There’s a great river out there
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.
sunset and smoke
I was able to locate a few nice surface feeding trout last weekend in spite of the full sun and few insects. Their rises were inconsistent and subtle. If I didn’t know the river section I was on real well, I would have never seen them or I should say “hear them”. On the broad shallow flats that I like to fish, below or to the side of a good run, it is often the sound of a rising fish that first catches my attention. When I hear something I focus on the water in the region where I think the sound emanated from. I often take several soft steps up or downstream to change my visual angle depending on the light and glare. Most importantly I try to be patient, refrain from casting and wading, and wait for another sound or even better a surface disruption. Sometimes I hear the fish multiple times before I can actually visually pinpoint its location especially when the lighting situation is challenging. Usually these trout are closer to shore than I originally thought. If I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to locate them, I probably would wade right through their feeding position, or cast over them and they would be off to the safety of deeper water.
Many drift boats/rafts beach on the flats that I frequent. Anglers generally get out of their boat, immediately wade through the shallow relatively calm flat to reach the main current flow or edge where they repeatedly work their nymph rigs. Usually they catch fish. However with this tactic they miss some of the best visual angling that the river has to offer. Some large trout like to feed lazily on the slow water flats. They slide in from deeper water and position themselves wherever there is some sort of gentle current channeling drifting food. If you can find (see or hear) one of these subtle feeders and make a connection, you are in for a real treat. A large trout hooked on a shallow flat heads for deeper water at breakneck speed. Often they take me into my backing.
slow flat off of main flow
When sight-fishing I always try to pick a shallow flat where the sun is going to be on my back. If it is cloudy it does not matter as trout rise more frequently and confidently when the light is low and a hatch, if there is going to be one, will be stronger.
The featured trout were caught on the shallow flats of a local tailwater river.
Hot. Let me repeat, Hot. Full sun. Blue skies. Everything is dry. Fire ban on. Forest fires one province over in BC. Smoke could be on the way.
On my favorite rivers few bugs. Hatches have been weak all summer long. Not many rising trout. You have to hunt to find the odd one. Challenging out there.
With the pandemic everyone seems to be outdoors camping. It’s real busy in my region. It’s busy on the rivers: rafters, kayakers, swimmers, and many, many anglers. More than usual. Can’t find parking in some of my favorite spots. Challenging out there.
Some photos from the past few weeks. All trout caught on small dry flies: mainly Pmds, Ants and Beetles.
“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.
an old rainbow
ranch creek side cabin
“For as long as I can remember, my nickname was Dusty. I remember my Dad naming me that because of the streets where we lived”.
I PURCHASED a neglected old Miners home in SW Alberta 17 years ago. I’ve been working on it since. It’s tiny and really just a cottage. The best thing about it is that it is in the the heart of Trout Country: right near the Crowsnest river and many other spectacular flows. You would have a hard time finding a better fly fishing location anywhere in North America. Winters can be brutal (that’s Canada) but most summers are picture perfect on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The rivers are clear, insects often hatch and trout rise, and there is a great fly shop (Crowsnest Angler) just down the street. For years I’ve wanted to name my home and have a sign made. Time flies! Seventeen years later here it is. The cottage is small, it’s a faded blue color and has a lot of green foliage around it in the summertime. I named it after a hatch on my local river…the “Blue Winged Olive Cottage”.
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….
Ants for summertime picky trout…some tied with fine deer hair “outrigger” like legs.
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.
Time spent on a Spring Creek…