Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Flow

As it happened today and I had a few minutes to kill so I stopped by one of the first spots I started steel heading at many years ago. I was steel heading. The fish were doing whatever fish do besides bite the offering of a rubber clad early riser with a foolish looking toque. I would fish for ten years before I truly hooked such a magnificent fish, and wait 6 months more before landing one.

Not at this spot, though I spent a good part of that era trying from time to time. More often some years than others, I could be found there with my perpetually borrowed river rod and old coffee grinder reel, getting into the rhythm of the flow as best I knew how. I chucked guts back then with a heavy belief in the power of the dew worm.

As I neared the edge of the river, the assaulting power of the decaying fish grew stronger but I knew from old experience that it would be more bearable as time wore on. (Upon occasion this even happens) As I walked along the short trail leading to the water’s edge, I heard the muttering of many gulls that occasionally escalated to a crescendo of avian calamity that could only mean one had out striped others while feeding. Looking through the leaf bare branches above me I saw crows flying low overhead, rasping caws raking through the air.

I softly made my way to the river proper and was rewarded with seeing a Heron stalking through the shallows just across the flow from me. With fluid, unhurried movements the bird strode in slow motion along the far bank oblivious to me, intent upon the prospect of catching a meal. As wild things do, it soon noticed me and flew further down the bank to resume its interrupted search for lunch.

The muddy bank was littered with salmon carcasses. Many of them were chum salmon, but there were quite a few coho too. I considered this a good change from years before.

The water itself was just as I left it though it was much higher than I ever found it in December and January. The same lazy flow, and the same familiar back eddies that could keep one’s float in a good zone for a long time if it was cast just right.

Up to my right, the noise of the gulls drew my eye and I watched them for a moment or two while they feasted on the salmon buffet spread on the tiny gravel bar amid the river. They gave me an impression of spoiled brats stealing morsels from flock mates only to lose the pieces they had to a thieving neighbor.

After a time my gaze was drawn back to the water that glided along in front of my soggy boots. The surface tension seemed alive with the pushing and pulling of underwater structures, producing ever changing eye mazes that drifted along to fade away. Caught amongst this was an apple, probably some kid’s act of defiance to the way his mom packed his lunch. It floated along a current seam across from me, quite close to where I would like to fish if my skill found a cast just right. It followed the seam, and floundered for a time in a back eddy, lingering languidly, before getting caught up in the main stream of things. Afterward it continued on down stream, lazily bobbing perhaps to music only floating apples could groove to.

After the apple disappeared from my view, the idea of work pushed its way back into my mind. I should be going now. I stood for a few seconds and tried to remember exactly how it was back then and could only grasp one thing for sure.

This is where I got my love of moving water. I fished it to be fishing, not because I caught many fish there but because I learned I MIGHT. That along with the water’s song is enough to this day to get me to the waters edge. I saw quite a few guys catch quite a number of fish from this very bank and even once or twice someone had watched me. Not very often to be sure but when it happened, it was grand to be alive and part of the thrill if only for a time.

Fishing has a way of getting in your soul and that’s as it should be.

Friday, January 13, 2012


For years I’d heard it. After driving many miles, pulling strings at work I didn’t have, and dredging my bank account for the umpteenth time I had finally made it to a prime fishing destination. Then on the way to the lake I ask, “How’s fishing been?” of a fellow returning from the water. He smiles and shakes his head.
“You should’ve been here yesterday, the fishing was fantastic! It’s been pretty slow today though.”

You see I am a fisherman and I have a dream of the day when I was there yesterday. Last week. Or sometimes even last year. I cannot count how many times I have been told that I should have been there yesterday. The day you had to hide your fly box when you were with-in 50’ of the lake shore and keep your rod broken down and carry it is if it were a walking stick lest the fish swim through the grass and take them clean out of your hand. I wish I had been there THAT day!

I began to scorn all fishermen, not to their face of course, as yarn spinners. People who as a group had a running joke to tell newer fisherman this litany of unbelievable bounty.

Then one day it happened. I was there yesterday and yesterday was today.
I remember it was Peterhope Lake during a little yearly get together I got going simply referred to as the Guy trip. We are just a bunch of guys getting together to catch up, get away, and enjoy our passion of fishing the fly. 

There was frost on the walls of the tent when we awoke that morning, and the dawn broke clear and calm. The road was wet on the way in, the tail end of a week long front that had moved through and we had just missed it. A short walk to the lake shore revealed a reeded shore with pathways cut through for boat access and a large marl flat extending some 100 yards dropping to deeper water. The shelf was a marl covered 10’ deep and shallower amongst the weeds. These ran along shore for the entire campsite end with small points of them reaching out lakeward , sloping back to small inward scooped out bay areas. There was the occasional reed island in view as well.

