High Risk, High Reward

The familiarity of fisheries that we hold close to our heart due to the certainty of success is what sometimes keeps people like myself from venturing off into the unknown sometimes.  I consider myself lucky to be able to leave my driveway, commute a mere 9 minutes and end up at a quality managed fishery that has never left me shaking my head & always seems to be fairy generous.  It gets busy, the 5-8 pound fish that used to be a regularity have seemed to dwindle, but it’s so incredibly familiar to me.  This is great and all, but it’s a double edged sword that I have noticed kept me from exploring new fisheries & finding trophy sized fish.  “Trophy” is a word that gets thrown around fairy loosely, but in my opinion a trophy fish is one in the 30 inch class or greater.  They don’t come easy, but persistence will pay its dividends at one point or another.


Did I mention persistence? Dave Page grinding it out in a hailstorm

Trophy fisheries are a new ballgame.  The fish are (much) smarter, bigger, and stronger but seem to have an elusiveness about them.  It’s fun to put up big numbers of fish, but once you hook into fish over the ten pound class your perspective gets a tad warped.  It’s almost like everything else becomes inferior and all you want is a shot at the fish of a lifetime.  The amount of stillwater fisheries from the south Okanagan to Quensel & north that contain fish well over 10 pounds is mind boggling, and for every lake that you hear of holding big fish there’s an infinite amount that you will never hear anyone speak a word of.  Lakes that regularly put out good numbers of smaller fish do not take a lot of time to figure out, and generally you will be limited to fish 5 pounds and under.  There’s nothing wrong with that some days, but why not test your abilities once in a while?


In 2011 I began leaving smaller fish and easy success behind in hopes of finding some of the elusive trophy fish that the interior is known for.  Did I get blanked? Yes, many times.  I was becoming more effective each trip out but still had a lot to learn.  I will never forget one particular day when lightning struck for me on a lake that had my name after the previous 3 outings.  The indicator dropped like a rock, and next thing I knew I had less than 30 yards of backing left on my reel as the RPM’s were steadily increasing the more line the fish took until eventually it pulled a 180 and ran just as fast towards my boat.  I did my best to keep up but the fish eventually spit the hook.  I got to see the fish’s entire body once as it cartwheeled off in the distance.  I don’t know how exactly how big it would’ve been, but somewhere in the 12 pound range and one I will never forget.


One that will forever stick in my mind, my first stillwater fish over 30″

It’s easy to get hung up on fisheries that continually produce, but once in a while it’s worth it to put your time in on trophy lakes.  It will eventually make you a better angler, if you can routinely find fish on those lakes everything else will begin to seem a lot easier.  Accept the fact that you will get blanked from time to time.  Your chironomids have to be perfect, your presentation can’t be sloppy and you have to be willing to step outside the box once in a while.

Fly Fishing’s Most Effective Gadget

There once was a time where if you wanted to know what the fish were feeding on, you’d either keep a fish and examine the stomach contents or hang around the boat launches and fish cleaning stations.  The truth is, what you’re getting in those stomach samples is a very vague indication as to exactly what were the fish eating.  Most of the chironomids found in stomach samples of dead fish are a long ways from what the looked like when fish were actively feeding on them 3 hours ago.  So what if you could see what was in the fish’s THROAT (not stomach), while still being able to release the fish unharmed?  This is where the throat pump comes into play.


Many times my day has been saved by throat pumping the first fish of the day and getting an exact look on what was making my day so difficult.  You see mayfly shucks everywhere & are rewarded with little success only to find out the fish are ignoring the mayflies and eating size 16 chironomids after throat pumping a fish, or maybe your black and red is being ignored because they’re keyed in on lime greens?  Throat pumps are basically a glorified turkey baster with a tapered tube end, the tapered end allows the throat pump to go just into the throat without causing any cutting or scraping to the fish.  A throat pump shows not just what they’re eating, but what they’ve been eating recently.


How to pump a fish? Simple.  First things first, the fish has to be big enough to pump.  I don’t pump any fish under sixteen inches long to avoid causing any damage in the process due to the diameter of the tube.  I also do not pump bigger rainbows (8lb+) to avoid causing any additional stress to the fish. Simply put the pump in the water and squeeze the bulb, then eject the water you just pulled into the tube which will assure the tube isn’t dry in any spots.  Squeeze the bulb and hold it while slowly inserting it directly into the center of the fish’s throat. Once you feel the slightest bit of resistance, release the bulb and pull the pump out. If successful, you should see a cloud of food fill the tube of the throat pump.  The fish doesn’t need to leave the water for this process, and if your first attempt isn’t successful just release the fish and try again on the next one.  


