 2

photo r dewey

Well, shortly after being directed to, “Go and catch a trout”, I caught one! If you fish a lot you know that it doesn’t usually work out this way. I was lucky, things just came together. Having a photographer nearby made getting some nice shots so much easier. It simplified things. I just had to focus on safely handling the trout.

fish me

photo r dewey

What I like best about some of the images taken is that they show the girth of the trout. That’s something I have trouble capturing when I’m taking pictures by myself. The rainbow is quite representative of the ones I catch there. I have caught more large trout on small dries there than on any other river along the continental divide, either side of the Medicine Line. The place is an ace.

1 shed

photo r dewey

 

girthbest

phoro r dewey

 

 

 

 

 

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.

nanton1

favorite pic

 

foothills town

main street, prairie town

 

smile barn

smiling barn

 

rough fish

rainbow trout ( had been caught before)

 

nanton2

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

 

 

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.

no finger b

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

 

 

 

https://troutondries.wordpress.com/wp-admin/link-manager.php

 

 

 

A Low Slow Swing

I fished my local tailwater river this past Sunday hoping to extend the season…and I did. It was winter like but sunny and that makes all the difference. The wind died down in the afternoon and that made things almost pleasant.

dist cliff

dist bird

The bugs are definitely gone. Long gone. I didn’t even see a midge so I casted a streamer with a 6wt and a polyleader. I managed several fish and a few good ones in the afternoon when the weather was best. I got them on a low slow swing…sweet chariot. I was hoping to connect with a Brown trout but only caught Rainbows…not a bad consolation. I’ll take that deal any day.

IMG_3408

raptor in distance, probably an eagle

 

big bow

sw alberta rainbow trout

 

Here are a few pictures while fishing near what some people call the “Cliffs of Doom”.  They remind me more of the “Cliffs of Dover”; however, more tan in color than white. From river level to the top is at least 200 ft.

small bow

sw alberta rainbow trout

 

IMG_3412

Under a Covered Bridge

I had to go back East for a few weeks. Yes, had to. Montreal. Every time I return I hope I’ll have a bit of time to myself but that never happens. The week(s) are always hectic and if I get an hour or two on one morning or evening to wander around, I’m lucky. Time there simply blows by and before I know it I’m in Dorval at the airport boarding my flight back West, and wondering where it all went.

When I do get a spare moment I simply want to re-visit the countryside southwest of Montreal, where I grew up. I like driving the narrow back roads fringed with corn fields. There are also large stands of Maples around where you can search for the remnants of an old sugar shack, or as they say around here a “Cabane a Sucre’. Sometimes I drive a ridge along the border between Quebec and New York State and simply take in all the apple orchards; row after row of carefully pruned trees. Rural Quebec is really quite beautiful. For those of you south of the border think New England but with a Québécois twist and signage, and rougher roads; much rougher…check the ditches for hub caps.

This trip I got up real early one morning and drove south through the Chateauguay Valley to a covered bridge which crosses a classic stream. I didn’t have a lot of time…which I guess is a running theme in this post…so I quickly breathed it all in, got back in my car and left in order to get back on time. The brief stop spawned many memories. It’s where I started fly fishing for trout. That was a long time ago. I remember seeing anglers with creels hanging from their shoulders, many smoking pipes. The smell of Amphora tobacco still makes me feel all is right with the world.

I use to pedal my heavy indestructible one speed CCM bicycle to the bridge from my home, a half day journey, and camp in a field that was leased or owned by Boy Scouts Canada. I’d fish for a day or two and then cycle back home. When I got a little older I’d hitch-hike there, cover the water with a big dry, then thumb back. I took a couple of pictures of the bridge on this trip but haven’t figured out how to download them from my phone. Technology, yikes! Here’s a couple of photos I found (stole) on the internet. I didn’t even give the photographers credit. Ok, call La Police!

percy bridge, quebec

percy water (2)

 

I flew back to Alberta on a Saturday and although tired decided on Sunday to fish one of my favorite rivers. It would be my last chance this season. I didn’t do well. My head hadn’t caught up to where my body was. It wasn’t jet lag but more like mind lag. It had been an emotional visit.

bridge coffee

photo by B L Garnier

It was calm out and there were a few bugs around (tiny olives and midges) but for the most part the fish laid low. Late in the afternoon I managed to find a few good rising trout where insects were collecting. It pays to know a river. I shared the spot with a lone sheep…but he wasn’t in waders. He seemed stranded at water’s edge with an eight foot high bank looming above him. He hadn’t found an escape route even though there was one upstream. He just sat there looking kind of lost and defeated. I tried to “shoo” him in the right direction and he got up and moved well but missed the exit sign.

sheep on bank

sheep

When I left the river I made it a point to stop at the Hutterite Colony where I spoke to a child who was pretending to drive a large tractor. He turned his machine off with his imaginary keys and then pointed to the “Sheepman” who was sitting in an aged pick-up truck thirty feet away with another fellow. I informed the Sheepman about the stranded animal. He said, “We know about him…he’s one of the stupid ones”. I grimaced and explained that the sheep looked distressed being alone and in unfamiliar territory. He looked at me for a second or two with a poker-face, slowly put his truck in gear and as he drove off said, ” Thanks”.

calm

a rare calm day

Anyway, I did manage one nice fish on a dry-fly. It made my day just like it did forty-five years ago while standing under a covered bridge.

good angle

rainbow trout on dry fly

 

P.S.  Sheep aren’t stupid…they’re just sheep.

 

 

 

Places and Landscape

pano

In the About page of my blog I describe how I’m drawn to the rivers in the parched, windswept land of the high plains on the eastern side of the continental divide. Here are some pictures of the landscape I find so captivating, and where I often find myself hiking and sight fishing for wild trout with dries. The “catching” is always important but it is also about the sky, the serpentine water, the light and shadows, the wind, and the texture of the land. Places have an impact on us. Some places more than others. When you find a place that keeps calling you, you should go there. You go and spend the day, a complete day, where you get to watch the sun travel from one shoulder of the earth to the other. And you breathe it all in and it changes you. Maybe just a little. Maybe just temporarily. But it does change you. And at the end of the day when you retrace your steps home and slowly awaken from the spell of the place, you find yourself saying, “I want to go back”.

wide hay bales

tree coulee

Canyon Sept 21

silos

st m rd

sky

213

silos