Friday, September 27, 2013

Extreme Stream Fishing: A Ramble through British Columbia

The New Fly Fisher is a TV show and an online magazine that covers the art of fly fishing throughout North America.
issue11 fall 2013I have been a regular contributor to the magazine since it hit the shelf almost three years ago, and my most recent article highlights fly fishing on secluded West Kootenay streams, with a historic nod to James Arthur Lees and William S. Clutterbuck, two early explorers who were the first to toss flies over Kootenay water and chronicled their adventures in the book 1887: A Ramble Through British Columbia.
The cover shot is of me fly fishing a local stream that is only about a 30 minute hike from my house.
Best of all, the online magazine is free, just punch in your email and a password and they will only send you the next issue without bombarding you with spam and junk mail.

Check out the new edition of the New Fly Fisher

Friday, September 20, 2013

West Kootenay Fishing Report

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: September 18, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: September 18, 2013 1:26 PM
The West Kootenay Fishing Report is back with reports and tips on how to catch fish on local lakes and streams.
Columbia River:
The Columbia saw some great fishing over the summer months.
After a July of furious action, the dwindling caddis hatches made way for hopper patterns in late August and early September. Hatches will begin to fall off as the weather cools and fly fishers are generally more successful using sink-tip or full-sink lines and throwing woolly buggers and stonefly nymphs at the large rainbow. However, sunny days and late mayfly and October-caddis hatches can mean some great top-water action during warm afternoons.
Technique: With fewer bugs coming off the water, rainbows will hunker down and hold in tailouts or in the fast water of runs and riffles, feeding opportunistically on passing nymphs, beetles, flying ants, and other invertebrates. Getting the fly down is more effective so flies weighted with lead wire or a tungsten bead-head helps.
A short leader of up to four feet is recommended. Cast the line out, let it sink, and strip out extra line to cover more ground, before twisting the line in slowly, with an intermittent jerk to give it life.
The takes can be hard and jolting, but are often barely perceptible so be sure to set any pause in the retrieve.
Lakes: Fall is the time that fishing on local lakes heat up. Well actually the lakes cool down, bringing trout out of the depths as the thermocline - the area of cool, oxygenated water, that trout are most comfortable - moves closer to the surface. Trout will cruise just above the thermocline, along shoals, and weedbeds seeking out dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, as well as leeches, chironomids, and water boatmen.
Patterns and technique: Leech, chironomid and water boatman patterns are good choices but tossing a weighted dragonfly nymph pattern alongside a weedbed elicits some bone-jarring hits. Cast a dragonfly nymph pattern on an intermediate sink line or sink tip, over weed beds or near the shore along the bottom.
During emergence, dragonflies migrate to shore and emerge on reeds and other vegetation, so crawling a nymph towards shore, slowly across the bottom, interspersed with a quick strip to imitate its innate propulsion system is effective.
Adult Darner dragonflies are most common on lakes and attain large sizes with bodies up to 3.5 inches or longer. Climbing Darner nymphs grow up to 2 inches, although 1 ¾ to 1 ¾ inches is a common average. Long shank hooks in sizes #4- #8 cover the bases and a size #6 is a good overall average. Use larger patterns in the spring and early summer to suggest mature nymphs. During the fall, smaller sizes are wise choices to imitate the remaining immature nymphs.
Champion, Rosebud, Nancy Greene, Erie and Cottonwood Lakes are great local water  on which to toss a fly or lure.

This cutthroat trout couldn’t resist a grasshopper fly pattern.