Once the fish is released, grab a small glass vile or the back of a clear tippet spool and squeeze the contents out of the bulb. Sometimes it takes filling the pump with water to mix up whatever is stuck in the bulb and send it down the tube.  This is especially effective in the springtime when fish are keyed on chironomids, as there is such a wide variety of colours & shades it can be a guessing game until you can throat pump a fish and dial in the size & colour of the bugs. Once this is complete, open up the fly box and match the hatch as closely as possible. 


Throat pumps will set you back a total of $10 dollars and it will be one of the best ten bucks you ever spend for stillwater fishing.  Throat pumps are worth their weight in gold and it’s good to have one or two extras handy. Thank you for reading & best of luck  on the water! 

 

Life, Idealism & Fly Fishing

2010, the year I graduated from high school and watched all my friends go to university or trade school while I continued my job at the fly shop in town.  That could come off as negative or regretful but I promise you that’s absolutely not the case.  The fly fishing industry felt like a cushion to me, it was where I felt and still feel in my element.  At 17 years old it was so difficult trying to explain what it’s like to be completely obsessed with the art of fly fishing, but at work I could feel comfortable spilling a plethora of words that would sounds like a foreign language to most people and get paid to do it.  I did my best to describe to friends and family that my life revolved around studying the science behind poking fish in the face with a piece of metal only to put them back where they came from. Fast forward one year and I thought I’d try my hand at the whole “guiding” thing when the shop needed an extra helping hand with a big group of guests.  I was nothing short of terrified, but after releasing the first fish of the day for a happy client I was ecstatic.  “That was the biggest rainbow I’ve ever laid my hands on”, he said after watching a fish close to the double digit class make its way back to the depths.  I have never received a high-five that stung as hard as that one, but I will never forget the feeling of making someone’s day one that they will always remember.  Maybe all I did was maneuver the boat, drop the anchors, pick his fly and tie his knots but I felt like I was part of the equation nonetheless.


Hit the fast forward button again, now we’re a few years and a hell of a lot of odd jobs further.  Plumbing? Gave it a go.  Wedding DJ? Check.  Catering Business? Tried it.  3 years as a touring singer/songwriter? Why not.  The latter made me a good amount of money and brought a ton of joy, but it still wasn’t what I felt I was truly passionate enough about to make a lifestyle out of.  Why did I always keep going back to the fly fishing industry?  It dawned on me one day that maybe I was running from what I truly love in hopes of finding some sort of a “normal” life.  The idea of what a normal lifestyle is depends entirely on who you talk to and how you look at it.  Do I think it is wrong that people have office jobs and keep their hobbies separate? Of course not, but do I think that we were put here to spend 40 hours a week indoors in to make a bi-weekly paycheck even though we despise every second of it? No.

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Gas station sunglasses & mustard coloured waders were fashionable in my opinion at the time

I enjoyed my time in the music industry.  I put out my own record, met some great people and made some solid money, but I knew deep down that the situation I was creating was not the one I truly wanted.  I loved playing music, but I never loved it as much as the outdoors.  Being on stage was a rush, but not the same rush that I get from having a memorable moment on the water.  I make my own bed at night, and I knew I had full control over how I decided to make a living but couldn’t push myself to make the commitment to follow my heart back to fly fishing.  One night sitting on opposing couches, my girlfriend (now fiance) said out of the blue that she wanted to become a fly fishing guide and was looking at attending a guide school in Montana.  She is a very effective angler, fly tier and seems to pick up on things in the blink of an eye.  I never told her a thing about guiding other than I used to do a bit of it when I was younger, but she seemed pretty dead set on her new idea.  So what did she do? dove head first.  She started applying to lodges, went to guide school and spent free time perfecting knots in front of the TV at night.  It was inspiring to watch, and was also a huge wake-up call.  If she could go off the deep end and pursue something she was passionate about why couldn’t I?  I got on the phone the next day and told a few friends in the industry that I wanted to get back into guiding in hopes of finding a job in short time.

 

The stars aligned and we managed to get a job for the same lodge, things began to feel right again.  I could be in the outdoors working hard every day, but gaining satisfaction and releasing the feeling the I had kept bottled in for so long.  I had to re-learn some things and just plain learn other things in guiding (like it is possible to get hit in the shoulder by a fly 4 times before noon), but I felt like I had made a step in the right direction.  Why did I spend so much of my time trying to get away from something that I truly wanted?  Because I was too scared of what other people would think.  Sometimes we let other peoples’ opinions dictate the way that we live our lives, feeling as though we should be juggling more than we know how trying to make everyone happy.  The reality of it is that you will never go through life making everyone else happy while still fulfilling your own personal needs.  Why did I care so much if some people didn’t approve of leaving what I had in pursuit of something else?  At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter.


