Friday, November 12, 2010

Angling in the Shadows of the Sky Train

When one thinks of world class angling destinations that are located in major urban centres Calgary would probably top most lists. The Bow River is full of big browns and big rainbows and lots of them. It is a trophy trout fishery that has been set up for success by a combination of factors including weers, stocking and effluent. These factors have created a highly productive fishery that is known throughout the world for it's amazing ability to produce huge fish. In the evening on a week day in June the banks begin to line up with anglers who have left the office and want to sneak a few hours in before heading home. Nice way to wrap up a day and I've always been warmed by the thought of this.

When I compare it to my early years in Toronto fishing for ??? in the Don River I am somewhat envious, although I wouldn't trade my years growing up there for was a great city to grow up in. But there's another city that I should mention as an urban angling centre and I have witnessed it's passionate anglers use many different tools to bring in the catch, some crude and some really crude, but hey angling in a major urban centre should serve up some variety.

The city is Bangkok and the body of water Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the Chao Phraya River). This snakes through this city of about 10 million, effectively cutting it in half between the old city, Thonburi and the new urban centre Bangkok. The old city Thonburi is still a city with modern high rises etc. but much of it still exists on a network of canal or khlongs that act as waterways for transport etc.. The new city used to be a series of these canals that branch off the Chao Phraya but are now covered by concrete in order to accommodate the ever increasing traffic volume.

As you travel through Bangkok it is best to use a combination of travel forms if you want to effectively disect the city and avoid epic traffic jams. One way, and my favourite is the river taxi. As you travel by river you see how many people are out angling and the word(s) for fishing is tok phlaa. Fishing is a universal language and I have communicated with very few Thai and English words with many Bangkok fisherman over the years and their zest for the sport is very much there. The river holds various catfish and in front of the riverside temples there are 'sacred' fish that are fed pellets and bread by the river commuters wishing to honour the Buddhist temples. The fish are considered members of the temple and there are hords of them at one river taxi station, with some in the 8 pound class.

That's what the guy in the top photo is likely casting for with his high end spinning rod. Consdierably unethical due to the fish's status, he innocently sits far away from the pier of the temple fish but that rod can cast about 200 feet just enough to get his hook into the fishy water. Unethical maybe but I can't blame the guy, there's probably about 5000 of these fish gorging on bread and pellets and getting fat doing so.

For 14 baht or about 40 cents the river taxi will get you across the city with stops throughout it's course. The air is fresher, the scenery interesting and the traffic non-existent although the river is full of activity. The river taxi links up with the Sky Train station which is the best way to access much of the inner city. It's a fully modern transport service complete with lcd ad screens and air con. It was at this commuter junction where I stopped to wathc this angler (below) working s 'scum line' in the flooded floors of the sky train entrance.

Armed with a net (like a butterfly net), this guy was clearly not your catch and release type....he was going for dinner or lunch or whatever he could muster up out of the murky flood water. I thought his choice of spots was a little odd but with nothing more than a net the swollen waters of the rivers main stem would have proved too much, so this backwater was probably his best option. I didn't see him land anything but he was keen (likely due to hunger) and if I had stayed long enough I'm sure something would have happened....Like I would have broke down and gave him some baht so he could go buy something to eat because his method looked bad I was pretty damn sure that the net was going to keep coming back up filled with debris and no fish. This is when even a bad day of fishing isn't better than a good day of work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Love That Clear Water

I find it amazing that so many people pack their rods away by late September and begin their winter angling hibernation period. Fish still rise to dries on the Elk River in October and the water is as clear as it can get at this time of year.

With October comes cooler weather, lower, slower water and the disappearance of other anglers. Combine these factors with a hungry and eager trout population and you have all the ingredients necessary to create a legendary day of angling. The fish still eat large flies, perhaps because of the October caddis that are still flying or perhaps it's because the cold nights signal winters approach and a sense of urgency takes over.

Spencer, my brother Kevin and I hit the Elk River last week experienced that legendary feeling. The trout started on small ants and as the day progressed and water warmed the Fat Albert started to strut it's stuff. Huge bottom dwellers began lifting there massive bodies from the basement of the river and gently sucked down the size 10 and 8 fat alberts.

It was a beautiful thing to watch as most fish never broke the surface, instead they just gently flared their gill plates out and drew the fly in. The fish for the most part were free of hook scars and were not the usual suspects of the summer. We hooked a lot of fish in different lies many of whom have probably spent most of their lives hook free which is not typical of a free rising Elk River Westslope Cutt.

