Thursday, July 30, 2020

Another Backcountry Fly Fishing Adventure

Karen and I love getting off of the beaten path. I always wanted to do this trip but it involved portaging our canoe 2.5 km and a major river ford in both directions. We saw an incredible stretch of fantastic weather so we loaded up our backcountry gear and the boat. We packed light and we had a plan called "Leap Frog" in order to get the boat into our destination. As it turned out, it was an excellent plan. I loaded up a small pack with our fly fishing gear and then hoisted the canoe onto my shoulders. The plan was to portage for about 1 km at a time, then go back and get my backpack. The trail was rough and muddy for the first 1. 5 km. It was easy to wipe out and that would not have ended well so we took our time. It took three "Leap Frogs" to get to our river ford. We were holding our breath hoping the river was not too high and luckily the first time we crossed was not too bad. The second time was extremely treacherous because of the warm weather.

Once across the river, the next 1.25 km was an easy go to the camping area and the lake.

The designated camping area had picnic tables, a bear pole and a pit toilet. The best part was the million dollar view and the fact that we had our boat to easily get around. Once we set up camp and stored our food up the bear pole, we got our rods ready to get out and explore the lake. We had looked at Google Earth to get the lay of the land and we also brought our old 1:50 000 inch map. The map, as always, was very helpful. We had a plan based on a rumour. Off we went.

We were in pursuit of lake trout even though our references suggested there were only cutthroat and brookies there. We did get to our fishing destination after a 45 minute canoe paddle. We finally hooked up and yes, it was a lake trout, and then another.  Well, we were quite thrilled.

It was not conventional the way we caught them. We used full sink type 5 to type 7 lines with gigantic streamers. Our most successful colour was white. There was definitely smaller fry in the lake and smaller fish for the lakers to dine on, so a 5 inch streamer was a winner.

We got back to camp late in the day and enjoyed supper. The mountain views were spectacular. After supper, we fished a bit more. I hooked a large laker that I lost at my feet. Sigh.

We were tired. Great day. We crawled into the tent after having a fire in the designated area. That night we all got up at 4 am to look at the stars. It was incredible. Even Pepper crawled out to take a look.

Once the sun rose; we cooked breakfast, organized lunch, rehung our food up the bear pole and got the fishing gear ready. We pulled out early. There was not a breath of wind. We canoed across the  mirror-like lake. We decided to go for a hike to see the glaciers we knew were up a valley. The views were stunning. We saw hanging glaciers, massive waterfalls cascading down and mountain peaks just below an icefield that was nothing short of breath taking. We lingered. We always have our bear spray handy. Thankfully we did not need to use it.

We found a fast flowing river of glacial water. We fished in that area for a long time. We caught several lakers there. Once the action slowed, we wanted to hike to another lake that the trailhead began halfway down the big lake. We paddled down the lake and eventually found the trail. The short hike was tough. Deadfall was all over the trail that is not heavily used. The trail was overgrown but we persevered. We finally got to our tarn. It was glacial feed. We did not spent much time there. It was tough getting around. I had no success fishing there although you knew there were some nice brookies and cutties lurking there. Pepper lead us back to the canoe and off we went to fly fish some more. We caught more lakers and even encountered some cutthroat.

We finally wound down our day trip by getting back to our tent late in the day. We made supper and finished our day by just taking in the amazing view. 

Throughout the trip, regardless of the time of day or evening,  or the location, the bugs were ruthless. When the heat waned and the horseflies decided to take a breather, the mosquitoes ramped up their assault. Needless to say, we came home with very little bug juice and quite a few souvenir welts!

Our last morning, we fished until close to noon. We finally packed up for the grunt back to the car. We knew the trip out would be tough. When we arrived at the river crossing, the river was way higher. Luckily, we knew how to manage the river. Karen and I hooked arms to get across. I got the gear across with no problems although we encountered several day hikers who turned around at the river crossing. One needs sturdy footwear and lots of experience to get across that river. 

It was darn hot. The grunt up to the car included 300 feet of uphill over the next 1.5 km. The trail is mud to add to the challenge with several nasty, root hidden boggy areas. The last 500 m seemed to take forever. We were both covered in mud, scraped up and tired. A trip just would not be a good one without a few bumps, bruises and bites!

We loaded up and it was 31C. We headed for Saskatchewan Crossing, blasting air conditioning for an ice cream cone and some treats.

