Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spring Parklands Report

As some of you are probably already aware, I make a point of travelling to the Parklands region of S.W. Manitoba each season.  This region currently offers some, if not the best, stillwater fly fishing in North America.  From the diversity of the species, the remoteness of the region and the average fish size the Parklands is tough to beat!

An average Parklands rainbow

Earlier in June I had the pleasure of hosting two groups of fly fishers for a weekend and week-long adventure respectively.  Based out of Arrow Lakes Lodge we visited a number of quality stillwaters within the region.  Most within 40 minutes of our base, two of the better lakes are less than 20 minutes away.

Providing a casting and presentation demonstration

Each day I provided a seminar appropriate to the region or to the specific opportunities possible on the chosen lake for the day.  Subjects included strike indicator techniques, how to fight big fish, stillwater entomology, forage fish tactics casting and presentation techniques to name a few.  At the end of each trip the group gathered their images and after a photography seminar we all relived the fish and experiences of the trip.  The final night always proves itself the most memorable.  Check out my Facebook page for my Parklands Spring 2011 album for additional photos.

Bob and Karen Vanderwater

Good friends Bob and Karen Vanderwater provide invaluable assistance ensuring these hosted trips become a successful reality, both in the months prior and over the course of the event.  Frankly, I would be hard pressed to do it without them.  Their spirit, energy and organizational skills help keep all of us on track.
While on the water I spent time with each student as we worked together to unlock the challenges each lake threw our way.  Spending time with each student is perhaps my most memorable part of each trip.  I get a chance to get to know each student a little bit better and we both benefit from the inevitable exchange of ideas, information and experiences.  The look on their faces as they release the trout of a lifetime is the icing on my cake!

Now that's a rainbow!

The weather for the 10 days I was there started perfectly, sunny skies and light winds.  But as the weekend passed into the week our weather pattern shifted.  A good day always seemed to be followed by a rainy blustery day.  The up and down conditions did not deter the group from Spokane who joined Bob, Karen and I for the week.  Seasoned stillwater fly fishers, this group donned their rain gear or waders, shrugged their shoulders and soldiered on.  Our day on Pybus reminded me more of coastal steelhead or salmon fishing than the Parklands.  By midday I gave up trying to bail my pram as the steady deluge made it pointless. 

Our last day on Tokaryk, a lake we re-visited by popular demand, the wind blew from the N.E. at over 50 km/h.  Despite the ocean like swells trout responded with unbridled enthusiasm for our leech and baitfish patterns suspended beneath indicators.  The swells pitched our patterns aggressively and that’s just the way Tokaryk’s large rainbows and browns liked them.  The takes at times were just down right scary!

Karen's 28-inch brown

Fish size was large, typical for the Parklands. We had numerous fish in the 6-8 pound range.  A 23-inch rainbow for example, weighed between 6-7 pounds!  A number of nine pound fish were caught along with one 10 pound monster.  Karen took the largest brown of the trip on the final day of the week long trip.  It measured out at 28 inches!  Also during the trip Jason from Spokane caught the largest tiger I have seen to date while he was with me in my boat.  It measured 27 inches and topped 7 pounds!

Jason's 27-inch, 7lb tiger

I began the trip using 3X 8.2 pound FlouroFlex Plus fluorocarbon tippet which did a great job.  But there were a few instances where I had to switch to 2X 12 pound FlourFlex Plus to tame some of the Parklands trout I crossed path with.  We had one fish that I estimated in excess of 8 pounds snap the hook clean off the bend on a #12 3XL black and red Ice Cream Cone!

Chironomids and some caddis were hatching in decent numbers.  We apparently missed a spectacular chironomid hatch on Patterson Lake by a day.  The volume shucks that were clustered together on the surface the following day was almost biblical.  There were also clouds of fathead minnows gathered in the shallows.  The browns and rainbows seemed to enjoy mauling them, almost at will.

The shallows were thick with schools of fathead minnows

While on Patterson my first student asked if I would show him how to fish chironomid pupa without an indicator using the traditional floating line long leader or ‘naked’ technique.  Since chironomids were definitely on the menu we ventured out into deeper water targeting the sloped edge of the main lake basin.  Double anchored parallel to the ridge that ran between a main lake point and the western end of the island we targeted water between 15-18 feet deep.  I used a leader set up that was at least 25% longer than the depth of water we were fishing, 21 feet.  A #12 black and red ice cream cone went on the point and a #12 Chromie hung off my sliding dropper some 4 feet above the point fly.  After making a long cast roughly 30 degrees to my left I let the wind swing and drift the fly line.  I let the flies sink 30 seconds before beginning a painstakingly slow hand twist retrieve.  Conditions were calm.  I concentrated on the fly line, watching either the tip or a slight ‘squiggle’ in the line for a take.  Almost every take was seen before it was felt.  After two hours I had my first convert.