The weather was a big help, the sun drenched skies were paramount in creating the surface feeding activity. So if any of you plan on coming up here for some Octoberfesting on the Elk, keep an eye on the Fernie forecasts and look for the sun globes.

Currently I am in Bangkok and am enjoying aromatic and spicy curries....a long way from the soft sipping Rocky Mountain cutts. If they were here I would likely be enjoying them in my curry--catch and release is a bizarre and foreign concept to the people of South East Asia

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Month in Review

September did a bit of everything...made me look like a hero one day and a shivering idiot the next. I got to ask a client for the first time if he was on fire....and he was. The weather was varied with some pretty serious and wet cold fronts but overall it was a great month of angling.

The Elk showed me some sunshine and lit up for some truly remarkable days. The fish were eating BWO's particularily the spent duns and spinners and the fly of the month on that river was no doubt the Crystal Meth Spinner (Jeff Mironuck will attest to this). The only problem with the fly was how deep it was getting eaten and after a few sad and bloody moments I opted for another fly that they wouldn't suck down so far.

The West Kootenay's had it's moments....both good and ugly. The Columbia popped up 1 1/2 feet one morning and blew the feeding lanes apart and put the previos epic fishing on hold. The other stream(s) in the area were on fire though, the smaller water produced larger numbers of rainbows raging in size from 10 to 20 inches. All on dries which makes everyone (most) a lot happier.

I am getting a new camera tommorrow which is great, my old Pentax went for a swim in the back of my boat at the take out ramp and I've been without photos for a while. We're stepping it up quite a bit in pixallation and settings so I'm looking forward to posting some better and more interesting shots as well as some hi-def video. I have some fly photos to update here

In two and a half weeks I am off to Thailand to work with my tiers and will be updating that journey on the site....thought it might be interesting for you to see how it all goes down over there in the land of smiles. I will be gone for a few months and will be returning with an arsenal of new foam patterns along with all the other usual suspects. I feel really blessed to have this has an extension of the guide service....such a beautiful place to visit/work.

The season is winding down, I struggled through a slow start on the Columbia today with some shitty weather and some moody fish, but when the sky settled and the rains stopped some fish began feeding on caddis and we were able to close out with some decent dry fly fishing. Two more days to go and then it's angling 4 me time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Third day of guiding a beautiful couple from Florida (Diane and Dan Halleman) and it's been dreamy!!! After some epic scenery floats it was time to get down to some 'serious' business and get busy with some Cutthroats. So I decided we'd go butcher the Sparwood run and let me tell ya...the meat was on sale!!!

The day started with some blue winged olive duns pushing through some faster seams so we changed to a tilt wing bwo and dropped down to the softer ends of the seams and begin pounding some really nice fish out of the foam lines. Foam, soft water and buckets all held nice fish but the real gems of the day came out of the lumber tight to the bank in some really sllllllloooooooow water, nothing like watching an 18" fish saunter out of his lair to slow sip a size 18 bug, truly magical.

I woke up with a smile today reliving the dream that was yesterday....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Back to the Columbia for round four....again I had my ass handed to me but at least it was black and blue from getting beaten by these trout. Lots of BIG rainbows eating on top; they were definitely in their feeding lanes and easy to find. Any colour (depth) change on a shallow run held a big feeding rainbow, the riffles also held a few really keen fish, it was a refreshing day of angling.

One thing I have noticed on the Columbia and it certainly proved true yesterday was that the fish were feeding when the fly was twitched, swung, sunk and in general moved around. Many of the eats were at the very end of a long drift when the fly would plunge as the fly line tightened, so much for mending the fly. Hard to set hooks without snapping off in these situations so here's my tip of the day when you find fish are feeding in this manner as they often are especially during mayfly spinner falls.

When fish are reacting well to a sunken fly at the end of a drift when your line is straightened take a little pressure off the set by holding a loop between your rod hand and reel. When the fish eats set as you normally would and allow the loop to slide gently through your rod hand to relieve some tension from the set. (photo of slip strike loop on side panel)

This was one of those "one fly" days and I'd show you a picture of it was tooooo good!!! Spencer and Joel in town today for some angling PUMPED!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The River "Y"

AHHHHH!!!!! Ants, rainbows, big dries all day must have pinned at least a hundred today....bless their little gills!! It was cool to watch fish position themselves so prominantly in the feeding lanes as they sucked back flying ants all day. Still fished a big bug through the hatch (Doug Swishers's Orange PMX) to limit our impact on the fish. Trout suck ants down deep and ant days can lead to heavy hook mortality from their
overly aggressive feeding.

