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Reflections from the 2017 Fly Fishing Season

Reflections from the 2017 Fly Fishing Season

What a season of Fly-Fishing it has been! And, even now, as we proceed deeper into October, the lines have still been tight and the rod has been bent over more days than not… As always this time of year, I find my mind wandering and reflecting back on the many great times the river has granted me in the past months. To the many new rivers and streams I’ve explored this year, to the amazing clients and friends my new job has afforded me, to the odd and whacky weather that is seemingly becoming the norm. Yes, every year does bring something new, something enriching that reminds us why we fly fish. So, as the season winds down, I have compiled my top riverside reflections from the past season. Enjoy!

 

The amount of water to explore in Alberta is endless

 

I was beginning to think that I was starting to get to know most of the good places to fish in Alberta. That is until I began to work in a river system (Red Deer River) that is generally not  considered the Creme-d-la-creme when it comes to Alberta fly-fishing. Yes, the spring fed creeks in it’s lower reaches is great fishing for browns, and most people know about these streams. I have explored almost all of them and thought I knew about all the good streams in the Red Deer system… But working up in the Red Deer River high country, I simply had no idea as to the extent of the Backcountry Streams.

What about the Panther River? Sheep Creek? Williams Creek? James River? Places where the scenery is worth the trip alone, like the upper Red Deer near the Ya-ha Tinda. And hidden backcountry gems, places that I have no regret sharing because there is probably only a handful of people who fished them all season, like the Dormer River, DogRib Creek, and the Upper Panther.

And then thinking about the places where I have barely scratched the surface, in the Ram watersheds, the Tribs of the N. Sask, the peace, and the Athabasca… We are truly blessed. So next year, maybe instead of going to the overfished waters like the Livingstone, the N. Ram,  the Highwood, the Oldman, or the Crowsnest, maybe think about heading somehwhere where you can’t find any info about on Fishing forums and threads… Cause, from this years experience, there is fish almost everywhere for the angler willing to put in his time.

 

A lunker from the Panther River

Let the Universe surprise you

 

This season, I had the pleasure of meeting, working with and spending time with a couple of my fly-fishing idols, Jim Mclennan and Derek Bird. And, it happened out of complete random chance. It’s not everyday you roll into work (luckily I was early, or would have missed them altogether), and see Jim Mclennan sitting on his tailgate right in the parking lot, with Derek Bird and the Fly Fusion crew, and Naoto Aoki, Josh Nugent and the rest of the guys from Out Fly Fishing Outfitters.  I obviously went right up and began chatting, seeing what the hell the worlds second largest fly-fishing magazine was doing up here in one of the lesser known corners of Alberta. Apparently, the southern portions of our province were closed due to wildfire smoke. They had to improvise, and decided to come up to the S. Ram, and then to the Upper Red Deer, where they needed some lodging (and that is where we came in).

After a few minutes of chatting, I figured I should let the crew know that we had a helicopter on site, one that could give them access to some world class high alpine lakes. And from there, an episode of the upcoming Fly-Fusion TV was born. While I didn’t get to join on the fishing, I got to spend 2 days getting to know everyone, learning from Jim and Derek, and helping the crew by giving them tips and advice on fishing in my backyard. They were all so ecstatic and grateful, and for sure it was one of the highlights of the summer. I am hopeful and excited for the chance to work together again in the future. So, keep your eyes peeled for that episode of the upcoming season 3 of Fly Fusion TV.  

 

Climate Change is a real thing

 

Alright, I know anyone who isn’t a dimwit already knows this. And if you are reading this and you disagree, I find that a little troubling, so please unsubrscribe and go back to watching trump propganda videos. What I do take away from this season, and what I feel is significant to the whole climate change dialogue, is that I feel as though we are genuinely beginning to experience this entire phenomena as we enjoy and interact with our trout streams, on a day to day, month to month, and season to season basis.

What do I mean by this?

Climate change is shifting from that hypothetical, far-off yet inevitable reality to something that is actually beginning to impact us in the real world now. And its people like us, Fly anglers, who are one of the few demographics that interact with the environment on such a intimate level that we actually begin to notice these changes.

Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe not. What I can tell you is that climate change experts will tell you that we will experience climate change by have larger seasonal variability, AKA more ‘anomalies’ in our weather systems. More floods, more droughts, more extreme weather, and overall, just more unpredictability. And nothing sheds light on this reality like the past several years taken as a whole. Starting with this season, where many parts of Alberta went over 2 months without receiving any measurable rain, and a summer that was one of the driest in living memory. All I can tell you, is that since I have become a serious fly angler, almost every year has been considered an ‘anomaly’. Starting with the 100 year flood of 2013, the consecutive low snowpack and impending droughts of 2015 and 2016, and now the dryest summer in memory, which also resulted in dangerously low river flows, particualrily in our spring creeks.

