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Roadtrippin’ Part I: A Call to Adventure

Roadtrippin’ Part I: A Call to Adventure

Have you ever just been hit by an all consuming and irrational need to get away? To hit the open road without a plan? To explore without an agenda and get away from all the routine and boredom of regular life?

The urge hit me last week as the rain poured into southern Alberta for the first time, and the water got high and murky. Not being on a shift at work for another 10 days, I wasn’t really sure what I was gonna do with myself. It was Thursday, and the thought of hitting the road never even crossed my mind.

And that’s when my brother Mark called me and told me some friends were heading out camping. And that I should come too. And it didn’t take long for me to realize he was right; and the upcoming roadtrip was already starting to take form in my mind.

The roadtrip took me over the divide, into the interior mountains of BC, through the Okanagan and Boundary Country, and back again through the Kootenays. Stops on the trip included Golden, Chase, Kelowna, Nelson, and the Crowsnest Pass.

The best part of a roadtrip is having your fly-rod ready to go in the car at all times. And with no agenda, any piece of water that is open for consideration, at least for a few casts. These few casts lead to a few more, and inevitably you find you’ve been fishing for an hour and are now running behind your loosely defined schedule. Rivers were primarily closed on this trip until I made it to the Kootenays (where we fished the Columbia with success), but the lakes were open and the drizzle had fish rising. So there were lots of chances to take a few casts along the way.

The second thing I like about road trips is the peaceful time alone, to contemplate and think. But this roadtrip also had lots of time spent catching up with my brother and good friends I haven’t seen in a while, along with meeting new people. The long nights spent talking and enjoying time with friends contrasted to the peaceful alone time on a BC highway is something that made me grateful for both.

 

Trouble on the Highways

 

The first night saw a speed bump. I was trying to get all the way to Chase, BC (near Salmon Arm). However, mother nature had other plans. The rogers pass was closed for 2 days, with extreme avalanches that were actually mind boggling once we drove by them. For backcountry skier types, these avalanches were size 4 and ran full path, carrying full mature timber in them. There were probably close to a dozen to be seen from the highway, and two that crossed the highway. An amazing avalanche cycle. There was also a closure for a mudslide near Sicamous. So the chance of getting to Chase were very low, even if the Pass opened. To make matters worse, it was raining steadily on the divide where we were. And Firewood was not sold in the park. And all of the campsites near golden were full cause of the closure.

Sometimes, things just work out.

Luckily, another good friend of mine and my brother was also heading out and got blocked as well. We rendezvoused in Field, got a few tips from the visitor center, managed to find a few logs from a local in field, and headed down some logging road that took us to a land use zone. Somehow, me managed to find an incredible camp spot hidden away with a beautiful view of a waterfall, a bench and fire pit. And right as the rain stopped. Miraculously, we got a fire gong in the wet conditions with only full logs and no axe or hatchet.

We proceeded to drink beers and shoot cans and get gloriously tipsy all night before I stumbled over to my hammock and fell into a deep slumber with the tumbling sound of the waterfall in the background.

Some might know this spot… A true gem. Directions not included.

 

Getting back on track

 

The only complaint with day 1 was that I didn’t get to fish at all. So I fixed that on day 2. I stopped at a few lakes on my way over to Chase and the Rec site where my brother and their clan were chillin. Spot I knew and have had luck before. I hooked a big bully but couldn’t land him. Missed a few rainbows and probably got some ticks in the deathly willows that seemed so innocent from the highway. So I ripped over to the hangout for the next couple of days, another great rec site on a beautiful Lake called Harper Lake. This lake is tough to find, and after being lost for a bit and some very demanding but managable logging roads, I found myself at the beutiful spot they had. As soon as I got there, I could see the trout rising. Finally, I could put a fish on the board.

We caught up with everyone for a little bit once we got there. Caught up, ate some food. But it wasn’t long before the rising trout were all me and Mark could think of. Tactfully, we slipped away and finally got fishing.

I didn’t have a boat so Mark did the kind thing and ditched his belly boat so we could fish together. The casting was tough from shore, but after some bushwhacking, mud wading, and then navigating some floating tree islands, we found ourselves in a nice position to cast to some risers. It was a good night fishing, and while neither of us hooked into anything big, we each caught 3 fish and it was nice to get some dry fly action.

 

After that, with the trout itch stratched, we bundled up for the cold night and didn’t move far from the fire the rest of the night, except to grab a beer or a hot dog. It was a good night with good people, and again I fell asleep in my hammock very satisfied and tired.

