This past Labor Day weekend found me once again prowling the productive stillwaters of the Parkland's region of southwest Manitoba. As with the spring, I led a group of nine enthusiastic fly fishers, most of which had only heard about the stillwater riches this region has to offer. Bob and Karen Vanderwater worked with me once again helping coordinate this event. Their help and support is invaluable and provides an element of polish to the whole trip.
|Twin Lake Tigers, just one of the Parkand's stillwater attractions
We based ourselves out of the Barn in the Bush located at the southern end of Lake of the Prairies. Barn in the Bush, as its name would suggest, is a refurbished barn converted into squeaky clean comfortable living quarters. All of the lakes we visited on this trip, Tokaryk, Patterson and Twin were roughly an hour away. Owners Steve and Betty Morris provided wonderful accommodations and put up with our early morning convoys to the various lakes. If you are looking for great accommodation complete with queen size beds, kitchenettes, individual washrooms and showers in each room then Barn in the Box is the place to be. It was the perfect base for our group.
|Barn in the Bush provides great accommodation
Day one began bright and early with a large bacon and egg breakfast. Lunches were made and we were soon on our way to Tokaryk Lake near the town of Oakburn. Those of us within our group who had fished Tokaryk in the spring were full of anticipation. Tokaryk had been spectacular in June, both in average fish size and quantity. This time fishing was a bit tougher as the region was just recovering from a bout of unsettled weather. We did not get into the numbers we had originally hoped for but the size and quality of the fight was as we remembered. A variety of patterns produced fish for most of the group including leeches, dragon nymphs and flashback bead head Pheasant Tail nymphs. Although it was early fall I took all of my fish on chironomid pupa patterns. By the fall stillwater trout have typically seen so many chironomid pupa over the course of the season that they respond to a properly presented pattern in an almost Pavlovian fashion.
|Tokaryk rainbows still like chironomids
The next day we visited Patterson Lake, a mere stone’s throw from Tokaryk. Patterson is a large trophy lake containing browns and rainbows. Typically this lake challenges the fly fisher but every time the line locks up or the indicator plunges beneath the surface chances are it is going to be a big fish. Today was no exception. The day was sunny and pleasant but the wind was blowing from the east, a precursor to changing weather. I expected tough fishing. One of the students, Mike joined me for the first two hours and was into fish almost immediately on a balanced leech. This fish managed to wrap the line around both the bow anchor rope and electric motor. However, with some creative ‘gymnastics’ and teamwork we were able to free the line and land a nice fish. Two other students Rob and Gerald joined me later in the day catching some of the largest fish of their lives.
|Gerald's first Patterson brown
Bob and Karen began at their usual spot near the beaver lodge on the southeast end of the island but soon moved through the narrows and into the bay on the island’s north side to get out of the persistent easterly wind. Taking advantage of the wind lane that formed downwind of the ‘narrows’ they did well hanging flashback bead head Pheasant Tails beneath an indicator. Soon the rest of the group gathered there and I experienced one of my best days on Patterson. A flashback Pheasant Tail on the point and a small #14 boatman dropper produced consistently. The waters were alive with immature fat head minnow fry and the flashback Pheasant Tail did a great job suggesting them. Throat samples revealed minnow remnants and tiny water boatman. As the day wore on a few browns trickled into the mix and both Karen and I managed to wrestle a few Patterson residents.
|Patterson browns are big and fat
Two members of our group, Doug and Rick, supported by a desire to explore and a well charged battery explored the far end of Patterson and had a fantastic day. Doug took the largest fish of the trip, a magnificent 28 inch rainbow.
|Now that's a rainbow!
It was a great day, all of us were glowing from the bright sun and the numbers of fish we had caught and released, a true testimony to the quality of the Parkland's area lakes.
|Twin Lakes tigers like foam boatman and back swimmer patterns
Our final day found us hunting for tiger trout on Twin Lakes located a short drive north of Roblin. Twin is a catch and release fishery full of large aggressive tiger trout. The day however started slowly. A large low pressure system had swept up from Montana and blanketed Saskatchewan and south western Manitoba. The normally cooperative tiger trout weren’t willing to play right away. By midday most had yet to dance with a tiger. I was fortunate to land one on an Ultimate Boatman cast tight to the shoreline tules. In the early afternoon fortunes began to change. Doug figured things out by casting tight to the tules with a variety of boatman patterns, managing to land over a dozen tigers.
|Steve and Betty admire a Twin Lakes tiger
During the previous nights session I provided the group with an overview of Twin and made a point of mentioning a tiger trout’s willingness to come to the surface. Doug soon switched from his boatman patterns to a large Chernobyl Ant and continued to take large tigers on the surface.
|Twin Lakes tiger returns to its haunt
Foam based boatman and back swimmer patterns were the patterns of choice as their buoyant nature was perfect for the shallows when used in conjunction with a clear AquaLux line. On many occasions I would make a cast and a tiger would roll aggressively where my fly landed. From time to time I thought the tiger had rolled on a natural boatman and as I stripped to cast and cover the rise I soon found out that the rise was actually to my fly. The take had not had time to transmit down the fly line. Casting into gaps and channels in the tules was the winning ticket as tigers cruised in water barely deep enough to cover their backs. This is a common sight during the fall period as trout stocking up for the long winter ahead prowl the shallows eating just about anything they come across.
|Mike enjoying his Parkland experience
Our Twin Lakes adventure was the perfect cap to another superb trip. Everyone in the group was beaming from their experiences over the weekend. We are already working on a larger scale trip in June of 2011. The June trip will offer the choice of a four day trip straddled over a weekend and a longer Tuesday to Sunday excursion. Amongst the trip curriculum I will once again be providing a series of stillwater lectures, daily de-briefs and focused one on one time with each student to ensure maximum learning and the most rewarding experience possible. If this sounds like something you would like to experience please let me know. I will be putting a course handout together shortly. By preliminary interest we have already received these trips will sell-out in short order.
For more information and images from our trip please drop by my Facebook page and read Bob and Karen’s report on the Central Alberta Fly Tyers Blog.