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. 

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