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