Sunday, August 30, 2015

Prairie Creek Project Needs Our Help!

This project will happen on Saturday September 12th!

Lets get behind this project gang!

Contact Elliot if you can help!

D/ 403-209-5184   F/ 403-221-8368  

Trout Unlimited Canada is working on a restoration project on Prairie Creek. Part of the project involves the harvest of live willow cuttings that will be used a brush layers Elliot Lindsay, a biologist with Trout Unlimited Canda is working on coordinating a volunteer workday to harvest the live cuttings (approx. 700). The TUC Central Alberta chapter co-owns with the Alberta Conservation Association a conservation property along Stauffer Creek known as Stainbrook Springs. This site came to mind as a potential willow harvest site and Lesley (also a TU biologist) mentioned to me that it has been used previously for this purpose. A site closer to the actual project area might provide a donor stock which is better adapted to local conditions, perhaps on a property owned by Husky. 

The idea is to conduct a volunteer workday with about a dozen or so volunteers from Husky, the TUC Central Alberta Chapter along with our Central Alberta Fly Tying Club to harvest and gather these willows and transport them to the project area to be soaked. 

 The volunteer workday will be an all-day event, we could meet up in the morning at the harvest site or a meeting area nearby and spend the morning and early afternoon cutting and bundling willows, then in the later afternoon transport the cuttings to the site and store them in the pool or a nearby side channel. If we can’t find a good spot for soaking, we can always use tubs.

The final details will be sent to everybody just before the project day!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fly Fishing in the Big Smoke

It is incredibly smokey out in the west country as well as Central Alberta. The forest fires in the southern Okanogan and Washington State are certainly cause for concern and the wind patterns have brought the fire smoke to  Alberta. The view along the gravel roads as we travelled towards our destination was obscured by smoke, fog and of course lots of dust.

I had the opportunity to get out with one of my son-in-laws early in the week and today I spent the day with a long time friend who is passionate about fly fishing.

My son-in-law, Adam, is still developing his fly fishing skills but he is a quick study. We arrived a bit early to our first run because the mercury said in was a chilly 2C. We probably could have started our day an hour later. Not much happens until the water starts to warm and the bugs get going! We were both in shorts and a sweater. Burr, but we started off on a run that required very little wading so we were going to be just fine. Adam was into fish all day and he caught some dandy cutthroat. I discovered that Adam in a darn fine nymph fisherman! As the wind came up, the casting became a bit challenging but Adam was game. We fly fished one run that had lots of flavs bouncing down the riffles. The cutthroat were all busily gulping down these bugs. Adam had a chance at some sizeable cutthroat in a run that required some precise casting. He tangled with several 16 to 19 inch cutthroat. As you can see from the pictures, the smoke was hanging in the river valley.

The neat thing about our day was the wolves that Adam spotted on our trip out as well as the elk and many deer! Adam has many interests. I think that fly fishing may surpass his gold panning hobby!

Today was much warmer and not as smokey. My buddy, Byron, and I decided to do a run and gun day. That meant we would cover lots of water and not spend a lot of time at any one spot. We were rewarded with lots of beautiful cutthroat and we got to check out several runs that we have not fished this year. We did have three black bears wander by, a mom and two cubs. These big furry creatures remind us to carry bear spray and always stay alert as we walk along the river.

There are hatches still on the water. We saw yellow sally stones, flavs, BWOs and PMDs. The cutthroat are a bit more wary this time of the year! The cutthroat are getting quite colourful and the cool water temperature makes them quite feisty!

The fishing window during the day is now a bit smaller as we approach fall. No need to hit the water real early unless you are keen!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Euro Nymphing

I finally got the opportunity to euro nymph with my 11 foot Shadow II 4 weight made by Echo that Troy at TC Outfitters ordered in for me. After taking the euro nymphing course this past winter, I wanted to take the flies that we tied and the slinky indicators that we all made and give it a go!

What an effective technique to say the least. The heavily weighted flies and the ultra sensitive "slinky" system makes for some very effective fly fishing. I watched Phil Rowley euro nymph a run that had already given up 20 fish and he continued to catch the next dozen quickly with precision !