It was nice to take a break from the Columbia River and get some consistent action on the dry fly. Thanks to all trout who participated in the last two days events, may your wounds heal quickly.

Beautiful day today.....more tommorrow and "Y" the hell not!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

....We SUCK!!!

There's those days when fish are coming up out of nowhere for your fly for no apparent reason and you feel much like a magician yarding bunnies out of a hat. At the end of those days you feel like nothing can knock you down; like you've conquered the puzzles of nature like an ardent scientist, almost Godlike if your ego is really out of check. At the end of these days you say to yourself "fuck ya!! I've got it dialed now, never havin' a slow day again."

Then there's the days like the last 4 I've fished on the Columbia with one of my guides. It sucked, we sucked, the weather sucked it all just sucked!!!! In these moments you begin to wonder if all that lording you did while you were KING OF THE ELK is catching up to you as you stand there dumbfounded in the front knee brace holding onto what remains of your ass that was just handed to you.

The Columbia River tailwater can be tough, like any good rainbow fishery it has it's moments. All of us who fish it know this and many people who come here to fish it encounter those dead days and leave never to return. Probably why I see such an amazingly low number of anglers on such a vast and productive piece of water.

When faced with such angling adversity there is much pre and post fishing time tying up new bugs, thinking of different water or trying different techniques and for what it's worth it's our time as anglers to be creative with what we do and step beyond our limitations and find a way to put trout lips onto FLY!!! So for the last few nights and mornings I have sat at the vice wrapping up the ingredients to what will be called "The Answer" if it so proves itself during this cold snap.

So far all that remains is the question and keeps me reloading the vice. River "Y" re opens today which will be a welcome change phhhhhhhewww!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

......YA IT IS!!!!

Long time since the last entry, the guiding game here in Fernie has been BUSY and I should have about 20 more entries for this blog but they'd all read about the same: Big fish and lots of them. After doing this for 8 years I've noticed the behavioural patterns of fish in regards to weather and it often determines the chosen water system or stretch of river for that day. Much of this behaviour stems from the reaction of the bugs to the various weather systems. Being in the Rockies, the weather is often shifting and unstable creating a variety of conditions to consider before heading out for the day.

There's a common misconception that fish don't like thundershowers; it's actually quite the opposite. I'm not sure if the fish 'like' the storm itself but the bugs the mayflies they feed on often hatch at the lowest point of the barometer drop. The reason for this is the decrease in water surface tension during these lows which enables the emerging insects to pop through the surface film and begin their short lives as horny, breeding adults. The feeling the lows move into the feeding lanes and wait for the magic to unfold.

It's predominantly the mayfly species that prefer the lows particularily drakes and bwo's. So the next time you see some lows with precip heading your way, don't get fairweather....get busy angling!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rainbow Love in the West Kootenays...Caddis Hatch is On

When I first visited Nelson BC I was immediately charmed by the aesthetics of the community; old wooden victorian homes, 100+ year old eastern hardwoods and the West Arm of the Kootenay at it's feet. The downtown retail district is quite vibrant, there are many coffee shops, outdoor stores and galleries that keep the town buzzing. There are also tons of great places to eat but the real draw for me here are all the beautiful young "freaks" who give the town it's colour and funky vibe. All it needed to be perfect for me was that perfect river.

When I first looked at the Columbia River I was daunted by it's immense size. The huge whirlpools, eddies and current seams made it difficult for me to read and I never gave it much of a thought as far as angling went. Three years ago when the Slocan River opened up again I was invited to fish it with Pat Patterson who at the time was a client of Homewaters Guide Service in Fernie.

We both had keen interest in fishing the Slocan and I was in the process of moving back to Nelson. After an experimentative but impressive float down the Slocan we went to the infamous Waterloo eddy on the Columbia and floated around in the "toilet' (centrifical current) for a few hours, hooked and landed a few nice rainbows but also saw some monsters.

