Monday, November 21, 2011

A Little Too Much Time on My Hands...

Wow, winter is here in the Kootenays and in full progress and as snow accumlutates on the ground I keep wondering if it's time to just put my boat away and forget about angling until 012.  My last venture on the water was on the Elk River and it was less than pleasant in terms of temp. and when the sun tucked in behind the clouds the moderate fishing went to poor.

The guiding season seems to be a long way away and now that I finally have some time to myself I've had a chance to catch up on emails and send photos etc. to a lot of my guests and friends.  Not sure if anybody has checked their emails lately but I haven't got one reply which is odd.  I thought this was the time of year to reflect on the past angling season and start making plans for next year but haven't heard anything back yet....from no one....nope not a thing.  HELLO  OUT THERE!!!

So in the meantime I'm tying flies, streamers mostly but some prototypes to bring over to Thailand in the next month.  Looking forward to getting there and visitng the flood receding Kingdom and enjoy a lot of what it has to offer which is great food, good people, warm climate, ambient restaurants, Buddhist values and high level of service.  The Thai's know that as a foreigner you'll never totally feel at home in their country, it's culturally too different, but as a tourist you'll experience a level of hospitality in all facets of service that will make you feel as welcome as you possibly.  I've also got a few cool new patterns to pass on to my tiers for production for next year's fly bin.

I'm feeling that next year will be a good year for us at Freestone, we've had some early interest on some big trips and our fly shop in the Stanford Inn will be re-opening again along with the Indian kitchen next door which was closed this summer due to the illness of chef Cashews wife.  As far as I know her health has returned to normal and the restaurant will feature it's full menu.  Beers and curries on the patio outside the shop and the restaurant overlooking the Elk River has been a favourite of our guide staff and guests over the years.  Our guide staff and customers are colourful to say the least and some of the alcohol fueled banter flying around that table in the evening is priceless.

I organized my fly boxes yesterday and it was an interesting venture.  For those of you who have seen my boat box, you would probably understand what kind of undertaking this would be.  I have an undetermined number of flies in there and as the season progressed more patterns were introduced as some were taken out and in the end I had a melting pot of patterns intermingled throughout the box's various compartments.  It was a total shit show.  The mess really progresses when I'm hunting for that right pattern.  The one that seems to be the one and only of that day.  During one such hunt for a Mahogony Dun, I pretty much upturned my box to salvage the last few and managed to scrape by on the remnants of that pattern.  Then about two weeks later I actually upturned the box entirely in the middle of my boat and certainly lost a few but manage to 'stuff' most of them back in randomly.

As I sorted through the entire contents of this box I realized that it must have been a good mayfly year as I had few of my favourites left.  There were a lot of has beens that I uncovered; shit that I thought was the bomb a few years ago because it had a couple of banner days before it's productivity vanished into the ethers.  I also realized that when it comes right down to it, I use about a dozen flies on the Elk about 99% of the times and that the arsenal contained within this box could likely be halved.  Hard to explain why a certain pattern may only have a short time to shine within a hatch period, I mean a dun is a dun you would think.  After years of playing this game, it has become apparent to myself and my guides that there are certain characteristics of a fly that make it a consistent pattern.  Wing position, body material, legs, colour, size all have to do with it and when I'm searching for or tying new patterns, I will incorporate a bit of all that into the fly. 

I could post the top 10 patterns of all our guides and it all likelihood about 7 of the 10 would be shared amongst the 5 or 6 of us with the other 3 being made up the 5 of that favourite dozen.   As I add patterns to my fly catalogue I am generally staying within the formula of that top dozen, changing things like hackle wraps for better buoyancy or wing colour for better visiblity.  It always seems that when I bring in the 'new' stuff the patterns that the guides and fish eat up the most are the ones that are only slight variances of that top 12.

I would love to list them for all of you to see but that would be like Belichick posting the Pats playbook on  Not a great idea.  But if you come into the shop in the Stanford next year we could sell you a couple of them ;). 