I fell asleep in my swinging hammock under the moon, and awoke to the rustling of trees and the sound of birds.

After a morning coffee and a few goodbyes, I fished a little bit and explored that morning, cleaned up camp and then hit the road again. I was headed to Kelowna today, staying with Mark. A shower was very necassary. And maybe something that wasn’t a hot dog.

This day was the hump day, as there was no fishing to be had in the Okanagan as the rain came down and everything was flooded. But, I knew I would be able to find some good fishing in the Kootenays, and the thought of fish had me excited for what the road ahead would bring. I got cleaned up, showered, and had another good sleep on Mark’s couch.

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The great part about this roadtrip is that it took me to some places that are not necassarily famed trout waters, or well known, well publicized waters. Out of all the places I wet a line: Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, and in the West Kootenays in Nelson and Castlgar, none are considered the best places to fish. They are not like Fernie, Kamloops, the Skeena, or the Island, where people flock to for trout. No. These are the lesser known, but if one puts in a bit of time and knows the right people, there is still tons of great fishing to be had, and big fish to be caught, even in the middle of run-off.

So I left Kelowna with the mighty Columbia River in mind. It was a tail water fishery that flows out of a bottom-drawing dam. Meaning clear, consistent flows. I used to live in Nelson, and I always head back there. It took a while, but slowly but surely, I’ve begun to figure this huge river out.

A Columbia River Rainbow. In part 2 we will talk about this great fishery and how to catch these bog rainbows!

But I suppose this departure marks the Halfway point of my journey, and once you enter into the magical portal of the Kootenays it really becomes a story of its own. And you should probably get back to whatever it is that you should be doing besides reading this (although I thank you for reading this far).

So that is where I’m going to leave it for today. Right as I enter the portal into the Kootenays and begin my search for big rainbows.

I will talk about the Columbia River and tips on fishing for these Rainbows in the next post, as well as the town of Nelson and it’s amazing culture of happiness, and the rest of the trip in Roadtrippin PT  II… 

 

Keep your eyes open the next few days!

Tight lines,

KR

 

Bushwhackers Society Spring Preview

Bushwhackers Society Spring Preview

Hello everyone and Welcome back to the Bushwhackers Society Blog for the 2017 Fly-Fishing season. Open water has arrived in Alberta; a good chunk of fine trout water is now open for the season, and the ice is coming off in time for anglers to enjoy some great fishing!

Spring time for me usually means a couple of things. Trying to figure out life and upcoming work being the first and foremost priority. But also trying to enjoy every last second on the ski hills as winter fades into memory, while old memories of trout come and gone slowly start to bubble back up to the surface of my brain. Alberta has a great mix of water that is outstanding during the spring, and while many are eager to get out and get back into the swing of things, most anglers don’t really begin to think about fishing until after spring run-off. I for one began thinking about fishing as soon as I realized it was April 1st and all my favourite Brown Trout streams were open for business. So, alas, I have quit my winter job and now find myself able to enjoy all the great trout fishing and skiing until my heart is content. Which will probably never happen.

With the open water comes a few friendly reminders from the Bushwhackers Society. April 1st marks the new angling season. So if you plan on heading out fishing, make sure you get your new fishing licence. Check your regulations, as only select waters are open and many special regulations apply. Save yourself the ticket and the paranoia and pick one up as you gear up for the first time.

The second reminder is that of the persisting problem of Whirling disease. We covered this topic in a prior post, so if you want to learn more check it out here

 Whirling Disease In the Bow River

So just one more friendly reminder to clean (with a bleach solution) all of your wading gear if you are heading anywhere outside of the Bow River. This is important and each person is equally responsible for the protection of our waters.

Finally, a few interesting changes worth noting for this season. The Bow River will be open along its length for the entire season. Welcome news for anglers looking to fish the upper Bow. And further, the Bow River will be Catch and Release only for all trout. Another interesting change that all anglers should be aware of.

Now, onto the fun stuff. Open water!!

Wondering where to head out for your spring adventures? Beginning in the south, here is what is open and worth trying.

Crowsnest River:  The stretch that is open is from the East Hillcrest Bridge downstream to Lundbreck Falls. The river is closed from the falls to the HWY 3 Bridge, and then open again from the Bridge to the reservoir. Early spring should be the best as the Crow, along with most mountain fed streams, should experience a large runoff once things warm up. The Salmonfly hatch will be underway soon, and this can be great fishing, Get after it.

