Monday, June 23, 2008

What happened to June?

This June, we've had plenty of the cool and wet weather I like to see, but circumstances beyond my control have mostly kept me off-stream. Hence my lack of posts.

Have patience, dear readers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Covering water

Some fishermen are happy to find a nice run or a rising trout and work it for hours. On the other hand, I often think about an afternoon of fishing as working from point A to point B. I like to find long stretches of water to myself to accommodate this, and on many streams it isn't too hard to find, as long as you're willing to walk for a bit. I know some fishermen who haven't fished more than 100 yards from a bridge in years, and they're good fishermen who do quite well.

I mentioned in an earlier post the difficulties I had when I first fished Silver Creek in Idaho. In part this was because I approached the stream the way I do local freestoners, covering water, working corners and edges. I had to learn to ease into one good spot and settle down for a while.

In some of the small streams I fish, the covering water approach works well. I skip over the thinner stretches, but fish all the likely little spots. Sometimes, though, the trout aren't where they're supposed to be. This happened to me early this season on a local river. The water was very high and the trout were actively feeding in riffles I rarely fished because they were so thin. I discovered the trout there quite by accident of course, but one I clued in to what was going on, I had a fantastic day.

On a local stream I fish regularly, the guys have names for some of the pools. A friend of mine fished the river one day and at a certain pool he caught 3 very nice browns at the head of a run, over along the left bank, casting a stimulator. He identified the pool using a name everyone else reserved for a completely different pool, located over a mile away. I was on the river a few days after my friend's successful day, and when I approached the pool I thought he was talking about, I decided to try his stonefly approach. Of course I was at the wrong pool. The top of this run along the left bank didn't look so promising, but my friend was a reliable sort, so I tied on a stimulator and cast to the top of the run. I caught two browns in a row, both good fish. Now I always fish the top of this run, but I have never caught another trout there.

There are a couple local streams I know quite well. That is to say, under various conditions, I have a pretty good idea where the trout might be. There have been times when certain runs were notoriously reliable for two, three years in a row, then nada-something changed causing the trout to move or change their behaviour. I know a run like that now. Even without a hatch, I often catch a nice trout or two there on a parachute ant.

I really enjoy my first trip out each spring. I make it a long walk usually, because I want to see what winter did to my river. Just as some old favourite runs change and become ordinary, other ordinary spots become increasingly interesting. I love that, rediscovering the stream again and again.

Monday, June 09, 2008


I've stayed off our streams during the past several days of hot weather. My local weatherman is predicting some cooler days ahead.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On trout pictures and a few other things

From time-to-time I receive requests to post trout photos on this blog. Once in a while, if I catch a really good trout and my camera is handy and it occurs to me to snap a quick photo of trout in net, I'll take a photo. This isn't very often. I rarely kill trout and my first consideration is releasing the trout in good shape. I use barbless hooks and if I can use my forceps to do a quick release without even touching a trout, I will. I don't much feel the need to record pictures of the trout I catch, and I don't have anything to prove to anyone.

For a long time, I didn't take a camera on-stream with me at all. I found it got in the way and was really just a distraction. These days I do often carry a camera, usually a small inexpensive digital one, because I like to record the landscape around me. What did the day look like? How high was the vegetation. It was cloudy, wasn't it? Look at that, the trilliums are in bloom. So once in a while I'll take a photo of a pretty trout, but it won't be so often. When I do, though, I'll post it for you.

I'm sure there are folks out there who catch more and bigger and prettier and smarter and tougher trout than I do using swankier, not to mention smaller flies, from more difficult pools. Let there be no doubt that there are loads of fly fishermen who cast better than I do (although I can cast equally poorly with either hand, and there's something to be said for that).

When I was growing up, we were mostly bait plonkers. I did a little fly fishing but not very seriously. At that time we fished for trout, migratory rainbows, walleye, bass, pike, whatever. We killed and ate most of what we caught and we took loads of pictures of dead fish. I'm reminded of the story of a trip my father and older brother took many years ago. They hiked in a legendary distance to a legendary secret spot they had been looking for like it was the Holy Grail. When they found it, they caught many large brook trout, all of which they killed and packed out. Back at the car, they laid this mess of legendary trout on the hood of the old station wagon so they could get the required picture of the dead fish. I think I still have a copy of that picture somewhere or other. Well, when they took the trout off the hood of the car, they discovered that the oils from the fish left a permanent stain on the hood for each of the trout. Talk about keeping a good record of your catch!

Eventually, I became bored with fishing the way we were doing it, and I started exploring fly fishing. I started fly tying as well, and when I actually caught some trout on my awkwardly tied out of proportion first efforts, you can imagine how thrilled I was. As I learned to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings, the game became richer and richer.

Sometimes I think fly fishing is more about paying attention than catching trout. For me, it's also about quieting myself to a rhythm that beats in synch with my surroundings. Catching trout is kind of an affirmation that you're paying attention pretty well. When I started visiting Silver Creek in Idaho, I think it was two or three visits before I caught any trout. I remember the first time, I stood in the middle of a blizzard hatch with trout rising all around me and I couldn't catch one. The guys at the local fly shops all said you need long fine leaders and umpteen X tippet and tiny flies. What I learned though, was that I needed to learn to slow down, way way down.

PS The photo in this post is courtesy of Tuffy P.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A wee trout stream

The good thing about this stream is that at first glance it doesn't look very trouty. In fact, at second glance, it doesn't look very trouty either. It's a deceptive little stream though, and there are some deep pools and some nice undercuts.

After working for several hours on my father-in-law's cottage garden, I drove over to check things out. It had been very cool and windy all morning and into the afternoon, but now the temperature was coming up a little and the wind not so bad.

I normally fish a different stretch of this creek, a stretch which believe it or not looks even smaller than this stretch, by virtue of the fact that it runs though forest. I took a walk first, and met a local fellow who was bait fishing in one of the deeper runs. I watched him catch a 10 inch brown and add it a couple others he had killed for dinner. He knew the stream well, and he obviously fished it all the time.

I went back to the car for a fly rod then walked quite a way down to the end of the meadow and started working upstream. There were not many bugs about (besides the blackflies), just a few Grey Foxes and a few caddis. I saw one large mayfly come off the water, but it was at a distance, so I couldn't see what it was.

I fished with a March Brown Usual and caught and released three browns between 10 and 12 inches, all fat and feisty.