Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rosebud, Rosebud...

Like the enigmatic final words of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane so our very own Rosebud Lake can be as cryptic, difficult to fish one day, and unable to keep trout off your line the next.

I decided to head to Rosebud yesterday before ice over. Mid-November can be good fishing on lakes as trout generally feed heavily in anticipation of winter and the hardwater. It was a surprisingly nice day, the water calm, with the white peak of a distant mountain reflecting off the surface.

Almost immediatley I hooked and released a smallish rainbow trout, a promising beginning. I had the whole lake to myself and I tried various techniques from dragging streamers, to drift casting, and chironomid fishing. A few hours and a couple hits later, I packed up, only one fish to the boat but still a pleasant day.
Of course the spring is the best time to fish Rosebud. Chironomid fishing and casting nymphs or attractor patterns can be productive. Until then I'll spend time tying flies and making a few forays down to the Columbia. Once winter flies and the winter liberates the lake from her icy grasp, I shall return, for in the spring I intend to solve the riddle of Rosebud.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Snow Flies in the Kootenays

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Well it's here. Frozen white flakes blanketed our back yard and, our apple tree, still full with its autumn plumage, toppled from the merciless onslaught of wet snow.

I am not looking forward to winter. Once the snow flies it is a sign to air out your rods, clean reels, hang your fly line, and otherwise buckle down in your den and start tying flies. I can't do it. In a last ditch revolt against mother nature I loaded my truck with rod, reel, waders, boots and vest and went down to the Columbia.

It has been two months since I last fished the mighty Columbia which is sad as it's only 5 minutes away. I blame it on my increasingly busy schedule. I now have hockey and curling and an altered work schedule to attend to, and of course the weather has been tragic, and I am getting old and apparently more and more prone to making poor excuses.

In any case, I finally pulled on my neoprene waders and strung my fly rod. The cool weather has made hatches non-existent so I went with my bead head woolly bugger (a type of attractor pattern fly) and sinking line. A thick gauze of cloud covered the sky, as two eagles chased each other over the water, dipping and diving, then circling slowly overhead before alighting on the nearby branches of nearby trees. I cast into the clear cool flow, letting the line drift with the current before halting then executing a slow retrieve. I was busy watching the eagles and thoughtlessly twisting line between my fingers when the first trout struck. More often than not, I miss these hits when otherwise distracted, but for some reason this small trout hung on and I brought it to hand in no time. All in all, I landed 4 fish in two hours, released two and kept two smallish ones for my mom who is the best mother in the world and more than deserving of a couple fresh trout.

I forget sometimes how much I love fly fishing. Often, it takes a little time away to rediscover that passion and understanding of why I fish. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, " A man can fish all his life and not realize that it is not the fish he is after". I think most true fly fishers realize this but still a good fish can make a trip just as an appreciation of the natural world, its beauty and wonderful intricacies can make a fishless trip also worthwhile.

A week ago I also returned to the Lardeau for a quick day trip. I arrived an hour before sunrise, hiked up a winding trail into the alpine and scouted the banks and hillsides for sign of grizzly and/or elk. I found sign everywhere, fresh grizzly droppings on my way back down the trail, fresh elk prints, but unfortunately no sightings. Finally, as the sun rose into a lovely day, I enjoyed watching eagles, osprey, turkey vultures and mergansers feed on the last vestiges of spawning kokanee.

I tried out a new waterproof camera I bought for Natasha for her birthday (which she probably hasn't used yet) and took some photos of the spawning kokanee subsurface. I found it difficult to get the kokanee to pose but through trial and error and freezing hands, I eventually got a few shots.

If anyone has similar stories or experiences I'd like to hear them. I get tired of listening to myself all the time. Thanks sp for leaving a comment on my last blog and encourage anyone who reads this to do the same.

Have a Happy Hallowe'en One and All.

If you click on the pictures you get really big pictures.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meadow Creek Grizzly

North of Kootenay Lake in southern British Columbia, tucked between the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains, lies a small community called Meadow Creek. 'Meadow Creek', that is the creek, is also a tributary of Kootenay Lake where a spawning channel has been created and maintained by the Freshwater Fishing Society of BC.

Every autumn the annual kokanee spawning run occurs, when millions of kokanee salmon fill numerous tributaries of Kootenay Lake to dance their last dance and sow their last and only seeds, before departing into the great watery hereafter.