Oldman River: The Oldman River is open downstream of the HWY 22 bridge to the Reservoir, and also directly below the Reservoir. This should also be good fishing until spring run-off begins, after which is will be un-fishable until late June or July.

Bow River: While it never closed, the Bow is fishing great and always gives anglers a chance at great fish. Streamers and Nymphs will produce if you put in your time.

Red Deer River Basin: The mainstem of the Red Deer River is open, along with most of the major tributaries. The mainstem is mostly ice-free all the way up to the headwaters, however, the slower moving tributaries still have some ice and are probably a few warm days away from being ready to fish. The faster flowing mountain fed tributaries are ice free, and should be good fishing until run-off begins. These include the James River, the Panther River, the Dormer, to name a few.

A nice Brown from one of Alberta’s Spring Creeks

The spring creeks are where some ice still exist, but up in the middle sections they are close. The Browns can be sluggish and skinny after a long, post-spawn winter, so treat the fish right if you do go hunting them in the next week of so. The spring creeks are your best bet for fishing once spring run-off begins, as they will stay low and clear. Focus on the deep water with small streamers and big nymphs and you should have good luck.

Clearwater/ North Saskachewan: Again, good stretches of water open in the main stems of the Clearwater and in the N. Sask.

Lakes: Alpine lakes will still have ice for another month or so, but lower lakes are all becoming ice free and should be ice free in a couple weeks. Once run off begins, lakes are a great way to get into some fish and knock off some rust.

There is other streams open in Watersheds that are otherwise primarily closed. Check your regulations before heading out. This is also a great time of year to do some reckon on streams that you have never fished and to just get out and explore. There is always something new to find.

This time of year, I always find the the snow pack charts very interesting in terms of what we can expect for mid-summer flows and spring run-off. Alberta Fishing guide magazine always keeps me informed, and from the charts this year, it looks like we can expect strong run-off and healthy mid-season flows.

Red Deer River Drainage

Oldman River Drainage

 

As you can see, we are at the very top end of the Quartiles and have a very healthy mountain Snowpack.

(Charts Coutesy of: Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine)

For an always great forecast and endless information about Fly-Fishing in Alberta, head to the Alberta Fishing Guide Forecast.

 

And there you have it folks. At the very least, I hope this gets you a little excited about the upcoming season and at least gets you thinking about fishing once again. I can’t wait for the upcoming season and all the places it may take me, and all the people I will share it with.

If you have any more questions, want to go fishing, or just looking for some feedback, feel free to email us at Bushwackersflyfish@gmail.com, or like us on Facebook and reach out to us through there.

Hope to see you all on the River!

KR

 

 

Whirling disease in the Bow River

Whirling disease in the Bow River

As most anglers in southern Alberta are aware, this past season of fishing came with some very scary and dreaded news.

Whirling Disease has been discovered in our treasured and world renowned Bow River.

This was accompanied by a general feeling of dread and fear, as past case studies (Montana being the most commonly noted) have shown how destructive this particular parasite can be. While this is scary, we feel as though the most logical approach to solving, or at least mitigating the ill effects on our fisheries is through education; learning about the disease, and knowing what we can do as anglers to be part of the solution. And then ensuring our provincial government is doing what needs to be done to deal with this effectively.
For those of you that are not familiar with this parasite, below is a short overview of whirling disease in Alberta, written by a friend of the Bushwhackers Society, Joseph Morgan Casat. He wrote this piece for his class in the Fisheries and Wildlife program at Selkirk college and also appeared in the castlegar paper for his work. Enjoy!

Whirling down the Bow River

Joseph Morgan Casat

What a surprise, yet another invasive species we have to deal with.  This time however, the invader is tiny, microscopic.  This invasive species has made its way to the Bow River system in Banff National Park. A first appearance in Canada, the microscopic organism causes Whirling disease, affecting fish in the salmon family like Rainbow trout, everyone’s favorite game fish.

This disease causes a deformed spine and blackened tail, making it look as if someone has pinched and bent the spine near the tail.  It also reshapes the head, making it squarer.

Whirling disease showed up in North America first in Pennsylvania in 1956. Because this disease is endemic to Europe, the fish there have gained a sort of immunity to the parasites. In North America, our fish have little immunity to the disease.  Currently fish populations are being closely monitored around the Great Lakes since it was detected in some American hatcheries, but still was never recorded in Canada…until now.