As I sat down on this Friday night after 5 days of camping to write an instructional article to post in the morning, I somehow ended up with this.  It was something I felt I needed to write about because I spend so much time thinking about how I can constantly get better at what I do.  Not just financially, but how can I branch off into new aspects of the sport that I find appealing.  Before you make the assumption that I’m preaching to quit your day job, please understand that’s not at all what I’m going for.  The idea sparked after reading a lengthy Facebook post about how one hated their job so much as if someone was going to step in and hand them a new one.  If you want something, pursue it instead of daydreaming about what things could be like.  We take for granted that we’re going to see the light of day tomorrow, that we’re going to live long enough to retire and make the mistake of thinking that we will always have time to do things we really want.  Thank you to everyone that takes the time to read these articles, as always feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.  Until next time!!

 

Properly Outfitting Your Watercraft

Having a boat is important, having a boat that is properly setup is crucial.  Your boat won’t do you much good if it’s not outfitted for stillwater fishing.  100% of my fishing is done from an anchored position, so being able to effectively anchor the front and back of the boat is (in my opinion) the most important part.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on a boat, I still run a 1032 flat bottom and it does everything I need it to do.  Here’s a little list of must-haves for outfitting your boat:

  • Double Anchor or Bust – Going stillwater fishing for a day can be tough for someone like myself that has a very easy time forgetting at least one thing, but I make 100% certain I never leave home without my anchors & locks. Being able to anchor the front & back of your boat is an absolute must for stillwater fishing.  When a boat isn’t anchored properly, it can be an absolute nightmare in the wind.  If you’re able to only anchor the bow or only anchor the stern, then your boat is going to get blown in circles which makes fishing basically impossible.  I run two Scotty anchor locks, one at the middle of the bow and one at either the starboard or port side of the stern (mounted with a Scotty side mount).  Being able to anchor the bow and stern will allow for much more fishing time and less time wasted on trying to position the boat.
  • Choosing an Anchor – You can have your anchor locks perfectly mounted, but if you have an anchor that isn’t going to hold your boat in windy conditions what’s the point? For my 1032 I like a 10 pound uncoated pyramid shaped lead anchor.  Though 10 pounds is good enough for my small stillwater boat, they don’t hold down a 16 footer very well so try your best to match the size of your anchor to the size of your boat.  I have tried a variety of different anchors both coated & uncoated, round, mushroom shaped etc. but nothing seems to hold like an uncoated pyramid anchor.  The advantage to these anchors is that when they tilt on their side, they’ll actually wedge themselves into the bottom even on marl.  The problem I have had with coated anchors, especially the mushroom shaped ones is that they have a tendency to slide across the bottom in high winds which causes a lot of frustration.  Wind is rarely our friend, you might as well get every advantage you can.
  • Rope Matters – Choosing the correct diameter rope to fit through your anchor locks is important. Too thin and you’ll find the rope tangles itself easier, too thick and it won’t fly through the roller on the anchor lock quickly enough.  I like 3/8” diameter woven rope, purchased in a 100 foot section and cut in half to make two 50 foot pieces.  Attach to the anchor with a bowline knot, and once threaded add a half hitch to the tag end of the rope to prevent it from pulling through the anchor lock and losing the whole setup altogether.  Melt the ends with a lighter once your knots are tied to prevent fraying.
  • A Real Seat – This was one of the best decisions I ever made. Whether you’re outfitting your boat for your clients or just your buddies, don’t make them break their back for 8 hours while trying to get comfortable on the aluminum bench of your new flat bottom.  It’s not overly expensive to add seat brackets that swivel 360 degrees, and a good seat with a backrest will save your back in the long haul.
  • Carpet Flooring – This can be so easily done to any flat bottom boat, all you need is some plywood cut to the shape of the gaps in between the bench seats in your boat and some industrial carpet. The purpose of this is to prevent fly line doing what it does best, getting caught on absolutely everything possible inside your boat.  If you can, make it so that the carpet can be removed & cleaned once in a while because boats dirty up faster than you’d think.

         A properly outfitted boat leaves more time for this!      

This is just a couple ideas for those looking to get a new boat, or just upgrade some bits and pieces of theirs.  As always if you have any questions feel free to send me an email, until next time happy fishing! 

 

When Murphy Comes Fishing

“If something has the chance to go wrong, it will”. that is the definition of the famous Murphy’s Law.  Do I believe in this? I think so, but I didn’t expect everything to go wrong at once and definitely wasn’t prepared for it.  I do not use a motor of any sort when stillwater fishing due to the amount of time already spent in a seated position waiting for a fish, rowing at least gets me moving a bit.  It was a perfect day, the water temperature was right on the money and the chironomids were hatching.  Halfway out to the spot I heard an alarming snapping sound as my left oar flew out of my hand.  I looked down and I had blown up my metal oarlock.  Did the one bolt I needed to put it back together fall into the water? of course it did.  I managed to limp the last 50 yards or so until I could anchor up and try to come up with a temporary fix.  The fishing was great, the sun was shining, all I had to do was find a way to re-construct my oarlock so I could make it back to the launch.  In between my feeble fixing attempt without the required parts and being interrupted by a good handful of fish, I heard another loud noise this time from my friend’s boat.  I looked back and he was buried in the bow of his pram laying on his back, somehow snapping the sliding swivel mount for his seat.  Luckily nobody ended up in the water but the seat mount was toast.  


