Muddy river clouds fishing prospects

What can you say of a fishing season so far, when the second best recreation is staking out the spot and waiting for a sunny break to get a picture of a muddy river?

A skwala stonefly rests among a burst of chokecherry blossoms. Trout eagerly feast on the insects when a hatch is in full swing

A skwala stonefly rests among a burst of chokecherry blossoms. Trout eagerly feast on the insects when a hatch is in full swing

What can you say of a fishing season so far, when the second best recreation is staking out the spot and waiting for a sunny break to get a picture of a muddy river?

A muddy river, I insist, should be brown, not grey, the way it appears under everlasting overcast skies.

Despite the colour of the Red Deer, antsy anglers have been out hunting the skwala, the stonefly that hatches around the time the chokecherries are in full bloom along the banks of the river, and, in some years, produce fast fishing to trout rising to eat them.

But, as one angler reported by email: “If it (the river) gets much murkier, I will be able to walk on it! I watched skwalas flying on Sunday (June 5): the swallows loved them.” This gent shall remain anonymous, lest he be accused of harbouring a messiah complex. He does harbour the frustration of all anglers when a good fishing hatch takes place when only the birds, but not the trout, can see the bugs to eat them.

A week later I was seeing swallows still feasting on skwalas above grey waters and under grey skies. But the chokecherry blossoms are over, and I expect the skwala hatch is about done, too.

Other anglers are reporting that some lakes were perking up, even showing some rising trout. Over on the chronically-clear North Raven River, some anglers were reporting a few western green drakes on the water and catching brown trout rising to them on various imitations. Generally, on the North Raven, green drakes hatch when the marsh marigolds are in bloom, and especially on grey, drizzly days. Driving wind and rain can stop this — and any hatch.

Judging from my in-box, the best recreation this dark, dank spring and early summer seems to be hunting edible wild mushrooms; many readers have taken up the sport after reading the recent column on this year’s bumper crop of both species of morels, (Morchella esculenta and Morchella elata) both safe, edible, and absolutely delicious.

But there has also been a big fruiting of the deadly poisonous false morel (Gyromitra esculenta), and therein reposes the dilemma of most of my emailers: even if they have a field guide with good photographs, beginners do not trust their own eyes.

There was even an orphan bag of fungi abandoned, hung, on the Stump Ranch gate by a neighbour who later told me I could have them, because I could probably tell which was which. There were four genuine and two false morels in the bag. This gent apparently eats no wild fungi, as befits a man who once had to haul his dad into hospital in Rocky Mountain House after he had eaten a batch of our most easily identifiable deadly mushroom, the handsome, scaly, red-capped Amanita muscaria.

Many readers ask if I do mentoring, conduct field trips. I have done mushroom mentoring, but am no longer able to. I absolutely refuse to identify mushrooms from telephone descriptions, but have identified some species from samples brought to me, or even from photographs emailed to me. One way to find mentoring, identification seminars, and go on field trips is by joining the Alberta Mycological Society on their website, wildmushrooms.ws.

Whatever your outdoor recreation, photography will probably be a big part of it. Recently two more readers joined the many who have thanked me for touting them on what I (and now they) consider the finest point and shoot digital camera for outdoors people, the amazing Pentax Optio W series. I had and sold a W20, now use a W80, and resisted the temptation last year to buy a W90.

Now Pentax has introduced the Optio WG-1 and WG-1 GPS, the second being different only in that it has the GPS function of recording the location of each picture taken. Otherwise, the WG series retains all the features of the W series that outdoors people know and love: shirt pocket size, dustproof, totally waterproof, shock and cold proof. The WGs have 14 mega pixels, two more than the W90, there is still the wide angle to 5X telephoto lens, and there is a super macro close-up feature assisted by LED lights around the lens. The WGs retain the amazing feature where you can alter-edit images right on the camera screen and save both the original and the altered image.

These cameras would be absolutely perfect, if only Pentax could spare the scant space required to include an optical viewfinder. For the first time Pentax is offering an infrared, waterproof, remote control for the WGs and most of the W series.

If you buy, get at least one spare battery and keep it charged. The many features of these cameras consume power. An after-market lanyard that goes around the neck will prevent deep-sixing the camera from your shirt pocket when you lean over the gunn’l — to land a fish, maybe.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.