While there is no risk to human health when consuming infected fish, it can be lethal to the fish it infects. The parasites first infect sludge worms, a common worm found in the sediment of most lakes and rivers.  At some point, infected worms are then consumed by juvenile fish and causes skeletal deformation and neurological damage.  Both of these lead an awkward corkscrew swimming pattern, usually belly up, giving the disease its name. Due to the effects of this disease, it becomes difficult for fish to feed and they are more prone to predation. Once the fish dies, the parasite returns to the water, are consumed by the aquatic worms and the cycle continues. The parasites end up in new places by the movement of infected fish, infected worms, contaminated equipment, birds or water

On August 23, 2016 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed Whirling disease to be present in fish found in Jonson Lake in Banff. In an attempt to control spreading, the lake was closed soon thereafter.  The concern was that it would flow out of the lake and into the connecting river systems.  Jonson Lake flows into Cascade River which then connects to Bow River.  

On September 7th, a fish taken from just below the confluence of the Cascade and Bow Rivers tested positive for Whirling disease. Recently there have been more cases including several in unnamed commercial aquaculture facilities in Alberta.  It’s also been found in a section of the Lower Bow river to Tunnel mountain, Carrot Creek, all of the Cascade River as well as Cascade creek, and Spray river upstream of the confluence the Bow and Cascade rivers.  It’s spreading quickly.

There is no known cure for the disease but that doesn’t mean we are helpless. Anglers and recreational river users can take steps to prevent the spread of the parasite. Clean, Drain, Dry is a slogan used in attempt to stop the spread of other invasive species via boats. It also applies for the spread of Whirling disease.  The program is intended to encourage boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats before transporting them between different water sheds.

Dispose of fish entrails and carcasses when done fishing. Clean your footwear, waders, lines and flies in a bleach and water solution when moving to a new area, stream or water body. Check online for reports of the disease in waters you intend to fish. By learning to recognize the symptoms of the disease and not transporting infected fish whether dead or alive, you can also reduce the chance of the disease spreading.


For more information and updates on Whirling disease in the Bow River, I recommend heading over to Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine. Dave Jensen is a prominent fly-fishing figure in Alberta and is certainly in the know when it comes to these sort of things. Below is a link!

Whirling Disease Update & Information

 

Remember, when it comes to these sorts of things, knowledge is power! All of us have a vested interest in keeping this issue as minor as possible, and we must hold everyone accountable. So, while we all sit around and go crazy awaiting the return of fishing season, maybe its time to go and bleach our waders and boots and do our small part to tackle this issue!

Hope everyone is enjoying their winter and that the shack nasties are not hitting to bad. There is a chinook on the horizon for Southern Alberta; if you can, maybe go out and sneak in a few casts!

Cheers,

The Bushwhackers Crew

Going with the Flow: The qualms of a working man

Going with the Flow: The qualms of a working man

Life, I have come to realize, is unpredictable, and unrelenting. Like a mountain stream, we do not control the flow of our lives; instead, we are immersed in it, amongst it, shaped by it. There will be riffles, pools, and tailouts; waterfalls and canyons. But always flowing, always moving, towards some end that can not be determined; for it is the unknown.

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This thing called life happened to me this summer. After trying my hardest to pretend it didn’t exist all through the spring and early summer, my debt, lack of options, and the other inevitabilities of life caught up to me. And so I had to work (a concept that had become foreign to me after months of travel and chasing fish). 5 days a week, 11 hours a day. 7 am to 6 PM. I also joined a softball league that played every Sunday… As I embarked on this new lifestyle, I was struck by a thought…

“WHAT THE FUCK?!? When the hell am I going to fish?”

Well, my schedule really only left me one option; so I’ve been battling the crowds every Saturday like a true weekend warrior ever since. The problem is, when you only have one day a week to fish, the conditions don’t always line up perfectly. That one day of the week typically isn’t the one day where the conditions are on fire. The other problem is, when you only have one day a week to fish, and you don’t catch any fish, you get filled with an all consuming dread for the upcoming work week. It’s like a part of your soul is missing; you forget what its like to have a fish on. You start to feel sorry for yourself- harbouring secret thoughts of quitting and leaving it all behind- until you snap out of it and back to reality.

The third problem is, when you only have one free day a week to fish, you aren’t left any time to write about fishing. The only reason I’m writing now is because I have the back of a 80 year old man and it has left me physically unable to go into work for a few days, and wondering if I should feel guilty about hitting the river while my colleagues work. (If your looking for an update on conditions and some tips for catching fish in the fall, I cover that at the end of this post.)