      These little things helped ease the pain 

Fast forward a lot of dropped bolts and a bunch more fish, my friend is hooked up on a decent sized rainbow.  Decent sized meaning nice but not nearly heavy enough to blow up a fly rod.  Apparently I was wrong, as I saw the rod explode along with a loud shattering sound and 2/3 of the top end of the rod sliding around on the line.  So thus far we have broken one oar lock, one swivel seat bracket and a 6 weight rod.  Cool.  I managed to scrape up some sort of a repair on my oarlock, bending it enough to secure the oar in so I could at least move my boat.  We decided to pull anchor and move in on another spot halfway across the lake where the bugs are known to hatch in good numbers.  My oarlock is somehow holding together while I battle the swirling gusts of wind and make my way across the lake, but none of this matters as 4 boats roll in simultaneously and anchor up as we are 100 yards away or so.  The entire shoal is now occupied, so it’s a long row back to our original spot.  Halfway back to where I planned on anchoring, I heard something hit the water.  My makeshift fix on the oarlock had blown apart and one half of it was fluttering down to the bottom of the lake.  Now I’m really out of ideas, I remove the oar and do my best to use the remainders of the oarlock as something to pull the loose oar against to at least get back anchored up.  What a rewarding feeling to at least reach my intended destination to try and figure out how I would get back to the launch, until I heard an even louder sounds of snapping aluminum coming from the opposite side of the broken oarlock.  Really?  I’ve had these same oarlocks on the same set of sticks for 4 years and they both decide to blow up within a few hours of each other?  They aren’t the fanciest oarlocks but they are more than enough to get the job done.  We ended up fishing another hour or so while coming up with a plan to make it back to the launch.  I ended up getting towed back from my friend who was rowing his 8 foot pram, of course the wind decided to do a 180 just before we headed in but at this point we knew there couldn’t be many more things that could go wrong.  Back to the launch we made it, slowly but surely, and I managed to replace bolts in two oarlocks that evening and they’ve held up since.  But really?  Murphy has a way of pulling a rabbit out of a hat when you least expect things to continuously go wrong.  Lesson learned: buy quality oarlocks and don’t invite Murphy.

Approaching a New Lake

One of the most daunting things in fly fishing, and life in general, is the unknown.  It’s appeal constantly draws me in when it comes to uncovering new bodies of water and locations.  These days there is almost no such thing as a fishery in BC that has been 100% untouched by man, but the days where you know you are making the first tire tracks of the year down an unpaved road can feel as though you are discovering something yourself.  There is no doubt that social media has played a massive role in popularizing certain fisheries, but that’s a conversation for another day.  Sometimes it’s more rewarding to go on a whim than it is to have a map drawn to you from someone in a Facebook group.  Though it’s hard to turn down the familiarity of branching off from your favourite lake for a day to take a chance, just know that unless the apocalypse takes place overnight your favourite lake will still be there even if your new adventure doesn’t pan out.  Here is a list of tactics I have compiled for searching out a new lake, and making your visit as successful as possible.

Chainsaw Mandatory – This might seem like a weird thing to put at the top of the list, but trust me on it.  Exploring remote areas is a game of Russian Roulette, and if you give it enough tries you are guaranteed to face adversity at one point or another.  Last year I was fortunate enough to lay the first tire tracks of the year into a secluded mountain lake, and the trip would have been a total bust without a chainsaw.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something decent enough to potentially make the difference between accessing the lake or not.

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Into the Abyss!

Map It – Once you have made a decision, commit to knowing that you definitely have the directions nailed down.  Technology like Google Maps has made mapping out lakes a breeze, don’t spend half of your day on a wild goose chase down every Forest Service Road in the area.

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The only way to end a quality day of stillwater fishing

Elevation – Elevation is your friend when it comes to doing your homework on a potential new lake.  Say your new lake is at 4,100 feet in elevation and all the lakes at 2,800 and lower are shedding their ice, maybe consider postponing until ice-off is looking more realistic.  That said, if you know lakes at the approximate elevation of the one you’re interested in are experiencing good hatches, chances are it is worth your time and effort.

Stocking Reports – We are lucky to have places like GoFishBC’s stocking reports to check which strains of fish and how many are being put in any of our lakes.  Use stocking reports to your advantage, for example a lake that is stocked with low numbers of triploids (less than 1,500 annually) and has good feed will generally grow big fish.

