Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pend d'Oreille bass still biting

With the biblical high water this season I prolonged a trip to the Pend d'Oreille reservoir until mid-August. Water levels were still up, so I was wondering what the fishing would be like as I unloaded the boat, set up my six-weight Loomis and tied on Biggies crayfish pattern. It didn't take long before the rod jerked violently and a healthy bass fluttered on the surface.
The abundance of June rain and run-off also carried down deadfall and other woody debris to add to the subsurface structure, actually enhancing bass habitat.

The crayfish and pink and white clouser minnow worked well, actually anything with pink, but I imagine if the bass are there, they'll eat just about anything.
The key to catching bass is to find structure and work it at all levels.
Anchoring at the edge of weed beds, drop offs, or by submerged trees, and other structure using a sink-tip or sinking line is effective. Let the fly sink to the bottom then begin retrieve. Alternate between quick strips and pauses.
Top water fishing can also be good. Using poppers or any larger dry fly pattern from mouse, to hopper and even stimulator patterns have caught bass on  the PdO.
 I caught a lot of bass that afternoon, most of which were between 8-12 inches, but I lost about a 4-lb. lunker at the boat and landed a couple about 16 inches.
With  bullet-proof durability bass will continue to thrive in the slow, warm water habitat. There are big bass in the PdO, and despite being an alien species, the reservoir is without a doubt an under-utilized fishery.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Full tilt bull trout on the Elk

With water in rivers running at full tilt all across the Kootenays it was a bit of a gamble to hit the Elk River for the annual running of the bulls last week, but determination and a decided yearning to get away from civilization and into the run compelled us on.
When we first rolled over the Elk River bridge we noted our normally productive flats fishing at the mouth of the Elk was under 20 feet of water due to the overflowing Koocanusa Reservoir. However the Elk wasn't as bad and, although slightly higher, was still fishable.
Derek playing bull trout on the Elk River
From the first evening to the final morning of our five-day trip we consistently landed bulls. Sure there were times when an hour or two would pass between fish, but there were also days when a dozen fish was landed in a similar span.

Chris hooks into his first bull on the fly rod
It was an amazing trip with lots of laughs and success on the water. Chris joined us and landed his first bull trout on the fly rod within an hour of his first cast. Congratulations Chris and hope to get out on the water and throw some string soon.
In the meantime enjoy a couple photos of Derek, Jake, Chris and I pounding bush, wading the Elk and running with the bulls.
To read more about bull trout fishing the Elk check out my recent article in New Fly Fisher Magazine. Go to
Jake with a nice bull
Not so early fly tying session

Me taking photo of Derek taking photo of Jake's fish

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Interior BC fly fishing

Taylor and Colin show off
his catchbefore releasing it
Fly-fish-bc travelled to the Thompson-Okanagan and Cariboo earlier this month to pit our fly fishing skills  against some of the best rainbow trout fisheries in B.C.  
Stormy weather had plagued all of the interior and southern BC putting the trout down and making the fishing unpredictable. The first night we camped at Tunkwa Lake and were told the fishing was not so great, so we put the tinner in Leighton and were rewarded with a couple decent rainbows in the evening. The next morning we tried Tunkwa but were blown off by noon.
With more crappy weather on the way,we decided to travel and hit the road for Big Bar Lake. This beautiful piece of water is surrounded by marl shoals, its turquoise waters, rolling hills, and vibrant bird life make for a stunning setting.

 Jim casts a fly on Big Bar Lake
We camped for two days at Big Bar because it was so nice, but worked hard for few fish. Taylor and Colin picked up a couple surprising rainbows close to shore but attempts at chironomiding or casting sinking line over drop offs proved largely unsuccessful.
We headed for Highway 24 with thoughts of hitting Fawn and maybe Sheridan Lake but a local pointed us toward Valentine Lake, a not too far climb from 100 Mile House.