Off to Thailand at the end of the month for some tying and some eating in sweet Old Siam!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guiding Season Over...Not Sure Why

The Elk River Valley Looking North

Well it was a great year and while I'm reflecting on it I think I'll change fonts...Not very exciting on the options but I felt a need for change!!!  Welcome to Trebuchet font...I'll have to find more later.   The Elk River started late and fished well throughout the year; mayflies were abundant as were golden stones and caddis.  Our hopper season never really happened which explains the 300 or so dozen Fat Alberts I still have sitting in my fly bins.  Usually the guides will eat through 200 of those in the last six weeks of the season but they never really found their groove this year. 

In the West Kootenay the Columbia River was excellent as points and frustrating at's a neurotic tailwater but I grow fond of it the more I learn about it.  Hooking more fish with different methods as the years pass by and finding more and more spots.  The sorrounding waters are supporting really good numbers of rainbows (although smaller) and the fish are more consistent and willing than they are in the large tailwater.  Combining the two provides some variety for a trip here and I certainly enjoy sampling both over a three or four day trip.  Caddis, Golden Stones and Ants were staples here along with some olive/black streamers.  Dredging up big rainbows was most often accomplished with large, black stonefly nymphs.  I love spending time here in Septmember and early July; that's when these rivers really shine and this part of our guiding region is definitely growing which I'm really excited about.  Both Spencer and Joel have worked the oars over here and have become competent in guiding it's waters and we are looking forward to starting over here in early June if spring and summer arrive as they normally should.

It's Not Just About the Angling Sometimes
I'm going to miss this gig and has I put away my boat rods, sort through my fly boxes and take out the garbage many awesome moments are brought to mind by the individual items.  The fishing is still awesome but the weather can be a bit tough.  Above are some of the recyclables removed from my boat throughout the season.  The box on the right  is from the Scelfo group and is one of five drops to the recycle depot (notice Fireball on left of box).  I thought of going to South America but I think that will be on hold until next year as Thailand and the fly business demands some attention. 

So thanks to everybody who came and fished with us and anyone who took the time to read this blog....I'll keep posting the odd tid bit here and there and will provide some links to some things that I think are worth checking out.  There's a lot of cool new video happening in the fly fishing world and the content is not so troutcentric which I find refreshing.  Other fish are finally starting to get there due credit for their natural beauty and predation instincts.  Until later....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yes, the Columbia is on Fire

Yesterday was one of the days on the water when you feel your being thanked for something you've done....a good karma day perhaps. After some moderate success on the Columbia and an aborted treeplanting mission; Joel, Spencer and myself heading out early, that's right EARLY!!! to the Columbia River to do battle with some of the rivers fine rainbows.

I was up at 4:30 tying streamers and sipping on coffee anticipating a day of dredging for meat. When we got to the river it was 8:30 am, which for us is early. Being freestone guides there is not much use or need in getting your feet wet until later in the day as the river warms up and the fish began feeding. We had decided some needling was in order so the early start gave us some time to really fish the runs thoroughly.

The water looked good, levels have dropped and some of our favourite structures have begun to show themselves. The day started with big stonefly nymphs and the streamers that I spent the wee hours tying up. They went to work fairly quickly with some decent fish striking our offerings and one pig destroyed Spencers nymph rig leaving his indicator bobbing around in the back eddy like the remnants of a ship wreck.

As we ventured down river the nymph stuck some more nice fish but we fished a dry in behind the nymph and streamer on one run (little bit unorthodox) and it started turning fish and some really nice ones as well. By late noon the caddis dry was crushing big rainbows off the banks and each deflection seem to be holding an active 18 to 20 inch well fed rainbow.

The strength of these fish is impressive, swimming around in that tailwater builds there muscles and the battles were epic. It was by far the best day I've spent on that water and the recent angling reports from the other guides are supporting the same conclusion we had...the river is on fire. Really sweet day, thank you fish :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

West Kootenays Update

It's nice to be home in my favourite little town of Nelson; weather's good, company's excellent and the fishing is good as long as you stay away from the Columbia River for now which is just starting to settle into it's fall levels. I've been out on the Columbia a few times and have stuck some really nice, strong fish but there just isn't enough terrestrial and October Caddis activity to really get them excited although the evening fishing can provide some decent dry fly action. Streamers and nymphs are hooking the odd fish but locating the feeding fish has been sporadic at best.