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Plan B – This rings especially true in early season because eventually you will come to a lake in hopes of it being ice free only to find out it is a couple days away.  Make sure there’s something remotely close that can bail you out if plan A doesn’t pan out.  Directions become incorrect or confusing, ice hasn’t lifted, road is too rough to continue, things like this happen all the time when exploring to new lakes so be prepared for it.  It’s a long drive home if you don’t have a plan B, trust me.

Make Your Rounds – This is one that can really test your patience.  Unless I see something that really gets my attention like a massive concentrated cloud of chironomids hatching, I will usually row around as much of the lake as I feel necessary while trying to pay attention to bottom structure & signs of activity.  Sometimes it is hard not to anchor up and put the lines out right away, but taking your time to learn the structure of the lake will pay its dividends.

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Big, healthy Pennask strain rainbow trout from a new-to-me lake

Fish Effectively – This might mean swallowing your pride and moving away from the method you are comfortable with that worked so well last week at your home lake.  Being able to adapt to your surroundings is what makes you an effective angler.  If you see fish crushing damselfly nymphs in 6 feet of water but you’re a dedicated chironomid angler, give yourself every advantage possible and do your best to adapt.

Commit – This is the most important of them all.  I made my way into a lake that I had been putting off for 6 straight years for the first time last year, and had one of the best days I’ve ever had.  As I was leaving, I wondered why I didn’t trust my instinct and give it a go when I first heard it’s tales of big fish.  Have a plan B, but don’t bail out at the last minute because you know that you can go elsewhere and find fish.  Exploring is half the fun, your favourite fisheries will still be there whether your new venture is successful or not.

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Hopefully this inspires at least one person to make the leap and try something new this season.  There are hundreds of lakes in the interior of BC that are stocked with fish, some of them have gained more reputation & popularity than others but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some hidden gems out there.  For every lake you hear about that holds ten pound fish, imagine all of the ones you’ve never heard anybody speak a word of.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this post, until next time happy fishing!

 

Fly Tying: Simple Ice Cream Cone Chironomid

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have a deadly fly pattern. This simple 3 material chironomid takes a healthy amount of fish for me each season, especially in murkier/stained water or when fish are foraging with reckless abandon for hatching chironomid pupa. I believe there is a time and a place for both white beads & black beads on chironomid patterns but some days they really seem to key in on the prominent white bead as a gill imitation.  If you’re looking for a simple chironomid pattern that you can fill your box with, look no further.  I have tied this in a size 18 3xl with a 5/64 bead but size is subjective to your conditions so make sure you have a decent variety. 

Hook: Dai-Riki #285 or #135

Bead: Painted White Brass Bead

Thread: UTC 70 (colour of your choice)

Rib: Spun UTC 70 or Wire (size & colour of your choice)

Thorax: UTC 70 Thread


Thread bead (here I’m using a 5/64 white bead) with the larger bored end facing the eyelet of the hook. 


Attach thread with 3 wraps behind the eye, I chose UTC 70 Blue Dun for this one but the sky is the limit for colour combos. 


Tie ribbing in behind the bead, this one is done with 2 strands of UTC 70 Wine thread doubled around my tying thread but as mentioned previously the options are endless (when tying in 70 denier or 8/0 thread as a ribbing always double it up and spin before wrapping as it becomes more prominent)


Build a tapered body and bring thread up to the front of the hook. 


Spin your thread and wrap forward as a rib, I’ve left a little room up front for a thorax. 

Add collar with your choice of colour, usually darker colour such as brown or black but that depends what the natural pupa you are trying to imitate looks like. 


Finish with brushable super glue, drive to lake, catch fish, repeat!! 

I did absolutely not invent this pattern nor am I claiming that I did, this is just one variation of a very popular fly.  The list goes on and on for colour combos this is just what I had handy. As always thank you to everyone who took the time to read this article and feel free to send me an email with any questions regarding fly tying, I will do my best to help out in any way. Until next time happy fishing! 

BC Interior Stillwater Fishing Calendar

At 17 years old with not a whole lot more than a Honda CRX and a float tube, I would spend as much of my calendar year lake fishing as I could.  It was familiar to me, I had gained just enough knowledge to be somewhat confident in it and liked the idea of learning something new every trip out.  If you are wise about your timing and lake choices, you can actually have pretty consistent stillwater fishing from ice off until the lakes freeze up again.  Despite the inevitable “summer doldrum” that usually rolls through in late July or early August where things just get too hot, it is still possible to have good days on the water through most of the open water season.

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March:  This is, if we’re lucky, the start of the interior stillwater fishery.  Some years nothing really happens, but other years we’re blessed with an early spring that brings fairly generous temps.  The earliest I’ve stillwater fished was February 15th, but that was a very rare exception.  Look for low elevation lakes that receive a lot of sunshine & a fair amount of wind if possible.  Chances are you’ll be fishing the pre-turnover window anywhere that you’re able to fish in the month of march, so target the shallow water with micro leeches, bloodworms, immature damsels and if you’re lucky enough to hit an early hatch, chironomids.

