late october

Late October. Most rivers are closing down. The Brown trout are on Redds. So are the Bull trout. We had our first significant snowfall the other day.

Bruce on pool 85, last Fall

Recently I fished a Cutthroat stream several times with a friend, Bruce. Below are some photos from this season and also last Fall when we visited some of the same rivers. When fishing with Bruce I cover several pools to get a few good trout. Bruce generally stays on one pool and catches many. An outstanding, versatile angler. My dog Abby also enjoys his company as he always brings her a bag of treats.

bruce nymphing
Bruce wading deep
Bruce last Fall, small stream
one of Bruce’s Cutthroats, photo by Bruce
cutthroat, photo by Bruce
photo by Bruce

The photos below are of another outing this Fall where I was privileged to be guided by Vic Bergman owner of the famous Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop: (https://www.crowsnestangler.com/). I worked part-time at his iconic Fly Shop this season and last, and he generously treated me to a day on a British Columbia Cutthroat stream. He stayed in the background and took some action shots and a few fish photos which I fully appreciated as I generally fish alone, and therefore don’t get that type of photo perspective on my blog. Many thanks to him for the day and memorable shots.

fishing a tail-out riser, photo Vic Bergman
hook-set, photo Vic Bergman
landing one, photo V. Bergman
photo V. Bergman
cutthroat stream, photo V. Bergman
nice cutthroat, photo V. Bergman

Mid-October

” If a year was tucked inside a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour.”

Victoria Erickson

FEW BLUE WINGED OLIVES SO FAR this fall. Consistent with the whole season as hatches in general have been poor. I continue to walk local Cutthroat streams. I’m still finding some late season afternoon rising fish. The searching and sight-fishing in the full sun has been spectacular due to rivers being ultra low and clear. The big stuff (flies) in the slow shallow stretches rarely get a response. I’ve had much more success with small fly impressions such as midges, tiny parachute patterns, hackle-stackers, small emergers and ants. Size 18 flies generally. In the low, slow water the trout are on guard and fairly selective. They carefully inspect all that passes overhead. Rises are slow motion events fully witnessed in the Autumn golden light. Dry fly fishing doesn’t get any better.

shallow, clear

flies

autumn gold

In between pools

Dark in the morning. Dark earlier in the evening. Days are shortening. Fading light…

The brief afternoon light provides opportunity to locate a good trout. It’s your chance to sight-fish; your chance for one on a dry fly.

I have been hiking a few very low, clear Cutthroat rivers the past couple of weeks; walking the long distances between pools where there is very little holding water and therefore trout. I always pause in these sections when I see see a small area of slightly darker water, or what seems to be a slight depression in the river bed. A spot that is just a little deeper than the rest. Often it’s just two or three feet of slow moving water. Sometimes less.

Recently I paused and watched one of these spots after noticing a slight surface disturbance. The afternoon sun felt good and I knelt down on the sand and pebble rock and took a moment to absorb the heat, as I had been wet wading the ice-cold river for awhile. As I watched and warmed-up, a rise occurred. The fish displaced very little water. A small one. It was eating the few afternoon Blue Winged Olives that were riding the slow, shallow flow. I watched for awhile then noticed, just slightly beyond, another fish rise. It displaced more water. A better fish.

I side-arm cast to it down and across from my kneeling position and the trout slowly surfaced in full light and ate my small Olive impression.

low,slow…clear

It is a given that in low water conditions that Cutthroat trout, and trout in general, are going to be in the deep pools on a river. Catching them there is always an achievement especially late in the season after they have been fished-over for three plus months. However, finding a good one in between pools in the shallowest of water is for me much more special. It’s the location. A few trout found in the scarcest of water the past few weeks…

Long leaders, fine tippet and relatively small flies.

clear water, dog’s nose

cutthroat trout

“WELL THAT FLY DIDN’T WORK and he’s still rising. Change fly! Let’s go smaller. Nope, no response. Try again. Wow, same response. Change fly! Let’s try an ant. Nice cast. He’s looking. Closing in. Nope. He rejected it the last second. Wow, tough fish. Throw the ant again. Hmm. No go. Change fly! Let’s tie on a Klink/Emerger. No response to that. Change fly! I see some Drakes in the flow but the fish is ignoring most of them… but not all. Try this CDC version. Nope, he didn’t even move over to take a look. Toss it again. Change fly! I have a Drake Emerger pattern. Let’s try that. No luck. Maybe we need to rest the fish. Let’s go upstream. We’ll come back later. Hopefully he’ll still be rising then…wow, picky Cutthroat. Hard to walk away. Look at him still feeding. Some naturals passing overhead. He only rises to some; not others. Passing on the Duns, sometimes…maybe he’s mainly cueing in on Emergers. Well he just took a Dun but then let several others drift overhead. He ignores some, then eats the odd one. Yikes, challenging trout…we will come back.”

