Thursday, December 23, 2010

Season's Greetings

It’s hard to believe another year has almost past.  Man, as I get older the years fly by faster.

White and bright!
We have lots of cold weather and snow here in north central Alberta.  We will definitely have a white Christmas.  Right now it is -16C outside but the beautiful blue skies and sun lights everything up.  It’s weird having to wear sunglasses when I go out in sub-zero conditions.  Our dog sure seems to love it.  Ploughing through the snow is a favourite sport with her. 

No fishing for a while yet!
Tessa is now nearly a year old.  She is full of energy and loves to get into everything she can.  I am already looking forward to her joining in the boat with me next season.  Hopefully she stays in and doesn’t use it for a diving board like she did on her first trip out earlier this year.

2011 promises to be as busy as 2010, maybe even busier, no complaints though! I am just putting the finishing touches on my school and seminar schedule.  My travels will once again take me across North America.

Based upon your feedback and requests there will also be some new additions to my on-line store. As soon as things are concrete I will let everyone know.

Right now I am busy catching up on some writing assignments with a number of others pending.  I am looking forward to kicking back and relaxing between Christmas and New Year’s, watching Premier League Soccer and the World Junior hockey championships. 

I wish everyone who follows my Blog or through my Facebook page the very best over the holiday season.  Thanks once again for your emails, kind words of support and best of all your stories.

Best of the season!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Additions to Fly Craft Store!

As probably most of you are aware, this past year I updated my website.   It was time for some changes and a facelift.   Based upon the number of requests I had received for my books, DVD’s and Quick Release Indicators a component of this facelift included a Store page.  My Store page seems to be a positive addition as indicated by the positive feedback it has received.

Plans are in the works to add a variety of other products to this page so stay tuned.

The first step in my planned expansion is the addition of my latest book, Stillwater Selections and DVD, Learning with the Pros-Tying Stillwater Flies Volume I.  As with the book, Stillwater Solutions Recipes my latest DVD is a joint venture with good friend Brian Chan.  Both of these items are now available via my site both individually and as a combo.  The combo packages offer a savings of over 10% as compared to the individual prices of each item within the combo package.  You can watch a short ‘teaser’ of the Learning with the Pros DVD below.

I have also added combo packages for my first book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters and DVD Tying Fly Patterns for Stillwaters along with my second book Stillwater Solutions Recipes-Volume I and DVD Tying and Fishing Stillwater Flies.  Each DVD contains in part many of the patterns featured in each of the books they are partnered with.

Please visit my on line store for more information on both my new book and DVD along with my previous titles.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Perils of Social Media

Social media has become part of our everyday lives.  Facebook, Twitter and blogs are just some of the avenues we have at our disposal.  The world now communicates and markets itself in a totally new way.  I have become a fan of Facebook and the benefits it offers and of course I enjoy communicating through my blog.  But for the pros of social media there are also a few cons. 

One of my good friends chose not to have a personal Facebook page.  Someone however, decided he should.  As part of bet with friends this person set up an erroneous page.  The goal of the bet was to see who could have the most friends by the end of a set period.  I was first alerted to this when my friend asked me to become his friend via Facebook page.  I did not accept, feeling something wasn’t right as through prior discussions my friend had stated that he wasn’t interested in having a Facebook presence.  After a quick phone call it was clear my friend was being misrepresented.  His page was gathering lots of friends who were asking questions of him.  In some instances these questions were answered!  I, along with a few other mutual friends reported the site to Facebook via the report/block feature at the bottom of the page.  Another friend went on the page and posted that the page was false.  His posts were removed by the originator of the page!  Despite these efforts the page remained and his list of friends continued to swell.

Finally, the originator of the page contacted my friend via email advising him of what he had done and why.  Hoping that my friend would approve!  This person even suggested to my friend that he continue with the page and what he had set up.  My friends response was swift and to the point.  His privacy, integrity and reputation were placed at risk and my friend asked him to terminate the Facebook page immediately.  My friend also asked for him to contact of the ‘friends’ to let them know that the page was false prior to shutting it down.  Fortunately my friend’s request was granted and the page has since been shut down. The issue resolved to my friend's satisfaction.