April:  April is when most of the low elevation lakes have turned over, and the moderate (less than 3,000 feet) elevation lakes start to ice off and come to life.  Generally I won’t try to target the ice-off window on higher lakes, rather I’ll stick to the waters that I know are turned over and fishing well.  There are exceptions to this, as some lakes offer solid ice-off chironomid fishing.  April can bring some excellent chironomid hatches, so this is what I’ll focus on as much as I can if possible.  If you’re looking at targeting the ice-off window then put your time in on the shallow flats as that’s where you’ll find most of your fish.  Micro leeches, immature damsels, bloodworms, boatmen & chironomids are all patterns to have in your box.

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Early Spring Stillwater Fishing

May:  If you had to pick one month to fish our interior stillwater fishery, May would be it.  Most lakes have iced off, turned & are swinging into the “prime” window of the year.  Almost anywhere you visit in the month of May is sure to be in decent shape aside from very late ice-off years.  Chironomid fishing in May is at it’s peak for a lot of lakes, a lot of big days are had if the weather cooperates.  Aside from chironomids you’ll consistently find good mayfly & damsel fishing along with the ever-present staple foods like leeches, shrimp & bloodworms.

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A common sight in May

June:  June can sometimes be more consistent weather-wise than May.  This is an excellent month for chironomids, mayflies, damsels, dragons and even caddisflies if the water temp warms enough.  Being a chironomid fanatic, usually I will “follow the hatch” up in elevation meaning that once the low elevation lakes get much higher than 65 degrees I’ll start targeting lakes that are still in what I consider prime water temps and leave the warmer lakes to rest.  Aside from chironomid fishing being great, another draw for a lot of anglers is the massive migration for damsels & dragonflies as they make their way to the shore structure and reed beds to shed their exoskeleton and begin their adult life.

July:  July is when the chironomid fishing tends to slow down in most lakes, and I concentrate my efforts on one of the many rivers that offer amazing dry fly fishing in July.  This being said some lakes can really shine in July, especially those over 3,000 feet in elevation.  If you want to target big fish eating dries in 5 feet of water, July is the time to do it in the interior.  Generally dragonfly nymphs fish very well in July, and some lakes can offer excellent fishing with chironomids and bloodworms.

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Dawn patrol in early July

August: August can be a great month, low elevation lakes will experience summer doldrums and generally are best left alone for the safety of the fish due to high water temperatures.  There’s a small number of lakes that actually experience incredible hatches of “bombers” (much larger chironomids than we are used to seeing in the springtime) and stay fairly consistent through the months of July & August.  Fish will generally turn on what are referred to as “staple food sources” including bloodworms, shrimp & leeches.

September:  The first frost of fall is usually a fairly relieving sign that another hot summer is coming to a close and fly fishermen get excited for things to pick up again.  September can have some stellar chironomid fishing, some lakes actually seem to fish better in the fall than they do in the springtime.  Waterboatmen, chironomids, backswimmers, leeches, shrimp and bloodworms are the most commonly used patterns in the month of September.

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Fall in BC

October:  October has a lot to offer in the interior of BC.  There were years before this when stillwater was all I knew, and October was one of my favourite months of the year.  Generally you will not see the same crowds that you do in the springtime, and some lakes can be absolutely magical at this time.  Chironomids, bloodworms, waterboatmen, leeches & shrimp are all solid producers at this time.

November:  Depending on the year, sometimes we are still able to stillwater fish into November.  Cold? Yes, but for those that aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel can have some great days in November.  Fish are generally fairly lethargic, but if you can manage some decent weather then you will find fish in the shallows feeding on shrimp, bloodworms and micro leeches.

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Wintertime involves many hours of fly tying

Wintertime for me means fly tying, spey fishing for steelhead and travelling.  Towards the month of February I start to get very anxious for the stillwater season to start up, and the cycle repeats itself.  While there are peak times and more challenging times of the year, good fishing is to be found through the entire open water season.  Thank you for taking the time to read, as always feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.  Until next time!

5 Floating Line Techniques & Setups

Floating fly lines really changed the way that I fished when I began to discover how effective they were for fishing sub-surface patterns.  Before I had gained any sort of knowledge related to fly fishing equipment, I thought that floating lines were only to be used for fishing dries.  When I started to pick up on being able to suspend a fly at a certain depth for an unlimited amount of time, or fish a subsurface fly at a crawling pace just quick enough to avoid hanging up on bottom, my catching skyrocketed almost instantly.  Floating lines have an infinite amount of uses in stillwater fishing, but here are my 5 favourites.