Cutthroats. Simply beautiful. Some say they are easy to catch. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as challenging as any other trout. It depends on the river. It depends on how much food is in the flow. It depends on angling pressure. It depends on water clarity. It depends…

Late season low water can make things extra challenging. You have to try and stay out of sight; and don’t move too fast; and don’t drag that dry fly; and don’t do this, or that, or they’ll disappear. They’ll go hide in a log-jam. Remember, Cutthroats have been around for several million years. They’ve survived. They’re always on alert…

one of Roman’s best

I recently spent four days fishing with a good friend, Roman, on different sections of one stream. A clear, pristine cutthroat stream. We pulled-up fish in the faster water on dry flies and came across several fish rising occasionally in slow water. The slow, flat water fish often required multiple fly changes in order to be fooled and a few tough customers couldn’t be enticed. With our fly selection we went big, we went small, we went slim, we went chubby, we tried low-riding patterns, emergers, terrestrials of varying sizes, a nymph dropper, lighter tippet…We caught many but a few couldn’t be fooled.

Some say Cutthroats are easy. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as hard and challenging as any other trout. Here are some photos from our four days of walking clear water in pursuit of this beautiful trout. All Cutthroats were taken on dries. All released…

clear water

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terrestrial box
flies that often worked
pool with a log-jam… always a good spot
cutthroats were thick

augusto mosquito

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”–Dalai Lama

THIS AUGUST I MADE THE LONG DRIVE to one of my favorite sight-fishing rivers. On my previous trip, three weeks earlier, the mosquitos drove me off of the river after a few hours of angling. I’ve never seen it that bad. The place is usually very dry and windy, and relatively bug free until nightfall. Not this year. A wet spring and a lot of standing water in the riverside low grasslands created a perfect breeding ground for millions of the pesty creatures.

I picked a hot, full sun and most importantly windy day to go back but the mosquitos were still there. DEET seemed ineffective. I survived for a few hours by standing in the river while encouraging the wind to pick-up. I was ambushed when I hiked through the vegetation to riverside high spots in order to locate fish. In the end I had to sight-fish from water level. Not the best angle in full sun and glare. Not the best angle for spotting the river’s large trout.

Sight-fishing is all about observation, concentration and using the light to your advantage which was hard to do while being constantly harassed and distracted by insects. I did spot a few Rainbow trout and fooled some on terrestrial patterns. After a few hours I had had enough and decided to leave. My dog approved of the sprint back to the car and the quick drive out of the coulee, and on to the highway. Wide open windows at 110km blasted any pesty hitchhikers out of the car. One hour later I removed my wet wading boots and socks at a Walmart parking lot.

The only past bug experiences that were as close or worse would be the relentless black flies while Brook trout fishing on the North Shore of Quebec and beach Snook fishing along the gulf coast of Florida in June where at sunset on heavily vegetated Pine Island the no-see-ums ate me alive while camping. My skin burned. The following morning after no sleep I pulled up tent pegs, rolled up my damp tent, drove to the mainland and got a cheap motel with air conditioning on Tamiami trail where urban sprawl and pavement stretched on forever. Every night after a day of beach fly fishing I retreated to the bugless cool of my room and watched Michael Jordan dominate his opponents in the basketball playoffs. Best B-ball player I ever saw.

Here are some photos of my drive in and out of the prairie river and a few trout pictures. I heard the other day the mosquito situation on the river has abated. I’m not sure whether to believe it or not but I’m willing to go back and check it out…

august

Early August. There is smoke in the air some days. Fires are burning west and southwest of us. Seems that’s a given every Summer. The ground is dry. Rivers are low. The wind is warm. Cloths dry quickly outdoors on the line. My dog is panting a lot. I add a bit of powdered Gatorade to my water bottles when I head out for a day of angling due to the heat.