Colin and Taylor ready
 for fishing in the rain.
After changing a blown trailer tire on the rough road, we eventually made it and set up camp on the water at the far end of the Rec Site. The evening was windy and so like most water craft we trolled a full sink line very slowly. We were met with dozens of hits but few would stick as the rainbows seemed to have evolved into some super-trout species with impenetrable mouths.
Trolling was the most popular method employed by fly fishers, but eventually we tried anchoring and casting a full sink line with a dragon or mayfly nymph and solved a number of nice size rainbows up to 20-inches; and Colin, after countless agonizing misses, stuck and landed a hefty rainbow of about seven pounds. Taylor was not so lucky however. Sorry Taylor, we will get you into fish at some point.
A clear, calm evening on Valentine Lake
The weather was crazy from torrential downpours and hurricane winds, to fine sunny days, back to more rain.
A pair of gentlemen showed up next to our campsite the last night and had some good luck fishing chironomids, which were bombers on this lake.
Colin and his beautiful rainbow from
Valentine Lake
I would definitely go back to each and every one of these lakes, but moving from lake to lake may not be the way to go. Solving a lake usually takes a lot more than one or two days. Sometimes you get lucky and the fishing is incredible, but mostly time, patience, and more time and patience are what fishing success requires. However, deciding which lake to hit is quite possibly the most difficult part of the endeavour, but a nice problem to have indeed.
Had a great time with my fishing companions, Taylor, Colin and his i-phone, and look forward to the next one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Return to Kootenay Lake

The annual May long weekend tug boat trip resumed after a couple year hiatus and it was another epic journey on the waters of Kootenay Lake.
The trip started out auspiciously enough with Salvy hooking into a nice10-pound bull trout almost immediately. We trolled plugs, hockey sticks and a bucktail fly, had a couple on a down rigger and a couple more on the surface.
The action was pretty steady on Friday evening with decent water and a bite every half hour or so. After hitting a few bull trout, the middle rod, dragging the lone hair, bucked and bowed. I grabbed it immediately, setting the hook as the trout ran, and the reel screamed. But being of generous and kind disposition I graciously passed the rod to Notto who had been salivating over my shoulder the entire time.
He played the Gerrard pretty well, letting it run when it had to and eventually brought to the net a very passable 14-pound rainbow.

He looks a lot bigger than 14 pounds.
It turned out to be a great first night out. We landed seven fish in about four hours, including two 10-pound bullies and the Gerrard Rainbow landed by Notto.

The next few days however brought flat water and substantially slower fishing. We caught fish every day but nothing very large, mostly bulls with the odd 3-6 pound rainbow thrown in. We ate stupendously and enjoyed a few social beverages by the comfort of a small campfire at Pebble Beach in the evening.
Everyone caught fish, even Rieberger. No big screamers unfortunately, but lots of fish, beergaritas, and laughs.
Thanks to Mike for organizing a great trip - can't wait until next year.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The West Kootenay Fishing Report

The West Kootenay Fishing Report is a supplement appearing every second Thursday of the month, intended to inform and help locals and visitors enjoy the wonderful natural resource available to us all. Send a hot tip, photo, or report to or go to

Columbia River and Area Lakes
Fly of the Week: Flying Black Ant
We are almost into our summer heat and this means the annual black ant hatch. Yes, a real important food source for trout in lakes and rivers.
Conditions: Any two-day hot spell will induce a hatch that trout can’t get enough of. Trout will gorge themselves on ants till they can’t take any more and still take another one just because they can’t stop eating them.
Where to find them: An ant will hatch on land and for some reason are attracted to water. They fly well over land but as soon as they get over the water the temperature drops usually a good ten degrees and this puts a real damper on their flight pattern. Down they drop and you know the rest, yep, fish food.
Timing: It’s the time of year I consider the turning point of spring to summer fishing, when fish start to think that food can be found on or near the surface instead of always on the bottom. Afternoon till dark will find trout looking for food near the surface on any hot summer day.
Technique: I like to fish this fly with a floating line with very little drag on the fly, so a longer leader is favoured, 12 to 15 feet is common for me on this fly.

Good luck and hang on to your rod, the take is fast and often very aggressive. That means your rod will be gone if not attended.
Flying Black Ant
Hook- 2 xlong , R 72 or R74 mustad
Size - 8, 10 or 12s
Thread- 6/0 uni black
Body- dyed black deer hair
Wings- brown hackle from Indian cock cape
Thorax- peacock herl
Hackle- dyed black neck or saddle hackle

•For the more discriminant fly angler/fly tyer, try the:
Sexy Flying Ant
Hook - R72 or R74
Size - 8, 10 or 12
Thread - 6/0 uni black
Body - Rainy’s small-med. black round foam
Under body - Blue flash a bou
Wing - Indian cock cape hackle tips
Head - thorax- peacock herl
Hackle - dyed black neck or saddle hackle

Till next time, tight lines and bent rods -- Rod.
Fly of the Week presented and tied by Rod Zavaduck, owner/operator of Castlegar Sports and Fly Shop.

