Strains of the Interior

In BC, we are so lucky to have such an incredible stocking program that allows us to be able to not only catch massive rainbows but a few different strains of them.  There are plenty more than the top 3 stocked strains (Fraser Valley, Pennask & Blackwater) but we will focus on those for now and the differences between them.  Most of the fish we have stocked in our trophy lakes are referred to as “triploids”, meaning a fish that is treated from the egg stage in a heating process that renders them sterile.  Having sterile fish planted into our lakes means that they can live their whole lives without spawning and have only 2 things to worry about, eating and getting big.

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Pennask – Pennasks are a gorgeous strain of rainbow trout, not to mention they are usually a couple feet in the air by the time you realize they’ve eaten your bug.  They jump more than any other strain and take blistering runs.  Pennasks are fairly easily identified by their streamlined, torpedo shape with very few spots & a very pronounced lateral line.  Their backs will usually be a medium olive-brown colour, but in very clear lakes with marl bottom they can be almost translucent with teal or light blue backs.  Pennasks like to school up, some of the most furious action you’ll experience is when a good sized pod of actively feeding pennasks roll in.  They usually grab your fly with reckless abandon and head straight for the surface, making them one of the top stocking strains in BC.

Fraser Valley – Fraser Valley triploids are the pigs of the underwater world.  Sometimes eating themselves into nothing short of a barrel shape, they also fight way differently than a Pennask or Blackwater.  Some anglers look down upon Fraser Valleys, but anything that puts a bend in a fly rod is fine by me.  Fraser Valleys are easily identified by their thick build, large bellies and a healthy amount of spots both above and below their lateral lines.  When they are hooked, usually they will stay down close to the bottom and play a game of tug-a-war against you until making their way to the surface.  “Tubby tuggers” is what we always referred to them as, not known for taking long deep runs like a Pennask or Blackwater.

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Blackwater – These are my favourite, hands down.  Blackwaters are beautifully marked with large spots and often a prominent red or pink hue along their sides.  Rarely do they have many spots below their lateral line.  Blackwaters (originated from the Blackwater river) are also a predatory fish.  They will be implemented in lakes that have a high population of shiners or coarse fish as it will quicly become part of their diet.  Blackwaters jump occasionally, but are best known for their lightning speed runs often taken a foot under the surface of the water.  Nothing is more exciting than watching a ten pound Blackwater create a V shaped wake as it makes a football field run just under the water surface.

To see exactly how many fish and what strain is going into your favourite lakes, click here.  Though they aren’t all created equally, they are all fun in my books.  If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave one below or send me an email and I’ll be more than happy to answer. Until next time happy fishing!

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Fishing the Ugly Days

Unfortunately, dealing with every element of weather you could imagine comes with the territory of spending time in the outdoors on a regular basis.  Learning to embrace it is a large part of the battle, as is making sure you’re prepared for it.  A lot of time is spent on the water through the winter and spring months, when Mother Nature becomes an unpredictable psychopath sometimes.  2 hours of rain, 4 hours of sun, and hour of snow and an hour of hail? sounds like a lovely spring day in BC.  Nothing will ever make it change, and nobody (or very few!) have the luxury of being able to fish any day they want without having to deal with the conditions once in a while.

Low pressure can put fish down, with ugly weather often comes cold and windy conditions which also work against you.  But what about the days that make you glad you decided to gamble it instead of staying home, only to have it pay off in a big way?  The days when everything lines up, even when you know it seems too good to be true.  I have two tales that proved every assumption I had made about the weather affecting the fish completely wrong this year.


The first took place on that one winter steelhead river near Vancouver you always hear horror stories about getting low-holed or your vehicle broken into, the super top secret one!  The river was colouring and rising at a rapid rate the day before we were supposed to do a fairly lengthy float.  Checking the weather obsessively that night, it was not looking good as my phone screen was still showing 20-30mm of rain no matter how frantically I refreshed it.  I haven’t ever been so close to cancelling a day of fishing, but we followed through with our plan and met up at 7 the next morning.  The rain was present but not unbearable, the excitement was outweighing any worries I previously had about the river being unfishable.  As we pushed off I knew there was no going back, and was prepared for the worst.  Maybe it was just luck of the draw, but the rain seemed to hold off for a majority of the day.  It was cold, it did pour on us off and on but it never lasted.  We were float fishing (call me a bad person, float fishing is fun) and connected with a bright winter doe in the second run we pulled into.  I thought it was a rock as I had drifted an unthinkable ways down into the tailout where the water was no more than 18 inches deep.  Next run we stuck two, the run after that we stuck two more, three runs later we hit another two fish.  Was this even possible?  Each time one of us would hook a winter steelhead I thanked the fish gods for getting me out of bed that morning.  We saw 3 anglers all day in 15km of river, by the end of the float the skies had cleared and it was bright sun.  To top it off I got to watch my better half hook 3 winter run steelhead, including her first one ever.  Some days you just face what you are given and make the best situation possible out of it.