Karen and I set up our rod and had a blast. As a matter of fact, I had to wrestle with Karen to get my rod back.

Getting used to the wrist snap (set) at the end of the drift and then flick the line upstream takes some practice but it helps with the next cast.

You can use your regular rod with a slinky indicator although the longer rod allows for better drifts and covering more water.

I might never use an indicator on moving water again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Big Concerns About ATV Damage on Fall Creek

— "You don't know what you've got till it's gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot." - Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
Fall Creek, an important spawning water for the beleaguered bull trout — a protected native fish and Alberta’s provincial fish — is being damaged by people illegally driving their off-highway vehicles into it.
As well, the surrounding area is suffering from increased OHV traffic, enabled when logging in the area southwest of Rocky Mountain House started a few years ago.
Why should anyone care about the bull trout? After all, it’s just a fish and there are other kinds of fish. And there’s lots of wilderness for all users.
Actually, it’s about caring for native species that are part of our living heritage in this beautiful province, and it’s about the big picture — protect and respect the environment, or lose it.
Joni Mitchell recorded Big Yellow Taxi in 1970 but her song rings as true today as it did back then, considering the growing pressures on Alberta’s back country.
Will it be there for future generations or will pressures — largely from more and bigger off-highway vehicles (OHVs) travelling over upper rugged West Country trails — cause irreparable environmental damage?
Fall Creek, for the record, is colloquially known as Falls Creek because of the waterfalls on it. It has cold, clear water, which bull trout must have for spawning. The creek flows into the Ram River, which then flows into the North Saskatchewan River.
An Alberta Conservation study found that Fall Creek is a key spawning stream for bull trout, and provides habitat for young-of-the-year and juvenile fish. “Approximately 10,000 juvenile bull trout were estimated to inhabit the 7.5 km of Fall Creek below the falls. Bull trout implanted with radio-transmitters in Fall Creek were tracked to overwintering locations in the Ram, North Saskatchewan and Clearwater rivers, travelling 71.8 stream km.”
As many Central Albertans know, these rivers are important and precious systems in our West Country that provide considerable, sometimes spectacular, backdrop to wildlife, recreation and industry.
Bull trout, once known as dolly varden, have been classified as both sensitive and threatened under provincial legislation. They grow slowly, prefer cold water and spawn later than other trout. Spawning bull trout are seen as vulnerable to capture by bear, osprey and humans. If you happen to catch one, you must release it.
They were once in 60 Alberta watersheds but are in only seven now.
Wayne Crocker, based in Rocky Mountain House, a 26-year public lands staffer for the province, is backcountry co-ordinator for Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).
He said that concern has grown for the Fall Creek area, located about 30 km south and west of Rocky and Cow Lake, out along Hwy 752.
“There are definitely some land management pressures in the area.”
There used to be just an oil road into the area but within the last few years, Sunpine Forest Products, which holds a Forest Management Agreement with the province, started logging there.
The company decided to improve the road a bit to accommodate logging trucks.
An unfortunate side effect is that the recreation motorized crowd has more access into the area, although it’s illegal and dangerous for OHVs to use the road.
Crocker said it’s a “windy, twisty, narrow mountain road” and to have OHVs on the road at the same time as logging trucks isn’t safe activity for the recreationalist. So Sunpine put up an authorized gate and signage.
“But part of the problem now is the public — even though it’s well signed, well gated — people are finding ways to beat around and go around the gate, or find different trails to lead into the area using that road.
“It’s become a real issue, and it’s not just a small number. Quite a few folks are actually finding their way in there.”
Long weekends are especially bad, with more than 100 riders going into the area, and it’s expected it will be busy again come the September long weekend. But OHV users can expect to run into increased enforcement, Crocker said.
Part of the problem is that OHV users have been going into the area since before it began to be logged. Years ago, there were fewer people and smaller OHV machines.
There’s signage now that says the road is closed to the public for their own safety.
It’s a matter of time before there are serious injuries between logging trucks and OHVs, said Crocker. The road is so narrow that it’s radio-controlled. Even half-tons have to communicate so they can get in and out safely. It’s a recipe for a collision — larger vehicles on the road have no ditch to go into if they encounter an OHV.
Even a “little bump” with a logging truck likely means the OHV user is not going to make it, Crocker said.
“I think if I had a message to the public, that if they do see signs saying that the road is closed it’s not just to inconvenience their recreational activity, it may be a safety or environmental issue.
“I think that that is sort of the frustration with us. If people feel they can just get around something then it’s OK. It isn’t OK. They’re still in harm’s way.”
Safety is one aspect of the problem. The other is the environmental side.
OHV riders are driving through and along Fall Creek. Crocker points out this can come with a $25,000 fine. Driving on a closed road is also illegal.
Among other things, driving vehicles through creeks causes silt and mud, and damages spawning areas. “No matter where you’re talking about, a motorized vehicle in a fish-bearing stream isn’t going to be acceptable.
“Because they found out that Falls Creek is such an important bull trout spawning area, the idea of having motorized vehicles in that water body, that creek, is a bad idea. Yes, there have been motorized vehicles in that creek,” Crocker said.
Over a long period, OHVs have carved out a trail about 20 km along Fall Creek. “The trail actually crosses the creek numerous times back and forth, back and forth.
“Maybe that wasn’t an issue when you had fewer OHVs but when you get hundreds of OHVs, then the impacts are up. They didn’t know back then that was an important bull trout spawning area. ... Now that we know all these things, it’s hard to condone it.”
OHVs have stripped the vegetation off the trail. Time and water and lots of OHV use have caused major erosion ditches that all lead to Fall Creek.
Crocker has been going into the Fall Creek area for some time. “I was horrified 20 years ago.
“It’s been not good for a long time. ... I see changes to legislation to help protect those sites and we are moving forward, albeit at a slow pace, but I do see we’re stepping in the right direction.
“I think public awareness about being in water bodies, the importance of watershed and environmental damage is starting to be more spoken about. People seem to get it more than in the past.”
This year has seen increased enforcement in the Fall Creek area as AEP has about 12 seasonal park rangers and full-time conservation officers enforcing the Public Lands Act and other legislation, Crocker said.
“Every weekend that goes by there’s more tickets issued and I’m sure there’ll be a lot more on the long weekend.”
The elements of education, signage and enforcement have to work together and the vast majority of people understand that some of their activities may not be a good idea. They are open to the idea of education, said Crocker.
“That will cover off most of the people who want to go out there and recreate with motorized vehicles.”
But there is a small percentage who don’t want to have any real rules. “I think that they’re willing to take their chances with legal implications of not doing the right thing.”
Crocker said there is potential for a proper trail system to some day be developed in the area.
“But just right now we’re not in any position to do that kind of planning and we don’t have, I don’t think, enough legislation to actually do all of the protection we need right now.
“We’re just not quite there yet and so we’re struggling with the present realities of that and many other areas actually.
“There’s more and more OHVs, and they’re getting bigger and bigger, so the impacts are not going away.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Father and Daughter Time at a Special Place in the Mountains

