Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Way Down South

One of my favourite sounds during travel is that of the landing gear compartments opening up during the approach of the destination.   I’ve flown a lot over the last decade and although I love travelling, the long flights tend to wear me down a bit these days.  Not sure if it’s the ingestion of the shitty airplane food or the stuffy air in the cabin after 12 hours in the sky but I’m all for the next generation of passenger carriers.  The Venus Project talks about the possibility of creating tube trains that run on frictionless, magnetic energy that could take you from LA to Shanghai in a matter of hours.  This technology exists today but building the infrastructure to house such a train would be an epic undertaking….but we as humans have conquered some amazing things in a short amount of time.

Upon landing, Spencer and I collected our luggage, all but one bag…my bag full of clothing.  My fly fishing gear made it, but my bag of clothing and toiletries was somewhere out there.  We filled out a lost baggage form and hopped in a cab and headed into Hollywood Palermo district of Buenos Aires where we would spend the next three days waiting for my baggage, eating and drinking latte’s before heading into the Patagonia’s to stalk the Argentine trout.  

Upon arrival we were given a smaller room than what we had booked….the front desk staff basically bullshitted us on the rooms being of equal value.  After a period of runaround from the front desk I contacted the travel agency that booked the room and they were able to get us into our booked room and added a free night which we later used on the return to the city.  Slick rooms and an amazing location but the front desk staff was so inept and uninterested  that for $200/night I am confident I could find a better deal in the Palermo area of the city. 

The Streets of Palermo Hollywood

Palermo is a really cool neighbourhood.  Lined with trees (jacarandas, tipas and sycamores) the streets of Palermo are well shaded and cozy due to the canopy of bright green leaves and the purple flowers of the jacandas.  There are plenty of restaurants and cafes who’s tables spill out onto to the streets and Spencer and I spent a lot of time enjoying food, coffee and drink while watching people stroll by.  No shortage of gorgeous woman here that’s for sure.  It’s somewhat legendary for that and I’ve been to a lot of cities in my life, but BA certainly has it’s fair share of  babes.  WOW!!!   

After my bag’s arrival we hopped on overnight bus and travelled 20 hours to Bariloche which was perhaps a bit off the path but I was needing  a back molar pulled and was unsure as to whether or not a dentist would be available in San Martin de Los Andes.  Turns out that would have been fine but the dentist in Bariloche did an amazing job and was freakin’ hilarious.  He didn’t speak much English and our Spanish sucks so through google translate and hand gestures we defined the procedure and got the tooth yanked and hand some great laughs.  
I had my I phone unlocked before I arrived so we spent the rest of the’ tooth day’ trying to get a sim card and number for that phone.  After several frustrating hours the phone activated and I was now in ownership of an Argentinian phone number.   We strolled around Bariloche which is like an old beaten down ski town and looked at various restaurants before deciding on this one little hole in the wall which by appearances did not look like much.  If I hadn’t looked through the window the previous evening and seen one of the patrons getting down on a thick sirloin I never would have thought to go in there but the eyes were right and we had two amazing chorizo steaks that were done to perfection.
A bunch of beers later Spencer and I returned to our hostel passed out and woke up the next morning to board the bus to San Martin and onto the angling.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


When I was growing up in Toronto, I remember hearing one of my friends dad say "you want to know about the west boys, let me tell you something about the west.  It's where all the shit flows!"   Not sure what he meant exactly or what had led him to that particular feeling about the folks on the left coast but for some reason it made me think, that's where I want to be.  As far away from the bizarre and twisted perceptions of an over wound Toronto business man.

So I did and I would have to say it was the best decision I've made in my life.  Second best decision was probably the one to move to Nelson.  It may be the first place I've actually felt proud to say is my home.  I love that little town and it's surrounding communities.  I always hoped for better angling opportunities in the are and it seems my wishes have been granted, the rivers there are really starting to shine.

Peanut and the Precious on the Columbia River

The two main rivers I fish in that area one being the Columbia River and the other I won't mention, are quickly turning into my two favorite rivers to dip flies into.  The Columbia is producing some really large fish and better numbers while the other little gem I guide on over there always gave me numbers but is now starting to show me some size.  Almost all of these fish are on dries that are being twitched and skittered.  The last trip there saw our boats stick well over 30 rainbows in the 18 to 24 range with some really deep, bulging stomachs.  The fishing is on there right now and will be for a while

The Columbia is still not at it's prime flow yet but fishing really well; as it drops more it will  allow some more deflections and and riffles to form giving us more holding water to cast to.  It's going to be excellent fishing there right through October and we have a solid weather forecast that will support it.  It is my intention to focus on this area more next year as the rivers are basically void of angling pressure and are producing as well if not BETTER than the ones of the East Kootenay.  Next season will likely have us over on the Columbia from early June to mid-July before heading back to Fernie until the end of August after which I am going to book both places and I will be urging people to head west for that month, cause in September the West Kootenays is the SHIT!!  Anyone thinking of getting there last kicks in for the season should give us a call and follow the shit the west side of the Kootenays....you will be glad you did

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bull Trout, 6X and Craft Beer

Life is good in the Elk Valley; lots of ants of all sizes and some shading are rolling down the current seams and feeding our sweet trout.  Hooked some big fish with tiny flies on thin tippet and watched about 75% of the fish win on that.  I like working into a pod of rising fish that can see through my bullshit.  Not sure if it's the tippett or the fly selection but the last three times I've blood tied in 6 X and tied a new fly on, the target fish who said go %#*! yourself on the previous two dozen drifts ate.