The next one that was even more puzzling than having a stellar day steelhead fishing in high and dirty water, was at a favourite lake of mine that serves a healthy dose of punishment and frustration when the fish decide to be selective.  The air temp was around 6 degrees, I layered on every thermal piece of clothing I could find and reluctantly began unloading my boat.  Rowing out to my favourite ledge, I knew it was going to be a cold and miserable day.  Hopes of big chironomid hatches were dwindling, though the water was sitting at a perfect 54 degrees.  There are few stillwater fisheries you visit expecting to get blanked, but this is one of them.  I got anchored up and sent out my first line, before I could get the second one out the first indicator was so far under the surface all I could see was my floating line tightening while the rod was in the holder. By the time I got to it the fish had spat it, but it was a glimmer of hope. What happened after that? Both rods went off within seconds of each other. Then followed up by twenty nine inches of interior BC rainbow trout. I was kind of expecting to see my boat start leaking or get struck by lightning just to remind me that days like this were not only uncommon, this would probably not happen again anytime soon. Plenty more nice ones that decided they would pick the rainiest, coldest day to have an epic feed we’re keeping me from remembering how frozen my hands were. I returned to this lake 4 days later on a perfectly still, sunny day and proceeded to hook 1 fish in 6 hours of fishing…


Days like those mentioned above are a good reminder not to let yourself be limited by the weather forecast. Is it going to be brutal some days? Yes. Are there days where you actually would’ve been better off staying in bed? Perhaps, but take it all in stride as an experience. You never know unless you go! Amazing things can happen when you least expect it. Thank you for taking the time to read things lengthy one-page novel, until next time happy fishing!

Fish Need Water

“As long as you could hold your breath underwater after running a marathon” is a saying that comes along often on the topic of holding fish out of the water.  It is truly amazing the amount of anglers that participate in this incredible sport all across the world, it is also amazing the amount of anglers that seem to disregard any sort of concern for the fish’s well being once they have it in the net.  I have seen my fair share of poor handling practices, wild steelhead drug into 3 inches of water and 10 pound rainbows brought into the boat for 15 seconds while the angler unhooks it and takes an excessive amount of photos.  I’ve even seen folks go as far as willingly keeping fish in a catch & release lake only to have their truck, trailer, boat and gear seized by a conservation officer.  It’s no secret that keeping the fish in the water for photos is becoming a very positive trend, and it couldn’t be coming around at a better time.  Days of the “grip and grin” with the fish high and dry out of the water are becoming a thing of the past.  The most important part of fly fishing is that we do our part to give a fish the best chance of surviving, unless it is being retained.  Here’s a list of tips for handling the safest way possible:

  • No Gloves, Ever – Wearing gloves while handling fish is an absolute no.  I don’t care if it’s -14 in December and you’ve been on the river all day, if you’re warm enough to be out fishing then it’s warm enough to take your gloves off to handle a fish.  Fish have a naturally occurring slime that protects them from disease and infection, gloves wipe that all away when they come in contact with the fish.  Take the extra 5 seconds to take your gloves off and put them in a pocket of some sort, they will be dry and warm by the time you’re done releasing your fish.

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  • Underwater Shots – The best investment I ever made was buying a GoPro and mounting it on my net.  I don’t need to have anyone there taking the picture and the fish doesn’t leave the water.  Just set it on video mode when releasing a fish, then sort through and pull a still image that you want off of your laptop or phone.

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  • Not All Nets Are Equal – Using a net is good, but only if the net you are using is fitting for catch and release.  The stiff nylon twine and aluminum handle nets are detrimental to fish, often catching gill plates and knocking off protective slime.  If you are going to invest in one thing for your boat, invest in a good net that is suited to catch and release.  Make sure it floats so you can use both hands when releasing a fish, and even better make sure it has “catch and release” mesh or a silicone basket.

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  • Hands Away from Vitals – Cradling a fish properly is crucial.  So many photos of fingers squeezing the life out of the area just in front of the fish’s pectoral fins.  Here lies it’s vitals which need to be paid close attention to when handling.  Always gently cradle the fish behind its pectoral fin, never ever squeeze for any reason.

Anatomical drawing of trout

Hero Shots – It’s not that taking a photo of a nice fish is a bad thing in any way, it’s the act of compromising the fish’s well being for likes on social media.  Holding a fish and looking at a camera does not have to involve removing it from the water for ten seconds.  There are plenty of ways to take photos of fish submerged or with their gill plate’s touching the water, even if there is nobody around to take a photo but yourself.

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This isn’t meant to come of as preaching, it is meant to come of as informative as to just how fragile they are.  Even practicing perfect catch and release tactics does not guarantee that every fish will live, lactic acid buildup and shock can inhibit the fish from making a full recovery.  A small percentage of fish do not live through being caught and released (especially if they getting caught often), but we should do everything we can to maximize their chances at survival.  Thank you for reading and as always if you have any questions or comments feel free to drop me an email.  Until next time, happy fishing!

 

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!