Kootenay Lake:
After spending the summer chasing salmon on the coast, Kerry Reed and Reel Adventures Fishing Charters is back on Kootenay Lake.
Although Kerry was absent from local water, his team was still fishing Kootenay Lake on a regular basis throughout the summer. Even on hot summer days they managed to catch a few fish mostly on the downriggers due to the warm water conditions.
Bull trout of smaller sizes were consistently caught each day and a few rainbows mixed in.
And when the warm water finally caught up, they started fishing for Kokanee to help maintain interest. That turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as late summer Kokanee up to 18 inches made for exciting trips.
As the team transitions to autumn fishing, decent rainbows have been caught in the past week or two.  Nothing huge, but still some good fish in the low teens.  That’s a good start considering the water is still very warm.
Lures and technique:
It’s still a mixed bag. The weather is still warm and so is the water. So, most fish are biting on the deep lines. However, there have been a few good ones caught on the surface.
September is usually best fished with downriggers. Common depths of 80 - 120 feet seem to work best.
The usual flasher and hoochie combo has been successful. And some of the latest experiments have found a flasher and bucktail fly to be catching fish also. These combinations fished on the rigger around 100 feet seems to be working.
Bucktails on the surface will be working also as the fish become more aggressive. Look forward to more detailed reports as we spend more and more time on the lake over the next few weeks

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wrestling Westslopes on the Wigwam


"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." - A River Runs Through It

The Wigwam River is a pretty and remote stream that flows into the Elk River in the East Kootenay of British Columbia.
Its turquoise pools are pristine and the trout that hold in them are big and beautiful Westslope cutthroat trout.
I set out for the Wigwam at the end of last month with Colin and his three sons Spencer, Taylor, and Aiden in tow.
We rolled in about five in the evening and camped at Ram Creek, some 44 km. up the Morrissey line.
We set up the tent, then tried a few casts in the small stream that winds into the Wigwam about 100 metres downstream. Some nice cutthroat rose methodically, but as one fly fisher exiting the stream put it, "They're educated."
We woke relatively early and loaded the Subaru for a quick drive down river. We pulled off to the side of the road and began the descent into the canyon.
There are trails on the Wiggy, but finding them is difficult if you are new to the area, and once found they are eminently easy to lose. A guide once took me into some incredible areas on an obscure and precipitous path, that I couldn't find for the life of me for 10 years, so I've since been know to bushwhack precarious terrain in search of the elusive pools.
Colin lands the first cutty of the trip with help from Aiden on the net.
After a 30 minute hike, we emerged on the Wigwam overlooking a rock wall and large pool. Colin had his rod strung in no time and was fighting the first cutthroat of the trip on his first cast.
To no one's surprise, he lost it, but rebounded with another only moments later, and with the help of Aiden brought it to the net.
Aiden's all smiles with this
nice cutty.
Aiden, 14, is a natural fly fisher, his casts are smooth and effortless, and he understands that fly fishing is all finesse, timing, patience, and dumb luck.
It didn't take him long before he hooked and landed his first, and second cutthroat in the same pool.
Taylor on the other hand, being older and more accustomed to spincasting, was frustrated early, for anyone who has ever tried to cast a fly for the first time will invariably  heave the rod mightily and the line and fly will come crumbling down around you as though it were laughing.

Jim hooks up with another large westslope cutthroat.
Colin, Aiden, and Taylor: a symphony of casts
But after a few quick lessons, Taylor began to throw string if not in an easy manner, one less complicated and therefore more successful than his first attempts. He too hooked a few nice cutthroat, and landed one of the larger ones that day, a fat 18-incher.
I continued to move upstream with a prescient determination, as though something special lay ahead. I landed a few cutthroat on the way, then navigated a long boulder-strewn run, and looking up in the distance I could just make out an oddly familiar rock construction overhanging a deep arching pool of turquoise.
As I approached I became more and more certain that it was indeed the pools of heaven I visited a decade earlier. And when at last I stood on the shore and surveyed her depths, the sight of 30 or 40 bull trout stacked up on the bottom, confirmed for me that it was that same pool I had sought so earnestly for years.
I like to think we caught some good trout in there that afternoon, but I can't remember.