I decided after that experience that there was some guiding potential in the area and began doing some intensive recon on both the Slocan and Columbia Rivers. Coming from the Elk most of my clients are dry fly enthusiasts so I have spent much of my time on these rivers casting and developing various dries and have comprised a decent arsenal of flies for most occasions. The Columbia rainbows still stiffle me with their "uber" selective feeding habits in the soft water but it keeps me honest and on the vise.

After a few years of recon I began guiding here a lot more and the Columbia during the months of June, July and September has become my favourite piece of water to fish. The rainbows are the strongest I've seen anywhere and the caddis hatch in June and July is prolific enought to bring thousands of fish to the surface in the evening. It's like watching a school of sharks as huge dorsels and tails breach the surface as they slurp down the caddis.....dry fly fishing doesn't get any better than that.

I've spent the last three days guiding the river and the dry fly action has been incredible. Lots of nice fish in the afternoon but the real show goes down in the late evening when the big dudes show up to get there time in. As usual the big fish scream line after being pinned and rarely make it to the net. That being said we did land some nice fish on a variety of caddis, but the evening hero was definitely the Peacock Hot Butt that immediately began hooking fish when the light left the water. It seems the fish began keying in on the egg sac (hot butt) of the fly and the cdc overwing helped us see the fly into the night although a lot of hookups were made on presumptuous sets---visually tracking the speed of the seem the fly landed in and setting on any sign of trout lips.

One more shot at it tonight and then back to the Fernie area for 5 days of cutties before getting back here for some more lovin'. It's a tough life!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love That Dirty Water

It seems when we get a day off from guiding here in Fernie it's not hard to rally a few guides up for a trip to Alberta for a species and scenery shift. The Elk is a gem of a river but after a few hundred days dipping oars into it's cutthroat rich waters it's hard to feel inventive by angling on a river that you know from top to bottom. So on the last day off, I called up fellow guides Spencer Schey and Jon Muir and heading east of the Rockies to tangle with some Browns.

It was our first float on the river and after too many hours of ass clowning around Fernie trying to get my shit together we arrived at the takeout point of the river and eventually made our way up to the put in and finally got some line out.

The water was a tinge dirty but we were instantly welcomed by a pmd hatch and some gentle sips along the banks. Unable to see the fish clearly we weren't sure of the size but we quickly put the streamer rods down and grabbed some dry lines. Jon has the predatory instincts of a hungry grizzly when it comes to trout and before I could complete my clinch knots he had hooked up with a Brown 5 feet off the bank with a size 14 mahogony dun. A few nice tail walks and good runs ensued before the first brown of the day was led to the net.

The rest of the float saw a few more browns eat the mahogony dun in some soft but sexy water although we predominantly hooked fish on BIG & UGLY bunny leech type streamers. It was a long float with some good standing waves and by the end of it the boat was filled with water, dog hair and exhausted arms.

Hope to get back there soon before the water gets too low to float. Loved that dirty brown filled water!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Welcome to the Freestone Fly Anglers Guides Blaaahhg. The intention of this blog is to keep people updated on the fishing season here in the Kootenays and Southwest Alberta, so it will act as our fishing report.

This year started sloooooooooowww with cool temps and precipitation temporarily shutting the caddis hatch down on the Columbia. Meanwhile the East Kootenay's saw the river rise after opening day due to rains and heat but it slowly settled and began clearing by the beginning of July. My first guided trip was with Ray Robinson Jr. who returned to the Elk for his 7th year. Ray turns 90 in October and still crushes fish on the Elk. It's inspirational to watch someone of that age put so much focus and determination into angling and it's been a blessing to have shared over 100 days with him on the water.

After a few evenings of good dry fly fishing on the Columbia River near Castlegar I began the trip in Fernie with Ray. The first day on the Elk River was cold and wet. After getting hammered with rain we pulled into an inside bend and watched a green drake unfold in front of us. We pulled about 10 good cutts off the spill over before retreating to the Stanford Inn for some lunch and some warmth by the gas lodge fireplace.....thanks Joan!!

After a warm up we headed back into the damp weather and were greeted with an epic pmd hatch. An amazing moment as we switched to from a size 10 grey hair wing drake to a 14 mahogony biot dun and began crushing fish with impunity....the old dog certainly had his day.

He followed with 4 more great days of dry fly fishing with about 80% of the fish coming on drake patterns. The last day (today) was hot and caddis took place of stones but feeding was sporadic on the lowest Elk float.

Tommorrow's a day off and then back out Saturday for some more geeeding.....'til then