The other streams in the area are fishing really well at the moment, all dry flies and all leggy/foamy type stuff which has been a lot of fun to fish. The Columbia is continuously dropping and we will be hitting it hard over the next few days and the hot weather in the next week should get some hoppers out and the river dropping will provide some more habitat for the hopper eating trout.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Comin' Over the Top!

A Slabtown Resident Cutthroat

Check out that beast!!! Phil Dupuis hooked that on a little unnamed creek somewhere in the Elk Valley on one of his eight days here fishing with us. Had a blast with him and his wife Julie over that week....lots of humour and some epic fishing. The tribs are in great shape right now and dropping steadily and the Elk continues to fall opening up more venues for fish to hold on although we've lost some as well, but overall flows are excellent and should remain so throughout September.

Ants have been making appearances and the fish have been committing suicide on them. Such an amazing time to fish the Elk and anyone who has hit an Elk River ant hatch has been stunned by the numbers of fish that the ant hatch brings up. It's hands down the best dry fly fishing of the year and it should be with us the next few weeks; great time to book a trip.

The guides took a day off and hit the Oldman River in Alberta and it was on as well. Tons of rainbows in soft seems sipping PMD's and responding well to drag free presentations. The river is stacked right now, when it's on like this it is perhaps the finest dry fly fishnng you'll find for rainbows. It's an incredible float and I'm super stoked about getting back there.

PMD's ANTS and CADDIS are all making my life a lot easier....thank you flies and of course the fish.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beta Theta Fireball

The Tank, Scott, Jonny Bravo and 2NA Fish 

Every once in a while we book a trip that turns into a little more than we expect. Upon booking the trip the normal questions are asked the standard details are taken care of and a meeting time is set. Most people show up to that meeting point with their fly fishing gear, a flurry of questions and perhaps a bag of nuts.....maybe a cigar or two. This last trip was a little different than that.

After a brief introduction we got down to the business of transferring the gear from their SUV to our trucks so we could get to the river. I reached for gear bags and noticed a stockpile of beer and whiskey which I assumed was for the duration of their 3 day trip. I grabbed the gear threw it in my pickup turned around to help with the last of the gear and saw the members of the group crossing the road with the entire stockpile of libations. It was at this point I realized I was dealing with professionals here...this was no stockpile for the trip, these were daily rations and for the first time in my years of guiding I realized I would be short on cooler space if I was to keep water in it which at the time I thought was a good idea.....always good to keep the guests hydrated.

Gene Simmons w Joel Jah Raven

For day 1 I rotated beers into the cooler and kept the water chilled at the bottom of the icy chest. After six hours in the boat I realized that there was about zero fucking interest in the water and that the beer and whisky were becoming scarce. After consorting with Joel it seemed like a good idea to keep the boats rolling at a comfortable pace to ensure that the fraternity brothers would not hit the take out dry and thirsty. A late but sparse hatch had us hanging on a bit later than anticipated but these guys were here to angle and were keen to stick a few more fish before the end of the day. The refreshments were gone but the crew was in good form and left the take out looking forward to the next days float.

On day two we picked the group up at their ski hill condo and I was expecting to see a haggered and beaten bunch. That was certainly true for a few of the lads but there was no indication of them caving in to the mere pressure of a bad hangover. The rations had been slightly increased in the form of larger whiskey bottles and beers were being passed around and opened before I could get them into my waterless cooler. Sometimes it's best to stare the demon right in the eyes and show him you've got the balls to get the job done.

After a short ride to the boat launch and some smack talk we hit the river and began angling with moderate success. There was a brief PMD hatch along a trenched gravel run that got a few early few fish up then the hatch faded and the fishing slowed with a few more being hooked before lunch. Post luch had us hooking some decent fish out of some trenches but both boats seemed to hit a hooking slump as the weather got shittier. After going about 2 for the last 7 fish this system hammered us with heavy rain which is usually not a problem except that about half of us were without rain jackets so we ended up suckholed under a small spruce leaning into the river.

We built a fire and waited it out for a while...never a dull moment though; these guys had endless stories. I'm a big fan of fishing after lows roll in so I was stoked to get on the river and start throwing mayflies. The mayflies got going for a bit and we stuck some decent fish before closing on a good spinner fall.