These are the triumphant moments in angling that keep my excitement levels high as a guide.  Nothing like the reward after the chase and me (like most people) can't stand rejection, refusals and or being ignored.  It's hard on one's self esteem and I've rowed away dejected by savvy trout in the past and dragged that energy down the river with me like a bad curse.  But when it all happens, when all those little tricks, theories and adjustments you make end up winning, you and nature shake hands, bump knuckles and nod at each other with  gratitude.  6X does by the way snap on heavy cutts and I've left some jewellery in the faces of the Elk River Cutts.

Jim Steinmetz Charring in the Rockies

Bull Trout seem to be in pre spawn mode on some of the system and have been eating cutts on the line and grabbing streamers.  Noticed one nymphing today on an upper Elk trib and was able to stick him with a nymph.  The water levels remain really good here and our September and October are looking really good. 

We still have quite a few openings for those months but expect to fill them as the heated and low Montana trout waters have slowed down and the wise are looking north.  We here are at Freestone (well 2 of us) have decided to give the apres fish drinking activities a rest.  Three nights ago as I sat across from Joel on the kitchen table wringing out the last few drops of zinfandel into our glasses; it came to us that the recycler bin was showing breaching the rim with empty craft beer bottles as well as the odd empty bottle of  Mendoza  red =0 !!!  We agreed to give our buddy booze a week break and I must say it's damn nice waking up without feeling foggy and shakey....much easier tying blood knots these days. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coming on Strong

Well the last blog post lacked some inspiration...wrote that after my third glass of wine and it and clearly lacked enthusiasm.  Since that post the fishing on the Elk River has picked up and we've had some epic days casting to fish rising on an assortment of mayflies and ants.  Foam lines are forming as the water slows and the fish feeding on the mayflies and ants are hanging underneath waiting for food to roll through. 

There are some big cutts in the Elk this year and they are definitely well fed.  Rowing down the clearing river and watching big lips pop through the surface to swallow flies in the glare of the sun has been heart pumping.  Feeling the spray off the line as it tightens to pierce the hook feels refreshing after the slow start in July.

The tribs have dropped and are holding good numbers of large fish, walk and wades have been producing well on most days and it makes for a nice change from pounding banks from the boat.  Water levels will remain good and judging by the amount of mayfly nymphs crawling around the riffles are September will be epic.  Still have a fair bit of room on my calendar for that period, especially later in the month.  I will be switching back and forth between the Nelson area and here as late summer hopper  fishing on the Columbia River's caddis fattened rainbows should be fun.  The Slocan will also be happening and I highly recommend that people consider fishing the West Kootenay at this time of year.  The dry fly on both those rivers is amazing.

Life is good here in the Valley, I have some of my favourite people around which makes these sorroundings even more beautiful. Blessed to be here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

...And The LIvin's Easy

Ya, it's summer and things are good.  The Elk is on simmer and droppin daily and showing definition.  The bugs, random but there; can feel the transition into terrestrials  comin'.  Trip reviews have been mixed, some good days, some days with a unanimous feeling that the Elk is fishing a bit tougher than it has in the past and really it is about time.  We've had it good for a while on the dry and this year has been showing us  a moody and perhaps more savvy population of Cutts.

That being said some good days are happening and some epic days are delivered but not to the consistency we've had in the past.  Perhaps as the terrestrials slide in we will see a better response from the trout in terms of looking up.  My guides are doing the best they can to get their people into fish in some tough situations and the response has been good.  I have total faith in the group I've gathered as guides and they are doing their best and some days the Elk shines like it has in the past but this year it seems like a different animal.

So onto the walk and wades...same thing.  Moody fisheries just reclining from high water cycles and some good some bad and in all this I can only conclude one thing.  The high water has shifted the feeding focus of the trout and they are picking there times to rise and we aim to track those times which has meant later starts for now.  Seems to work okay with the late day hatch patterns on the tribs and sometimes on the Elk.  Caddis and spinners bring in the evening stalkers.

More later but for now I need rest.  Peace to all

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sitting Through the Storm

When I first moved to Fernie in 2002 to begin my part time career as an angling guide one of the first things that I noticed was how crisp and fresh the morning air tasted.  The first few pulls of air through  the nostrils in an awakened state charged me enough to bounce up  and leave the comfort of my king sized bed with  my warm bodied girlfriend wrapped inside.  Stepping out on  the front deck you could look up to see Fernie's signature backdrop; the Three Sisters peaks.  They poked into the deepest of blue skies and you just can't help but feel the appreciation from your lungs for choosing such a healthy place to live.  Fernie's earlier years were less than impressive in that regard as coal dust from the mines of Coal Creek would sometimes cover the town.  The mines are now north and the process although larger in scale seem to be more sensitve to their sorroundings....unless you are of course a coal vein set into a mountain top, that process is quite violent and to see the upper Elk watershed on google maps is a little frightening.

Still get that refreshing  feeling as the open window pours in some fresh air and I'm happy to still be spending my summers here, rowing good people down beautiful mountain streams.  Rowing down the river has been a bit sporadic lately in terms of the angling.  Some days are slow but close out strong with caddis and small stones.  The low pressure days start well but have fished slow later in the day  as bugs and fish hang back waiting for the lowest dip in the barometer to start moving.  A few days ago Dick and Karen Adler and I sat through a hale storm in a back eddy seam and waited for the precipitation hammer to stop.  Hail and huge raindrops pounded the water for about 5 minutes and if it wasn't for the large fish that Dick had just missed I'm not sure if their patience would have endured.  It had been a slow day and I could tell that Dick had lost all faith in my abilities as a guide after countless drifts floated through prime seams producing  very little action.

