Cumulus Nebulous

My Oh My! October was a tough month. The most challenging one I can remember. Usually it is an outstanding time to be on the river. Some of the best fishing of the year. No such luck this Autumn. There were few BIG blue winged olives around. It was mainly just the small guys: size 20, 22, and smaller…the size of mosquitoes…no, miniature mosquitoes.

storm

Finding rising fish was also a challenge. I searched and searched. I drove from favorite river to river. My local water simply didn’t produce. It was hard to find a target.

abby

abby on home water

sidechan

calm morning on side channel

So I headed to the Missouri river (the Mo). I usually fish it in late October early November. Often it serves up a sensational BIG olive hatch around the time the World Series is on. However, like my local water, the Mo was tough going. Just the mini olives were out and not that many of them. Finding surface feeders was like trying to get a rally going in the World Series. Hits were few and far between. It was a low score game. I kind of suspected it was going to be a challenge as the fishing reports from the banks of the Mo weren’t clear. They were cloudy. They were nebulous…they were cumulus nebulous!

handfin

So, I walked around a lot, took some photos and persevered. I lowered my expectations. With the fast ball pitcher on the mound throwing at 100 mph I didn’t try to hit it out of the park. I shortened my swing and just tried to make contact. I eventually caught a few good rainbows on tiny dries; a simple little hackle pattern, clipped on the bottom to ride low…a half hackle. A photo of it turned out blurry. As I said October has been a tough month.

Looks like the season is done. Someone’s dimming the lights but I’m not ready to go home. I’m going to have to book a winter angling trip somewhere…

path-1

beautiful anglers path

025

037

longshot

cattle

moth

track

railway path along the Missouri

slimback

shop

early morning craig, montana

deerprint

riverside deer prints

sidechan2

another side channel

Coulee Landscape

Some of my favorite sight fishing trout rivers run down in coulees out on the high dry plains. Here are some landscape photos from my last outing.

Coulee definition: Kind of a valley or drainage zone. The word comes from the French Canadian coulee, from the French word couler meaning “to flow”.

003

bob stmary 2x 076

searching for trout, looking into the flow

IMG_4523

looking up

IMG_4522

still looking up

 

010

002

gull skull

008

007

natural fin

beautiful trout dorsal fin

Bonefishing for Trout

There’s this river I go Bonefishing on. I don’t really catch Bones there, I catch trout. But it’s just like Bonefishing. The angling is all visual.

benchland

Around mid to late morning when the sun gets high in the sky I look for some shallow water areas that have a fairly light and uniform bottom; or as uniform as a trout stream bottom can get. The presence of trout and their movement is harder to detect when I’m walking so when I get to a promising location I sit or stand still and watch.

tree

The trout in this bonefishing river often move out of the deeper water into these shallows and prowl for food. They tend to cycle in and out of these spots. If I see one exiting such a location for deeper water I wait as it will probably be back. If you watch cycling trout for a while you soon realise they often repeat the same route or path over and over. If a trout disappears I plan for its return and strategize my approach and get ready to cast. It all sounds easy but with wary fish in clear shallow water on a bright sunny day, a lot can go wrong. Trout are always hypervigilant, especially for any kind of movement from above.

yes2

clear sky and success

To spot these fish I look for movement. A blue sky with few or no clouds to create reflection is ideal. Clouds and sun can turn the river surface milky white blinding your vision. Light colored riverside cliffs are just like clouds, they reflect light and create glare when it is sunny. Dark cliffs with vegetation are good but unfortunately my favorite sight fishing river has little of this. I prefer river terrain that is flat and open on a sunny day so there is little around to reflect light. The neat thing about this angling style is that you can often sight fish even when there is no hatch occurring, and on my Bonefishing river there has been an unusual absence of bugs lately. This makes the game even more challenging.

rivershot

in bright sun cliffs like this cause blinding glare; river in distance

wheat

I do best with this type of fishing when the river drops and I can wade across it in many areas. This allows me to take advantage of the changing light as the sun arcs throughout the day. A good spot late morning is probably not going to be as good mid-afternoon. Cross the river and you can sight fish again. The key is to use the light to your advantage so you have maximum vision and can spot movement. This type of angling is all about seeing. I move around until I can see real well and look for a section of river bottom where a fish will stand out.