Next day I decided that these guys needed to see some big CUTTS so we headed to some of the tribs and hooked some large trout in some really tight, cool spots. Most of the fish that day were hooked close to the lumber with the biggest one coming out of tree in about two and a half feet of water (above). Not many fish hooked that day but all were quality fish and it was nice to share that water with a group of people who could truly appreciate it. By the end of the day the coolers were empty and the whiskey was gone but spirits were one of the groups case--really high--. It's always nice to see your guests drive away feeling this good (clip below--notice the bank score spincast rod in his hand)....Hard to call this job work when you spend days with people like this. GOOD TIMES thanks bastards better get back here for more abuse!!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Elk is Looking Good

The Elk has cleared considerably and is dropping fast which has given us a lot more water to fish. Each day opens up some new buckets and features that are left from the intense spring runoff and it's been cool catching trout in some new spots. The river has been fishing really well at certain periods throughout the day and the fish seem to be keying in on stoneflies.

The PMD hatches and spinner falls are starting in some of the sections and some of the tributaries are starting to clear, drop and fish well. In a week all the drainages should be fishing well and we'll start to climb into the back 40 for some small stream/big fish walk and wades.....STOKED about that!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011


There's not much point in heading onto the Elk early, that can only lead to nymphing, streamer fishing and other acts not suitable for a cutthroat stream. The peak periods are definitely mid to late afternoon and the fishing is picking up as the water continues dropping down. BIG fish in prime lies yesterday working the stonefly hatches.

There were a mixture of stones with Goldens and Western Yellows predominating. The fish were selective but eager once the right fly was found. Lots of 'meat' landed yesterday with water visibility increasing rapidly. Fishing is getting GOOOOOOOD!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Elk River and Tribs Update

The Elk is clearing and sloooowly dropping and the bigger fish are starting to move into the prime lies as the seams and current breaks develop. Golden Stonefly patterns are what all of us are throwing about 95% of the time, althought the occasional drake and PMD brings up some fish.

The tribuataries are running fast and streams such as the Wigwam and Fording are still pumping and will not be ready for another few weeks. In Alberta the Crowsnest has provided some excellent dry fly fishing with large stones and we expect the PMDs will be happening within the next few days.

Temps on the Elk river are in the high 40's to low 50's and the fishing is generally picking up later in the afternoon as the water warms. PMD spinner falls will be happening soon which means some epic evening fishing in both BC and Alberta, both areas should start peaking this week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The River Runs Through Me

A Friendly Michel Creek Couple

Every once in a while when I'm on the water I try to imagine what it would feel like to be the river. The sensation of getting pushed downhill towards the next place of refuge, pushed off the bully like banks and colliding with the currents behind me and then mixed into a bouncy seam of oneness that turns to a party of dancing water before being slowly jiggled back into the main stem of the river. This sensation or feeling is generally explored on the slow days and the last few have had me feeling like the river is passing right through my body from head to toe has I let myself enjoy the flow of nature.

That's a small example of some of the shit that roles through my head after years of guiding the slow days without ample netting moments are a breeding ground for abstract thought and I'm looking forward to the end of those moments for the time being. I have my favourite guest here; Ray Robinson website cover shot and an inspiration to me and many of the guides who have seen him in my boat over 100 times in the last 7 years. Ray has had the best days on the river of any other client I have and has also caught the three biggest cutts I've had anyone hook. The remarkable thing he is nearly 91 and is still better than most people out there. Smooth cast, intense focus and amazing awareness. It makes me feel proud to have him in my boat; but tommorrow I need to ask a favour from the fish gods and goddeses 'cause the river is moody and unpredictable.

We're finding the feeding fish in the seam convergences and drop off points and the occasional one off the bank. The stoneflies are out in abundance including some huge Golden Stones that the fish are still keying on. Size 8-12 orange and red foam patterns are doing most of the work out there and the occasional soft pocket will pick up some fish on smaller stimulators and caddis patterns.

After two days of low pressure systems mixed with sun it became clear that the green drakes still aren't ready. I sat in a seam collection below an acre of gravel when one of the lows was moving in and waited in size 12 slipped out of the surface film and flew away, nothing followed. Back to the stonefly, no matter how much I tried to get into something else, I ended up tying the stone back on.