The Mayfly Crawl – Fishing mayfly imitations can be heart stopping.  Often done with a “naked” floating line (meaning no strike indicator or swivel attached) the floating line allows you to control your depth precisely and avoid hanging up by adjusting leader length and retrieval speed.  Usually I will fish mayflies on a dry line in 10 feet of water or less.  Some of the better days I have had fishing mayfly nymphs has been in 2-4 feet of water, the takes are violent and the big fish cruise up on the shoals when they mayflies start coming off.  The most effective way to do this is cast either downwind or at 45 degree angle and allow your fly to wind drift while you make the absolute slowest retrieve possible.  In fact, go as slow as you can and cut that by another 50%.  The hand twist retrieve will keep your fly moving close to bottom & just fast enough to stay off bottom.  Leader setup for this method is usually a 9 foot tapered fluorocarbon leader in the 8 or 6lb class, with enough tippet so that your leader is approximately 10% longer than the water is deep.  This will allow your fly to stay in the zone without hanging up too often as your butt end of the leader will sink slower than the tippet.  Hold on tight as fish that are grabbing mayflies in the shallows usually tend to hit like a freight train.


Indicator/Micro Leech Combo – Micro leeches are an absolutely deadly pattern all year round.  Fish eat leeches after a large chironomid feed to help cap their food down, no matter what time of day leeches will always take fish.  Leeches swim in an undulating motion, sometimes resting static in the water column or on bottom.  Fishing micro leeches & balanced leeches under a strike indicator is becoming an increasingly popular method, especially early and late season.  Fishing micro leeches (what I consider size 10 and smaller) under an indicator is an excellent option as it gives the fish a healthy amount of time to make up their mind and doesn’t take a lot of commitment to eat a small leech that is wind drifting by.  I have caught fish on micro leeches with my indicator set anywhere from 8 inches to 25 feet, but most “leeching” I do takes place in 3-12 feet of water.  Fish will come up and forage the shallows in the early spring to find leeches, shrimp and potentially early chironomids, so don’t overlook the shallow water.  My favourite leader setup for fishing micro leeches under a strike indicator is to run a section of 8 or 10lb fluorocarbon from my fly line to a size 12 barrel swivel.  From the barrel swivel I run another 18-36 inches of 6lb fluorocarbon tippet and attach the micro leech with a non-slip mono loop.  The length of your butt section will depend on the depth of water that you’re fishing, just make sure your leader isn’t noticeably too long or casting will be difficult due to the indicator being pegged closer to the swivel than it is to the fly line.

          Another victim of the micro leech!

Naked Line Chironomid – This is one method that I spend a lot of time with in the spring months.  It’s an extremely effective way of covering the water column, and sometimes the grabs are out of this world.  A lot of fish get broken off naked line chironomid fishing in deeper water.  Often I will run one indicator line with one naked line, especially in very flat conditions the naked line will often out fish the indicator line.  Reasons for this are unknown to me as you’d think the presentation staying at precisely the same depth the whole time would pick up a lot more fish.  I’ll fish this way very similar to crawling mayflies, often in a bit deeper water.  I usually don’t do much naked line fishing in water that is shallower than 15-20 feet, preferring to run two indicator lines.  My most trusted method of fishing a naked line chironomid is casting on a 45 degree angle downwind, allowing my leader a small period of time to sink, and starting a hand twist retrieve.  Chironomids ascend the water column at a painfully slow rate, so try and keep your retrieve as relaxed as possible.  Sometimes a retrieve can take 5 minutes or more on one cast.  There is a little bit more approximation in naked line chironomid fishing vs. running a strike indicator as there is no sure-fire way to know exactly what your depth is.  Usually I will let my fly sink until it looks as though all my leader is hanging down below the surface and begin my hand twist.  I have tried a plethora of different leader setups for this type of fishing & have concluded that my preferred method is running a straight shot of 6lb fluorocarbon directly to my fly.  The reasoning for this is a) fluorocarbon sinks slightly faster than mono b) it’s not going to be a pretty cast either way with a 25 foot leader c) there will be no hinge that is often caused by the butt section of tapered leaders not sinking at the same rate as the rest of the leader.


Sub-Surface Caddis Pupa – I learned this method on a stillwater trip a few years ago in early July.  The water temperature had warmed enough that good chironomid hatches were non-existent and the mayflies were nowhere to be found, but there were caddis and lots of them.  Anchored on a 7 foot deep flat shoal, casting parallel to the drop off it was what seemed like an eternity before I hooked my first fish of the trip.  I knew that the fish were on caddis flies but couldn’t get them to commit to eating the dry fly.  They would just about poke their nose at it before refusing and heading back to the depths of the lake.  Tippet size reduction, fly changes, leader length adjustments, everything seemed to lead to refusals.  Until I tied on a size 6 caddis pupa and let it sink just below the surface with a steady 4-6 inch retrieve.  I made my first strip and my line exploded, a couple minutes later I had a nice 7lb triploid in the net.  The fish stayed on eating those caddis pupa subsurface for the remainder of the trip and I had learned a valuable lesson.  My leader setup for this is entirely dependent on water depth, but usually I will start with a 9 foot 8lb fluorocarbon tapered leader either home made or store bought.  To pre-tie a tapered leader for fishing Caddis pupa I start with a 3 foot section of 20lb fluoro, down to a 3 foot section of 12lb fluoro, to a 3 foot section of 8lb fluoro and then adjust accordingly.  All connections are done with a blood knot, there is a reason why I stopped at 8lb test instead of something lighter as the takes are usually violent with a subsurface caddis pupa.