Arrow Lakes
Warmer weather should make it more pleasant on the water and nothing is as fun as getting together with fellow anglers for a good old fashioned fishing derby.
The Arrow Lakes Yacht Club is dangling $2,000 worth of prizes in front of local anglers to entice them to come out for the May Day weekend, May 19-21. Lots of hidden weight prizes with $500 going to the largest fish. It’s a family event with 16 years and under fishing free. The derby starts Saturday at 8 a.m. and goes until Monday at 1 p.m. Register at the Yacht club, 5540 Broadwater Road, camping available, moorage free with registration.
Call Brenda or Bob Howell at 231-2489 for more info.

Kootenay Lake
Conditions: Water temperatures were still relatively cool causing slow fishing at the end of April, but fishing picked up considerably the first weekend in May. Reports of numerous Gerrards coming in topping 20 pounds with multiple trout in the teens.
These guys had a great day on the water picking up a triple header on a Split Shot charter that resulted in a 20, 17 and 14 pound haul. Amazing.
Fisheries shut down the kokanee fishing in the West Arm due to concerns over the low fry count returning to the lake three years ago.
Flies and Techniques: Polar bear hair flies in grey and purple pulled on the surface has done well, as have plugs on bull trout.
Last week I helped a friend break in his new Thunder Jet, nothing like it, as we picked up a 10 pound Gerrard, a small rainbow and bull trout. Two days later he and Vern Quist netted a 16 pounder - thanks Dave.

Chironomids pumped from the
stomach of a rainbow trout.
Extra Tippets: I fished Rosebud Lake just after ice off at the end of April picking up a half dozen trout on chironomids in shallow water. Chironomids are the pupa form of midges and mosquitoes (chaoborus) and are the first insects to hatch in the spring. Trout gorge themselves on the emerging pupa so fish the oxygenated shallows just after ice off (less than six feet of water) and move deeper as the water warms.
I went out again May 11, Rosebud had warmed and after some searching I started picking up fish between 15 and 20 feet. Green chironomid worked well as did a chromie with red rib, #16 and 18 3X long nymph hook.
Rather than split shot, add a small barrel swivel to the leader with a couple feet of tippet to help get the chronomid into the zone faster. -Keep your tip up - Jim Bailey

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The West Kootenay Fishing Report

The West Kootenay Fishing Report
The report is a supplement that, with the help of Randy Zelonka and Rod Zavaduk, I put together monthly for the Trail Daily Times, however, I'll throw in a few more photos, comments and info in extra tippets on the fly-fish-bc.blogspot.

Kootenay Lake
Conditions: What a spring. Water temp is staying down and the lake levels are coming up. Some good fish have been coming in, including a 26-pound male, a 19 pounder caught by Mitch Roggensach (left)and numerous others under 20.
The Woodbury Dolly Derby went over the Easter long weekend with the winning dolly at 15 pounds-eight ounces, second was 13 pounds, and third at 12-pounds eight-ounces.
There were also some good rainbows landed while trying to get that winning dolly, for instance, one boat released a 17 and a 14.
Lures: The Billies are still working well with the odd bucktail day as well. Purples, blues, Tennessee shad and rainbow trout patterns for the billies; November special, bleeding gill, and black/whites for the flies.
Remember water is still cold 39 F so trawl slow about 1.8 mph on the Billies and 2.2 to 2.5 mph on the hair.
Location: The West Arm kokanee fishery was open the first week of April, with many 14-inch kokanee reported. Depending on the day, most guys caught their limits.
One day the trollers would do well, the next the jiggers. Also, some good luck off the 17-mile rock.
Fisheries will determine if the week-long season will continue, as there is some concern over the low fry count returning to the lake three years ago. We will keep you informed.
Supposedly some ice is still on the south arm of Duncan Lake so not many guys have ventured up there as yet.
Kootenay Lake Report is provided by Randy Zelonka, owner of Gill and Gift in Balfour.

