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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