Darren Petersen and his daughter, Thalia, recently hiked into one of their favourite pools in the mountains.  Darren and his daughter visit this spot once a year and the dippers and little cutties are always there to greet them.  The scenery is spectacular and the water is brisk.Thalia hooked a cutthroat on dry fly and a bull trout even smashed Darren's stimulator!

Darren enjoys bird watching and he was not disappointed when he saw the crossbills, kingfishers, dippers, migrating sandpipers, and a sharp-shinned hawk hunting warblers along the stream bank.

Darren also loves photography. The crystal clear water allowed him to get some images of baby cutthroat fry in a crystal clear side channel with black edging on their dorsals!

Having lunch alongside this special piece of water surely was special, especially when Darren pulled out the squashed Eatmore chocolate bar that looked more like something a coyote left behind instead of a snack. Darren and Thalia even drank water from this special place right out of the river with a lifestraw filter.

A pretty good Father Daughter Day and an awesome annual tradition!!!

Spring Creek Fly Fishing with Bruce Tilbrook

Bruce Tilbrook has been enjoying cooler water temperatures on some of his favourite west central Alberta brown trout waters. He has been out with friends and guests. I do know that it is hopper season and the browns love to attack and devour these big meals! I particularly love the light in the above image. Casting in close quarters makes for some very creative casts to get your offering to your quarry! Looks like a load of fun Bruce!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reopening Of All Rivers in Alberta Except One!