When the precip stopped green drakes and PMD's were pushing through the top end of the eddy  seam and the fish began picking them out of one of the heavier seams with a few showing in the softer ones.  I knew it was drakes and stuck on one of my usual suspects, a tilt wing dun that shows up well in the low light and is usually a favourite of the Elk River Cutts.  That brought in one big fish and after a few more casts it became clear to me that they had sniffed out that imposter so I switched out to another dun pattern which got no love at all.  Three more changes and then I began to notice that the duns were bouncing through that boiling seam untouched so I decided to go flat and tied on a spent dun.  I knew Dick would have almost no chance of seeing that fly and to be honest I didn't have much either as the glare was almost metallic but I knew the bodies of the fish in that seam were large enough to tell us when they accepted the offer.

6 fish and about 20 pounds later we had pinned and landed every rising fish in that seam.  Not one was under 17 and one was just under 19.  Some beautiful specimens....all of a sudden I didn't smell so bad to Dick and after a few high fives and some thank yous to the river Gods I hoisted anchor and headed downstream to the  same kind of back eddy with a foam cluster at the top.  I tucked the boat in and told Dick to work the foam seam at the top of the pool while I retied Karens fly.  I turned around and Dick was sitting in his chair laughing with his rod arched like a bow.  He raised the fish to the surface and Karen and I were stunned while Dick just kept laughing in his chair.  We got it to the net and the 20 inch beast filled the rubber mesh and caused it to sag.  There's not many that size on the Elk and it was the biggest I've seen in a few years.  I released my new pet and I turned to Dick who was still laughing to himself and said it's not going to get any better than that.  It was probably the best hour of angling I've witnessed on the Elk and it felt good rowing out knowing we endured a heavy blast of weather to be rewarded with some heavy fish.

Dick invited me back to his condo for a martini which was about 5 ounces of straight Tanqueray gin.  Apparently I was expecting something a little more subtle cause the first sip felt like a hot poker on my throat and I double over.  Dick asked me if I was okay and that perhaps he should pour me a Shirley Temple instead.  I manned up, had a few more sips of and then added a fizz of grapefruit soda to it to tone it down.  The purist Dick was clearly not impressed

The following day was high pressure and although the fishing was a little more consistent, it was a bit off perhaps due to the added silting of the river from the intense storm.  The water is still quite high here and the most consistent lies for big fish have been soft foam lines close to the bank and it's only hatches that are bringing numbers of fish up.  The fish seem to be nymphing a lot and I'm counting on this hot weather to bring some terrestrials into the system so the trout have a new, larger food source to focus on.  In the meantime it's caddis and small stones with hope of a mayfly producing low. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Some Clarity

The other day I was floating on a stream in Alberta that I'm in the process of learning and really appreciating.  I had two 'sticks' with me and I spent the first part of the day in a state of bliss has fly line floated in the air above the boat creating  an almost majestic pattern.  I imagined that if the line was pointed with an ink ball and the sky a canvas a masterpiece would have been created....that feeling may have coincided with the onset of the Tylenol 3's that I ingested in order to subdue the pains of my massive sore and swollen throat.  Regardless of the catalyst in that emotion, it was a moment in which I felt clear about my choice in life to pursue a career in guiding...flash forward a few hours and the T3's have worn off; I can't speak a word because I've lost my voice and I'm wishing horribly that I can tell the anglers to back off the soft water and the bank and hit the heavier seams in the faster more oxygenated water.  And of course hitting a grass blade from 60 feet is not a problem for either of my guests in the boat so no matter how far I pull the boat away from it they're still nailing it.

 Two days later on the  Elk  I have my voice back and I can convey my message to present the fly where I feel it should be and the fish actually start to respond on a more frequent level.  I can feel the transition occur as water clears and big fish slide into their lanes to do what they came here to do....grow.  Despite the murky and high water the fish have been feeding on the Elk and most of what I'm hooking is fat and large.  Numbers have been solid but size has been the standout of the two measures.

Michael Poulin Lifting Weights on the Elk River

It's been a lot of waiting and wondering and it's nice to see the river clearing up and seeing the bottom of all this is refreshing.  Alberta treated us well during the murky times and I really enjoy the moments I spend angling on the eastslope.  The Elk is on...alive with caddis, stoneflies and a smattering of mayflies.  The river is dropping new buckets, riffles and runs are showing themselves and the fish are starting to look at the ceiling instead of needling around in the basement.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

H2NO More Please....

The abundance of water we’ve been getting smashed with in the Kootenay Region of BC has been staggering at points.  June was torrential and posted record rainfalls for the area and July has been drier but is delivering some epic rainstorms with some thunder and lightning mixed in.  Just as the Elk starts to take gain visibility one of these hero type fronts rolls in and turns the river to poo….that’s right poo!!!  As in chocolate brown.  Little frustrating for sure but I’m blessed to know of some good floats and wades in the SW Alberta region and have been taking refuge in the cleaner and more active waters.
The Kootenay Invading Johnstone Beach

The Elk is crap right now.  I’m not a big advocate of hucking streamers for cutts on the Elk so I suffer through some  mediocre days on the Elk pumping leggy flies into the few soft seams on the river and watch in disbelief as drift after good drift just passes by.  I’ve even witnessed some epic hatches of stoneflies that were more or less ignored by the trout.  So perhaps the streamer is the answer but I’d rather fish Alberta and wait for the dry to come back and that has pretty much been my MO and I’ve really enjoyed the time over there despite the long days.