So despite the benefits of social media there are still a few out there who have their own unique version of how things should work.  Be wary. If you see or experience something like this yourself take the steps to make sure it stops and if possible so it can’t happen again.  Make sure your privacy settings on Facebook for example are set for what you want the world to see or not see.  Learn all you can it pays to be educated.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Haig-Brown Symposium

This past weekend saw the last of my planned seminars and appearances speaking at the Haig-Brown Fly Fishers Symposium.  Over 200 people attended the two day event having the chance to see a number of quality speakers including Brian Chan, Skip Morris, Peter Morrison, Dana Sturm, Don Freschi, Tom Johansson, Todd Oishi and me.  Talks began at 9am on both Saturday and Sunday.  I provided sessions on How to Find Trout in Stillwaters and a Hatch Guide for Lakes. 

The Haig-Brown club was top drawer in their organization and providing a great environment for the speakers.  Saturday night for example they organized a pizza and beer event for speakers and attendees to mingle.  This symposium runs every two years so if you are in the neighbourhood in 2012 make a point of sitting in.  There should be lots to learn!

Knee deep on a Vancouver Island Beach
In addition to the symposium I had the chance to spend a day on the water chasing sea run cutthroat trout.  Barry Stokes from Islander Reels and I explored a couple of beaches in the Victoria area.  The weather was pleasant and we bumped into a few other friends who were taking advantage of the sunny conditions.  Cutthroat were present, which is always an issue as these fish are notoriously nomadic.  Chasing sea run cutthroat is more of an experience trip rather than one of numbers.

The social aspect of beach fishing for cutthroat
We used either Aqualux lines or in my case Rio’s Outbound hover and small minnow patterns.  Barry managed to land a beautiful 18-inch sea run on one of his neat streamers.  Small forage fish such sculpins are popular forage items for these beautifully spotted fish.  

Barry lands a nice cutt!
A unique seaside home
Casting flies knee deep on a gently sloping beach is both relaxing and therapeutic.  During our day we saw a variety of wildlife including sea birds, harbour seals and on one beach a family of seven otters came down to inspect what we were up to.  Unfortunately they did not get close enough to snap a picture.  Beautiful creatures they are we all wondered what toll they took on the local cutthroat population.

Sea run cutthroat are gorgeous
Sea run cutthroat are fragile and as they often spawn in tiny creeks and trickles they are susceptible to urbanization and development.  Creeks most wouldn’t know existed or be aware of their significant importance as spawning and rearing habitat.  As new developments are built these small creeks are often manipulated and in some instances in the past filled in.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Final Fall Fling?

On the Prowl for Pike-Photo Courtesy of Bill Gouge
So far this November I have been blessed by clear skies and relatively warm temperatures.  You know the kind that makes you wish you were on the water.  I am still busy with seminars but I did manage to sneak out on one of my local lakes for some late season pike on the fly.  Joining me was my friend Bill who had purchased a trip with me through a Trout Unlimited Canada donated trip I had provided in 2009.  Each year I donate a number of guided trips to Trout Unlimited Canada to support their efforts to conserve, protect and restore Canada’s coldwater resources.

Shoot to Target-Photo Courtesy of Bill Gouge
We had tried getting together only a few weeks before but cold windy conditions made use think otherwise.  On this day Bill and I were greeted by light winds, highs of 10C and beautiful sunny skies.  In the past my local lake had a warm water discharge that concentrated baitfish attracting lots of large nasty pike.  The plant that generated the discharge closed its doors and my pike magnet was gone.  The channel the outflow created has grown over and after an hour or so of prospecting we had nothing to show for our efforts.  I was a bit disappointed that things had changed but in many ways it was good that I would have to explore and learn new areas of the lake.

Bill's First Pike on the Fly
Thankfully my efforts paid off and Bill, who had never caught a pike on the fly, was rewarded with a decent fish, the best we would get for the day.  Bill got his fish on a variation of a Fire Tiger Half N Half I tied using Super Hair.  It got pretty beat up during the fight but thankfully synthetics comb back into shape pretty quickly.

