Saturday, November 26, 2011

Men in Plaid - the video

Well I finally got around to editing some footage of Plaid Lake in the Kootenays of British Columbia. Hiked up to the lake in late August and caught a lot of feisty little brooke trout.
Sorry, the upload quality is not very good, if anyone knows how to achieve better quality without taking forever to load, let me know.
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Brooke Trout in Plaid

Paiz and I finally make it to Plaid
Well after three years of planning and then cancelling, Paiz and I at last made it up to Plaid Lake.

We'd been talking about it for years and finally late in August we tackled the ascent.

Plaid lies nestled amid the peaks of the Purcell Mountains on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.
A steep 4X4 goat track takes you to the trail head where a narrower goat track climbs a couple thousand feet to a nice view of the Kootenay Lake, Kokanee Glacier and the Selkirk Mtns.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The descent

Father and son casting hopefully on the river.
  I suppose in the vast order of things one must sometimes descend through hell in order to get to heaven - and then go back again.
I didn't plan it that way, but a few years ago I wrote an article entitled the 'Pools of Heaven' describing the clear brilliant turquoise holding areas of massive bull trout on an incomparably pristine stretch of river that held massive wild westslope cutthroat, a veritable Eden for reclusive fly fishers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sometimes you just have to catch fish

In the course of fishing with my friend Dave the other night, our conversation turned to the philosophical, something that is apt to occur after a couple trout with a beer chaser.
Our questionings turned to the legitimacy of catching trout on a wet fly as opposed to a dry.
The classic empirycist's utilitarian argument versus a kind of Socratic idealism.
Dave is what most anglers call a dry-fly purist, a small sect of rigid, uncompromising traditionalists.
He asserts with conviction that the only trout worth catching is one caught on bits of feather and fur that imitates the adult form of a mayfly, caddis or whatever. Whereas, nymphing or dredging for trout sub-surface is an ignoble and wretched pursuit left only to the dissolute and damned fly-angler (perhaps one micro-step up from the bait and lure chuckers.)

My reply: "Sometimes you just gotta catch fish, Dave."

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Columbia River rife with rainbows and river moths

If you can stand clouds of river moths crawling in your ears, eyes, nose and mouth without twitching, you are a true Columbia River fly fisherman.
In what is more than a typical summer, hot weather and high water made for perfect conditions for the river moths, as locals call the prolific hatch of caddis flies.
This year, the hatch seems more intense than normal but it has also translated into some excellent fishing in the stretch of water between Castlegar and the U.S. border.
For those of us who still wade, evening is the perfect time as huge trout come into the shallows to gorge themselves on the caddis buffet. As you cast, the moths insinuate themselves into every oriface, while you stand there stock still slowly twisting in line anticipating a take from one of Columbia's best fighting fish.

Derek cuts through the mass of caddis on the Columbia

And success . . . 
  Caddis patterns are most effective. Try John's river moth, Elk hair Caddis or any emerger pattern.
Double check knots, tippet and leader, I was broken off twice after raising two heavy trout.
The red band rainbow is a unique strain to the Columbia, they grow huge and are great fighters. If you do hook up, try to keep it in slack water because if a big fish blasts out into the current, better hope it forgot something cause chances are it won't be back.
One rainbow I was playing literally jumped over my head while I was getting ready to net it, so be patient, just when you think they're done, they'll go for another line-screaming run.
The evening has been the most productive time with fish rising and good action right into dark.
Derek landed some lunkers the other night including this beauty, that spent more time in the air then it did in the water.
Who knows how long it will last but I plan on being down there as often as I can, enduring river moths in pursuit of the Columbia River rainbow.
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A nice 22-inch rainbow on the Columbia, the white lights in the
background aren't stars but river moths caught in the flash.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rushing water and running bulls

Almost everywhere in the East Kootenay region, bull trout are purposefully finning their way to the smallest of tributaries, sometimes within feet of the spot they emerged from a fertilized egg years earlier.
It is an annual act of procreation, the one time a year they stack up in deep pools, and wait for the perfect conditions and perfect time to have sex.
But unlike their ocean swimming salmon relatives or fresh water Kokanee, these denizens of large waters do not perish after the consummate act but rather return to their body of water to recover and train for next year's fun run.