Have fished with some of my favourites lately, both new and old clients.  It’s been a pleasure to have the people who I’ve had in my boat over the last few weeks and it’s hard to use the term clients when there is such comfort and ease in their company; feels more akin to friendship.  Ya….I’m super freakin’ lucky and blessed to have found my way into this game.
Chris Jacobs Styling on the Oldman

After fishing the Oldman Tailwater with Brad and Chris Jacobs; an awesome couple from Helena MT who are just the perfect people  to spend time in a boat with.  They both are keen and possess the skills to handle the tricky tailwater and we manage to move and land some nice fish over the two days of floating.  The rainbows were seeing their first few days of clean and lower water and were definitely a bit skinny; the tailwater raged for awhile and clearly the fish were laying low through it all.  We fished dries pretty much the whole way which is my favourite way to feed the Oldman rainbows.  They responded well to an assortment of PMD’s and Caddis and aside from one bitchy little pod that snubbed my entire PMD selection (which is by no means small).  We had hooked two off the start but as they continued to rise it became clear that they smelt the bullshit of my imitations and there was nothing that was going to get a hook in their jaw.  Always hard to row away from rising fish but we did and moved into a new school of trout that were eating what I usual put on the menu for them.  

After watching more rain and runoff paint the Elk we headed further east and fished a certain river filled with Browns with Phil Dupuis, Ron Myers and Jim Woolacott.  Jim invented the Bow River Bugger and is one of the most enthusiastic anglers I’ve had in my boat.  Dude reads water well and is not afraid to tickle the edges.  Jim got busy peeling small browns off the boat throughout the day and continued to touch some nice fish in the evening.  After the clouds sunblocked the river we came up on a gorgeous  bank where  he smacked a meaty brown that went tail walked upstream and chucked the fly away.  Impressive. 
Ron was fishing out of the front of the boat and it was probably about the 25th or so day that we have fished together and I always appreciate having him in the boat cause I know I’m going to get good presentations.  No one works an inside seam drag free like Ron and watching him short stack mends to make that PMX dance down the softer edge of the current seam was magic.  He hooked lots went on about the countless rivers his played with throughout Montana and hearing him run through that list of blue ribbon waters made me want to take the month off and trout bum it through the Big Sky State.

Guiding Phil Dupuis is like spending a day on the water with your old drinking buddy.  Not that he drinks on the water but he has no problem telling you what’s on his mind and has no problem having it thrown back.   We’ve watched him evolve has an angler over the last several years and we’re not quite sure what he got up to this winter but his game with the stick was definitely tighter.  He crushed a couple of nice browns on the Alberta float with Spencer on dries after  putting  up with some shitty wet weather the day before on an Elk Trib that produced a couple of nice cutts.  I haven’t been that rainsoaked in a while, but both days we went out and walked and waded we got drenched.  No major hatches to accompany the lows that were cruising in which added some insult to the soggy situation.  Fine food and drink in the evenings helped us get over the abuse from mother nature.
Phil Dupuis Beating the Weather in Slabtown

More rain today, severe rainfall warning according to the weather station and it did hammer down in Fernie for a bit, but it stopped shorter than expected and I’m hoping the Elk cleans and allows us to have a peak at her bottom.  Fish must be sick of breathing silt but it’s gonna happen any day now if the forecast gives us what it’s promising.  Still feels like the season is just kicking off and it’s almost August.   When this thing does clear and those poor lil trout start looking up; they  are  going to get reckless on food.  I’m expecting a good terrestrial season this year as many of the hatches on the Elk have been going off during this cloudy water stage.  The tribs are still chocked full of PMD’s and Drakes but the Elk has been checking in at warm temps due to the rainfall created runoff which has kept the bugs moving throughout this browning  of the river.

I’m out again on Sunday to float the beast and I’m gonna make some burnt offerings on the banks of the Elk tomorrow and ask the water Gods for clarity.  Our fly shop in the Stanford will be opening Sunday....back in the retail game :)!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Season Begins =0

Update time....I spent the last week doing a bit of everything; some extended treeplanting, some partying on our beloved Canada Day and a wee bit of angling.  Most people might think that life as a fishing guide is all about angling and for the most part it could be; but most of my time has been spent putting together fly shop orders and doing the required maintenance on vehicles, boats and myself.  After some crushing, fun nights out; detox and yoga are being honoured as I ground myself and get ready for another season on the sticks.

Spencer was visiting from Fernie to cash in on some festivities as Nelson's brand of fun is about two full ladder lengths above Fernie's and we played well and ate well.  After bidding farewell to my planting amigos we pulled our alcohol soaked heads out of our asses and got the Hyde headed towards the Columbia.

It was a humid day but overcast and grannom and spotted caddis were bouncing on the water.  At first lightly but after the confluence of the Kootenay the bug count picked up quite a bit.  Some guerilla angling was allowed as the super high flows invaded the banks and swamped some of the riverbank forest and we had some fun maneuvering the boat through that.