Westslope cutthroat trout
I know we didn't target the spawning bull trout save for a few forays with a large streamer pattern. Smaller cutthroat generally clear out of pools like that as the bull trout out compete them for space and holding water. Large cutties however will remain and feed on the eggs, and other invertebrates.
As Colin and I left the pool, I looked for the trail that first took me down. I noted a slight sloughing of gravel on the bank, and an opening through the dense brush. I followed it and sure enough it turned into something resembling a game trail, but then became more distinguishable as it climbed steadily through the forest. Colin continued downstream to meet up with the boys, while I clung to the trail, hiking straight up to the road.
The Munros at White Swan Lake, B.C.
I rejoined Colin and the crew further down stream. It was early evening and Colin had in the meantime enjoyed a prolific green drake hatch, with cutties rising to his fly on nearly every cast, while he laughed maniacally with every hookup.
It was a great trip that continued on to the White Swan and a stop at the trout hatchery on the Bull River, which was very interesting and a must-see for anyone traveling down the Bull River Road.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Evening rise on the Columbia River

"Do not go gentle into that good night," wrote Dylan Thomas, instead arm yourself with a fly rod, a few friends, and some adult caddis patterns and hold on.
Four of us hit the river for an evening of dry-fly fishing, and what started slow, steadily grew with the ebbing light into an exciting double-header frenzy.
We started at Trimac eddy and with few flies emerging, few fish were rising. However, Mike manoeuvered us into a spot on the edge of a precarious seam where the snouts of large rainbow could be seen breaking the water. I cast and a trout struck hard, and, in Mike's words, I "Ralph Lingrened" the small caddis pattern right out of the rainbow's mouth.
Well moments later another struck and again I missed. Not five minutes later I hooked another but this time the line snapped and I had to humbly tie on another fly.
With the trout thoroughly spooked we moved to the big eddy, and soon enough Derek was into a nice trout. Showing us all how to play it with a dramatically high hook set, the fly-angling aficionado landed a three-pound beauty.
The caddis started emerging with conviction now, the surface looked like rain, and soon I was into another. As I played it to the boat, Derek also hooked up and both of us landed and released a pair of pretty bows.
We missed a few, were broken off a couple times but the action was furious. In about a 15-minute span, we enjoyed two more double headers. I hooked about a four-pounder that leapt six feet out of the water repeatedly.
It was so much fun, but with the darkness complete, and caddisflies crawling in every orifice on our bodies, we returned to the launch.
Great time, great company, great river. Thanks guys.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pike reward program implemented

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: August 09, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: August 09, 2013 1:16 PM

Beginning Aug. 21, the incentive for anglers to target northern pike on the Columbia will go up, way up.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources is taking innovative steps to solve the northern pike problem in the Columbia River, and is offering a $500 reward to anglers who help out.
“I can confirm that the province is launching a program, the Pike Reward program, on the Columbia River specifically,” said Ministry of Forests fisheries biologist Matt Neufeld. “The program essentially is related to tagged fish, so we put a number of pike in the river that were captured and released with integrated electronic tags implanted in their head.”
The tags are not visible to anglers, but fishermen who bring the heads of all pike caught on the Columbia to the B.C. Forest District office in Castlegar will have the heads scanned and if a tag is present the lucky angler will go home $500 richer.
“The  basis for the program is that northern pike are introduced and are a non-native species in the Columbia . . . There’s a bunch of concerns related to having pike here, and one of the biggest is that they are pretty efficient predators, they eat fish, they’re top-end predators, so they can certainly have an impact on native fish in the Columbia,” added Neufeld.
The pike first appeared in the Columbia about six years ago, and were confirmed in 2010 when Golder Associates researchers caught five of them during a fish sampling survey on the Columbia near Robson. They are believed to have entered the system from the Pend d’Oreille River, where an increasing number have been caught in recent months.
The Columbia has already absorbed its share of non-native species in walleye, tench, and smallmouth bass, however the effect of pike, its numbers and distribution within the ecosystem, is still uncertain, which is why the province decided to implement the Pike Reward program.
“Non-natives are always a significant concern. They are typically very difficult to eliminate especially in a big system like the Columbia once they’re present. We don’t know enough at this point to know how concerned to be about it, but this program is the start of looking at what’s going on with pike. So get a handle on where people are catching them, and how many anglers are catching, and how people are catching them.”
The information will go a long way to help fisheries managers understand the extent of the pike problem and how to proceed. In the longer term, the province may look at other ways to remove bulk numbers of pike, potentially through netting.
In the meantime, anglers like Mountain Valley Sports Fishing and Tours guide Dwayne D’Andrea of Castlegar will take advantage of the new sports fishing opportunity.
“We’ve got people coming for walleye and when I mention pike a lot of people are interested in them too,” said D’Andrea. “They are probably in the back eddies and slacker water all the way up. We’ll find out more when we start fishing for walleye this fall.”
It’s unlikely that unlimited angling will lead to the complete eradication of the species, says Neufeld, and if they are spawning successfully, then it will be something residents may have to live with for a long time.
“My gut feeling in looking at the habitat types that we’re seeing pike in the Robson reach that there’s not a ton of overlap between rainbows and pike, but there’s ongoing studies to look at rainbow abundance that BC Hydro completes every year . . . so there are some indicators that we’d be able to follow to see if there’s real big impacts there.”
The ministry biologist would not divulge the number of pike heads in which tags were implanted, but  said they will continue to implant tags throughout the year. The program will remain in effect until Mar. 15, 2014, at which time it will be reviewed and possibly extended.
“It’s an ironic thing,” said Neufeld. “We really want to kill them all, but here we are catching them and releasing them back into the system.”
It is the hope of the Ministry that anglers will cooperate in the interest of science and the future of the Columbia,  - if not, a little pecuniary motivation certainly won’t hurt.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Confessions from St. Joe

