Went to my favorite river real early. Slightly cooler lately. Cool in the mornings. Felt there was opportunity. So I did the long drive. Fog was mixed in with smoke. A large coffee helped me get there. It kept me on watch for roadside deer in the low light. Water temperatures were good in the river flow; marginal in the shallows. Water levels were the lowest I’ve ever seen. A lot of standing water. A lot of mosquitos. The sun came out when I arrived. I figured I’d give it a few hours and then leave and fish another river on the way home. In SW Alberta you always have angling options. A fellow from B.C. arrived right after me. No other anglers were around. He parked his vehicle one pool upstream from me and started fishing it and then worked his way further up. Hmm….
I carefully walked the long pool I was on from the tail to the head. There were some smaller fish at the bottom end rising. I watched them and figured things were going to heat up fast (air and water temperature) so I decided to focus and search for a good one. The light was good for spotting. At the head of the pool, just on the edge of the flow, I saw a good trout. It was moving around (feeding); nosing into the shallows with a decent flow; working its way right to top of the pool with the best flow (oxygenated water and food) and then cycling back. Several times I lost sight of the trout due to its movements from the shallows to deeper water and when moving over darker bottom sections.
The fish ignored a small hopper. Maybe it didn’t see it. A few casts later it took a black beetle. A lot of splashing when I finally landed it. My camera lens got soaked so many blurry pictures but I think it made the fishing net photo even more intriguing. One pool, one fish, a couple of hours and then it was time to go. The fellow from B.C. had left before me.
A bank feeding trout. An impressive one. Spotted last week rising to a sparse hatch of Golden Stoneflies and other insects. It ate my offering then but no hook up. I returned this week to the same location hoping it would be there and watched the water under a heavy smoke filled sky. Hundreds of fires are burning west and south west of here. We need rain. A lot of it.
While stalking the trout a few angling boats drifted by. I protected my spot and pretended to watch the bank downstream of me instead of upstream where the fish had been. River traffic has increased the past few years. Sometimes you have to deceive other anglers while trying to deceive a trout. It’s getting tricky out there. A few days ago a Drone flew over my head.
The trout made an appearance mid day when the river started to liven up. It ignored the smaller insects but broke the surface for the mid-sized and larger ones. This time I made a connection. The large stone fly impression held when the fish went downstream through a series of fast riffles with me and a retriever in pursuit. A long 13 foot knotted leader and a steep embankment made landing it challenging. Seconds before netting it I had to grab my leader mid-way to guide the trout to within reach. It’s an angling move that can often result in a lost fish. I had no other option. I got lucky…
I’ve been waiting for a break in the hot weather. The last few days have been somewhat cooler. Somewhat. So I got up early and made the long drive to my favorite river on the Plains. I’ve been avoiding it due to the intense heat and waiting for an opportunity. When I arrived I checked the temperature in the main flow. It was fairly cold. In the shallows it was passable. A kid was standing mid river smiling and casting frenetically. I saw no rises. He said he had the whole day to fish.
I can’t remember a past season where I used my river thermometer as much as I have been. It seems I’m checking water temperatures several times a day. And I’m watching river levels and flows, the 7 day weather forecast and the 14 day forecast at night on the internet. I feel more like a Weatherman, than an angler. And it’s only July 6th, the start of the summertime angling season. Prime time. The best the year has to offer. I can’t imagine what temperatures are going to be like in mid August. Fires are already burning in British Columbia. Smoke could be on the way as I write.
I walked several pools I know well and carefully watched the water. Nothing. I waited until lunch for a hatch. Nothing. The air temperature started climbing. The river pelicans landed and hunkered down.
I decided to venture to a different stretch of the river and hiked back to my car. The kid was still on the same pool smiling and casting away at the same pace. As before I saw no rises.
At the new location I checked a long straight bank where I missed a great fish late last season. I looked it over from high above. The lighting was good for spotting. The trout was there. It was also rising occasionally to small minuscule, invisible stuff. I dropped down and checked the river temperature once again with my thermometer. It was still good.
The trout refused my first offering, a size 14/16 ant. Absolutely no interest. Then a tried a size 18/16 PMD dry fly with some segmented wire wraps on the slim body to make it sit low (in the water). I think any fly the right size and sitting low would have worked. When I finally got the fly on target the fish ate. Luckily the small fly held and I landed it. A wonderful trout. With that I decided to call it a day.
I looked over the river and thought that with the heat I might not get back to it until mid to late September. I pointed my car towards the mountains and drove home windows open thinking about the kid casting away, about how the tiny hook held on a great trout, and about the river I was just on. My favorite one. It could be the best sight-fishing trout river in North America (that you can drive to) if water (reservoir) management slightly increased the flow throughout the summertime, and if ranchers kept their cattle out of the water. On the Plains ranching and farm irrigation take priority over trout and other things but that’s an old story.
That kid is probably still casting. That kid was me fifty years ago…
Ankle deep water… that’s where I have been angling the last several years. That’s where I search for fish. It’s in the thin water, the skinny water, the almost nothing water. Just a foot or so deep, sometimes just inches. Catching them in the clear nothing is never easy. In the shallows absolutely nothing goes unnoticed. Angling mistakes get magnified. Your mantra: Stay low, go slow. Sunlight helps you search the shallows for that elusive shadow that is gliding in from the deep to feed.
The shallower the better. The closer the better. The more visual the better. The more challenging the better.
Here’s a fine brown trout caught in the shallows on a simple (flat) black ant pattern (size 16) I tie. Local rivers have dropped and most are clear. Trout are starting to look up and take dries…
” Life is trying things to see if they work”…Ray Bradbury
Winter tying. It’s how you stay in the game mid- winter when it’s -25C outside. You can’t travel anywhere far. So you dream of warmer weather and open rivers, and you tie flies for the next opportunity. You tie for when the door opens and you get to walk through. Here are some summertime options for when the sun is warm again. Some big and small, leggy things…
SEPTEMBER. IT HAS BEEN CHALLENGING. FEW BUGS ON the tailwater rivers I frequent and therefore few rising trout. I’ve had some luck searching the shallows for moving shadows and prospecting the deeper water with terrestrial patterns. I recently had ten days off of work so I was able to spend some full days on the water. So far September has been beautiful. Smokey at times from the fires west of here, also a few brief cold snaps but generally warm mid-day into early evening. I was able to wet-wade the past several days. Rivers are low and most clear. Tourists are gone. Few anglers around. It’s silent out there. My favorite time of year to spend a day, or ten, on my favorite rivers. Some fine trout on dry flies…
I casted small grasshoppers, large and small black beetles.
“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.