Tonguing the Trout
 After a slow start we tucked into a back eddy where I had seem some fish working and got busy right away with some double ups on small elk hair cdc caddis.   The fishing continued to go well in the back eddy but after it cooled off we moved down into some other "productive" water.  No such luck on my next two fav eddies but we did manage to sneak a few last minute fish in at the Waterloo eddy which by the way is churning huge whirlpools on it's outside seam convergence.  To put it bluntly, it's damn right frightening watching those suckholes form as they collect speed and widen.  The vortex drops a three or four feet below the surface and you get that feeling that if it pulled it down, you would likely not be making it back up.

The caddis had been collecting in the treetops that evening and I really thought we were going to get the caddis rains going but a small cold front moved in and dropped the temperature and they seemed to retreat to the cover of the trees....I head back tommorrow for some more Columbia love.  Will post the results Friday morning.

As far as ALL other streams I usually guide on, I would say we are a week or so away from any kind of decent angling on that end.  Spencer is keeping his eye on the Elk and the Alberta streams while I stay over here dialing into the Columbia and waiting hopelessly for the Slocan to drop.  Likely won't be where it needs to be by the July 15th summer closure....hot weather on the way and the dry spell could be what saves us....Stay Tuned!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Opening Day on the Elk River

I woke in Fernie this morning around 5:30, Spencer was on his way out the door to continue the fish studies in the Elk Watershed and the smell of coffee and cigarette  alerted my senses enough to surrender to the possibility of a sleeping in.  I began my day by sorting through the 1500 dozen flies I just received from my "Thaiing" team.  Some nice stuff for sure but there was nothing in there that would have helped a fly angler on the Elk today.  The river was as high as I've ever seen it and the visibility was about a thumbnail.

No casts just some time spent at the bank appreciating the velocity of the river and the endurance of the fish that sit blind in that water, gills getting pounded by sediment.  Be like living in a sand storm I guess; did see a few lime sallies and what looked to be a paralep (mahogony dun).  Never felt so safe about a bugs chances as I watched the paralep swirl around in a soft, back eddy foam line.

Well they do have the clearing of the water to look forward to and along with that they can look anticipate the hammering of golden stoneflies and getting the high protein reward from eating these huge bugs.  We in turn can look forward to sticking large foamy patterns into there jaws and welcoming them to another season of guiding in the Elk River valley.  Streamers will also rob some meat off the banks in early season.....

Blue Ball Streamer

This time of year is a waiting game and I prefer to sit it out.  Planting is paying well and keeping me healthy and I'm in no rush to head onto a river that just isn't ready.  That being said SW Alberta does have some decent conditions and some days can be quite good while others....not so much.

The cool and damp weather has the Columbia behind and I have a feeling that the caddis will be going strong into August again this year.  That's later than normal but follows what happened last year when runoff and cool weather hindered the success of the evening caddis hatch (which is actually a mating congregation).

My first trip will be on the Waterton in Alberta for some browns.  An overnight pleasure cruise with Jimmy Carter (formerly NOT the president of the USA) and a few of us eager guides.  Our fly shop will be opening on July 1st and I am expecting some reasonable to good fishing at that point.  Booking earlier could be a roll of the dice unless you are willing to travel east to Alberta.

'til next time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Rivers Are.....Rising!!!

I've been planting trees in the East Kootenays for a long time now so it doesn't surprise me to wake up in June drive up a couple thousand feet in elevation and get snowed on.  Getting snowed on in town at the valley bottoms is a bit rare but certainly not unquestionable.  So far June has brought us some cool and very damp weather which in turn has our rivers  pumping brown and high so if you're thinking of coming up for seasoner opener in the Kootenay Region on the 15th...your on your own.  We wont' be looking at running trips until later this month on the Elk River and that will depend on a solid week of appropriate weather.  This of course are prognostications based on experience and a general feel for what's ahead and it's really too hard to predict what will actually occur.  So far the forecast looks good but is showing some more rain but in moderate amounts and mixed in with some sunshine.  Alberta will likely be in much better shape at that point and may even be in it's prime.  I've always found the Eastslope of the Rockies to fish well in late June and early July.

So if one was to come up at that time (Jimmy Carter) head east and enjoy exploring the areas we like to go to on our days off.  We have a few trips in that area at that point but have lots of openings.  The rainbow and brown trout fishing can be spectacular in SW Alberta and is a nice switch from the cutthroat fishing of the Elk Valley and there really is some spectacular scenery there as well.  Has a much different feel than the Fernie area.

In other news we WILL be opening a small fly shop in the Stanford Inn in Fernie this year.  We will carry all our favourite brand names as well as a fly bin that will be mostly filled with Squidbeak Flies as well as Montana Fly Company's.  We will be carrying the stuff that works, a collective of patterns that none of our guides would feel embarrassed about tying on.  There might be the odd 'range ball' in the pile to satisfy those who love gawdy, stuff hanging everywhere kind of patterns but most of the bin is what we use in our area and it's worth checking out the selection if your planning on doing some angling on your own.

Updates will be frequent from here on in.  'Til next time....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Neurotic Coastal Weather

Spring technically and numerically  arrived a week ago, but it hasn't really done so with a whole lot of conviction.  I'm on the east coast of Vancouver Island trying to work outdoors and low snow lines and overnight frosts are continuously thwarting those efforts.  This pattern seems to have repeated itself the last few years suggesting to me that our winters are actually getting longer--cooling trend in the west perhaps.  I could pull up stats and graphs due back that but we may as well take my word for it since I've spent the last 3 springs getting shut down for work by inclimate weather. 