The St. Joe River in northern Idaho was on the bucket list this summer, and I had the good fortune of visiting the stream accompanied by friend and incomparable fly fisher Jake Waterstreet.
We set off for the Joe in early July not sure what to expect but had heard good reports on the fertile stream.
We pulled into the small town of Avery at about 10:30 at night, surprised to find the fly shop still open. The proprietor gave us some indication of what would work and what would work less often. On the go-to list was a big, ugly purple fly that looked like the mutant offspring of an unfortunate coupling between Madame X and the Chernobyl ant. I snatched up a couple of them immediately, along with a few stimulator, hopper, and humpy patterns.
After setting up camp in the dark, we enjoyed a couple cold beer and plotted out our plan of attack.
Awaking the next morning we were surprised to find the stream flowing quietly six feet away from our tent. We never realized it under the darkness of night, so without much consideration of the previous night planning, we geared up and waded into the Joe.
Jacob was into a sizeable trout immediately, but it shook loose before he could land him. However, he followed that up with a couple small cutthroat on the hopper pattern.
My plan was to start nymphing in the early morning than change over to dries as it warmed, but that didn`t stop Jake from drawing the cutthroat to the surface.
Nevertheless, I persevered and was soon rewarded with a nice 17-inch cutthroat. The fishing was good in the morning, and slowed in the mid-afternoon before picking up again in the evening.
We fished the stretch of River just past 50 mile and found good water above and below our camp.
The next day we journeyed up river about 10 miles and peered into the depths of the canyon and some very fishy looking pools.
Rather than throw ourselves off the edge of a precipitous embankment, I was able to talk Jake into approaching it from a downstream access less severe and intimidating.
We generally landed one or two in every pool, Jake had good action on a hopper while I hooked up a half dozen times with the purple people eater, as we`d dubbed it. The evening hatch came on with vigour, and the trout rose happily to mayfly patterns.
We landed quite a few but not quite as big or as many as we were hoping, still throwing string over such a pretty stream was very satisfying.
As RHB said, ``There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Peter Hope Lake: Great Expectations

Last week I made the journey to Peter Hope Lake just outside of Merritt filled with hope and great expectations.
 I met up with my friend Colin who had 
 first-hand news from a friend who had been there two weeks earlier and reportedly landed a multitude of eight- to 10- pound rainbows on micro-leech patterns suspended from a strike indicator on about 20-feet of leader.
 Dickens was right, it turned out to be the best of times and worst of times.
In fact, on the first day we arrived, one of the locals told us a tale of a fly angler boating a 14-pound triploid on a  chironomid and 5X tippet  that he played for an hour before the massive trout capitulated, so needless to say the expectations were high.

Friday, May 10, 2013

West Kootenay Fishing Report

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: May 09, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: May 09, 2013 1:22 PM
The West Kootenay Fishing Report is back with reports and tips on how to catch fish on local lakes and streams. The Kootenay Lake submission is courtesy of Reel Adventure Fishing Charters’ Kerry Reed.

