Bank ’oliday Monday, the August Long, Civic Holiday, or now Heritage Day, whatever name you prefer, it was blisteringly hot this year, but the fishing was not.
This is yet another in at least a five year series of weather wipe-out, non-fishing seasons, and on Heritage Day, west country rivers and streams were still running high and cloudy, if not downright muddy.
Now that the dog days are well upon us, matters are further complicated by days of bright sunshine, which brown trout try to avoid in any way they can, including dozing in deep shade and not feeding until after dark.
Speaking of which, the only good fishing reports I can pass on so far this year are regarding two of our mayfly species that hatch in low light, at dusk, or in the pitch dark.
Several anglers report good trips for the mid-June brown drake, Ephemera simulans, hatch on the North Raven River.
Rather than just starting at dusk, the hatch started on several dark, cold, rainy days, and a very few “Raven maniacs” report doing very well.
Reports are varied and spotty of the pitch dark mid-July hatches of our largest mayfly, the Hex (Hexagenia limbata) on various top secret central Alberta brown trout streams.
My long-time Hex hatch fishing companion, Dwayne Schafers reports, simply: “Most bugs I have ever seen; worst fishing I have ever seen,” and says he scooped and filled his Brodin landing net with spent Hex spinners floating on the water in less than a minute. With so much to eat, it sounds to me like the big browns quickly became sated and super selective.
By contrast, Kelsey Kure did well on nearby Hex water, finding the cloudy water to be an advantage in getting within a rod’s length of big brown trout rising in the pitch dark to eat the super-abundant Hex duns and spent spinners.
In the pitch dark, even only a rod length away, knowing that a trout has taken your one artificial fly rather than one among millions of naturals and setting the hook can be a puzzle.
Pre-season, Kelsey showed me a prototype Hex imitation he had tied incorporating a ”Thingamabobber,” glow in the dark strike indicator.
You charge the thing by shining your headlamp on it, cast, and when the small green glow out there disappears, you strike.
Kelsey reports it worked perfectly.
On Heritage Day I could find only three anglers fishing Prairie Creek, all of whom reported their disappointment at how the ill advised imposition of a zero limit in 1998 has turned a formerly great trophy brown trout stream into a torrent of tiddlers.
Aside from Prairie being a ghost of its former self, the ghosts of anglers who once fished it haunt the place.
One angler even reported seeing a tribute sign — “Cec Head — 1922 -2012” — probably placed by Mike Burrington and family, high on a cliff overlooking one of Cec’s — and my — favorite rocky runs.
Cec, owner of the great outdoors store, Red Deer Lock and Key, in the fifties and sixties once shot a favorite picture of me fishing the run from very close to the location of the tribute sign.
Bright days are cutthroat days, and lately there has been an increase in one of the harder questions readers ask: “how’s the North Ram?”
It is virtually impossible to get an up to date report anywhere.
Whatever the South Ram looks like at its lower bridge is never a reliable indication. To find out for sure, you have to go the whole way, risking life and limb running the gauntlet of careening logging trucks. It is a long, hard way to go to find the North Ram blown out and unfishable.
On Heritage Day I spent some time chatting with an old friend about many things, including what suggestions I had for catching the huge Bull trout in the Wigwam River in B.C.’s east Kootenays.
He also mentioned that he and a friend had just done the unthinkable: gone to the North Ram at the start of a long weekend.
When they got there, it was not where it should be.
A characteristic of many great cutthroat rivers is that floods can move them and their channels and gravels from one side of a valley to another; west slope cutthroats have evolved to thrive on this movement.
When they found the river, it was cloudy and high enough that wading across it was not a good idea. No fish were rising, but they caught several good cutts, all on dry flies. Despite the water conditions, they thought they should have been doing better until they caught up with the group of anglers they had been fishing behind. Even with cutthroats, first is best.
Many readers have been expressing frustration at trying to find a copy of the current Fly Rod & Reel magazine to read the superb Ted Williams article, Black Bile from the North, about Alberta’s dirty oil pipelining problems.
Long-time reader and friend, Don Hayden has found the article on the internet and suggests readers go to Fly Rod & Reel Magazine 2012 — August — Conservation.
Bob Scammell is a local columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org