After a quick cup of coffee and one to go, it was time to get to fishing. Armed with 2 rods, both 6wts, I headed to the float tube to try my luck. To my amazement I didn’t run into one guy who told me how the fishing was. I felt kind of strange not having the review of doom before I got into the boat but I figured it was on its way. Post mortem to my spirits as it were.

My partner and I kicked away from shore and tried our much discussed tactics. Mine was to troll deep with a type 4 line off the shelf and his was to work the weed line with an intermediate. I was sure I was in the right thinking the fish would be staging off the shelf in the cool weather. We had gone perhaps 40’ when my partner advised “Fish on” and began to play a small rainbow grinning with delight. I calmly assured him that the “real” fish were down deep. I watched him release the fish and toss another cast to the weed edge. The line landed about 2” from the reeds and sank. He gave the line 1 or 2 strips and it went tight, this time with a 14” ‘bow that released itself after 2 fine jumps.
In the time it took me to reel up my line and my pride, switch rods, and join him he had released 2 more fish and one in the 18” class.
I tied on a new addition to the arsenal that year. The olive Feather duster nymph was a pattern that was meant to be the best mayfly nymph imitation out there for BC and I had seen one or two on the water in the short time I had been fishing. I got this pattern from a site on the internet during the winter doldrums.

The address eludes me now as to where I got it but I am sure glad I did.
I put my back to a reed island and cast my weighted fly on a Still water line to reed edge opposite me in the little bay created by the inward curve of the reed stalks intending to fan cast the area. I counted to 5 and began an erratic retrieve of 2” pulls. 6 or 8 strips later I felt the smart tug of a fish and a small rainbow leapt to life at the end of my line. After some wild antics and acrobatics the barbless hook slipped free and he was gone. I stripped in my line to check the fly and as I did I hit yet another fish, this one about 14”.

Surprised, I played and landed this one and sent him on his merry way.
As I was slowly untangling the fly from the net I looked up and noticed the most astonishing thing. The reed stalks were covered in mayfly nymphs, climbing out of the water to dry their newly formed wings after shucking their final molts. The weeds at the points where they emerged from the water were literally alive with them. As I looked on, I noticed that some of the weeds were moving, even though there was no wind present on the water. Peering down through the surface tension I saw what seemed to be a dark piece of the bottom moving this way and that among the weeds.

“Holy mackerel”, I thought. Those are FISH!!! I looked at the weeds in a different way and suddenly before my eyes little “lanes” revealed themselves to me leading through the stems. Just wide enough for a guy to say cast a line into them and possibly retrieve it with minimal hook-ups….!

I took the first cast of many that day and was astounded to find I was right. The deal went kind of like cast into a lane, strip quickly back feeling weed, weed, we.. FISH. We caught fish all day in this manner with the feather duster, and other patterns including leeches but none out performed the olive Feather duster. Rare was the cast that failed to elicit a strike or even 2 or 3.

The day went on and the mayfly hatch made itself known to even the casual eye as they began to take flight in silvery clouds. There was a storm of gossamer wings haloing their thin darker bodies in the ever warming morning air and swarming around us. We fished until we had sore arms. We were loathe to go in for lunch or even the call of nature so as not to miss out on this unexpected stroke of luck. When we finally did bow to the call of food and/or bladder relief and returned to the water, the spell had not been broken and we continued for all of that day to experience fishing that none had ever dreamed was possible.

The evening came and we all gathered around and reflected on the day in the warm glow of success. Few there had seen fishing like we had just been privy to. Spirits were high, and being poured all around as well.

The next morning I got out and fished the same areas in the same manners. I was on the water for about 2 hours and had 2 hits and one fish for my efforts. Puzzled but not unhappy, I paddled back to shore and began to think of breakfast. On my way back an angler approached me and with hope shining in his eyes he asked me,”How is the fishing?”
I replied to him with out missing a beat, “You should’ve been here yesterday……”


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Urbane Pursuits

Fly Fishing urban on regular time.

  On the face of it, going fishing in the confines of the big city as an average Joe who lives paycheck to paycheck has its limitations. We have jobs, families, and all the obligations that go with them and often the weekend is filled with other things that need tending to outside the world of fish and hooks, or at the very least one day is dipped in the honey do list. Ours seems to get longer over here as time goes by rather than the other way ’round. It need not be so.
One of the buzz phrases of the times is time management. I have found this can be applied quite readily to fishing during the work week as well with a little creative thinking. For instance when the fry migration is on in my nearby urban estuary, once the time changes I get up a half hour before first light and fish from 5AM (first light) until 7 or 8AM depending upon obligations. Very often this pays off well and it keeps me coming back for more. Also heavy traffic days can be waited out in nearby slough, estuary, ocean, stream or rivers that abound around us. Too, if one can adjust their day to leave earlier and stay later, (or vice versa) then some if not all of that time can be allotted for fishing and exploring.