Alas, I feel as though my struggle is relatable to most people in the fishing world. At the beginning of the season, we nourish such great hopes of everywhere we want to fish, of all the great adventures that shall pass, and all the fish we will catch. Yet somehow, you will wake up and realize that the leaves are yellow, and time is running out, and many of the things that were on the list will have to wait until next year. If your lucky.

But despite this, you always have a bank of memories from the season that was that remind you that not all is lost. I caught so many beautiful trout this year that it would be a sin to complain. And the long weeks that sometimes passed between them only made them that much sweeter. And learning to find that balance between the sublime and the less desirable aspects of life is what makes life what it is.

A turbulent ride into the unknown.

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Fishing in the Fall

With that being said, this is easily my favourite time of the year to fish. Even on a saturday, you will find you have the river to yourself (as I did this Saturday, not too far from Calgary). The fish are beautiful and coloured up and trying to get fat for the winter. The trees and the mosaic of colours is amazing. And the fishing is generally good and straightforward.

The fishing this time of year in southern Alberta will be best in the mid afternoon heat until the early evening, and follow the sun. Dry fly fishing will be more sporadic; but there are still some caddisflies and mayflies kicking around. In the sunny areas, it never hurts to throw on a small dry fly and see what happens. There can also be hatches of October Caddis; a gargantuan bug best fished with a large orange stimulator. This time of year though, sight nymphing is an absolute blast and will give you the best chance of catching fish. Small copper johns, pheasant tails, or hares ear nymphs fished slow and deep should bring you action in most pools. Fish them under a small indicator, or naked, and keep your eyes peeled for a flash in the pool or the straightening or your line. This is one of my favourite ways to fish and is really great for improving your feel with a nymph!

If you plan on fishing the Bow river, everything above also applies. Small nymphs will give you an excellent chance of catching big, hard fighting fish. Streamer fishing has also been good, the classic bow river bugger being my go to fly. On warmer days over 20 degrees, there should be some hoppers out. A hopper-dropper rig with a copper john 12-18″ below is a great setup. And don’t forget about the San Juan worm. It produces very well this time of year.

The Browns to the north of Calgary and in the Bow River will begin spawning in a couple weeks here. Come October, these streams should be left alone. As for now, they are fishing well, and Browns are big and healthy. Cloudy days should give you the best chance at finding rising fish, and almost assuredly they will be eating small BWO’s. If you see a fish that appears to be spawning, leave it alone; it will be aggressive and one streamer will probably induce a strike, but these fish are under a lot of stress and need to be left alone. So if your having dreams of one last big brown, go get him in the next couple weeks before its too late.

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Thanks to everyone who has reached out to us through Instagram and our other accounts. We really love hearing from everyone and trying to help you any way possible. This year has kind of been a trial run for us, and despite being too busy too make lunch most days, we’ve still managed to have a lot of fun running this blog and other accounts. We are going to continue to keep you inspired on fishing through the winter, and have big plans for next fishing season. Please share the blog with your friends and get in contact with us if you would like to fish or have any questions!Click here …) 

Tight lines and happy fishing!

-Kevin Rossi 

 

 

Canada Day Forecast: Sunny with a Chance of Trout

Canada Day Forecast: Sunny with a Chance of Trout

A Canadians Guide to catching fish in the crowds.

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Today, our great Nation turns 149 years old. Happy Birthday Canada. Although that seems like a long time, it really is quite young as far as nations go; I kinda see Canada kinda like some young adult, maybe in its early 20’s, just coming into it’s prime. While the US is like a over-egotistical, well established professional in its late-to-early 30’s that thinks they are the best, while not wanting to admit they are a disaster and are bringing the rest of of our world down with them. Countries in Europe, well they are like the baby boomers of our world. Older and wiser, more complex, but also past their prime and not nearly as robust of a place as Canada. So here is to being young and in our prime!

So to get back on track (I guess I am supposed to be talking about fishing here), let us talk about another thing coming into it’s prime. And that would be trout rivers across Alberta and BC. What a better way to celebrate a country in its prime than to hit the rivers and catch some fish; and then maybe drink some Kokanee’s, have a campfire, shoot some skeet, (insert other cliche Canadian things here), and remember what is is that makes our country great.

As for the actual fishing, well, this report will be different. Because I would like to celebrate this great nation by drinking copious amounts of beer this afternoon (and then working off my hangover on the river tomorrow), I will keep this short and sweet. I will sum up each region in one or two  sentences. Cause lingo and flies and weather patterns are all great and fun, but this is a weekend for single minded simplicity.