A mid-size bull caught on a black
and red streamer and 6-wt. rod

This year I was joined by three friends and avid string tossers, as we headed out the first week in July with hopes of intercepting one or two of these monster bulls with a fly. Jake the younger had much to prove after disappointing results last year shut him out. His older cousin Derek was back and as confident as ever, and both Waterstreets were chomping eagerly at their Wintergreen Skoal to hit the river.
I invited an old friend of my own, Colin Munro, from the coast, a more diligent and cerebral fly-fisherman whom I could lag behind with and enjoy a days fishing and a cold beer, rather than try to keep up with the Waterstreet express.
 Unfortunately spring conditions were brutal, delaying run-off and causing rivers to swell to the point they were almost unfishable - almost.
We hit the same river at the same time last year but this cool season had it at least six feet up and the colour of strong coffee with a drop of cream. Nevertheless, after an hour of worrisome casting I hooked into and landed a smallish bull trout.
It was a relief to myself and three companions. With the first one landed and released we could now more confidently spot holding areas or attractive lies. But it was tough going. With high water and no visibility, identifying areas such as large boulders or small impressions was all but impossible. We passed weighted bunny streamers through seams and slack water, close to shore, through riffles and pools until at last I stuck another.

Jake crossing the river
in a relatively easy spot.

But this bull trout was a full grown, no-nonsense behemoth that tore me into the current and was zip-lining my backing as I chased it down the bank, over trees and under branches, frantically looking for slow water I could guide its nose into. After about a 100-yard dash, it flew  into the wild water and broke off. Great fun but the raging water coupled with the size of the bully was no match for my G-Loomis six-weight.

We investigated other waters on a flat stretch of valley that produced many trout for Derek and Jake, even Munro touched a couple on the flats but aside from one palpable hit, the flats proved futile ground for me.
On average the bulls on the flats seemed smaller than the upper river (probably because I didn't catch any) but nonetheless, the marathon fishers, Jake and Derek, seemed to land seven or eight each time they fished the plain while Colin and I managed only two or three a day on the upper section.
Perhaps our slight success was due to the leisurely pace of our endeavour; often distracted by a casual observation, a mayfly hatch, an eagle soaring overhead or a nice weathered log upon which we could rest our prodigious laurels.
But often excitement was just around the next bend.
Derek with one of the larger bulls of the trip
Crossing the river to explore more promising water was always an adventure. The murky conditions made the depths incalculable so at times we'd be swept away by a strong current and carried downstream until we'd find our footing, gagging for breath and spewing water, scary at times but safe and invigorating in the end.
A variety of streamer colours and sizes were effective from black and red to olive and grey, or black and purple. The weight was determined by the strength of the current. Lighter flies did better on slow water, while getting the fly down quick in rushing current was effective.
We knew water everywhere was high, and that the trip was a gamble but we were confident it would be one well worth taking. 
Aside from a mosquito-infested tent trailer whose effects we neutralized by a good meal and a few cold ones before bedtime -the trip paid off in the end. I think we landed and released 25 bull trout, a few cutties and the odd sucker.
All in all, had a great time and look forward to next year.
Thanks guys.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Four seasons on the Columbia River

An April day spent on the Columbia River may seem like a full season of weather as the morning snow turned to rain, then a concerted hail storm followed by more precip and finally sunshine. Despite the frenetic weather the fishing was fine, as large rainbows gulped my stone nymphs and woolly buggers in a consistent frenzy.

The golden stones are emerging from beneath their rocks and in spite of the cooler than average weather, have morphed into their adult form - at least a few of them.The best pattern was a number 8-10 olive wooly bugger with an orange or gold head, however a recently tied golden stone picked up a few fish too.

Turn over a few embedded rocks
to find Golden stoneflies
Crawling nymphs along the bottom requires an intermediate to fast sink line. The take may be subtle so set the hook at any pause or light pull. Soon the warmer weather will arrive, I hope, and then top water action with salmon flies, cicadas and flying ants should be the patterns of choice.

Just to be clear, despite what people say in the West Kootenay region, salmon flies are a type of stonefly known as pteronarcys californica - They are not a cicada - you know the black-blue bugs on the wall of the mall- those are cicada NOT salmon fly.Go to the entomology page at for more info.