Pike are Tough on Flies
We were using 9 and 10 weight rods, floating lines and Rio’s Toothy Critter leaders to start.  Once we had consumed the wire tippet after a few pattern changes I replaced it with some of Rio’s 20lb Knottable Bite Tippet.  Rio’s Knottable Bite Tippet is outstanding, durable and a dream to tie knots with.   Rio's Bite Tippet is so flexible and user friendly that I use my favorite knots that I use for traditional nylon and fluorocarbon leaders. 

The Knottable Bite Tippet also has a secondary function that some might not be aware.  It is excellent for large articulated flies such as those developed and popularized by Kelly Galloup.  It also works well for Intruder style patterns too.

I Almost Have It!-Photo Courtesy of Bill Gouge
It was an articulated pattern that I was experimenting with that lead to my getting my right thumb into a place it shouldn’t go.  One of my favorite patterns for pike is an all white Popsicle Leech.  I wanted to make a larger version of this proven pattern and after meeting and talking with Kelly Galloup I knew that articulation was the only way to go.  I decided to leave both hooks on the fly which in hindsight wasn’t quite the way to go as removing the trailing hook proved challenging as the pike refused to let go.  I am not a big fan of jaw spreaders as I worry about their effect on the pike and most times I end up loosing them when the pike shakes its head.  They spring free and pinball of the boat and typically end up in the water.  Often I am able to get my fingers under the chin flap of the pike causing it open just enough to reach in with a large pair of forceps and remove the fly.  So I began to work on getting my fly free.  I started by holding the pike in the water using my right hand.  Although I am left handed I have evolved into a hybrid of sorts doing many things right handed such as using forceps.  Somewhere in transferring pike between hands and fumbling with the forceps and fly my right thumb ended up in the center of the pikes mouth, as though it was sucking it.  It wasn’t too painful but those things can exert a fair bit of pressure.  The one thing not to do was pull my thumb out as this would have made a right mess. Part of my guiding includes education but this might have been taking things a bit too far.  Now the jaw spreaders came out and with a few seconds I was able to extricate my thumb.  I had a number of ‘pinholes’ on either side of the thumb and I was squirting blood for a few minutes which delayed my preparing lunch. Bill thought it was pretty funny, as did eye.  Thankfully it wasn’t a larger fish or my new nickname might have become ‘Stumpy’!

No Harm No Foul!-Photo Courtesy of Bill Gouge
It looks like now my season has drawn to a close, as there are lots of snow icons appearing on the weather forecast.  I am looking forward to the down time so I can turn my guns on planning and preparing for the 2011 show and fishing season.  I am sure if the weather warms up a degree or two so it is tolerable I might sneak out to find some open water somewhere.

Monday, October 25, 2010

California Trout and Pigskin

I recently returned from a week long speaking and seminar jaunt through Washington and California.  My journey started as Spokane’s Inland Empire Fly Fishing club welcomed me where I presented my Favorite Western Canada Stillwaters program.  This is the second time I have spoken to the Inland Empire club originators of the best selling book Flies of the Northwest.  Bob Harley and the rest of the club members provided an excellent dinner and in addition to my presentation I tied a few of my favorite flies for them as well.  The Inland Empire club is home to Jerry McBride, originator of the balanced fly concept that has changed the way I tie and present many of my patterns.  It was great to see him and thank him personally for his innovative approach to pattern design.
After my evening in Spokane I flew out early the next morning carrying on down to Santa Rosa California where I put on my Going Deep-Sinking Line Strategies for Stillwaters presentation to the Russian River Fly Fishers.  Prior to my presentation club member Joe Banovich took me out to a local smorgasbord restaurant for dinner.  What a spread! I gorged myself silly, totally blowing my diet.  I am a sucker for Sushi in particular and they had lots on hand! 

Lake Davis is a beautiful place to drown flies!
After my presentation was complete I immediately headed north to Clio California where I would be putting on a two day stillwater seminar with Bill Forward.  Bill is the Senior Editor with Sierra Fisherman magazine and owner of Forward Bound Guiding and Fly Fishing Instruction.  