The ‘naked’ technique proved itself as deadly as it ever was.  Making me wonder why I don’t use this method more often.  It also works great for imitating mayfly and damsel nymphs, caddis pupa, even leech patterns.  By the end of both the weekend and week-long events almost all of my students had had the chance to take fish using the ‘naked’ technique.  Some had such confidence in the method that they discontinued using indicators for the balance of the trip.  I encourage you to give this method a try.  he largest tiger trout of the trip resulted from this presentation technique.  If you check out one of my previous blog entries you can find out more about this deadly stillwater presentation technique.

We are already planning on returning to the Parklands in 2012 for both a weekend and week-long hosted trip in both the spring and fall.  I will be returning in September with another group.  These trips have proven extremely popular selling out in a matter of weeks just through word of mouth.  If you are interested in joining Bob, Karen and me in 2012 let me know right away.  Our hosted trips include accommodation all food, seminars and one on one time with me on the water.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spring Flurry!

The challenge with blogs is when you have time, you really don’t have much to say.  Well at least in regards to on the water fishing adventures.  This is often the case over the winter months when fly fishing is tough if not physically impossible.  Then once the season rolls around there is so much to communicate but no time to do so.  Such is my dilemma!

Since my last entry in late May I seem to have been in a constant state of travel to and from various destinations across western North America.  My travels have taken me to California for a Stillwater School with Bill Forward from Forward Bound Guide Service.  During my time there I also had the pleasure of speaking to the Davis Fly Fishers and even managed to sneak east for a day on famed Pyramid Lake.  Then back to BC to film an episode with BC Outdoors Sports Fishing T.V. on Horse Lake followed immediately by a Learning with the Pros Seminar with good friend Brian Chan at Ruddocks Ranch.  I was also back home briefly where I spent one day chasing trophy pike on nearby Wabamum Lake.  It has been a busy stretch.  Here is a summary of my experiences.

California Stillwater School Participants

On May 19th I hopped a series of flights from Edmonton to Vancouver, Vancouver to Seattle and finally Seattle to Reno for a stillwater seminar on Lake Davis California.  This was the second time I had the good fortune to be in the Sierra Nevada region of California.  The scenic peaceful beauty of the region is something to behold.  I once again partnered with Bill Forward from Forward Bound Guide Service to provide a comprehensive stillwater seminar over the weekend on May 20-22.  Over 20 enthusiastic students joined us.  Bill and I provided classroom sessions on a variety of subjects and students were able to practice what they learned on nearby Lake Davis.

Willows or cattails adjacent to deep water produced best

Compared to last fall when I was last on Lake Davis the lake had changed dramatically due to high water.  Lake levels were up at least three feet.  Areas that were high and dry last season are now new cruising grounds for trout.  The challenge is targetting the right regions.  Cattail or willow outcroppings close to deep water produced well.  Too far back into the freshly flooded areas and you were casting over barren water.  Few if any trout prowled these regions as the invertebrate population had yet to recolonize these regions.  Small black and red or dark olive #16 chironomid pupa suspended 5-7 feet beneath and indicator worked best. 

Bill and I plan on doing additional stillwater seminars, perhaps as early as this fall depending on my schedule.  If you are interested at all please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Fishing from ladders or 'high chairs' is part of the game when fishing Pyramid Lake

On Monday May 23rd, prior to a speaking engagement I had with the Davis Fly Fishers, Bill took me for a one day trip to Nevada’s Pyramid Lake.  Pyramid is famous for its huge Lahonton cutthroat trout and is one of North America’s hallowed stillwaters.  Though it doesn’t not contain Lahontan’s to sizes that first made it famous Pyramid Lake is still home to some pretty solid trout.

Fishing from a ladder is a Pyramid standard

For those not familiar with Pyramid fly fishing there is unique, done almost entirely from shore using step ladders to gain access to deeper water and the edges of the drop off.  Some season Pyramid anglers have taken step ladder evolution to new heights in comfort and functionality. 

Some have taken fly fishing from a ladder system to a whole new level

We arrived late in the season as the typically large schools of Lahontan’s that cruise the shoreline margins had begun to disperse.  We fished primarily at Pelican Point.  I only managed to land one 20 inch fish choosing to spend the windswept gusty afternoon talking with fellow fly fishers about my stillwater experiences.  One angler next to me managed a Pyramid grand slam, a number of Lahontans, a Tui chub and a large Sacramento perch!  Bill soldiered on and landed a 30 inch, 10-11 pound monster on #10 Zebra Midge suspended about seven feet below an indicator.  Pyramid is a unique fishery all stillwater fly fishers should experience.  Located on tribal land, an inexpensive one day $10 license gets you into the game.  I was pleased to strike Pyramid off my stillwater bucket list.