The recent heavy rain in may areas has allowed the reopening of all of our rivers. The only exception is the St. Mary's River in southern Alberta.

Take a look RIGHT HERE, for all of the details.

Steve and Troy Chasing Toothy Critters on the Fly

Warm water temperatures certainly have not slowed Troy and Steve as of late. The guys hit their favourite pike waters and had a blast. The aggressive pike readily attack Steve and Troy's flies. I love the pike patterns that Troy and Steve have created. They certainly got the attention of many toothy critters! Well done guys!

Fishing/Hiking in the Crown Jewel of the Rockies

...from Doug Pullen

From time to time, we all need to get away and chill out. Finding that special place where you can forget about the world if only for a few days is something to be cherished.  Lake O’Hara Lodge; only 4 hours from Red Deer, is one of those special places for me. My wife and I along with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed 4 days in what is often called the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies. The pristine beauty of Lake O’Hara embraces an alpine experience that we look forward to every year. The only things you really need are good hiking boots, a camera and your fishing rod: forget the cell phone, no coverage here.  Hiking is the chief attraction but fishing the area lakes is also on the agenda.

Being that Lake O’Hara Lodge in located in Yoho National Park; you need to obtain a Parks Canada Fishing License.  The source water for the lakes is from glaciers so the water temperature is really cold. Even though the water temperatures are in the 40s, the aquatic insect populations are surprisingly quite active which are made up of mayflies, caddis, midges and some stoneflies.  Even though the menu is diverse, the resident Cutthroat trout can be focused on a certain stage, size or colour of insect.  The trout may only want size 20 Midges during the day or size 6 Caddis in the evenings and everything in between, it’s a real challenge to figure it out.  Success was given to me using soft hackles, flashbacks, P-Quads and Tom Thumbs. I would have used size 20 midges but I can’t see the eye of the hook.

Trophy Arctic Char and a Fabulous Guiding Moment for Reid at Plummer's Lodge

Reid Stoyberg sent me these images this week. The arctic char in the top pic is definitely a fish of a lifetime. Wow!

The arctic char are heading up the Tree River in preparation for spawning. They look spectacular this time of the year!

 I bet this young lad had one of the best days of his summer. Great moment!

Lesser Green Drakes, aka Flavs and Cutties

There is one! Hey there is another, and another! The hatch is on! Late August, overcast and relatively warm. Cutthroat love green drakes. The smaller variety, flavs,  were hatching on an eastern slopes river this past week and the cutts were not going to pass up these mayflies.

It was fun to just sit on a bank and watch a large pod of sizeable cutthroat trout inhale flavs by the mouthful! I was experimenting with my camera to see if I could catch the moment that the cutthroat engulfed a flav. I did get some neat pictures but not quite the one I was hoping for.  Close but I learned how to approach a full blown hatch for next time.

The cutts would often eat the flavs both on the surface and slash at the emerging flavs as they headed for the surface. There were times that we could see 8 to 10 cuts rising to eat these mayflies.

For the fly fishermen, a smaller green drake imitation is a good choice but maybe even better is an emerger fished just under the surface. Try tying a Quigley's Cripple in green drake colours.

We took some throat samples that showed what we had suspected. 

Well the hatch last about 90 minutes. It was a blast fly fishing and photographing all the action!

These well conditioned cutties were eating as many flavs as they could.

The cutthroat below burped up several flavs while resting in the net!

The big cutthroat arrive on the scene when the flavs start emerging!

These flavs were climbing on the rocks everywhere for about 2 hours at the run we were fly fishing!

Many of us are used to using a throat pump on lakes. Phil Rowley pulled his out to take a look at what was going on. Out of the 5 bugs in this cutthroat's throat, 4 were green drakes and the other was a common fly.

These simple impostors did the job nicely although a good emerger pattern would have helped catch more cutts! Take a look at the emerger pattern that Dr. Bill Young showed me a few days back. Looks like a winner!

These cutties were slamming as many flavs as they could along with several of their buddies!