Foreword:

The largest challenge you will face on the River this week is dodging the crowds. This is an unfortunate reality of the long weekend. To avoid this, we suggest you bring beer in your vest and offer it as a reconciliation gift to your fellow anglers; then, even if they did flog your favourite hole, you can drink a beer together and say the word ‘eh’ a whole bunch and trade fish stories (just an idea). Other ideas: get deep out there; use this weekend to go somewhere remote and wild where you have never been. Post up; while its kinda gutless to claim an entire stretch of river, posting up at a good hole that you know will catch you some fish for an hour or so will save you the headache of seeing another fisherman around each bend. This is especially fair if you put in the work to get to that hole first. Dont stay all day, but take your time, catch your fish, and then move on. Communicate; communicate with your fellow anglers. Talk to them when they go by. Ask them about the fishing, if they caught anything, if there is anyone else around. And if you park at a bridge, leave a note saying which way you went. 

So… Now for some one liners. Here is the simpletons report:

Alberta Front Ranges

Bring your sunscreen and forget your shirts, it’ll be a beauty weekend (but maybe bring a rainjacket in case of tornadoes), and remember two simple words if you aren’t catching fish: DEEP NYMPHS (particularily golden stones… They cant seem to say no these days.)

Kootenays

Hot and Sunny, the fishin should be money; as long as you dont mind dodging drift boats on the Elk… Might be a good weekend to try some of the other tributaries to escape the crowds. Wherever you go, remember to bring your Green Drake pattern… And big shiny streamers that no big bully can resist!

Okanagan

Now you guys are the lucky ones. Cause even the busiest days on the Kettle and Granby Rivers pale in comparison to the hordes of southern Alberta and the Kootenays. Bring a caddis, or a coachmen, or a stimulator. A couple of stonefly nymphs if those don’t work. Maybe a bucket hat and some shades…. If the fish arent biting, just go for a swim and try again. That usually works.

So there ya have it… My words of wisdom for those that wish to celebrate our country by catching trout. Remember, especially on a weekend such as this, there a very few things in the fishing world that can not be fixed by a beer, a peaceful smoke of a substance of your choice, or a good nap. And that, I suppose, is what makes Canadians such great fishermen!

Happy Canada Day and Happy Fishing!

Kevin Rossi

River Update: Freedom at last!

River Update: Freedom at last!

Hello and welcome to the first River update of the 2016 fishing season! For those of you that have been living under a rock; you can now stop. Our Trout waters are all open on Thursday, and finally we can freely explore as we wish without always having to check our regulations, while constantly asking ourselves if we really want to be the type of person that poaches closed water. Cause nobody wants to be that person… But 7 longs months of captivity can make any beast unruly, so lets just say we understand your ethical dilemma. And that you don’t have to worry any longer.

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First, I would like to explain a little bit about how our river updates are going to work. The admin team here at Bushwhackers will be the ones curating and posting the information to our blog in the form of bi-weekly river updates. We are based in the Okanagan, the West Kootenays, and Southern Alberta. Based on our recent fishing, we will update our readers on conditions that we have encountered over the past couple of weeks, and what we would expect moving forward based on weather and other factors. We cannot, however we might try, accurately inform you on all the areas and rivers from the Okanagan to Central Alberta. To try to keep you as updated as possible, we have an extensive network of ‘fly-fishing spies’ that is growing everyday that will be sending us reports on water levels, fish activity, hatches, and weather in their region. These are friends and followers who have expressed interest in helping us. In most cases, we will summarize the info they have passed along to us, and in other cases, these people will write the river update themselves for that particular region. It all depends on A) much new information there is to report, and B) how much time I have to compile everything.

To add to that, the goal of our river report is to give you a general idea of what kind of conditions you might be facing in your region, and to give you a good starting point on what to do to catch fish. It is not to publish a short essay on every single watershed every couple of weeks. Especially once summer hits, the fishing, particularly in the Alberta high-country/ East Kootenays is pretty stable and the tactics and suggestions will remain pretty much the same. If there is much to report, it will usually be by way of new hatches, significant weather changes in the forecast, or any important information such as river closures and warnings.

So let’s get to it!

This report will typically break down into 3 regions: Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenays, and the Alberta Front Ranges. We may add more specific information on Rivers like the Bow River, the Crownsest River, and the Columbia River as we gather more info and gain more contributors, but for now, we will summarize the fishing in these regions.