Columbia River
Fly of the Week: Beadhead Pheasant Tail Flashback

Fish this pattern on the Columbia or other waters in early spring and all thru the summer months. It represents the mayfly nymphs that are always hatching from now till next winter.
The smaller ones represent the clinger type mayfly nymphs. Sizes 12 to 16 are the norm. Larger, longer styles tied exactly the same but much bigger, represent the swimmer and/or burrowers. I tie these on a 3X-long size 10 to 14s.
Technique: Nymph with a dry line and a 10-12 foot leader. Put a strike-indicator 8 to 10-feet up the leader, with split shot about 16-18 inches above the fly.
I always tie with a loop knot to let the fly dance on the leader. Fish the shallow, fast runs about 4 to 10 feet deep. Cast above you and let the fly drift down past you drag free. Any stop or sunk indicator lets you know you’re into a fish. You will be surprised at how many fish take and let go of the fly very quickly. So be ready and enjoy this method and good fishing.

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Pattern
Hook - Size 12-16, R70 mustad
Thread - 8/0 uni black
Tail - pheasant tail
Rib - copper wire
Flashback - pearl flashabou
Hood - pearl flashabou
Thorax - peacock herl
Bead - gold brass bead 7/64

FoW submitted by Rod Zavaduck, owner/operator of Castlegar Sports and Fly Shop.

Extra Tippets: Some really nice kokanee and rainbows are coming out of the Upper Columbia and the Arrow Lakes. The fishing is heating up with warmer weather finally arriving.
In addition to the monster Columbia doe caught by Quist above, Riley Haines landed a kokanee weighing close to seven pounds on the Arrow Lakes.
Chironomids syphoned from the stomach of a
Rosebud Lake rainbow trout.
Area lakes should be nearing ice off. I know Erie is free and Rosebud most likely. Summit and Box Lakes up by Nakusp are usually good this time of year so blow up the float tube and get out the chironomids.
For those unfamiliar with chironomid fishing, it's traditionally a still-water technique where fly anglers suspend a tiny midge or mosquito pupa pattern anywhere from three-20 feet below the surface. Rainbows gorge themselves on these insect hatches which are the first to emerge after ice off.  Most fly fishers use a floating line, and a long leader with a strike indicators to immediatly tell when a fish is on but also to judge the depth of the suspended chironomid more accurately.
Chironomids also work well on the Columbia in deep pools and back eddies - Tight Lines.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

West Kootenay Fly-Fishing Symposium

Rod Zavaduck welcomed symposium visitors and gave
some invaluable advice on fishing local waters.
Well with a little prodding from fly-angler and tyer Rollie Hill, I've finally navigated my way back to my fly-fish-bc blog after a weekend at the West Kootenay Fly Fishing Symposium in Castlegar.
I showed up Saturday and was pretty happy to see such a nice turn out. I immediately grabbed a fist full of raffle tickets and started stuffing the prize buckets that were drawing a variety of fly-fishing parphenalia from 2-wt. fly rods to guided trips and a lot more . . . still waiting for a call.

Don Freschi and John MacGillivray spent the day greeting
fly tyers and offering advice on their unique patterns.
Lots of great guests including Don Freschi of Sport Fishing on the Fly, East Kootenay guide Kelly Latsch, exquisite fly-tyer John Newberry, casting guru Ruben Brekreitz as well as many local fly craftsmen, tyers and businesses that made the whole event possible.
Lon Lachthaler lends a hand to show
 youngsters the finer points of fly tying.
I also stopped in on a great presentation by Castlegar Sports and Fly Fishing's Rod Zavaduk. Not only did he show a group of about 30 fly-fishing enthusiasts how to tie a killer emerger caddis pattern, he also divulged many helpful secrets on how to fish the Columbia.

Ruben Brekreitz offers instruction on fly and
Spey casting over a field of white water.

Bill Hanlon and his finely
crafted portable fly-tying kits.

Had a superlative time and picked up some great casting tips as well as a beautiful portable fly-tying station, handcrafted in cherry wood by Trail resident Bill Hanlon.
Thanks guys.

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