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.