This trip took place in Banff National Park. All permits, fishing licences and park passes must be purchased before preceding to the destination. The Banff National Park is all catch and release except for Lake Minnewanka. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Stoneflies on the Bow River

It is the time of the year when stoneflies crawl to the edge of the Bow River. The browns and rainbows on the Bow River love to dine on them. It seemed to me that the stones were crawling out onto the river's rocky shoreline everywhere. 

Steve, his buddy Pat and I floated the Bow River today. We decided to just dry fly fish with big foam stonefly imitations. We did have an obstacle today. The river volume was increased by over 50 cm3/sec over night. That is quite signifigant. The water was also off colour. The change in water volume cause fish to resettle/reposition. Often that can take a few days.

Well we had a fine day floating the "City Section!" Steve did the rowing with his drift boat. Pat and I worked the banks and riffle-drops all day. We were on the water by 6 am. The stonefly hatch is usually a late day/ early morning event.

Well we hooked several fish but over the course of the day, we landed just 5 although we did catch several nicer fish. The trout in the Bow look to be in excellent condition.

On the drive back to Red Deer we dodged several nasty thunderstorms. Luckily we did not get a direct hit.

The stonefly hatch should last at least another week.  It is a great time to float the Bow River. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Chasing Backcountry Cutthroat- Conditions less than Perfect, No Matter!

Karen and I were itching to get out and enjoy cutthroat fishing. The rivers west of Red Deer have been high, off colour and tough to cross. We got a reliable report that the rivers were coming into shape but they were far from perfect. It was time to load up our backcountry gear and get out there. The flow rates were quite deceiving too. The rivers are coming down but there is a lot of field and creek runoff that has made the rivers treacherous. You have to be careful choosing a safe place to cross. I had to help Karen cross several times.

Nymphing definitely allowed us to catch several cutthroat. The key to nymphing, either split shot or heavily weighted nymphs. Karen was determined to catch cutthroat with a chernobyl. And that she did. In one run she connected with several well conditioned cutties on an Orange Crush chernobyl. After seeing a flow rate almost 12 times the average, you know the river was rearranged a bit. You have to do some exploring.

As you can see, we were also camping in the backcountry. That was very enjoyable. The big blue sky the last two days, the evening fire, coffee alongside of the river and just enjoying being outside made our trip relaxing and fun.

Take a look!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Bow River is in Excellent Shape

The Bow River has been having extreme fluctuations in river flows. Finally the flows have become stable in in the average range for this time of the year. The stoneflies have been hatching and that means getting up early, real early to enjoy the opportunity to have a monster brown or rainbow connect with your big piece of foam.

Steve and Taryn floated the Bow yesterday. They connected with some beautiful fish. Steve got a great shot just after this beautiful brown ate Taryn's well placed caddis dry fly. Rivers are slowly coming into shape.

The rivers in southern Alberta have received a tremendous amount of pressure in the past few weeks. Hopefully the clearing Bow will help to spread out our fly fishers a bit!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Spectacular National Park Backcountry Fly Fishing Day 2

If the weather forecast was accurate, Day 2 was going to be a beauty. We got the day started with coffee and that million dollar view. We wanted to make the day go slow and just take it all in. Our goal was to take a long run to a new fishing spot! After breakfast, Karen and I paddled our canoe to a narrows to fly fish. Roy rowed the pram with the assistance of the electric motor and Steve did the same with his drift boat. We had to explore a bit but finally we found fish in a bay. They were not deep either. We hooked up often. As the fly fishing slowed, we worked our way back towards camp. We caught more along a very steep drop off. We decided to keep a few brookies for supper. That was an excellent decision. The wind came up a bit and it made anquoring with the canoe a bit tough. Often a pulse of showers came through but we were all ready for that reality. It is mountain weather after all.

We fried up the brookies as part of an outstanding dinner. After supper, I had a real treat; sight fishing! Steve and I found a shoal that had rainbows cruising up and down. Landing 6 of them was fantastic! You could watch them eat the fly about 4 feet down. That was cool!

The evening fire was an awesome way to wind down a picture perfect day. There were lots of people on the lake but the size of the lake made it seem like there were few people out there! The day ended with another weather change. Rain had moved in. As we crawled into our sleeping bags, the rain put us all to sleep.

The weather man was right, beauty of a day!