I’m just saying. I’m also a skier, and we have received some alarming avalanche conditions in the past several years, including the largest avalanche cycle on record last season. This stuff is beginning to affect us, and will continue to affect our trout. As I’ve discussed before, trout are fickle creatures, and can only withstand very small amounts of climate variability. So, being the in-tune, climate conscious outdoorsmen that we are, it’s up to us to recognize these things, and do everything in our power to protect our resource, including practicing catch and release, safe handling, pinching of barbs, staying off the rivers when conditions dictate, and also helping educate those in our community who arent as aware of how fleeting out trout populations might be.

 

Browns were in tough with the low rainfall this season.

 

Always carry Bearspray!

 

My final reflection from this season. In late August, a man showed up to our Lodge after being visciously mauled by a grizzly. We were able to helicopter him to safety. I was able to meet this man, and seeing how quickly things can happen really made me think. This man was lucky to survive, and it was his sheer will and determination that saved him and got him to our Lodge.

When venturing into the backcountry, which is what we support and condone here at Bushwhackers, you MUST be prepared. Even if you have gone to a place a hundred times and never seen a bear, you never know when you might turn the corner on a big griz. So dont take chances. Carry spray!

 

Thanks for Reading! Now get out and enjoy the fine fall fishing! The Bow River has been Bonkers as of late; small copper johns, pheasant tails, hares ears have been producing epic fish! And the high country is still going. Go get em!

 

KR

 

5 Tips for Fishing in the Fall

5 Tips for Fishing in the Fall

Well, it is that time of year once again; when the leaves start changing colors, and your breathe wisps up in front of you in the crisp morning air. The vibrant colors beckon fisherman to their banks, hanging on to the season of fishing that fleetingly hangs on for however long mother nature decides.

And the trout, colored up and beautiful, gobble down the bugs that are still around, trying to get fat for the long winter ahead. Yes, this is certainly the best time of year to fish. However, it can be more challenging than the days of summer, where big dry flies and prolific hatches mean fisherman can chuck dry flys around and have a pretty good shot, most days at least. Luckily, I have compiled here my 5 best tips to make sure you keep the lines bent this fall!

 

 

1) Embrace the Rain!

 

Often times, anglers look outside and see rain and decide to hide inside and forego their fishing plans. DONT! Particularily in the fall, I’ve had some of my best fishing days in that consistent drizzle. In fact, these days usually offer the best dry fly fishing this time of year. You may have heard of the Blue-Winged Olive (BWO). It is a tiny green mayfly that hatches this time of year, usually when the weather is rainy or overcast. So instead of hiding away from the rain, stock up on BWO’s and head out to catch some rising fish!

Blue Winged Olive Pattern

 

2) Go Small and go deep

 

As mentioned, fall does not bring with it the prolific hatches of the summer time. Just because you dont see rising fish does not mean the fish arent eating. Actually, fish are usually feeding aggressively, but their primary food source is subsurface nymphs. Tiny size 16-20 bead head nymphs are absoultely the ticket this time of year, and if you methodically work the pools using small nymphs, you should have great success. These include: Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails, Bead Headed Prince, and the Hares Ear Nymph.

TIP: Try using these small nymphs as a tandem rig to cover more of the water column. Fish one slightly larger nymph, and using tippet, attach a smaller nymph 8″-12″ inches beneath it. This is a great tactic this time of year.

Small nymphs work great in the fall

3)Fish during the heat of the Day

 

The night times and morning this time of year are very chilly. The best fishing this time of year will be during the warmest hours of the day, typically sometime between 11 am and 5 pm. This is when the water will warm up sufficiently to allow fish to begin feeding, and will also be the time when the few hatches that are still going on will occur. Me, I like to still get an early start and hike into a spot that I know will be good, allowing the water to warm up while I’m hiking and then begin fishing once I begin to warm up. Try to be at your favourite spot in that afternoon window when you will have the best shot.

 

4) Fish the Deep pools, deep banks, and Logjams

 

In the Summer, fishing riffles and tailouts can give good results. As fall progresses, fish will begin leaving these lies and move into the deeper water in preparation for winter. Waist deep troughs up against banks will almost always hold fish, and the pools will begin to fill up with fish later into the fall. Focus your fishing on these areas, and ignore the riffles and shallow tailouts. This will allow you to narrow down your casting options and focus on water where there is surely to be fish.

 

 

5) Savour every last fish!