The fishing is pretty good this time of year as large trout move into the mouths of creeks or slack water to spawn. Predatory trout will feed on eggs and insects targeting the seasonal bounty indiscriminately.
Be sure to release the spawners which are generally darker and often the males may even have a kype showing.
Photo tips: For great photo tips check out, a humorous and helpful Blog by a fellow fly fisher and superlative shutterbug - check out his recent tips on photography and how to fish and hold a beer in your waders at the same time - brilliant.
And for what it's worth, I'll throw in my own tips for solo photography.
Due to a bizarre schedule, I go fishing solo the majority of the time so I've had to learn how to take fly fishing photos of myself casting, catching fish, grip and grins etc.
It can be challenging but what I've found is that predicting the spot and shot and preparing the camera goes a long way to getting promising results.
1. Sun at your back.
Unless your going for a halo effect, be sure the sun is behind the camera thus illuminating the subject which is obviously yourself when alone.
2. The majority of outdoor magazines want to see your face for some reason, so be sure to tilt your hat back or take it off, and lose the sunglasses.
3. Set up your camera on a tripod pointed in position, sun at back, shooting a pleasing background (not the highway or house on the shore).
4. Set 12 sec. timer on camera and then in manual focus, focus on a spot where you will be releasing fish with the sun in your face and a beautiful backdrop. I focus on a log or rock then be sure to stand right there for the photo depending whether a shallow depth of field is the impression looked for or a deep one.
5. Now catch a fish.
6. Once hooked up you can "casually" reach over and click the camera while rushing to the spot as you play the fish. Make sure you have a good rod bend when the shutter clicks.
7. When you land the fish, keep it in net or handle it gingerly. Press the shutter button, rush to the spot, hold the slippery, squirming fish in a gentle but pleasing manner and wait for the click.
It's a bit of a gong show and looks somewhat ridiculous but I've had good results in my desperate attempts to get something published.
Self portrait with slow shutter speed
 to get waterfall effect
 "...My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy." - Norman McLean "A River Runs Through It."

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fly fish BC goes in pursuit of Kootenay Rainbows

Perfect conditions on Kootenay Lake
The mighty Gerrard Rainbow is the largest species of rainbow trout in the world, with leviathons occasionally topping 30 pounds. So it was with excitement and a great deal of anticipation that I hit the water of Kootenay Lake Wednesday, a fortunate guest of father and son team, Rudy and Dave.

Dave ties on one of his hand-tied flies

We climbed aboard their comfortable 22-foot Trophy trawler (which is for sale by the way) fairly bright and fairly early but not too early, as local informants indicated the bite would not kick in until about 10 a.m.

Rudy is a retired doctor and his son Dave, a school teacher, who have lived on the lake off-and-on for the past 40 years. So their combined experience and a ton of fish landed over the years made this a promising venture.

Fly fish BC lands mighty
Gerrard on Kootenay Lake

Still, the first three hours on the water vetted nary a nibble. The "Bill Normans" and Rudy's personal favourite, the "Silver King" seemed to have lost their expected magic for winter trawling at an excruciatingly slow pace. 

At 11:30 Dave decided to change it up and replaced one impotent lure with a hand-tied-polar-bear hair fly, lovely creations, that seemed somehow indignant at being passed over by the more unwieldy and ineffectual plugs. 
As if to say, "I told you so" the fly was not in the water for more than five minutes when the rod bucked and line screamed. 
I fought and landed a beautiful eight-pound rainbow, shiny and thick - a harbinger of more good things to come. 
Rudy's 20-lb rainbow from Kootenay Lk.

Soon we had all three rods pulling hair, and again, just minutes after the first fish, another one was on.
I grabbed the  pulsing rod as line tore off the reel for what seemed like minutes. I passed it off to Rudy who played the massive rainbow like a pro, patient but intent on  keeping the line tight and the hook set. Dave netted the 20-pound trout, with wild exclamations and hardy congratulations all around.

In the next three hours we released five more Gerrards ranging from two to six pounds. It was a rare day for a lake that can be unforgivingly slow at times.