The spawning and decaying salmon provide vital nutrients to both flora and fauna, from a myriad of bird species to grizzly bears and other mammals. I try to venture to the area at least once during the fall to seek out the elusive grizzly and try to get him to smile for a few photos. My intentions were to travel there early Monday morning after Thanksgiving on Sunday. Unfortunately the holiday was more festive than anticipated so I got a late start come Monday. Nevertheless, I made it to the channel in the early evening with what I thought would be enough light for my digital slr camera.
The spawning channel is a complex maze of small dirtroads, ensconced in thick forest, following the meandering Meadow Creek. I didn't travel far before I came upon a young grizzly up to his haunches in the kokanee infested creek. Unfortunately, he fled to the bush before I could get an adequate shot. I also realized that I'd have to bump up my ISO to 1600 in order to capture them in the dimming light. Sadly, the high ISO also creates a lot of pixelization and fuzziness which obviously ruins many shots.

An hour passed before I ran into a larger male griz. This awesome specimen stayed and fed on the spawning kokanee for over a half hour. I was 50 yards away on the road watching him through the bushes. I moved closer, down to the creek, and set up my tripod and shot happily away. A small side-road ran alongside the creek separated only by a thin line of brush. I thought I could get closer if I stayed low and snuck up until I was parallel to the bear. The grizzly was busy feeding on the salmon so I was able to move within 20-ft.
It was difficult getting decent shots through the branches, made even more difficult by the ebbing light. The boar soon noticed me squatting in the bushes busily taking inadequate photos - he just stared at me, apparently unperturbed... I had a can of bear spray in my vest, but really at the time, I didn't even consider it. I just tried to get a clear shot of him staring at me. Anyway, I took a lot of underexposed shots but was able to salvage a few which I'll soon post to my website gallery page here:http://www.fly-fish-bc.com/Photo%20Galleries/Photo%20galleries%20pg.html

I am always disappointed when my shots don't turn out but invariably I learn something - unfortunately, it usually ends up costing me a bit of money. After this event, I may have to invest in a better lens. Oh well, life could be worse. Just being so close to such a magnificent animal is always exciting and makes it worthwhile.

In this light the photos seem impressionistic - if Monet ever came across a grizzly this may have been one of his paintings.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Indian Summer at fly-fish-bc.

Sept.30 - the last day of summer.

It's been a pretty incredible September, beautiful weather, great fishing, a trip to San Diego with friends, and a recent hike into a pretty mountain lake which was invigorating - unfortunately the trip down was not so successful.

The fishing on local rivers was incredible at the beginning of the month. My christmas tree leech pattern worked its magic and I landed a number of rainbows and cuttbows on the PdO and Salmo.

The Columbia too was hot. One evening I hooked a half dozen fish on a klinkhamer caddis and tom thumb, was broken off twice, quick released two, and landed two.

My trip to San Diego forced me to lay down the fly rod for a week and brush up on my golf. Such are my personal woes. I met my good friends from Whitehorse, Randy, Andrew and Dan, for a week of golf, a few beers and a Chargers football game -pretty much in that order. Had a great time and will definately return. The photo to the right shows Andrew in a little trouble at Torrey Pines.

I returned refreshed and looking to get in a little fishing before the weather turns. This past weekend I decided to hike up to Kokanee Lake in Kokanee Glacier Park. It was a beautiful sunny day with a stiff breeze to cool you off from the hike. I packed my 4-wt and had fun catching small cutthroat on almost every cast. I hiked down from the lake with a smile on my face, looking forward to Monday night football and a cold beer. As I rumbled down the poor excuse for a logging road, I heard a 'thunk', my left wheel wavered, as I slammed on the brakes... Almost five years ago, to the day, the same thing happened while I was way up in Boundary Lake country. I hiked 24-km out that day, then sat on the side of the highway with my thumb out for 4 hours before someone picked me up.
It was the same unmistakeable sound of my tie rod exploding. This time I was in no mood for more hiking. I took a length of rope and bound the two ends of the tie-rod together and limped the last 10-km down to the highway. It wasn't pretty as I had to stop and physically straighten the wheel every kilometer or so. Neither was my wife too happy when I called her and explained my situation and the fact that she had to drive an hour to come fetch me. She also reminded me ever so shrilly that I had not left a note as to where I was going, and what happened if something serious happened and she had no idea where I was, and because I'm too stubborn to get a cell phone, what would I do then.... you get the idea.

Anyway I love her dearly and thanked her again for driving back to the truck the next day to drop the car keys off so it could be towed. I suppose something bad was bound to happen after such a great month. Here's hoping for better in October.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

East Kootenay Bulls


With three days off and a yearning to get away and cast my fly in fly-fishing-only waters I packed up the truck and headed east - to the East Kootenays - home of classified waters and some of the best cutthroat and bull trout fishing in the world.

I went to the same stream I had visited a couple years ago with good friend Colin M. The stream was a small stream that fed into a small river. We discovered a spot on that stream that held large cutthroat - I mean really large. Only Colin and I know of "the spot". Unfortunately, Colin could not make this trip but very near the very same spot we landed the biggest damn cutthroat ever and a very respectable bull trout, I also landed a few of the nicest bull trout ever taken on a fly.