 

Some years we can fish until the end of the open water season in october. Other seasons, the fishing will be no good by the end of September. It is entirely up to mother nature, and while  its great to be optimistic about fishing into october, some years it’s just not realistic. For this reason, make sure you enjoy every last fish; maybe instead of fighting with it, trying to get an awkward iphone pic, just enjoy it;, the brilliant colors, the way it feels, the way it indignantly retreats back to shelter when you release it. It might be a long time yet before you catch another. So be thankful each and every time you hook up, and enjoy the fleeting days of fine fly fishing before winter.

Fishing on November on the Bow last fall

Hopefully this list can help you get plenty more fish before the snow starts flying. Finally we have recieved some rain in Southern Alberta; something that hasnt really happened since June. But looking ahead, it does seem as though summer has officially left, There is lots more chilly, wet weather in the future, and while its been an ideal summer in terms of sunny days, it looks as though Fall might be a bit more variable. This might mean snow up high, which might mean an early conclusion to the season. So I mean it; get out now while you can!

Thanks for reading and tight lines, Bushwhackers!!

 

KR

 

The July Dry-Fly Parade!

The July Dry-Fly Parade!

It’s been a while since I’ve had any time to sit down and write about all the adventures so far this season. Running a fly-fishing blog is great in concept; until you realize you can’t take your laptop out fishing, and then inevitably one must choose between sitting around writing about fly-fishing and actually fly-fishing. The later always seems to win that standoff.

But, at least for now, I’ve had my fair share of good fishing and am contented enough to take an afternoon off and share some of this years trips and talk about the great conditions we have in Alberta and BC right now.

Since things opened up, me and my cousin Garret have been lucky enough to get a few trips into the South Ram and North Ram, some time in the Spring Creeks of Central AB, and most recently down to the Oldman River. I work on the Panther River and have had the pleasure of exploring the many creeks and rivers of the Upper Red Deer this season. All in all, fishing everywhere has been excellent and should continue to be excellent as the dry fly parade is now in full swing.


Panthers Corner

Oddly enough, my recollections of this seasons dry fly parade begins in those waters of the Upper Red Deer, where most of the good fishing is for Bull Trout. I don’t know what the hell is going on, but the Bull Trout in these small creeks (and even the main stem of the panther at times) just can’t seem to pass up a big dry-fly. I spent many week nights this past month hammering bulls, pool after pool, on a big stimulator pattern. This luck actually continued in the Highwood basin just a couple days ago.

   

Some of the Nice Bulls caught on dry Flies this year.

So far, almost all the waters I’ve explored have fair to good fishing, primarily for bulls, but with smaller cutties, brookies, and browns mixed in. It’s a great area, and gets far less pressure than it’s southern neighbours. The throngs of anglers we ran into this weekend on the Oldman took me by suprise after the solitude I unfailingly get when I’m on the Panther and area.


South Ram and North Ram

As always, the Ram River was an absolute treat. We camped out for 2 nights at Ram Falls, and got 3 great days of fishing.

      

The South Ram was high and flowing fast, but we were still able to get lots of Cuttys on the dry fly. Like usual, we had a mad scramble down the canyon followed by the obligatory  ‘who can catch the first fish’ race; which Garret won in short order, hooking into a Cutty in his first few casts. I quickly followed suit, and we were off and running.

Unfortunately, the North Ram did not deliver as the South Ram did. I guess all the speculation about these finicky fish ‘pressing the off button’ is true; we fished on a Monday, and didn’t even see a single sign of a fish. We fished dries, deep nymphs, and streamers. Nothing. Not even a single rise. Very disapointing given the beautiful stretch of River we had hiked into. We continued on this hopeless misery until mid-afternoon, when we said screw it and went back to the South Ram where we proceeded to hammer Cuttys all night.

On the way back, we stopped at Fallentimber Creek for some Browns, and caught some great fish to round it all out.


Oldman River

Last weekend, we headed down to the Oldman to see how our forgotten favourite was doing. With us was a friend of Garrets, Luka, who is just learning to fly-fish. This time, I won the first fish race, and Garret followed up minutes after. We fished 2 of our favourite stretches of the Oldman, and were treated to great fishing. There was lots of bugs out, several hatches of Green drakes, Caddis and PMD’s, as well as the odd stonefly still flying around.

            

 

Luka was able to catch 5  cutties, despite almost catching 7 or 8 more; a few broken lines, hasty sets and missed takes. But overall he had a great day, and I think me and garret now have him hooked for life.