Bills beautiful 16' boat, perfect for a day's fishing!
Over the Friday night and Saturday Bill and I provided two days of instruction to 19 enthusiastic students eager to improve their stillwater fly fishing skills.  Students were provided a number of seminars including how to read lakes, equipment requirements for stillwaters, stillwater entomology, presentation skills, and the intricacies of using indicators on lakes.  In addition to the lectures students were given a chance to get on the water and hone their skills.  At the end of the on the water segment of the seminar Bill and I provided a de-briefing as students discussed their successes, setbacks and observations.  This format provides great interaction and arguably provides the greatest learning opportunity.  Feedback has been extremely positive. This was our first seminar and based upon this positive feedback we are already working on plans for additional seminars for 2011.  Stay tuned to my blog, Facebook page and website for additional details once they are figured out.

Pug nosed Lake Davis rainbow
During my stay I had the opportunity to fish Lake Davis, one of northern California’s most well known stillwaters and one of my ‘bucket list’ lakes.  Fishing was steady and despite the slowly deteriorating weather both Bill and I did well.  Trout were cruising high in the water column and small chironomid pupa and flashback gold bead Pheasant Tail Nymphs suspended 3-5 feet down proved deadly.  On the last day in particular I did well presenting my flies within the foam of the wind lanes that began to form in the afternoon.  As with most days the fishing hit a crescendo just as it was time to pull anchors and wrap up our stillwater seminar.   

Hanging flies in and around weed pockets proved productive
Lake Davis is unique as it provides the opportunity to stalk fish from shore.  Fish were in the shoreline shallows, often in barely enough water to cover their backs, rummaging for food.  If your presentation was correct they took dry flies readily.  This phenomenon is rare.  Most lakes don’t allow much wading or stalking opportunities due to back cast issues, shoreline weed growth or soft muddy bottoms that make wading and stalking nasty or in some cases outright dangerous.

The line up to get in the parking lot 2.5 hours before game time!
After winding up the seminar Bill, his wife Carol and I headed south to San Francisco to attend the San Fransico 49rs vs. Oakland Raiders football game.  For those of your familiar with the bay area this game offers an intense rivalry.  This was my first NFL game and as a die hard Niners fan it was the icing on my trip.  We were on our way by 6:00am for the roughly four hour drive arriving at Candlestick Park just after 10:00 for the experience that is tailgating.   

Me in my 'colors'
Bill provided me with a Niners golf shirt and jacket to ensure I had my colors straight.  He toured me around the parking lot as I took in the entire experience, from an inflatable Darth Vader to a big screen TV complete with satellite to watch the early games.   

The tailgating experience

Raider Nation was well represented.
All manner of food was cooked and consumed in the parking lot along with sufficient quality of suitable beverages.  Our tailgate group dinned on a full turkey dinner complete with brussel sprouts (which I actually like), stuffing and potatoes.  A few glasses of red wine washed the meal down perfectly.  

Nothing beats a full course turkey dinner before a football game!
The game itself was great as the Niners finally won their first game of the season 17-9.  It rained through most of the tailgate party and first half so the ponchos we picked up on our drive proved wise to say the least.

We finally won!
I flew home the next morning after a tour of Bill’s home town San Francisco and a wonderful dinner on world famous Fisherman’s Wharf.  It was a whirlwind trip but well worth the investment.  I can’t wait to return in 2011!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Paradox

For me the fall season is a paradox.  Mother Nature takes out her paint brush decorating trees with beautiful yellows, oranges and reds all contrasted against magnificent deep blue skies.  At the same time fish sensing the onslaught of winter cruise the shallows consuming just about everything they come across.  The days are numbered.  In north central Alberta any warm days we get after Halloween are a blessing.  Trout and some of the largest pike of the season are on my radar.  I will be trying to get all fishing I can in before it becomes cold, white and hard again. As Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Fall colors are spectacular
In late September I wrapped up my final shoot for The New Fly Fisher on the North Saskatchewan River near my home in the Edmonton area chasing pike, walleye and goldeye with Keith Rae from Get Hooked Adventures.  The weather was spectacular as the fall colors were just beginning to manipulate the landscape.

A definite no fingers zone!
Navigating the river via Keith’s comfortable jet boat we tossed streamers on sinking lines along the current edges for walleye and goldeye and in the slower reaches floating lines and large flies pulled some large 35-inch and longer pike.  The savage grab of a pike on the fly is addictive and I recommend everyone give it a try.