At this time of year the bulls are in full gallop up
many East Kootenay streams and rivers. They are not difficult to find, however, the real challenge is to get them to take your offering once you do find them. I could see a half dozen of them holding under a sweeper at the pool end of a tailout. I tied on a large weighted bunny leech pattern and dropped it into the current. I stacked line and watched the tip of my floating line for any dramatic shift or movement as the rabbit bobbed its way down the stream. Often, the slightest pause would mean a hook up but many times it was simply a snag. The first few bulls I hooked, the barbless bunny leech would eventually come free but finally it held and after some tense moments, I was able to land a respectable 28" bull trout.

I landed three more that day with a few misses and lost flies thrown in. It was a great day on the river.
While I used my 6-wt for bulls, I also landed many cutthroat on my 3/4-wt, healthy and broad shouldered as any cutthroat I've ever caught.

The streams I fished were 'Classified Waters', 'fly fishing only' streams and all catch and release. They had every restriction short of 'no fishing' as you can get. And I loved it.

I saw many vehicles but few people. Most fly fishers are loners, somewhat surly and uncommunicative even when in groups. One group of four, I stumbled on somewhat unexpectedly, as I turned a bend. They glanced at me, probably noticed my impeccable casting skills as I snagged another sweeper on the opposite shore, before sheepishly exiting the stream and driving away without so much as a wave. Which is fine, they relinquished the water without me having to pretend I was a passable caster or interested in them or their fishing day in any way.
Of course there are exceptions. Shortly after, another truck drove up. I was completely and obliviously up to my chest in water trying to free my fly from the sweeper when two men walked down the beach towards me. I hadn't noticed them until I was back across the water and lifting my rod to attach another fly. They were dressed in Cloudveil's best fishing attire - I was immediately envious and a little embarrassed as I had decided to plow through water in my shorts and a ratty tank top on such a hot day. Nevertheless, each grasped a cold can of Bud in their hands which made me think "okay, either they're American or Albertan" if they were local they'd probably have a Fernie Lager or a Kootenay True Ale in their mitts.

After some initial pleasantries, I discovered they were indeed from the U.S. And even more interesting, one turned out to be a fly-fishing writer while the other was an industry rep from Cloudveil Fly Fishing. Wow I thought. I even recognized the writer from a piece he had done in FR&R years before.

We chatted and exchanged info. I thanked them for the cold Bud they shared with me and wished them well. It never ceases to amaze me at the people I meet and the opportunities that have been afforded me all by a perverse desire to throw string and live life among the fishes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fly-fish-BC Photo Gallery


The wonderful thing about fly fishing is that it gives one an opportunity to experience the hidden beauty of the natural world which often translates into some great photo ops. I've added a couple new galleries on my website's Photo Gallery page but I'll add some photos here that I just took yesterday.

Good friend Larry Connel and I were up the Pend d'Oreille chasing smallmouths, when this massive eagle took flight just a few feet away from us. It surprised us both as we were concentrating a little too intensely on the bass. Amazed at the sheer size and proximity, I dropped my fly rod and began shooting as it settled into the top of a nearby tree.

The fishing was good as usual but it's the presence of wild things in wild places that makes for an unforgettable trip. The last time I was here a cow moose crossed the river just ahead of us, not to mention the many deer, elk, bears, and variety of birds I've come across in the past. You just never know - so, like a good boyscout, I try to "be prepared".

I have forgotten my camera many times in the past and almost always regretted it. I try now to never leave without it, batteries fully charged, empty cards, and clean lenses but of course just last week I left it at home when Colin and I had a great day on the Salmo River - such is life.

Thanks for a good day Larry - I hope you and Dorothy enjoyed the fillets.

If you're interested remember to be a follower or at least check in once in a while and say Hi.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kootenay Rivers


"Time is but a stream I go a fishing in." - Henry David Thoreau

Well the full weight of summer is upon us. The heat is almost unbearable so
the best thing to do is to wade into a refreshing kootenay stream and throw
flies at hungry trout.

I was on the Salmo and Columbia Rivers this past week and had good success on both. The Salmo is a pretty stream that flows through the town of Salmo and empties 60km later into the Pend d'Oreille River. It holds rainbows and bull trout as well as smallmouth bass in the lower sections. The rainbows fight hard and will come to a dry fly or hopper pattern. I also had success in the lower Salmo casting stonefly nymphs into the faster water.

The Columbia has been nothing short of spectacular. Monday I waded into one of my favourite spots and promptly caught and released a healthy 16-inch trout on a Klinkhammer caddis. I also missed many, as the trout swirled over my fly the barbless wouldn't stick or would be thrown on the first jump. I did manage to land another nice rainbow but the one I lost at the net and the two that broke me off were hogs: typical Columbia River redband rainbows in the 3-5lb range.

