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.