So the Elk is still dirty, still high and still settling down. There have been good days on certain sections and some really poor ones as well. Both my days have been mediocre. The Columbia river in the Nelson/Castlegar area of the West Kootenay was just stepping into it's caddis hatch and my last night of guiding there on Friday was beautiful. Snouts and tails were breaching the surface in all of the back eddies and the caddis dries did their work. It was painful having to drive away from that and begin my season over here on the Elk. This hatch will continue into early August and if anyone is interested in this the guy to go to over there right now is Rod Zavaduk at Castlegar Sports . He's dialed into this spot on the river that I know of but have yet to fish that would provide some of the most exciting dry fly fishing for big rainbows you could imagine. Give him a shout, he offers both half and full day trips.

Some of the tribs are clearing here in Fernie and the Elk will soon follow it's going to be an epic August here on the Elk judging by the amount of nymphs still clinging and growing on the rocks of the riverbed. The Crowsnest River in Alberta and is fishing really well. This stream is a total gem when it's on and it's short window of being on should not be missed; it's a really cool stream with some gorgeous rainbows. Not many photos yet but the couple above came from the Michel, both fish sitting in the bucket of log jam no bigger than a kitchen sink.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Columbia River Update....

I love water so it's hard to feel bad about the amount of it and how it effects the fishing so I won't bother feeling bad about it and just feel blessed that we have so much of it. The guide season will be shortened by this which means my planting season has been extended and really I feel okay about it especially now that I am back in Nelson enjoying the flavours of Kootenay living. This is such a cool little town with so much going on. I feel connected here and even though I never seem to spend enough time here, I have an easy time saying and feeling that it's my home.

My favourite new rivers are here as well and one of them, the Columbia River is probably the only Kootenay trout fishery that is providing some good angling. Good is a bit of a stretch unless you condense those periods of goodness into moments; but those moments seem to make up for the least a bit.

The last few days has seen streamer fishing evaporate and dry fly and soft hackling techniques emerge. The caddis are starting to appear in large numbers along the bank since we've had some hot weather but I havent' seen the 'show' yet but anticipate any evening now. I was a bit surprised we didn't see them swarm in tonight and I'll spare you my theories but it's gonna go off any day now and it's gonna be big.

The trout of the Columbia River seem to have condensed their feeding periods into the last couple of daylight hours and into the dark and the last hour and a half tonight was quite productive as we fleeced trout of the mixing currents and seams of the Waterloo Eddy.

The fish were not breaking the top and were mostly tailing so I went to an emerger pattern tied on a Daiichi 1310 and my guest Douglas Green got busy pinning the soft taking rainbows. It was a nice close to a pretty tough day. Here's the Freestone "tip of the day" which came in handy this evening. When you see fish rise but without heads popping out (tailing) you can pretty much be assured the trout are feeding on emergers or spent adults. Another way of deciphering this is if you see bubbles on the surface after the rise, it is indicative of a fish that has taken an adult fly off the top.

As far as Fernie goes.....well it can wait probably another 10/12 days. In the meantimes I'm waiting for the caddis to get their shine on and start choking the skies.

more soon

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

High, Dirty Water....For A While

Hey Angling Brothers and Sisters,

I'd love to say that things are looking great for the June 15th opening in the East Kootenays but I'm not going to lie to ya. The Elk River is high and is only going to get higher with record snow packs for this time of year still being observed (see link below)

The West Kootenays will be limited to the Columbia River and will fish well on the warmer, less windy days. The water will be high the whirlpools and suckholes will be deep but the fish will be more condensed in the slack water and back eddy areas of the river. The caddis hatch will be a bit behind due to the inclimate weather.

The East Kootenays (Elk, Wigwam, Fording, Michel Rivers) will be in rough shape until mid July so if your keen to get some angling in the Columbia would be my reccommendation up until that mid-July period when the Elk opens. That being said the Columbia River will likely have caddis hatches persisting through most of July due to the late spring.

In the meantime tie some streamers and get ready to battle the high water or head west for some caddis on the top.