July- Rock Hopping

Summer took forever to get here. And what has arrived feels like an impostor; an anemic fake. No real consistent heat. Warm one day, cool the next. Wet wading in shorts one day then layers of fleece and a wool hat the next. And from time to time, some real heavy rain to make things muddy. It’s hard to get in sync with local streams given the dramatic variability of the weather. And with that, hatches have been inconsistent; they’ve been all over the place.

July weather

The good news is Crowsnest river fish are big this year. Other rivers that I have put time on have also produced, not many, but some memorable trout which required a chase and a lot of rock hopping. Quality over quantity. I’ll take that exchange any day of the week.

tailwater rainbow on size 14 pmd dry

The other day I found myself in the middle of an unexpected golden stone-fly hatch. The tailwater river I was on is not known for this large insect. If some do make an appearance it is usually in early summer, not late July. Then again everything is late. July is like June. Maybe August will be like July. Maybe August will be like September. Maybe…

I had no stone-fly impressions. I fished the same water the day before (in the cold and heavy rain) and tossed mainly miniscule size 18 BWO and PMD emergers to bulging trout. With the giant stones skittering the surface the trout wouldn’t look at anything but the big bug. Why would you eat a single Bon Bon when you can have a whole Snickers bar?!

I lucked upon a fellow and his friend fishing a soft spot on the river. He was kind enough to give me a yellow stimulator (golden stone impression) from his fly box. Shortly after I hooked a fine brown trout that took me way downstream. I chased, once again rock hopping a long way.

Many thanks to Scott Smith I believe from Edmonton. Here’s the brown I wouldn’t have caught without his generosity.

brown trout on dry fly

Also, photos of other trout taken sight-fishing with dry flies and some SW Alberta scenery from the past 3 weeks…

tailwater rainbow on size 16 ant
beautiful crowsnest river
crowsnest river brown trout on pmd dry by Joe F.
thick crowsnest bow on size 16 pmd dry
crowsnest river
tailwater cutthroat on size 18 bwo
crowsnest river
tailwater rainbow, Joe F.
crowsnest river
tailwater rainbow, same fish as 2nd one on post
Joe F. with another Crowsnest river brown on dry/emerger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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summer, june 30th

Summer. Warm. Long days. Great light for trout spotting. Trout are looking up. Main hatches on the tailwater river I’ve been on: little yellow stoneflies; pmd’s; some larger caddis. Here are a few trout taken sight fishing with dries this long weekend…

rainbow on caddis dry fly, size 12
caddis amber
brown trout on dry fly size 16 yellow stone
brown trout on dry fly

river walking

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.

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Here’s Abby picking up messages delivered by the wind while I check out what the water has to say.

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crowsnest river

DIY Fly Fishing NZ: A Moment

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intact bank on left

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:

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intact bank far left, I’m on sheep/angler trail

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intact left side bank and slight bubble line…all good except wind

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.

intact bank

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.

weather

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

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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.

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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…

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Here’s a nice Crowsnest rainbow that was located feeding on a shadowy bank. Caught on a size 18, BWO hacklestacker pattern.

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same rainbow

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some

SOMEone flipped the switch at the end of August. September has been real cold so far. SOME mornings snow at elevation. SOME mornings right around zero. SOME mornings even colder. On Saturday it was 3C pretty much all day and foggy. SOME good Baetis hatches. SOME good fish have been looking up. SOME selective. SOME very, very selective. SOME frustration getting them to commit. SOME failure. SOME success. SOME brown trout. SOME photos from past two weekends. All trout, not SOME, taken on size 18 BWO’s.

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flies

size 18 BWO’s

 

bwnet

 

brwnleg

taken on hacklestacker BWO, size 18

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focused river guide

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broad tailwater and wind

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low challenging clear water on crowsnest river, fish landed below

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classic crowsnest river rainbow

 

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same brown below

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brown trout on size 18 parachute BWO