Perhaps it was the alignment of the stars, perfect conditions, good flies, experience and expertise, or a combination of the lot - I find on days when I catch more fish than expected, I don't question it, I just thank the fish gods and the men who made it so.
Thanks guys for a great day.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

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Cougar photo irks hunter


The photo of a Trail hunter straining to lift a massive cougar has generated controversy and as the photo spiders its way through cyberspace, heated debate follows, which is the last thing the man holding the cat was looking for.

The photo was taken after local cougar hunters tracked and shot a 160-pound cougar in the Pend d’Oreille and was subsequently posted online by a friend of one of the hunters. Media soon reported that the man holding the seven-foot two-inch cat, Trail resident Jay Mykietyn, had also shot the animal.

“They didn’t even have the courtesy to phone me,” said Mykietyn.

“It’s my picture with a cougar that I didn’t shoot.”

Mykietyn had already filled his cougar tag so it would have been illegal for him to shoot another cat, however, hunting partner Gerry Merlo was perfectly within his rights to harvest the animal and apply his own tag.

“It’s all part of game management and cougar hunting is here to stay, they kill lots of deer, elk, and moose – we have to have a balance and Mother Nature doesn’t take care of things like that,” said Mykietyn.

But there are detractors. Rossland city councilor Jill Spearn wondered online how “cougar hunting could be considered sport in the 21st century,” suggesting that it should be “outlawed.”

Pronouncements like these have made many hunters defensive but Mykietyn and others remain undeterred. Hunting is a precious and vital part of their heritage, something woven into the fabric of Canadian rural living and they mean to defend and preserve it.

Area cat hunters are a small fraternity. They share hounds and work together to exercise and train dogs.

The task is not an easy one, hunting cougars is difficult and expensive, but the few who do raise dogs are committed, spend hundreds of hours training, and at times are faced with unavoidable risk.

Mykietyn has been hunting all his life, tracking cats for 16 years and training his own hounds for 11, during which time he has lost one dog to a cougar.

When dogs are killed, “we feel sad and we have a little tear, but they’re soldiers, they are bred to do that, there is nothing that they’d rather do,” he said.

During last month’s hunt, one of the three hounds on the chase, a young pup named Rocky, was severely mauled by the cat. Mykietyn revived the dog, and after a pricey visit to a vet in Pullman, Washington, “the dog will make a full recovery.”

Because of the elusive nature of cougars, the Ministry of Environment has been unable to field an accurate study to determine populations. Nevertheless, hunting regulations put strict quotas on the cat harvest.

In Trail area management units 4-8 and 4-9, hunters are limited to one tag per year and each cougar killed must be reported and inspected. Once 10 female cougars are harvested and reported, hunters can no longer hunt in the area. But in the eight years a Fruitvale reporting and inspection station has operated, that quota has yet to be reached.

“Cats are almost impossible to hunt without dogs; a cat won’t tree because there’s a person following it, you have to have dogs, you have to have noise, and cougar hunters are selective with what they shoot - they don’t shoot every cat they put in a tree,” said Larry Hill, a Fruitvale hunter who has been scoring trophy animals for the West Kootenay Big Game Club for 28 years.

Hill says that most cougar hunters will tree cats, take a picture and let them go, doing so for training purposes and the thrill of the chase. And while he admits this particular cat is large, Hill has definitely seen bigger. Even Mykietyn acknowledges that he has come nose-to-nose with over a half-dozen larger cats and was with his father when he bagged the world-record, a seven-foot eleven-inch lion.

Responsible cat hunters try to avoid the spotlight as much as cougars avoid being spotted.

“Advertising like that (photo), it takes a long time to get straightened out . . . with cougar hunting, we keep a low profile, we don’t rub it in anybody’s face.”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bighorn sheep photos

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Sorry, I've been a little negligent towards my fishing website lately been too busy with work and holidays. The last time I was fishing was over a month ago and that was cut short when I discovered ice-cold water leaking into my right toe. Anyway, I've finally fixed my waders so a little winter fly fishing is imminent. I have hit the bench and tied up some killer flies for full-sinking fly-fishing - rainbows beware.

In the meantime, I took a hike up the Salmo-Creston and hung out with some bighorn sheep. I got a few good shots and was surprised at how tolerant they were of my presence.