We drive over and by them all the time, those big brackish slough type waters along with merry rivulets and small creeks whose names we don't know, never mind where they flow from in our day to day doings. Most if not all hold fish of some sort from bullheads to coho salmon depending upon where and when you are poking around. Armed with a copy of the current edition of the fishing regulations and a good understanding thereof, combined with both a fresh and salt water license opens up a giant world of fly fishing right at anybody who lives on the West Coast literal doorstep.
To be somewhat blunt, to me a fish is a fish. If I get it to eat what I’m tossing then it’s game on. Sure I prefer to target the glamour species as much as the next guy, but the truth is if you can’t fool the coarse fish then you sure as hell haven’t upped your chances at anything you consider smarter, (as in women with fish, looks aren’t everything and definitely doesn’t denote brain power) and that’s a fact. Try fly fishing for carp sometime, they’s pretty ugly but man they are a wary lot. Strong as well.

Before running out and flogging water you have no idea about, besides checking the regulations one might want to do a little research on the area you live or commute through. The internet (the various forums and fly shop report pages come to mind) is a great resource. Before a decent yield can be expected in the forum area however, an introduction along with participation is required by what’s known as internet etiquette. Some time invested tends to give the other posters a feeling of yourself and form an opinion on whether they feel it’s worth responding to queries as sensitive as which rock to stand on. Google Earth is definitely a bonus program to download, to check road access and the like along with potential fishing areas on individual waters.
One of my personal favorite resources is an old paperback book that was published in 1973. It lists a bunch of ‘fished out’ areas and places where it was considered worth trying 20 or 30 years ago. Considered ‘dead’ by most anglers and driven by at light speed on the way to ‘better’ fishing, these areas that have faded into obscurity lend them to very little if any fishing pressure. Consequently there can be some pretty good solitude along with decent fishing available though deemed otherwise. This is a call to possibly make use of a building from the days of olde – The Public Library. Many issues and back issues of old mags, books, and maps are available there for the asking.

For gear I usually like to use a 10’ 5wt over lined with a weight heavier 40+ Ghost tip (6wt) unless there are salmon in the system where I will opt for a 6 or 7wt outfit. I prefer to fish subsurface as a rule so the tip works for me. A floater probably would do just as well, but for myself in the often windy conditions encountered I like the punch the 38’ head provides along with the ability to fish a shorter leader. Also it is a superior roll casting/single spey line which is essential for much of the waters you may find yourself fishing. Adding the spey mentality to your casting will open up far more water than conventional overhead casting by nature of not needing as much if any back cast room. Make no mistake much of the water you can be hunting will have very few trails to it, because of the lack of pressure. For reels, again, it depends upon what I expect to encounter but for the most part I prefer something with a medium to large arbor along with a disc drag. Couple these with a good stripping basket and you are set. I find the stripping basket indispensable for this (and pretty much all) type of fishing allowing a person to navigate the oft tangled bank which is usually littered with debris, gives a goodly length of line coiled and waiting to be shot out the top eye at a sudden rise.

For this fishing a vest is not essential though an inflatable vest is a good idea as most of this fishing is done alone. Always consider a PFD. Mostly I just take a single fly box, tippet, an extra leader along with all the gadgets of the trade on a lanyard.

Flies are as simple or as complex as you prefer to roll. A few prudent choices regarding what you might encounter and what type of water you will be fishing (gleaned through your research looking for things like whether the water supports a salmon run etc.) If I am fishing still waters or sloughs and back channels, I’d be sure to include patterns I can strip and that have life like movement in the water along with a few flash patterns and small natural staples such as the hare’s ear and the prince nymph. I also never leave the house without at least a few soft hackles in a few different designs. They have saved many a confounding day on the water.

More moving water/stream then I am most apt to break out the dry line and weighted patterns and work diligently on getting a drag free drift with stone flies, mayflies, caddis patterns and again the soft hackles with the odd chironomid mixed it. Round that selection out with a couple of egg patterns and an enjoyable day on the water most likely less than half an hour from your driveway awaits.

Oh, and in closing each and every one of the fish in this little write up was caught well within ear shot of traffic, dog walkers, and people of all kinds. Please be quiet when you get a slab, the rest of us who frequent the hidden right in plain view would appreciate it and are giving you big thumbs up.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting it all together.

.... and while I picked up the anchor to make the run to the launch all that came to mind was after what I saw at the end of the day I wish I had put it together earlier
That was last week.

Today I knew earlier. In fact I knew earlier all week. I knew that if the conditions stayed the same or similar we could have a little rod bending match with some bull trout I'd been hunting a system for and finally found in numbers.

At least that's what I figured. You know how she goes, you get all giddy with sheer conviction you have unlocked the secret to the universe. Completely envisioned in the minds eye in perfect technicolour how good it's gotta be because you've figured it out.

You are Dialed.