The evening has been the most productive time of day for me on the Columbia. Good hatches and less sun make for a pleasant couple hours on one of the best trout rivers in the west.

Best of luck out there... wherever 'there' is.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bass Fishing PdO

Fly-fish-BC goes bass fishing

In an effort to cutdown on the introduction of alien species, such as bass, perch, sunfish, walleye etc., into BC waters, BC fisheries has implemented a "no fishing" ban in its 2009 regulations. It is now unlawful to fish for alien species such as the aforementioned on any lake or stream in Britsh Columbia. However, read your regs carefully because many waters are exempt from the ban.

This past week my sister, Juli, and I hit one such local reservoir to fish for smallmouth bass. It didn't take long before Juli had a hit on a bright red woolly bugger. Minutes later she landed a nice smallmouth bass. I followed right behind her with another caught on my own bass fly creation. We exchanged fish for the next three hours and even had a few double headers.

The retention limit is still a generous 8 fish and we caught over 20, casting from shore or trolling streamer patterns, releasing all but two. We saved these for our mother who absolutley loves fresh fish and chastizes me everytime I return home without a couple for her frying pan. My sister doesn't get out much since the birth of her third child so it was a pleasure to spend a few hours on the water with her.

I understand and deplore the spread of alien fish to our fine BC trout waters but alas, as a wise old fly fisher once told me, sometimes you just got to catch fish. And a morning spent fly fishing BC for bass in those areas that are still allowed, is a morning well spent.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fly Fish BC is launched and fishing

Fly Fish BC

Well my Fly fish BC site is launched. I still have a lot of work to do fixing links and adding content but check out the new look and let me know what you think. http://www.fly-fish-bc.com/

We had the good fortune of taking a holiday at the end of April and spending a week in Victoria, BC's capital city. Natasha and I had a wonderful time visiting old friends, golfing, whale watching, and re-visiting some of our favourite restaurants and pubs. As a bonus we were invited to stay at Fraser River Lodge and do some sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River courtesy of the lodge owner, who now owns my old website's domain name.

Sturgeon fishing is... well...different. It's not fly fishing, but it does have its merits. You speed out on a jet boat to get to the prime locations, drop four baited and heavily weighted lines to the bottom and then watch and wait. The slightest movement in the rod tip had me lunging towards the rod. It was entertaining but I missed more than I hooked. We managed to land 6 sturgeon though not what locals would consider very big, although I still have a difficult time calling a 4.5 foot fish small. They're great fighters and I can see why this type of fishing is becoming so popular on the Fraser.

As far as fly fishing goes, since May I have been hitting as many small lakes as possible: Rosebud, Champion, Jewel, Wilgress, Loon and just this past weekend Summer and Premier.

The early chironomid fishing was great on Champion and Rosebud. Jewel Lake also turned into a pleasant surprise as I landed more than expected, both rainbow trout and eastern brookies. I also spent a nice day fishing on Loon Lake near Ainsworth Hotsprings, hooking numerous cutthroat trout - a 4x4 is highly recommended though to access this pretty little lake.

I picked a bad day to hit Summer Lake, a high elevation lake in the East Kootenays. It rained torrential for most of the night and into the next day when it eventually threatened snow. I decided to pack up my tent and head to Premier Lake, a popular lake just off Highway 95 near Skookumchuck. The scenery at Summer was compelling however, and the few trout I landed were decent enough to prompt a return sometime in the future.

I'm looking forward to stream fishing. I'll be visiting the East Kootenies again as well as hitting local streams as soon as the freshet relents a bit.

As the fishing season progresses I'll be sure to post more frequent blogs on how the various rivers and lakes are fishing, and plan to contact other fly fishers to update me on those places I have yet the fortune of floating a fly.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fly Fish BC emerging slowly but surely

Hello and Welcome to Fly Fish BC.

My name is Jim Bailey. I am an avid fly fisher and outdoor writer who lives in the Kootenay region of British Columbia Canada.

Formerly, with the help of friends and family we created a site dedicated to fly fishing known as www.fly-fishing-british-columbia.com. But after a few years another avid fly angler/fishing-lodge-owner desired the domain name more than I and had the persistence and means to wrestle it away.

And so with a view to streamlining and simplifying my former site, I have already started losing bulk with the less ponderous "fly-fish-bc", I have begun anew and the transformed site should be up and running soon.

But as before, the site will bring you information on fly fishing, fly tying, entomology and patterns as well as informative articles on where to fish in supernaturally beautiful British Columbia - particularly the Kootenay region.
So like a day of fishing, go slow, enjoy the peaceful rhythm of the cast as much as the excitement of the catch - check out my articles, the beginner fly fisher section, learn about bugs, or join me on my recent adventures on my blog as I go Fly Fish BC.