One of the hallmarks for the onset  of spring on the coast is the emergence of skunk cabbage in the various swamps and rich soils along streams of the Pacific Northwest.  The flower is actually a member of the arum family and is one of the largest leafed native plants to the region.  Bears forage on the roots after waking up from hibernation in order to flush the colon---one of natures great laxative.  I have yet to see a bear, they seem to want to take a bit more rest but any day now spring will beat down this ghostly winter and start pushing us toward warmer weather and some angling!!!

Holly Getting Skunky

More shit weather is in the forecast but it will afford me some time to catch up on some fishing related things.  Before I get going I just wanted to plug a link to one of the more contemporary fishing journals out there;  This Is Fly.  It's an online publication that is breaking new ground in fly angling.  It's not just about trout, steelhead and bonefish.  The magazine is bold enough to take on articles from aspiring outdoor journalsits willing to take on fly fishing 'exotics' such as carp and muskie.  It's a lifestlyle approach to the angling world and I find that refreshing.  It is not pretentious or loaded with technical advice although there is a lot of helpful information in there.  The other magazine I'm really digging on is the Fly Fish Journal.  Cool magazine with journalism in mind in both a literary and photographic sense.  Big props to both these publications, they are expanding the boundaries of traditional fly angling and inviting more thought provoking images to this wonderful world...so hats off to y'all.

I've been trying to think of what to write about...chironimids would be a likely choice as the lakes begin to shed their ice here in BC.  I would like to talk about floating the Cowichan River but the takeout is snowed in and the river gushing....not one to fish from the bank---(I'm spoiled to have the skills and boat to row down such a gem of a coastal stream).  So hopefully I can save that one for the near future.

I decided the tail waters vs. freestones would be a good topic because I've been thinking about the tail waters a lot lately and how keen I am to get to back on some of my favourites

Brilliant Dam Sending it Down to the Kootenay River

Tail waters are amazing man made creations.  Yes they've completely changed the bio dynamics of the river they hold back, mostly by eliminating the salmon runs.  This had had huge negative impacts on our First Nations people who revered and lived off the abundance of this generous animal.  When it comes right down to it a dam is no way positive to the natural habitat of  a river.  There have been some initiatives in the state of Washington and Oregon to bring back the salmon runs by creating new fish ladders and releasing dams.  It would be bizarre to think of 40 pound springs migrating up the Elk River; but that's how it used to be.  WOW!  Can't imagine what some of those fall time cutts and bulls weighed in at in those times after gorging on the flesh and eggs.  

Once water is held back a few things happen to the water below.  It becomes more even in temperature as most of the tailwaters of any angling notoriety pull from the bottom of the above reservoir.  The dam also does another key thing that enriches the fishery below--it slows the movement of nutrients which in turn enhances bug life.  Anyone who has fished a pmd or caddis hatch on a tailwater knows the impact of this.  Freestones can puke out some great hatches but certainly not to the level of abundance of the tail waters.  Humans have a way of manipulating nature and nature will always provide it's solution or reaction.  In the case of tailwaters the lack of protein from the absence of salmon in rivers such as the Columbia has been slightly supplemented by the swarms of caddis flies.  The amount of bugs in the air during this June/July hatch on the Upper Columbia is staggering and is certainly one of the key elements to the growth of it's rainbow trout population.

On the Oldman River tail water in Alberta there were never salmon present and the trout fishery that exists below the reservoir has been enhanced by the creation of the dam.  More bug life, more regulated run off and low consistent water temperatures have created a pretty incredible little stretch of water that is highly touted by all of the guides at Freestone.   We spend a lot of days off on that river.


Oldman River Spent Dun Victim

Fish tend to relate to different structure in tail waters as they do in freestones.  A freestone river will have fish holding tight to cover, often along the bank.  The river falls after the freshet and spots can become exposed.  The same can be said for tail waters as early summer sees an abundance of water in the rivers that need to be released.  My experience angling on both has told me that the fluctuation of water by dam release provides inconsistent habitat for trout to hold to.  Tail water fish seem to relate to current seams more readily and use follow these feeding lanes as the river rises and falls.  When large amounts of water is released through the dam and seams blow out the fish seem to shut off and wait for the water to stabilize and lower before getting back at it.
Freestone stream trout act differently, have a more even dropping pattern and will hold on a good spot which brings food and provides cover as long as the water level allows it.  Tight bank cover is often the home of freestone trout although mid river seams also provide us with some excellent angling, they are many other consistent obstructions and food lanes that spread the fish out.
 The Elk River, A Classic Freestone
Freestones are more bio diverse.  Insect species are more varied and although the hatches may not be as thick, they are more versatile in that if one weather condition is not ideal for one insect type another is there to take it's place.  Tail waters are often mono-specied, with caddis and small mayflies predominating the diet.  There are certainly some sporadic hatches of other flies in the tail waters  but caddis seem to thrive in these environments.  
Having the option to fish both is a true blessing and the tail waters definitely provide the angler with a year round option whereas the freestones are often limited by weather patterns.  I love them both and there is so much to learn about these habitats but it is definitely the tail waters that provide me with the most challenge.  Much like this spring, the tailwater is a neurotic piece of water and it's hard to know what your gonna get. Following release charts certainly helps us predict fish locations and behaviour, but when a gush of water gets pumped out and blows the river to hell there's not much you can do but retreat and wait for it to settle....or head back to the trusty freestone.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Some More Product Review, Random Thoughts and Wing Position

Back in Canada after a bliss session with the country of Bali.  What a remarkable little place with amazing beauty and devoted spirituality.  I loved viewing the morning ritual as household members went around their temple homes blessings effigies and making offerings of incense and flowers.  The food was amazing, the people friendly and the scenery stunning...beautiful culture.