The Cutthroat streams are fishing well. I need to visit them more often. They are cool and clear, and the trout willing. The tailwater rivers that I frequent have been challenging. Generally poor hatches in comparison to past seasons and therefore often not a lot of opportunity at least until the end of the day, sometimes not even then. If you spot a good trout you want to make it count as there might not be another chance.

I’ve had several fine fish eat my small impressions lately but no hook up. A tiny hook can catch or sometimes simply slip out of a big mouth. That’s all part of the small fly game. Hopefully things will balance out by the end of the angling season.

The past few weeks I’ve walked a number of rivers. Here are some photos. I’m still getting accustomed to a new camera and at times experiencing some framing problems…

Abby snoozing riverside
cutthroat color

low light browns and the mole

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”

RAIN. A LOT OF IT in the past two days. The rivers were starting to drop but now they are pumped-up again. High fast water. Most rivers can’t be crossed.

brown trout on klinkhammer bwo size 18

When the forecast calls for heavy skies and rain I always try to head to one of my favorite rivers, especially if it’s not going to be too windy. My best brown trout of the year usually come in these conditions. They show-up in low light as long as there are insects around. You just have to be there and watch the water, even high water.

high water into shore grasses and willows

On both days I got drenched and my soaked camera started malfunctioning. It’s waterproof but old and has many cracks in it and the battery/SD card door doesn’t always close properly. Water got inside. On the way home I was able to dry the SD card on the car dashboard with the heat on high. I managed to save it. The camera, however, I could not. Time for a new one.

brown trout

There were mayflies around: olives and a few pmd’s. I prospected the slow shallows with a beetle pattern early in the day. Then I fished a size 18 Mole fly when I started seeing some surface disturbances. It’s a simple shuttlecock style pattern by Charlie Craven, a professional fly tyer. He ties his with a CDC wing. Due to the heavy rain I tied mine with polypropylene and some with deer hair, or a combination of both.

A blogger/angler I follow (Jim) often fishes the Mole pattern and that’s were I first took notice of it. I pay attention to his fly selections as he visits some of the most challenging tailwater rivers and spring creeks anywhere and consistently catches impressive trout on dry flies. Check him out at: http://jims-wanderings.blogspot.com

simple mole fly size 18

When my casts were on target trout ate the Mole fly without hesitation.

brown on size 18 mole fly

Here are some photos. Some are blurry due to the conditions.

rainbow on size 18 mole fly
mole
cuttbow on mole fly size 18
mole gathering and beetle…all that I fished in two days
brown on mole fly

late june

Most local rivers are still high but subsiding. We are in the tail end of run off. I visited two rivers recently. One that was low (controlled flow) and one fairly fast and high. I walked a lot and found a few nice fish rising. Hatches are starting. I saw some pmds mid-afternoon when things warmed-up; some small (yellow and lime sallies) and larger caddis; a few small western green drakes (flavs); some golden stones…

low and slow

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rainbow caught on size 18 pmd
pmd hacklestacker
small western green drake
rainbow caught on small caddis fly
high and fast
healthy riverside grasses
stonefly

autumn shadows

Shadows are long mid-afternoon. Transition time (Autumn) tends to be swift at latitude 49 degrees. It roars in. There are more leaves on the water than mayflies. The Brown trout are on redds. Dry fly angling is almost non-existent on the rivers I frequent. Maybe there are a few more good days left? Maybe. Probably just wishful thinking.

Shadows are lengthening; shadows created by light…

october

Crisp in the mornings. Sun is arcing low. Noticeable long shadows mid-afternoon. Still windy. Still mainly hanging out in the mountains trying to escape the wind. Still fishing dry flies. Did spend one half day on a tailwater river out on the Plains sight-fishing a slightly sheltered back bay.

Some October photos…a lot of shadows.

sight-fishing a river back bay
back bay rainbow
up high sight fishing
creek cutthroat
creek hybrid: rainbow-cutthroat
flat water fly, size 18
drive to mountains
creek cutt
creek cutthroat
another wet lens shot
small creek cutthroat