Keith Rae and I enjoying fly fishing for Pike on the North Saskatchewan
At the same time water boatman and backswimmers begin their annual mating and migration flights.  These insects become active in the mid to late afternoon when the sun’s rays warm the shallows and get them going.  I spent a day on a local lake.  Fishing began slow and sporadic at best.  Random acts of kindness if you will.  About four o’clock we began to see the first aggressive swirls of the day.  Fish were working in and along the deep edge of the weed beds targeting backswimmers as they left the water and when they returned.  Casting foam bodied Ultimate Boatman on hover and floating lines was spectacular.

A fat fall rainbow taken on an Ultimate Boatman

Throat pump analysis revealed backwimmers were on the menu
Takes often came as the fly landed, its arrival.  I recall one large trout that took my fly in a graceful but aggressive porpoise rise.  If the fly isn’t taken upon landing or on the drop a brisk hand twist or 4-5 strip retrieve typically garners a strong response.  Large trout hooked in water less than five feet deep often go berserk.  When the ‘fall’ is in full swing boatman and back swimmer patterns offer some of the most memorable fishing of the season.

I had the chance to check out Stoney Lake before the students arrived
The first weekend in October saw me at Stoney Lake Lodge in British Columbia.  Good friend Brian Chan and I put on our first Learning with the Pros-Advanced session in partnership with B.C. Outdoors Sports Fishing magazine.  Fourteen ardent fly fishers joined Brian, Editor Mike Mitchell and I.  Some of the students came from as far away as Ontario and Wisconsin!  Both the weather and fish cooperated as students spent time on the water with Brian and I after each mornings seminars.  Boatman, , backswimmer, leech, dragon nymph patterns and Boobies all took their share of fish.  From the feedback we received everyone enjoyed their experience and the accommodation and food was fantastic.  Saturday nights prime rib dinner was one of the most memorable feasts I have ever experienced.

After the weekend school I stuck around for a couple of days and filmed two episodes for BC Outdoors Sports Fishing new television show.  This new show begins airing later on this fall on WFN and a number of B.C. networks. 

So if you can get out this fall and experience some fishing for yourself, it won’t be long before the winter is upon us.  Our memories will be the only things left to carry us through the cold months and at the fly tying station.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Terrestrials and Gulpers in Big Sky Country

Just over a week ago I found myself in West Yellowstone Montana to film two episodes of The New Fly Fisher.  We based ourselves out of the luxurious Hibernation Station a unique complex of log homes nestled right in West Yellowstone.

A few of the Cabins at the Hibernation Station
For me it was a dream come true to have the asphalt of West Yellowstone beneath my feet.  Within an hour’s drive of this small town located on the western approaches to Yellowstone National park are countless rivers and a number of renowned stillwaters.  Rivers such as the Gallatin where a River Runs Through It was filmed, the Firehole, Madison, Slough Creek even the famed Henry’s Fork drew mention on the town’s fly shop report boards.

The West Yellowstone region offers spectacular scenery
We spent the first two days of our adventure filming with fly fishing icon Bob Jacklin.  Bob has been based out of Montana for over 40 years and few know the nearby rivers as well as he does.  Bob’s store, Jacklin's Fly Shop is one of seven fly shops located within this beautiful small town.  It was an honor to share the water with Bob, his casting prowess alone was something to behold.

It was an honor to share the water and swap stories with Bob
The weather was during our stay was, for the most part, spectacular, cool in the morning and close to 70F in the afternoon.  The focus of our filming during the first portion of our trip was on fall terrestrial fishing.  Grasshoppers were active and during our first day’s filming we saw countless numbers drifting downstream.  Many disappeared in large confident rises.  My first Montana trout proved a dream sequence of sorts.  Bob directed me to crawl on my knees upstream to a large bend.  Camouflaged in the grass I dropped my hopper into the main flow that cut diagonally across the run and pushed against the far bank.  My hopper drifted all of three feet when a large set of lips poked through enveloping my hopper and dragging it below.  Fifteen minutes later, after a spirited battle, the 20-inch brown lay in the net ready to pose for the camera.  We admired and released the fish my only regret was not getting a still shot.  We did how ever get the entire take on film so you and I will both have to wait until the show is aired to see it.  During the day we also took other fish including good numbers of lager Rocky Mountain whitefish.  Typically bottom feeders the whitefish rose freely to hoppers.  Due to their under slung mouths their rises were splashy and clumsy.  Not the refined sip synonymous of a brown or rainbow.  I did well hanging my small Stillwater Baetis nymph below my hopper taking a number of good sized whitefish.