A look ahead…

As mentioned before, things should continue to stay good. The weather forecast for the next week or so promises more sun, so get out now while the water is still cold. The main variable we are dealing with now is the crowds; with summer comes the masses, and this constant pressure on the fish will make them more selective, and can put the fish off, as was the case on the North Ram. Try to get to your water early, to make sure you get it first. And when you do run into other anglers, be respectful and give each other space. And when passing, don’t do the sneak around. It’s much better if you can have a chat with your fellow anglers and let em know what you’ve fished and what you haven’t, and let em know where you’re heading. It takes away the guessing and gives much better peace of mind.

The bug of choice continues to be the Green Drake. These are now hatching in abundance and will consistently give results. Others to use include Caddisflies, PMD’s, Adams, Light Cahill and also Brown Drakes. Nymphing continues to be a good option if dry flies aren’t working to well. If things begin to heat up significantly and the water begins to heat up, limit your fishing to the early mornings and late evenings- for both your own results, and for the best interests of the fish.

 

Well, I think I’ve talked enough; time once again to go fishing. I will be heading back to Cuttyville tomorrow, looking for a cure to my dry fly fever. Check back in in a few days.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me, via the blog, instagram or facebook. I love to talk fishing, and any questions about these or other waters are welcome!!

Thanks for reading and tight lines!

 

-KR

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Photos from a Trout filled week!

Photos from a Trout filled week!

Well, what a great week of fishing it has been! All of our rivers are now open and with the improved weather the bugs are hatching and the fish are hungry! And the smiles seem to be coming more and more frequently… I guess Cutties smashing big stoneflies all day can do that. Here are some of the photos taken by the Bushwhackers Crew over the past couple of days!

Myself, I was lucky enough to be fishing in southeast Alberta this past week. On thursday, the first day of open water here in Alberta, myself and my cousin went venturing into the Highwood River Basin, with what was seemingly every other angler in southern Alberta. At 7 am, as we drove up the Highwood valley, pretty much every access point already had 2-3 cars. We couldn’t believe it. I guess that’s what happens when the economy is in recession! It is good to see everyone so excited for the start of fishing season, however, my cousin and I weren’t looking to share the river with the crowds. We parked at one of our favourite little creeks (which shall remained un-named, although I’m sure some of you will recognize it), and in the brisk morning air, hiked for an hour so up towards the hulking peaks in the distance, up and away from the people, and down into the endless deep pools of the creek below.

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Small creek fishing at its finest!

It was quite chilly that day, especially after hiking high up into the mountains. We we’re only able to to catch a couple small fish on dry flies, but had good luck with streamers and nymphs and brought some good fish to the net.

A nice Cuttie that couldn't resist a big streamer.
A nice Cuttie that couldn’t resist a big streamer.

 

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After Fishing the morning on our little creek, we decided to try and find a spot on the Highwood River that wasn’t quite as easily accessible. We hiked into a nice stretch of River in Kananaskis Country and were able to catch some more nice Rainbows and Cutthroat.

A nice stretch on the Highwood River
A nice stretch on the Highwood River
A low quality Image of a very nice rainbow caught by Garret.
A low quality Image of a very nice rainbow caught by Garret.
A nice Highwood River Cutthroat Trout.
A nice Highwood River Cutthroat Trout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, in the Kootenays, Jen Dunphy was slaying Bull Trout and catching Cutthroat trout. It seems as thought the Bull Trout were just as excited as we were about the return of fishing season. All in the same pool and all before a days work. Now that is commitment!

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A nice Cutthroat Trout from the Elk River.
A nice Cutthroat Trout from the Elk River.

Finally, after some unsettled weather, the sun came out and my father and I were treated to some fantastic Dry-fly fishing on the Oldman River yesterday. The river is in fantastic condition and the bugs were out in abundance, including tons of stoneflies!

Cutthroat Trout Heaven on the Oldman River.
Cutthroat Trout Heaven on the Oldman River.

We were enjoying the moment and didn’t take much time to snap pictures. My dad was too busy slaying fish to be bothered to come and take pictures of the fish I was catching. Which, is really the way it should be. I did manage to snap a quick pic of a monster Cuttie I caught on a big streamer!

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Spending time with my dad on the River is something that I am so grateful I am able to do. He taught me how to Fly-fish, and these days on the beautiful rivers of our home will always stick with me as some of the best days fishing of my life.

It was truly a great week of fishing! I hope everyone else got out and had as much fun as I did! No word from Mark Rossi in the Okanagan… He must have been busy doing grown up things like working and stuff. I’m sure the fishing out there is just as awesome! All of our streams are in great shape, however, the flows are VERY low for this time of year in Alberta. Get out now as I am sure there will be some closures coming our way later this summer. That’s all I got for you today folks; we will have another full length story coming to ya’ll in a few days time! Stay tuned. Cheers and happy fishin!

 

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!

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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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