I thought there should be a few more things mentioned in the product review, the products that stood out for me as being different enough to mention.  First off Smith Optics introduced a new lens and called it polarchromic ignitors; a pinkish hued lens that is ideally suited for mixed sun/cloud days.  The lens adjusts to the lighting conditions so you have optimum glare reduction without having to switch lenses.  Joel and I jumped got on it quick and ordered a few sets and have been really impressed with it's versatility.  My previous favourite all around lens was an amber lens but the polarchromic seems to perform better in the lower light.  A nice addition to the techlite glass series and just so everybody knows; glass is far superior to the polyblended lens....no contest!!!  Water visibility is key and glasses are a huge part of your game on the water, they are worth the extra cost not just for vision but for eye protection....they allow way less UV light in.
Smith Optics Polarchromic Ignitors

Patagonia has always been one of my favourite companies for outdoor wear and there waders are legendary for those in the know.  Joel bought a set this year and aside from the actual styling of the wader the comfort of these are second to none.  They are well fitted, not sloppy and baggy, the material is sturdy yet light and the newest/latest/coolest feature is the merino wool lined boot.  Feels great and allows some airflow down there not to mention the added warmth it provides.  A bit expensive but worth the extra for sure.

Guidewater Wader by Patagonia

Some quick but tasty thoughts on fly selection.  My years of guiding have taught me a lot about fish behaviour and to believe that fish are not aware of the more subtle aspects of a flies composition is simply not true.  I have seen the fish of the Elk become smarter as years go on, as they get pinned and released time and time again they become more aware of what does not appear to be natural.  Often times it's a matter of nerves; some fish are just not as willing to breach the surface and show their head to the hungry eagles and ospereys above.  They become finicky eaters and develop selective habits and one of the key discoveries for me fishing to trout that have been experienced is to give them something they feel safer with....the low profile flies.

As hatches began and we as anglers arrive on the scene it often seems as if you could chuck anything at them and it will get crushed.  That often is the case and often lasts but I have noticed over the last several years that I am switching to different patterns as the hatch progresses and as refusals appear on bushy hairwinged dries I move right over to the subtle and unassuming flat wing/spent dun/spinner type patterns.  Trout feel safe sipping these as they are not worried about the bug flying away as it is spent or on it's way out and trout often act surprised when they've sucked down a spinner only to have there jaw pulled sharply in the other direction.  I always steer curious anglers into the flat wing styled patterns in the local fly bins and most of the new patterns I develop have that characteristic in them.  A flat wing of varied shade with a mix of crystal flash for visibility.  Without flat winged patterns in your box you'll struggle to survive the duration of a hatch and the process becomes that of frustration, however; in the right place and at the right time, these patterns make the angling seem easy.  Wicked trout food.....YUM

'Til next time

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fly fishing has many creative participants and a dedicated following.  The amount of gear available out there is astonishing and it would be impossible to sample it all.  Being a guide allows me to try a lot of rods and reels that my guests have brought and there are definitely some beautiful rods being made out there these days.  The tendency has been to build faster, harder, stronger; but there has been equal attention put into the softer and slower presentation rods like the Scott F1 and now F2.

The Scott F2  

Scott Fly Rod Company has balls for sure.  They have a hip and photo rich ad campaign that creates a lifestyle image around the company and when they launched the F1 series a couple of years back I remember thinking WOW!  A fibreglass rod series introduced when the industry trend is wrapping blanks for speed.  A throw back in material for sure but enough to catch the interest of our guides Jonny 'Bravo' and Joel Whalen.  They both bought this awesome little pieces of Colorado architecture to do battle with the cutts in some of our smallest waters.  They both purchased one weights matched them with Sages ultra light Click 1 and began a small stream love affair.

It's a super cool little rod which waves like the wand of a sorcerer in the right hands, picture hiding behind a stand of grass and with a couple of flicks of the wrist you can cast the  fly, stack a mend and let it drift softly into the basin sized bucket where trout lips is softly sipping.  As you raise your  arm to set on the poor creature, the arc in the rod doubles over and an epic small stream battle ensues.  The soft blank of the rod allows for short and aggressive runs into the undercut absorbing the tension put on the tippet...truly a small stream specialists rod of choice.   One of our newest clients Jerry Skurka from the Chicago area brandishes this fine little weapon on the countless spring streams of the Driftless area in Wisconsin.  His is a three weight F2 and I gave that rod a few throws on one of our small streams and found it to be an incredibly acrobatic rod.  You can definitely get tricky with these little gems.

For reels I've been married to Bauer for a long time.  I've had some of their reels for 8 years and have never had them fail.  The cork/ceramic drag system is impeccable and smooth beyond compare.  Most of their reels are equipped with this system.  The one fall back of this drag system is wear in the drag knob which can cause the knob to back off during weather changes which is fairly constant in the Rocky Mountains.  This is easily fixed by adding washers which can be sent to the customer by Bauer or you can choose to step away from this system and go with their new Rogue series which is where I have been lately.  A sealed drag system with ultra smooth resistance, the large V arbour allows for excellent line capacity in an extremely light weight reel.  For the Columbia River this is essential as the runs can put you so deep into your backing it is essential to step up a reel size in order to handle the brutes in the massive current.  Having a light weight large arbour allows this to happen without messing up it's balance with the rod.  They have some cool colour options including a splash colour which is added on at a reasonable cost.