010

Once I spot a cycling fish I stay low and still. I often creep up on fish and cast from my knees. Drab clothing helps me blend in. A white shirt or hat in full sun is like waving a flag and causes trout to bolt. Forget about those shiney silver or gold fly reels. I also tuck away anything that glitters or shines on my vest or pack. I try to blend in, stay still, cast side arm and if I have to move for a better position I do so when the fish turns away from me or re-enters deep water. It is best to approach a fish from behind but often that’s not possible. I catch many from the side or feeding them the fly from above (downstream presentation). In these situations staying low, still and at some distance is even more important.

eagle

eagle

My Bonefishing river harbours some great trout but not a lot of them and therefore on any given day you only get so many shots at a good fish. If you throw in a bit of cloud, some wind, intense summer heat and an absence of bugs, and some snooty/selective fish into the equation, then a hook up becomes even more special. I often come home from such an outing knees sore from crawling on hot river rocks and eyes tired. On my last outing I hooked several but only landed one.

 

clouds

clouds rolling in, game over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sight fishing Easter Weekend

After a winter of fishing blind with a two handed rod it was a real pleasure to sight fish with a light 4wt rod and dry flies this past weekend. I spent two days walking and wading the Missouri river in Montana. I tossed midges all weekend and on a couple of occasions a small beetle. Most fish were on emergers (bulging the surface). A few could be found eating dries, especially when the wind died down in the flat water sections of the river. Some bulging fish could even be enticed to eat on top; however, many would not. A lot of the midges were clustering in the mid afternoon so cluster fly patterns worked fairly well. A few Blue Winged Olives were out but not many. This hatch should be developing soon which will make the dry fly angling easier. All of the fish below were caught on dries. I spent my time fishing flat, shallow sections; slow wading ankle deep water. Some great fish landed; many more missed. Some humbling moments. Trout fishing doesn’t get much more challenging or better. If you love dry fly fishing you owe it to yourself to one day visit this river.

tree

misty late day leaving the river

bbrown angle

brown trout on dry fly, beetle

beetle

beetle fly, chewed

pboxes

craig, scene

 

arm tiltfish

rainbow trout on dry fly

fly shop

craig fly shop

channeltrack

shallow side channel

bbowfat

rainbow on dry fly

goose eggs

easter eggs on river island (goose eggs)

netbowreflec

rainbow trout on dry fly

wagon wheel

craig, montana

misscurve

caught on dry fly

horsehoes

horse shoe pit at local fly shop

side chanmiss

side channel

bbrown 2

another pic of brown trout

 

“Go And Catch a Trout”

“At one stage I fished the Yellow Breeches Creek, along which I lived, almost eight evenings a week.”

Charles K. Fox – This Wonderful World of Trout

beetle thumb

photo r dewey

GETTING GOOD PHOTOS OF TROUT IS ALWAYS CHALLENGING especially when you fish alone, which is what I do most of the time. Fish aren’t cooperative. After you land one you have to do a number of things in order to get a picture. All seem easy but aren’t, especially when you’re kneeling in moving water, and often in imperfect weather conditions. You have to gently control the fish; keep it in the water and unhook it; dig your camera out of a deep pocket; turn it on without dropping it into the river; focus the shot; ensure there is no water on the lens (I still have trouble with that one); check where the sun is in order to avoid shadow; etc. And you want to do all of this fast so that you can safely release the trout. I have had many great fish bolt on me before I got all of the aforementioned tasks done, and therefore missed a wanted image.

