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…
Local rivers are settling. Water temperatures are rising into the right zone and with that insects are making a strong appearance and trout are becoming much more active. I’m seeing a lot of the small stoneflies, especially hatches of Yellow Sallies. Here is a recent tie for the faster riffle sections: size 16.
And a tie for slower river sections, size 16.
Pale Morning duns are also starting. Like the Sallies they are light yellow/ cream in color. Some have a slight orange or pale green tint to them. I prefer this hatch as they ride the river surface for a fairly long time before taking flight. Trout can relax and sip on them.
The small fly hatches, unlike the big flies, tend to go on for weeks on end and some for months. They tend to be consistent and dependable. Last year I fished Pale Duns from late June into late September on one of the local tailwater rivers. That’s reliability!
Catching a large rising trout on a small fly is always a real challenge and quite special when a connection is made and one landed. Here are a few taken on small dries…
August. Smoke everywhere. It keeps coming. It’s blocking the sun. There was an evacuation alert (fire) the other day. No rain in sight. That’s bad. Cooler recently. That’s good. I just spent one week walking a nearby river in the Coulees. Challenging breathing. Challenging angling. Small fly stuff: size 18 dries and emergers… Pale Morning Dun mayflies and small Caddis. Most fish were on emergers. Real daunting angling. Some were found sipping on duns. My best fish were taken on duns.
Early in the week I missed several great trout. A hand-tied leader popped mid-section on a biggie; on more than one occasion fish wedged my line between river bottom boulders and freed themselves; several powerful trout on reel screeching first runs cut me off on rocks in the low water conditions; a fly line got sliced and diced and rendered useless; I missed several connections as the small fly didn’t set once eaten, especially on the tiny emerger patterns I tied on Klinkhammer style hooks.
In frustration I talked to myself. I talked to my dog. I looked-up and talked to the sky. I hung in. I walked and searched, and fished my way through the slump. I made some adjustments and things eventually started to click.
I started connecting more consistently when I opened (slightly) the hook bend on my klinkhammer flies with hemostats and also slowed down my hook set. In the future I’ll tie on emerger/scud hooks. A less acute bend. I also tied on stronger tippet, especially when approaching a fish from above and casting down and across (fly first) to it.
The tailwater trout were selective. They would have nothing to do with ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and attractor patterns. They stuck to the main items on the menu. It was Pale Duns, small Caddis flies (mostly on the emerger stage).
The thicker the smoke the better the top water angling. Like clouds it intensified the hatches. And in the low light trout were more willing to surface. Even some of the bigger trout made an appearance.
It was some of the most demanding and best sight-fishing I’ve ever had. You simply couldn’t make any mistakes with the powerful trout in the low water conditions. An angling error meant a lost fish. Fish perfectly and you could still lose a fish. I lost my share. A few great smokin’ trout caught and released on tiny dries. Ridiculous! One memorable week in August…
It was 35C/95F in the river valley on Sunday. A lot of low, flat water. No bugs to speak of. No bugs for a while now. Just bright sun, heat radiating off of the river rocks and glare. A lot of walking and looking in the dead calm. Occasionally a subtle surface disturbance would bring me out of the heat induced daze. It would catch my attention. A trout or a mirage?