From the Lens of a Raven

My main guide and main man Joel Whalen has some mad skills; definitely inflicted with the midas touch.  We've been really blessed to have him in our lives over the years, he's a man of great talent, deep commitment and integrity.  Here is the result of countless hours of editing, dragging camera gear into river valleys sometimes to capture sometimes nothing, sometimes a few things  and in the odd moment the true magic of the natural world as seen through his lens.  This is a compilation of that effort....ENJOY!

(press link below)

Love Flyfishing 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Where I've Been Lately....

Looking For Customers on the Ganges

After a brief trip to Thailand to drop off materials and patterns for my tiers myself and my beloved Leah hopped on a plane and flew to India, a country I've wanted to visit for a long time.  I had an idea of what to expect from the numerous stories Leah had relayed to me after her previous journeys to there.  I was excited to land in Calcutta after a couple hour flight from Bangkok on Air Asia and taste the air of India.  And it tasted how I thought it might....not too good.  But a city of that size and level of poverty is going to have shitty air, there were a lot of old vehicles coughing and spewing there way through the Calcutta streets. After a few days in Calcutta we hopped on a train and headed for Bodghaya; the site of the Bodhi tree where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

The town of Bodghaya is poor, intensely poor and there had been a massive Buddhist pilgrimage to the town just prior to our arrival so the town had been pushed to it's already meager limits and there was literally excrement in the streets; in a small gutter on the side of the walkway, one false step and you'd be in it....a far cry from the gravel freestone riverbottoms that my sandles are normally used to stepping on.  They were not happy about that experience. Aside from that the temple grounds surrounding the tree was beautiful and full of devoted Buddhists who had made the pilgrimages from northern India, Bhutan and other countries.  It was a powerful feeling to be there and I will hold those moments in a special place forever...it was beautiful.

After Bodghaya there was a brief stop in Veranassi, perhaps the holiest city in the world and certainly the focal point of the holiest river in the world the Ganges.  I liked Veranassi and although I had heard the city was dirty it was quite a step up from our two previous stops of Calcutta and Bodghaya. The level of devotion of the Hindus to their holy river the Ganga is impressive.  Every day hundreds of thousands  of Hindus bathe in the river, a river that has a cholera bacteria level that is off the charts.  The banks are lined with 'ghats' which include a burning ghat where their dead are burned and then put into the river a process which cleanses the soul. 

This rivers cholera bacteria count is 3000 times acceptable levels and water tests indicate that the river is septic.  Still miraculously and perhaps magically, there are quite a few fish in the river, one of our guides mentioned catching fish over 40 pounds, some kind of cat fish. I witnessed quite a few fish rising in the river which amazed me.  Biologists are stunned that fish do live in it and I watched a few people sipping out of it!!

Laundry on the Ganga--the Spin Cycle
Ahmdebad was our next stop and it was a nice one. It's a clean city that seems to be experiencing some economic growth and has become one of India's business centres.  This is home to Aura Herbal Wear; a company that Leah found  years ago owned by Arun and Sonal Baid.  Aura is a natural dyeing company and produces large quantities of natural dyed fabrics like organic cotton and silk. It was beautiful to watch the fabrics run through the dye baths and walking through the factory felt healthy as all products are made from plant dyes.  There fabrics are gorgeous and feel great on the skin, Joel and I wear a lot of shirts made from their dyes guiding and I would love to see a company like Patagonia using there product for the 'organic' clothing line, cause really what's the point in having an organic cotton shirt when it's been soaked in a chemical dye bath.  Kind of kills the organic side of it.  They are taking this to the next level and are hoping that this will become the way of the future for the garment industry as they have seen first hand what the many chemical dye factories can do to the water of their homeland.  They are lovely people with big hearts and clear vision, it's nice to see that some people are working towards positive change.

Organic Cotton Running Through Indigo Dye Bath

  We spent another week in India before flying into Singapore and then on to Bali.  It was an amazing contrast going from Chennai in India to Singapore.  Singapore is spotless, the pollution is minimal and the city is strikingly modern.  The Marina Bay area might be the nicest section of a city I have seen, some amazing design concept went into the construction of that place and I'm looking forward to returning to the city on my way back to Canada at the end of the month.  But for now it's beautiful Bali and my introduction to surfing and yes I've been getting crushed out there.  The surf was rough the first five days and the ocean really beat the shit out of me, but it's settled down quite a bit and life on the board has been a lot easier and a little more fruitful....it's not the easiest sport to learn tho.

In my previous blog entry I mentioned that I hadn't heard from anybody in my angling world, not a peep and that entry was followed by a rash of good bookings so that was nice.  Almost all of the bookings are for August and that month is getting full in fact the 8th to the 16th is fully booked.  Snow levels are low at the moment but the last few springs have brought some late snow so we'll see what happens there; but if things continue as is then we'll be looking at some good angling on the Elk for opening day in mid June and the West Kootenays will be happening in early June as long as there is warm weather to get the caddis moving.

Joel is currently editing another fly fishing video and I will be posting that on my site and on my blog in the next few weeks and I will also be doing a gear review based on our experiences with what we played around with last summer.  We all got to try some new stuff last year and there are definitely some standout items that I don't mind plugging.  'Til then.....

Life in The Fast Lane, Ahmdebad