Luckily, I have been able to spend the entire past week driving from Calgary to Kelowna, fishing for several days in the South Okanagan and Boundary Country, before fishing my way back again, along highway 3. This gave me a very good idea of what water levels are doing across the board. And what I have concluded is that we are all in for a fantastic spring of fishing. Beginning with the Kettle and West Kettle Rivers all the way back to the Bow River, every piece of moving water I encountered is coming into great shape and are all running at least partly clear. The over-arching theme of this report is simple; get out there. The next couple of weeks might be some of the best fishing of the season.

Please, if you have any feedback on what kind of information you would like, what format these reports should take, or just general inquiries about where you are fishing, please reach out to us via facebook or email.

Scroll down to your region or read them all. Enjoy the first week of open water!

If you like what you see please subscribe to the Blog over there —–>

Thompson-Okanagan

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I was pleasantly surprised when I came over the hills after Big White and into the West Kettle River valley to see the West Kettle River running gin-clear in the canyon below. Usually at this time of year the Kettle would be large and muddy, un-fishable for a couple weeks yet. However, it appears that the bulk of the snowpack has come off and the river is now running high and clear, all the way to Grand-forks, where the water begins to cloud up slightly. This being one of the many rivers in this region exempt from the spring closure, I hacked my way through the brush down to the river for a short hour or so fishing before I had to be on my way. I caught one rainbow of about 11″ on a big grey stonefly nymph. I wish I could have lingered into the afternoon and some sunshine as I know the feisty rainbows in this river would begin to stick there snouts up shortly, but, I had to return to my vehicle and admire the beautiful river from the highway instead.

The day before, my brother and I were able to explore some of the rivers in the south Okanagan. The story was the same on these Rivers as well. They were still running high and healthy, but the water is now cleared up and should continue to improve every day. We were able to catch plenty of small rainbows on high-floating dry flies like royal coachmen and saw good numbers of PMD’s hatching in the early evening on the smaller tributaries and Caddisflies in the valley bottom.

The weather forecast for the next couple of weeks is slightly unsettled this week before a return to sunny and hot by the weekend and into next week. In the more unsettled weather nymphs will give you your best chance at catching fish, and be aware for isolated hatches of mayflies and PMD’s in the evening. Fish the outside of bends with a deep nymph like a stonefly, copper-john, or a bead-head prince under an indicator. Use split-shot to get your fly deep enough in the fast water. Once the weather begins to get warmer, the dry fly fishing should be superb. Fish big stimulators, royal-coachmen, or elk hair caddis’s, or anything that might get their attention, and be ready for these feisty Columbia basin rainbows to come and smash your dry-fly!

Remember, the Kettle, West Kettle, and Granby Rivers are only open for fishing until the end of July. So get out there now and enjoy the fantastic trout fishing they have to offer!

Flies to Bring:

Dries: Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulators, Parachute Adams, Royal Coachmen, Pale-Morning Dun, Light Cahill, Green Drake.

Nymphs: Stoneflies (golden, grey, or black), Bead-head Prince, Hares Ear, Copper John.

Kootenays

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While in region 8 and in parts of southern Alberta there are several bodies of water that are exempt from spring closure, all streams in region 4 have been closed until now save for the Columbia River in Castlegar and stretches of the Kootenay River near Nelson. So anglers in this region are going particularly crazy, and are probably pretty tired of fishing lakes. Well, the wait is over, and anglers in this region will be greeted by some fantastic fishing.

This is a large region with many types of different waters to fish. Generally speaking, when describing conditions in this region, we are referring to the tributaries of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and not the main stems themselves. The main stems are unique fisheries and require different tactics altogether. The east Kootenays garner the majority of attention in this region, as the Cutthroat Fishing in the Elk, Bull and St. Mary’s river offer some world class fishing for cutthroat. But there are also good trout streams in the central and West Kootenays that offer good fishing, but with slightly lower populations and slightly smaller fish. These include the Slocan River and its tributaries, the Salmo River, the Goat River, and the Moyie River. These streams however, see virtually no fishing pressure compared to their eastern cousins, and in my past year living in Nelson, I have come to love these streams. They will be discussed together unless there appears to be a significant difference in conditions between the rivers in the east and those mentioned in the West.

On my drive-through, the Rivers in this region are slightly higher than those to the west but still in good shape for this time of year. The Elk River was running high, and slightly discolored, but beginning to clear to a point where Dry-Flies will begin to produce. I have been told by a confidant that the water in the St. Mary’s and the Bull is in similar condition, perhaps slightly higher. I suspect the Elk will be in perfect shape come the weekend, and its northern cousins only a few days behind. The tributaries are now running clear and dry-fly fishing in these should be fantastic.