Bob releases a hopper caught Rocky Mountain whitefish

The next day Bob took us to the Madison where it flowed between Hebgen and Quake Lakes.  This stretch was what I expected the Madison to look like, not the gentle meadow stream section Bob had us on the day before.  Fishing was not as good but we still did OK.  We managed to film a number of casting and instructional segments.  I also made a point of turning over a number of the larger rocks in the riffles.  The number and size of the large Pteronarcys nymphs I found was staggering along with Hydropsyche caddis.  Some of the Pteronarcys nymphs were as long as my index finger!  It was easy to see why trout in the Madison and many of the other blue ribbon waters in the area are conditioned to look up.  The region is a dry fly fisher’s paradise.

Pteronarcys nymphs from the Madison
The best fishing took place in the afternoon and into the evening so this gave my cameraman Jeremy and I lots of time in the morning to shoot scenic footage and visit some of the area attractions.  Ironically, because we didn’t have permits to film we did not visit Yellowstone National Park.  We did however visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.   As listed on their website the center’s mission, “Is to provide visitors to the Yellowstone area an opportunity to observe, learn and appreciate grizzly bears and gray wolves.”  We were able to film large grizzly bears and wolves in their large open area pens.  One of the center’s programs I found interesting was their bear proof container certification process. If a container can last 60-90 minutes in the bear enclosure it is considered certified.  During our visit we were shown a number beaten and battered containers that didn’t all pass muster.  Our visit was one of my personal highlights and I recommend anyone visiting West Yellowstone make time for a visit on their trip planner.  Both grizzly bears and wolves are likely to be seen during your stay and having an awareness of these impressive animals is highly recommended.  We saw a number of wolf and bear tracks along the river and one evening returning home we rounded the corner to see the large brown butt of a grizzly bear crashing through the woods to safety.

Grizzly bears abound in the West Yellowstone region
The second half of our stay saw us on Hebgen Lake targeting the gulping rainbow and brown trout this lake is famous for.  We based ourselves out of the Firehole Ranch for our two days filming.  Firehole Ranch managers Mark Parlett and his wife Kim were unbelievable hosts and Josh Duchateau our guide was a fellow stillwater addict like myself and just fun to be with.  Hebgen is known for its Callibaetis, chironomid, caddis and damsel emergences as are other lakes.  What makes Hebgen so special is the consistent dry fly fishing.  No where else I have fished have I seen fish up on top like on Hebgen.  If the wind wasn’t up pods of fish cruised the shallows ‘gulping’ Callibaetis spinners, duns, damsel adults and terrestrials.  As trout take your fly they make an audible gulp that is quite distinctive.  I did well using a simple winged foam ant casting both to the rise and in front of fish moving in a predictable rise pattern.  Josh took a number of quality fish using a damsel adult.  We didn’t hit Hebgen at its peak as the hatch was winding down and the wind always seemed to follow us.  August is apparently unreal and I am already making plans to return in 2011.  Perhaps even to do a stillwater seminar on Hebgen so if you are interested please let me know or stay tuned to my website and Facebook page.  Other world famous lakes in the region well worth a visit include Quake Lake and Island Park Reservoir and Henry’s Lake in nearby Idaho.

Our guide Josh with a 'gulper' brown from Hebgen Lake
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the West Yellowstone area, do it.  The only challenge would be not spending your entire time on one water or one section of that water.  I am looking at taking two weeks to explore the regions lakes and rivers and making sure I take the time to visit Yellowstone National Park.  Of course it wouldn’t be right not to wet a line in one of the park’s rivers and streams as well!

Yellowstone National Park is literally across the street from West Yellowstone
If you want to see additional images from my stay please visit my Montana album set up on both my personal Facebook page and The New Fly Fisher’s page.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Prowling the Parklands-Fall Report

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.