Usually at some point this is shared with a closer than close fishing partner in clandestien private messages or cryptic texts, (the dog barks at midnight) and a planning session ensues nailing down dates and times. Who's towing, who's bringing the launch coin, most importantly - who's got the coffee?

Then you get 'there' and do 'that' and then 'that' some more, and then some of this, and this, and then some that, and then going home scratching a patch bare on your mellon saying shit like, "sure was good to get out". Yeah, that's a load of shit. That's why I got a boat and a couple few thousand dollars worth of gear and invested half my waking life tying flies, to get out.

I like to get out just as much as the next guy but, let's catch some fish. I didn't get a rod made out of more and better researched outlandish scientific nonsense than most shit that's been into orbit for nothing.
Certainly not to just get out. For that I can step out my slightly leaky sliding door.

This time it was like laying down and following a blue print. Once we plugged in what I had figured and were actually doing it, (took a little manuvering to get it right) it was elbow jarring, stripsetting, madness.

The application again fit the conditions and mood of the fish famously.
This time the target was char (bull or dolly) and I had found them in a slow moving 6' trench that slowly norrowed and shallowed up at the same time. Being fairly wide with little or no bank and as such casting room, we anchored the boat in the center of the channel. Using ghost tip and full clear intermediate lines, we made long 3/4 down and across casts and allowed the beaded flies to sink in the slow moving water. Once a count of 5 to 10 was reached a slow 6 to 10" slow pulsing retrieve was begun giving lively punctuation to the slow swing of the olive woolly buggers and egg sucking leeches.

Rule of thumb was if the water was too fast to have your fly hanging up on the swing alone in 5 or 6 feet of water, then you needed to find slower water to fish.

Sometimes the fish would pick the fly up when the line tightened right at the start of the swing, if you felt a hesitation, a strip set and raise of the rod was often met with a fish pinned to the fly. Other drfits had the line being left to nearly dangle directly behind the boat with a slow retrieve having the fish either follow for great distances and then smashing the fly, or slipping up out of wrinkles in the botttom and popping the fly as it pulses by above their hide outs.

The fish absolutelty hammered the fly just like I'd imagined they would. How often does that really happen anyways? Fishing being as good as you'd thought it would be. I mean I've fished quite a bit and I can imagine a pretty damned good day. Rest assured, if my day goes half as good as I imagine it's going to be before I get there each time I put a line in the water, well let's just say we don't want to go there. You'd pull something and be sidelined longer than Sami Salo after run in with four 5 year olds in a Chucky Cheese ball pit just listening to it.

Sometimes, not very often mind you but sometimes, it does go just the way you imagined and occaisionally a little better to boot.

That my friends is sweet.

If it's already happened for you, way to go - hero, nice now get over yourself. If it hasn't well some day you'll be able to be getting over yourself as well.

Conversely, one can have a picture in their minds of how a day is going to turn out even after the most careful planning and preparation only to have it more resemble a 3 Stooges meets Gilligan's Island conglamoration of head knocks and consternification - and still have it become one of the best days of your life.

But that's another line of bull for another time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yes, It Can Be Quiet Fishing In the City...

Headed out in the boat today with Randy for the first time in well over two months.  My back and shoulders have been pretty sore and I've had some recent minor shoulder procedures called "barbotage" which involves plunging a large needle in my shoulder like a jackhammer to break up the calcium deposits. Not condusive to fly fishing! Needless to say, it's been slightly depressing watching Randy go fishing for the past couple of months like crazy because he's had plenty of time off, and I've been stuck at home.  So getting out today was like a dream, and I didn't take it for granted one little bit!
We had the thermos of coffee, new lifejackets we got from the folks for Christmas, and we headed down to our local launch.  The Fraser looked pretty windy.  And cold.  I suggested going up to Haney area to a place that we could tuck in and be shielded from the wind a bit.  Randy agreed so away we went.  It turned out to be a good call.  We got there and it was calm.  Launched the boat and within a few minutes we were at the fishing hole.  I didn't bring a rod, but I did bring a book.  Not that I got much reading in.  I was too busy watching Randy cast and looking for fish and just taking in the scenery around me.  It was so peaceful.  We were in the middle of suburbia yet we couldn't hear anybody. Not a car, not a person, not a sound except the odd bird. That to me was priceless when you live in the city and come from a small town.
Randy tried a few flies, he had a couple of grabs, and a few twigs and leaves, but no fish today.  The tide may have been wrong, it was outgoing when we got there. Who knows with cutthroat.  One day they are there, the next gone, with the exception of residents.  We had fun anyways.  It felt great to be back out on the water again, fishing or not.  Can't wait to get the good camera mailed away for repairs this week so we can start working on our photography skills in the next while.  I'd like to take more nature shots being as I won't be fishing until late spring.  Cheers and tight lines ~ Deb