Releasing a mid summer bow caught on a caddis

Strike Indicator/Chironomid – This may seem like an absolute no-brainer, but I have to include it here.  This is how 75% or more of my stillwater fishing is done in the spring and fall.  Chironomid fishing gets a bad wrap as being too “boring” but there is a reason behind this.  Chironomid fishing is extremely boring when it isn’t done properly, and there are a lot of small equations that need to line up in order to be successful.  In the near future I will have an entire article that covers chironomid fishing further in depth, but while we’re on the topic of leader setups I figured this would be an important thing to clear up.  Chironomid fishing is not like dragging a leech pattern on a full sinking line in circles around the lake.  It is very, very precise and one small miscalculation can lead to a painful day of fishing.  Is your fly at the right depth? Is it the right shape/size?  Are you on top of where the bugs are coming off?  All these things have to line up properly or you’ll be staring at your indicators all day.  Typically I will fish chironomids anywhere from 1-10+ feet off of the bottom of the lake, depending on where the fish are feeding in the column and what I’m seeing in throat samples.  If the fish are stuffed full of nickel bright chromies then that is telling me they are definitely not right on bottom.  I have experimented with every leader setup under the sun for chironomid fishing with an indicator, and again my favourite method is a straight shot of 8lb fluoro from my fly line to a size 10-14 barrel swivel.  Below the barrel swivel I will tie on an 18-36 inch piece of 6lb fluorocarbon tippet and attach the fly with a loop knot.  The reasoning behind the straight piece of 8lb fluorocarbon is that it sinks fast, it sinks uniform and if I want to ditch the indicator setup I can just clip off my swivel, add 2 feet of 6lb with a blood knot and I’m good to go for naked line chironomid fishing.


Hopefully this (sort of) short list will inspire someone to dig out their floating line and try something new.  There are a million different uses for it, but this article hopefully covers some that are not as popular as the standard elk hair caddis or tom thumb on the surface.  I have received plenty of nice feedback from folks all over and it is greatly appreciated.  As always, feel free to send me an email should you have any questions and I will be happy to reply.  Until next time happy fishing!!

Fly Tying: ASB Chromie

If I could choose one chironomid pattern to fish throughout springtime in our interior lakes, the anti-static bag chromie would probably be at the top of my list. Every chironomid pupa acquires the gunmetal silver sheen as they trap oxygen in their abdomen during their ascent up the water column.  The anti-static bag body is so versatile as it is slightly translucent, allowing the tier to modify the underbody colour by simply changing thread.  Here’s a quick step-by-step on my favourite chironomid pattern.

Hook: Dai-Riki #285 size 16-20

Bead: Gunmetal/Black size 5/64 or 2/32

Thread: UTC 70 colour of your choice

Gill Material: UNI-Stretch

Body: Anti-Static Bag (computer part packaging cut into strips)

Rib: Depending on the pattern either spun UTC 70 thread, crystal flash or wire

Thorax: UTC 70 colour of your choice


Place hook (I’ve used a size 18 paired with a 2/32 bead for this fly) in vise & slide bead to the bend of the hook


Make 3 wraps of UTC 70 thread behind the eye


Tie in a piece of UNI-Stretch, double it over, whip finish & slide bead over thread. Trim gill material to desired length (I usually do 1/2 an eyelet length past the front of the eye)


Tie in ribbing material (1 strand black Crystal Flash used for this particular fly) followed by a strip of ASB


Build up a neatly tapered body before wrapping your body material forward


Wrap ASB forward with no gaps in between turns, tie off & trim


Wrap ribbing material forward. Whip finish, glue with brushable Loc-Tite or Zap-a-Gap, catch fish, repeat!

This fly can be done in an endless variety of underbody & rib combinations, this is just one that I seem to use a lot during our interior stillwater fishery each spring.  A good sign that fish are suspended higher up in the water column is finding their stomachs stuffed full of chromies. I fish this either on a floating line under and indicator, or a naked floating line with no indicator or swivel. Tomorrow’s post will be all about leader setup for springtime stillwater fishing, thank you for reading & if you have any questions feel free to send me an email!