“Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is about”
Late July. Summer. It took forever to get here. The sun is blasting. It’s even warm in the early morning. That’s rare in the Rocky Mountains. The local ice cream shop is packing them in. My lawn is burning. Abby, my dog, is lazier than heck. The kitchen ceiling fan is spinning. Thunderheads build in the late afternoon heat. A lot of storm watch alerts. Blankets on the vehicles to protect them from hail.
Friends have been in town. Long days spent wet wading the rivers. Fishing until darkness. Little time spent indoors or for other things. That’s alright, it’s summer. And where I live it’s brief. It’s just a flicker. Catch it while you can…
Lots of fish pics. Few people pics. Some dog pics. Most trout featured caught sight-fishing with dries/emergers, size 16-18.; mainly Pale Morning Duns with thorax built with Golden Retriever hair. A few trout taken on beetles and crickets.
“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.
I was on the Crowsnest river this past weekend. Sunday was a rare nice day and warm. It felt like Spring! Some Midges were out in the afternoon, however, no fish were up on the section I was on. I even saw a couple of Blue Winged Olives at about 4pm. Just a few but promising. With no rises I started focusing on the river bottom instead of the surface. It’s a completely different type of looking. Through the river glare I eventually spotted a few dark shadows creeping along the bottom mid-pool. They would travel upstream six feet or so then drop back a bit, and then repeating the cycle. They were active. They were feeding. I managed one on a size 18 PT nymph with a cassette tape wing case and a small black beadhead. A dull fly; no shine to it. I landed a classic Crowsnest river rainbow. No hook marks. It was nice to be out sitting riverside in the sun. Nice to sight-fishing again. A new season.
A spot (bend) on the Crowsnest river where rising fish can sometimes be found. A rare day with no wind. A good place to walk and watch. Still early. Still winter. Haven’t seen many midges, yet. Maybe in a few weeks…maybe around another bend….
Time spent on a Spring Creek. One of the most beautiful ones in the world. Daunting when the hatches are poor. Daunting when the main one is tiny western olives, size 22. Small bugs, few bugs. Tiny and sparse. Not a great combo! Infrequent rises early in the week. Mainly small guys. I spent thirty minutes one day stalking a twelve inch rising fish. I had to crawl on my hands and knees through wetland to get above the trout, and to have a chance. And a “chance” is what it is all about. Once in position I fed line and watched it all: the drift downstream; the rainbow in just inches of water tip up and eat the ant pattern. Success on the Creek! Of course there was also Failure on the Creek. They go hand-in-hand. Each would be meaningless without the other.
Some days were grey. Some days were sunny. Some days were very windy. It was never warm and the fishing was never easy. A storm dumped two feet of snow at home so no complaints about being on the Creek. Flies sitting low or tied on emerger hooks and with a trailing shuck did best. That’s to be expected. Some Mahoganies made a welcomed appearance later in the week and rising fish became more frequent. The bigger fly made things a little easier. Ant and beetle patterns also took some bank fish. I never saw a rise that suggested a trophy trout.
I accessed the creek in several spots just off of N Picabo Road where I watched the water for rises from late morning until the shadows lengthened and the cold crept in at around 5:00-5:30pm. That’s when things shut down and I was reminded of what is coming: Winter… an angler’s worst enemy.
I had the lower Creek to myself. I never got to the more famous and busy upstream Preserve section where hatches tend to be more consistent and prolific. I had my dog Abby with me and canines aren’t allowed on the Preserve.
I catch bigger trout at home and more in other places but the Creek, surrounding region and towns have a distinctive/singular beauty.
I spotted several decent rising trout in the tail section of a big slow pool last week. They were feeding on pale duns. It was the end of a fishing day, I was tired and it was a long walk back to my car so I made a couple quick casts with no results and then moved on. One week later I returned. It was as calm as before. The trout were rising as before. It was the same weak PMD hatch as before.
In full sun and low clear water the trout inspected my flies carefully often rejecting my impressions last second. Fun stuff to watch. Many fly changes. Mostly the same result. Parachutes, hacklestackers, cdc duns, and a variety of emerger patterns were casted. All scrutinized. Just about all rejected. One trout ate a hacklestacker. I dug through my fly box and then hooked two fine trout on a fly tied several years ago with a swiss straw wing, one turn or so of dun hackle clipped on bottom, thread body, size 18 hook. I tied a few more this week…
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.
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.
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.
Also, photos of other trout taken sight-fishing with dry flies and some SW Alberta scenery from the past 3 weeks…
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…