Thursday, April 5, 2012

Vancouver Island Chironomids

This past weekend I managed to finally sneak out on the water for the first time in 2012.  Previous speaking engagements had shown promise for a little on the water excursion but Old Man Winter always had other ideas. 

My weekend began at Robinson’s Outdoor Sports where I held a comprehensive 2-day Conquering Chironomids seminar.  Saturday was packed with over 55 people in attendance.  We focused on chironomid strategies and tactics including life cycle, equipment, leader setups, floating line techniques, sinking line techniques, dry and emerger tactics, presentation tricks and retrieves.  Sunday was all about tying.  Students were provided with all the necessary materials to tie an array of patterns covering all aspects of the chironomid life cycle.  The Stillwater Hopper with its knotted pheasant tail lakes caused a few heavy sighs but the 18 students did well and we managed to crank out some 14 patterns over the course of the day. 

Stillwater Hopper, A Great Emerger Pattern

As soon as the class had finished I packed up and was on my way to Cowichan River Wilderness Lodge located on the banks of the Cowichan River.  Good friend, lodge owner and creator of Eyes N Tubes Kenzie Cutthbert and his wife Kyt had been trying to have me spend some time with them for a few years.  This trip we were finally able to connect.

The River Was High But Clear

Kenzie and Kyt have a beautiful lodge nestled amongst the trees just a short walk away from the Cowhichan River.  The Cowichan is a top class river known for its rainbow, cutthroat, steelhead, coho salmon and unique population of brown trout, a rarity in British Columbia. 

Nice To Launch and Finish Where You Started!

The Cowichan River flows out of Cowichan east to where it eventually spills into the ocean at Cowichan Bay. Kenzie’s lodge is located about mid-way through one of the most popular drifts on the river from the town of Lake Cowichan to Skutz Falls.  About half of this drift, from Lake Cowichan to the train trestle bridge just below Kenzie’s lodge is designated fly fishing only water.  Artificial flies only, no external weight on the leader or indicators are allowed. 

We began our day just after 8am drifting down from Kenzie’s backyard towards Skutz Falls.  At this time of the year rainbows, browns and steelhead are all available.  The water was high but clear and during our drift it was common to see pods of large steelhead, rainbows recovering from their recent spawn and the odd brown trout.  By roughly one o’clock we had finished our drift down to Skutz falls.  We had each caught a number of rainbows and browns using some of Kenize’s unique Eyes N Tubes Muddlers and egg patterns. 

Sight Fishing on the Cowichan

Kyt picked us up. We quickly loaded the boat and made our way back up to the town of Lake Cowichan.  The drive took all of 10 minutes.  We put the boat in just below town in a spot Kenzie christened the aquarium.  Crystal clear water and loads of fish to stare at, steelhead and rainbow where everywhere.  We managed to catch and release a few rainbow as we were targeting trout, brown trout to be specific, we left the steelhead for another trip. 

About a mile or so downstream we tucked into a large slow back eddy.  It was almost slough like.  We dropped anchor and began to probe likely looking areas with Kenzie’s Muddled Buggers.   Within a few casts Kenzie was into our first brown.  Time seemed to waste away.  We must have spent two hours working that back eddy catching a number of decent browns.  We even had a few titanic looking steelhead cruise by as they used the back eddy as a resting spot before heading further upstream.  If we had accidently hooked one of those fish it would have proved to be a short, savage, struggle on our six and seven weight rods.

Kenzie's Muddled Bugger 1 Brown Trout 0

Looking at our watches we ended having to rush a bit more than we would have liked to make it back down to the lodge.  I have done countless drifts on many rivers but ending up where you started from was unique and put the cherry on my Cowichan River experience.

Muddled Buggers Work for Me Too!

If your travels ever take you to southern Vancouver Island make sure to give Kenzie a call to see if he is available.  Make a point of booking time at his lodge, the food and accommodation is first class!  Kenzie and Kyt provide a wonderful experience. In addition to the Cowichan Kenzie has access to other great rivers such as the Nitnat and San Juan and some little known world class smallmouth bass fishing. 

For more information on Kenzie’s Fishing Adventures, Cowichan River Wilderness Lodge and his Eyes N Tubes system please visit their respective links.  Kenzie and I are already making plans for future trips.Lake