Bill Forward with a Lahontan monster 30 inches long and estimated between 10-11 lbs

After returning home from my California trip I was back on the water chasing pike with two clients on Wabamum Lake.  Wabamum is a trophy pike fishery located roughly 45 minutes west of home.  The weather was warm and the winds were light, near perfect conditions.  In years past Wabamum was noted for its warm water discharge that originated from a power plant.  The warm water discharge helped gather and concentrate clouds of baitfish which in turn attracted large numbers of hungry aggressive pike.  The plant shut down last year and the pike have since dispersed.  The large fish are still around but you now have to roam and hunt them down.  From a guide’s perspective it was nice to have fish concentrated in one area but for the resource it is better to spread the pressure out.  The good news was I found pike in every area we tried.  We even ran into a couple of larger females one of which I managed to hook on a fire tiger Half N Half of mine while taking a few casts at the request of my client.  She weighed out at just over 15lbs in my Moby cradle.  However, just as she first swam into the cradle she performed a quick unexpected about face and with the near vertical rod position I had my 10 weight snapped at the tip section just above the ferrule.  Bad angle it would seem.

After spending the weekend at home I was off to B.C. to film an episode of BC Outdoors Sports Fishing T.V. on Horse Lake located near the town of 100 Mile House.  As most of you know, winter decided to hang on this year so everything was about two weeks behind.  Water temperatures were cool and the lake level was up about two feet over last year.  Callibaetis where just starting to stir but I was quite happy taking fish on chironomids as you might imagine.  Horse is a long, clear lake that contains rainbows, kokanee and lake trout.  We were hoping for a grand slam of all three species but only managed rainbows and lakers on the fly.  The kokanee where still too deep for us to get at with our fly gear.

Bruno makes a few casts on Horse Lake

We stayed at Cariboo Bonanza Resort during our stay, a beautiful place for both those that like to camp or take advantage of their rustic and luxurious cabins.  Resort owners Bruno and Dora Sprecher were wonderful hosts and Bruno was keen to point out all the best spots to try.  If you ever need to find Bruno the best place to look is on the main dock that reaches out onto one of the better shoals.  Bruno loves to spend a few moments whenever he can staying in touch with Horse Lake and its residents.

After finishing filming host Mike Mitchell and I were heading to the Lytton area and Ruddocks Ranch to meet up with Brian Chan for our first Learning with the Pros stillwater seminar of the season.  Over 20 students joined Brian on the ranch’s private lake, Ruddocks Dam, an intimate body of water known for its trophy rainbows.

Brian releases a Ruddocks Dam resident

Students camped at the lake so provided all of our seminars lakeside, a beautiful backdrop for the weekend’s events.  Brian and I along with the BCO staff that joined us had the good fortune to stay at the ranch house, a short 20 minute drive from the lake.  The ranch house sits above the Fraser River and offers a stunning view.  The accommodation was wonderful and provided a welcome respite after a day under the sun.  If you have a group of anglers looking for a place to stay and fish Ruddocks Ranch makes an excellent choice.  Contact Kevin Estrada for booking information.

Over the course of the weekend Brian and I provided seminars on a variety of subjects including lake biology, entomology and specific presentation techniques.  Brian and I also spent time with each student on the water.  I enjoy these one on one exchanges with students and working with them on specific questions or challenges they may be having.  Often I learn as much as the students through the exchange of information and experiences.

Trout were in 12-15 feet of water feeding steadily but not heavily on a stream of small #14-#16 black and dark olive chironomid pupa. Hanging matching pupa anywhere from 10 to 13 feet below and indicator proved quite successful.  I also did well on an olive body burnt orange tail Balanced Leech suspended beneath an indicator. 

For the most part Ruddocks Dam trophies did not want to play but there were enough three pound trout to keep our students happy.  Gary Elgear from Riverside Fly and Tackle in Port Coquitlam was on hand to help out. He managed the largest fish of the weekend that was an estimated 10lbs.

As we were packing up for the return trip home carpenter ants began falling on the water in numbers great enough to garner the trout’s interest.  It was tough not to grab a fly rod and toss a large Chernobyl Ant at the fish that were taking the large ants in aggressive splashy rises!  You have to a love a lake or body of water that leaves you yearning for more!