Rossland fly angler Garry Gill put on a chironomid clinic last week
 at one of the local West Kootenay lakes.

Kootenay Lake: It’s that time of year. The weather has warmed up to the balmy spring-like conditions we’ve all been waiting for and with that, the water will warm and the fish will start to get more active. My favourite time of year is coming.
April saw some good and bad days on the water. Still had to be patient, but we were normally rewarded. The creeks started to flow a bit in the past few weeks and that has brought out some bugs and debris on the water. This has also brought out the small, insect eating fish. So, we have been hooking into a lot of shakers lately. At least it keeps us running for the rods.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Knee deep in rainbows: Columbia River

Knee deep in rainbows
The Columbia was nothing short of spectacular last month. Tossing a full sink line with a number 6 golden stonefly nymph, or a big and ugly #4 pteronarcys californica (salmonfly) nymph produced a number of good rainbows.
Large spawning male caught on a stonefly nymph
On Sunday I strung up the floating line. With fish rising everywhere, I managed to land and release a half dozen rainbows on a black ant pattern and adult salmonfly.
Fish the back eddies, tailouts, or at the mouths of streams. Highstick it through the shallow riffles, letting your nymph tumble along the bottom like a dislodged stonefly nymph. Then let it swing and rest in the seam for a few seconds before a slow retrieve.
Be sure to get out before the freshet is in full force. I already noticed that the water is rising. Normally it muddies from run off and becomes laden with debris, but this year has seen almost perfect spring conditions for a slow run off, except of course the recent heat wave.
Good fishing and tight lines.
Experiment. This orange woolly bugger
fooled a couple rainbows

Another nice Columbia River rainbow

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Early season fly fishing on Box Lake

April can indeed be the cruelest month with unpredictably cool weather, that keeps ice lingering on local lakes, but if one searches hard enough there is always a lake that liberates itself from winters steely grasp earlier than others.
In the West Kootenay, the early go-to lake is Box Lake up by Nakusp, whose relatively low elevation, less than 600 metres, attracts a handful of eager if not desperate anglers.
You can count me as one of the more desperate types, intent on throwing string despite two days of relentless rain called for in the forecast. I loaded my float tube into the Subaru and navigated the twisting but scenic Hwy. 6 through the Slocan Valley.

Summit Lake
I took a detour up Wilson Lake Rd. at Rosebury to check out Beaver Lake, however it was undoubtedly still ensconced in ice and snow for at least another few weeks. I drove as far as I could before a deep, snow-covered road forced me back.
Stopping at Summit was no more inspiring as ice still clinged tenaciously to the shore, and with a freezing rain and blustery wind, was as inviting as a flat tire. I still wanted to try it yet as I was pumping up my tube, I soon  realized that the persisting hissing was a series of irreparable holes, which didn't sadden me too much considering how cold the water looked.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fly fishing Kootenay streams

Just messing around with a video editing program and thought I'd post this. Can't wait to head back to those waters again. Notice the second trout had a nice bead-head stonefly pattern still stuck in its lip.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Rainbow Tale

"It's about four pounds," pronounced Dave as he reeled in, somewhat lazily, what he thought was a relatively meager trout.
Bucktailing for Gerrards on Kootenay
Grant giving Dave some encouragement as he lackadaisically
plays his Gerrard rainbow.
Given that the potential size of Kootenay Lake Gerrard Rainbow can reach up to 30 pounds, this trout`s somewhat less than vigorous response to inhaling one of Dave`s hand-tied polar bear bucktails left us all a little quizzical and confused. Little did we know what was actually hooked at the end of the line.

The rod tip had bounced decisively and the line broke loose of the planer board clip just as the fisherman pulled the rod from the holder and began tentatively to  turn the large arbour reel, trying to gauge with what conviction the trout was stealing line.
Rainbows can be deceiving. If it's not an immediate line screamer, it is often difficult to judge the size and veracity of a monster trout. At times the rainbow will swim toward the boat or come in serenely without protestation, guided by the tug of the hook on its lip, conserving energy until it spies the boat - when it will explode into the depths like a demon bound for hell.