This time of year there can be epic dry fly fishing when adult stoneflies come to the water to lay eggs leading to epic feeding frenzies on these rivers. This can be imitated with a large size 4-6 stimulator, and is usually most effective when a little twitch or skid is added. Movement and drag are good; these bugs are big and stupid, without the slightest degree of grace. And the fish love em. Get out there as you never know when this might occur. Last year on opening day, me and my cousin were able to experience such an event on the Elk River and the epic dry-fly smashing that occurs is something you don’t want to miss. The weather will be slightly cooler this week, so hatches will likely be more sporadic. Smaller mayflies, and Blue-winged Olives on the rainy days, along with deep nymphs will give your best shot at catching fish until the weather gets a little warmer early next week.  I suspect the dry fly fishing will really get going once it gets warm and after this it shouldn’t be hard to convince fish to come up for stimulators, Royal Coachmen, or Caddis patterns. The Green Drake hatches will also begin soon and this is a ‘must-have’ fly to carry in these waters.

If you are targeting bulls, I suspect they shouldn’t be too tough to fool this early in the year. Find the deep pools, get down deep and give your streamer a rip and see what happens. Carry a few variations and sizes. A good general rule is too use something brighter on sunny days, and darker on cloudy days. The bullies should be hungry and this is some of the best fishing around.

Get out and explore the tributaries of the Elk, and other Kootenay Rivers. Look on a map. Almost all these little creeks and smaller rivers have fantastic fishing for cutties in the east and rainbows in the west and native bull trout. We won’t tell you the names of some of these gems; but we trust you to get out there and find them.

Flies to bring:

Dries: Parachute Adams, Blue-Winged Olive, Green Drake, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator, Royal Coachmen.

Nymphs: Golden Stonefly, Bead-head Prince, Hares Ear, Copper John.

Alberta Front Ranges

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This is my choice for fishing this weekend. In southern Alberta, all the major rivers are low and clear and in perfect shape. For all the high country rivers in southern alberta, including the Oldman, the Highwood, and the Sheep River and all their tributaries, not much changes from the ‘Kootenay’ section above, save for slightly warmer temps and better water conditions. I suspect these streams will come out firing and high-floating dry flies will produce well. Green Drakes will be hatching with the nice weather, and if this fly is working you may not need another fly the entire day.

On my drive-though trip yesterday, I didn’t make it to the Oldman River until after dark. I impulsively decided to pull over at Maycroft and see if I could convince a fish to come up for a stimulator in the dark. Sure enough, after about 10 minutes, a beastly 17″ rainbow came up and smashed my fly, and ripped downstream, tearing out my line with him and giving my 4 wt a good bend. It was a great way to end off a long, fantastic day of trout fishing and driving. If this is any indication of what is in store for everyone who decides to head into the high country to fish for trout who haven’t seen an artificial fly yet this season, I think we are all in for a treat.

The spring creeks in Central Alberta have been fishing well. PMD’s are just beginning to hatch, and I also saw some very large brown mayflies coming off in copious numbers. After a slow morning of fishing, my size 12 dark cahill mayfly rattled off 7 fish in a row during this mid-afternoon hatch. And with all the high country streams open, these creeks will be less crowded and are still fishing well. However, fish are becoming a little more choosey, and I found this to be particularily true when fishing with streamers. They seem to be much more wary as is usual after being fished hard throughout the spring, and good presentation will be even more crucial.

Just one more note about Central Alberta. The water flows in these streams are already very low. Although we seem to have a good stretch of weather forthcoming, if things get too warm these fish will begin to be very stressed with lack of habitat and increasing temps, and fishing for these fish would just be wrong. During this week, I caught and handled a large brown with care, although the fly was deep in his throat so it took me a a little longer to get the fly out. Even after this short break where he was wet the entire time, he had to be held in the main current for quite a while and when he did swim away he did so very sluggishly. This is a sign that it could be a very tough season for our Browns if they are already unable to recover after being caught. If temperatures increase much more than where they are at, proper handling and catch and release practices will be very important if you intend on fishing theses streams.

Flies to bring:

Dries: Green Drake, Pale morning Dun, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulators, Light/Dark Cahill

Nymphs: Golden Stonefly, Bead-head Prince, Copper-John, Hares Ear, Bitch Creek.

 

Thanks everyone for reading. We hope you find some good fishing and enjoy the first days of open water as much as we plan to. As for the Bushwhackers, we plan on venturing deep into the backcountry of a Highwood River tributary. Gonna be a good couple weeks ahead! Get out there and get some, we want to see your photos!

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