riv sheep

photo r dewey

I was lucky this past August to have a photographer with me for part of an afternoon. I felt no pressure when I was directed to, “Go and catch a trout…I’m all set up to shoot”.

back shot

photo r dewey

 

running

photo r dewey

Although SW Alberta has great rivers, quite a few people fish here (angling pressure) and the trout are wild, wary and usually not easy. The river that I was sight fishing is especially challenging. It is a quality not quantity fishery. It runs through wide open terrain where it is often sunny and there are few places for an angler to hide. The trout are spooky; some even seem clairvoyant. In order to have a “crack” at a great fish you generally have to do things well. In mid summer when the water is low and clear the resident rainbows simply don’t tolerate mistakes and catching one on a dry-fly in my mind is always an accomplishment. Usually each good fish takes some time.

girth 2

photo r dewey

Well, shortly after being directed to, “Go and catch a trout”, I caught one! If you fish a lot you know that it doesn’t usually work out this way. I was lucky, things just came together. Having a photographer nearby made getting some nice shots so much easier. It simplified things. I just had to focus on safely handling the trout.

fish me

photo r dewey

What I like best about some of the images taken is that they show the girth of the trout. That’s something I have trouble capturing when I’m taking pictures by myself. The rainbow is quite representative of the ones I catch there. I have caught more large trout on small dries there than on any other river along the continental divide, either side of the Medicine Line. The place is an ace.

1 shed

photo r dewey

 

girthbest

phoro r dewey

 

 

 

 

 

Stillness, Prairie Scenes and Trout

“How we spend or days is, of course, how we spend our lives”.

Annie Dillard

 

river shelter (1)

river shelter

 

“Jeez, it looks like I’m not going to have a lot of time to fish this October. I better make the most of the weekends this month: September. The first week is already almost done. It’s done, done, done….done like dinner. The month is going fast. So I better get out there. The forecast is calling for good weather tomorrow and Sunday. Nothing but blue skies! How rare. Not much luck in that department all through the latter part of August. It will be perfect for sight fishing. Perfect for spotting trout, especially when the sun climbs high. Their dark backs will show up in the shallows. If it’s a little breezy I might spot a few good ones moving around. They’ll be looking for what the wind has delivered. They are always easier to see when they prowl. Motion gives them away. You just have to be patient and watch. You use the sun to your advantage and wait and watch. Forget casting. When you feel like tossing something out there just to do something, or because you feel you won’t catch unless your fly is on the water, just say “No”. You have to fish with your eyes, not your arm. Stillness is your best weapon. Forget about all the equipment and technology: the breathable waders, the fast action graphite rod, WF fly line, a long leader and all the rest. That’s all fine and good but stillness is where it’s at. You can’t worry about getting skunked. Worry about that and you start casting everywhere. Then you spook fish. You spook the real good ones. You cast right over fish you should have seen. You even wade right on top of them and see them bolt. I’ve been there. I still go there sometimes when I get impatient. When I’m in a hurry. When it’s not happening for me. It’s not a good place. Stillness is better. I better get out there this weekend. It has already snowed once. Winter is coming. It think it’s coming early this year. It’s knocking at my door. I kind of feel it’s stalking me. Once it hits it will be a long wait until next season. No, I better get out there. I’ll go and spend a day”.

021

walk to river

bob st mary's my pics sept 6, 2014 064

ftbow2 (1)

rainbow on dry fly

rivershot

river in distance

bowonrod

rainbow on dry fly

rd convoy

harvest time on prairies: convoy

rainbow trout on dry

rainbow trout on dry fly

big wind

it’s windy on the eastern slopes, photo r. dewey

 

 

Browns on Dries

Some scenery and trout caught on dry flies on a windy Sunday afternoon. The river dropped a bit, it was clearer and some brown trout decided to rise.

smooth hills

smooth hills riverside

020

side chan

high water side channel

017

040

windshield shot

014

 

022

blur brown

027

trout spotting cliffs