Welcome to May! As the calendar turns so did the weather. It’s not summer just yet. This weekend presents unsettled spring weather with showers, wind, and more seasonal temperatures of +9 to 14C. Look at our Current Conditions page to monitor precip, forecasts, water flows as all are likely to change. To the Fishing Forecasts…
Central Trout Lakes Fishing Forecast
Here’s what I know about conditions: the drive-to lakes in the Rocky-Red Deer-Edmonton region are ice free. I haven’t heard of a lake or pond that isn’t, but maybe think twice about some that are further off in the bush/shaded. Beaver, Muir, Star, Dolberg, Spring, Cardiff, Kerbe’s, Morinville (both of them), East Pit, Fort, Beaumont, Leduc, Hermitage, Hansen’s, Lower Chain, Swan, etc, are all ice-free. The Nordegg valley lakes are open also (thanks to Brian Charles for that update).
Salter’s had a substantial kill. There are reports of kills at Beaumont, but some people apparently caught some overwintered fish (it does carry over a few each year it seems). It was also stocked this week, so there are fish, and maybe a few surprises for the kids. Fort Pond is still reporting mostly slow/brutal catching, but does generate a fair bit of inquiry, hence its mention here. Consider that before driving out.
Now that we know that the vast majority of lakes are open for business, the real question becomes, “which lakes are turning over?” The answer seems to be, the lakes in the Caroline region. Beaver was murky with chunks from the bottom floating all over when I was there a couple weeks back. A friend of mine was out (along with 22 other crafts –remember how popular the QSF fisheries are) at Beaver on Saturday, and said there was 3-4ft of visibility; definitely enough for some decent fishing, but nowhere near what it would be in optimal conditions. The lakes in the Edmonton and the north (Dolberg, Chain, etc) region seem to be okay as far as clarity goes, but it seems like the more southern lakes are a tad off. Those ponds should clear up over the next 5-7 days, as turnover has been going on for a couple weeks now. Expect the Edmonton region lakes to turn in about a week’s time.
As far as tactics go, it will be more or less similar to last week’s forecast. The hatches are still thin (this week, both down by Rocky and up north of Edmonton) it is #18-26 chironomids, instead of #64 daphnia, so I guess that’s a bonus! I did get some fish on # 10 black/red chironomid (hey, I’m not masochistic enough to dredge with #22 chironies in April…), but the best fishing is on leeches and other good searching flies. My favourite is a mohair/simi-seal type blend, maybe in a seal bugger style, or just with a dubbing loop, but you could use rabbit/squirrel strip flies, pumpkin heads, or even just the lowly bugger in dirty shades of olive, brown, maroon, or black. *Editor’s Note: Was driving by some unstocked ponds 2 evenings ago and #12 midges were in blizzard like waves so this is a good sign!
There are a few scattered caddis, dragon movements, damsels, chironies, and even some baby hoppers (yup, already!) on the water.
The real change is that while last week the fish wanted the flies as slowly moved as possible, this week they seem to be up for the chase. I broke out the hover line (a slow sinking intermediate, which falls at about a half inch per second) and cast into 3ft of water, let the lightly weighted seal buggers sink for about 8 seconds, then started a fairly quick retrieve; the takes were very positive! Reports from friends across the region stated similarly.
This activity increase will be similar throughout central Alberta as water temps inch closer to 50F. A couple degrees makes a difference at this point in the season. Find the water closest to 50F or warmer, and you’ll also find the most eager trout. As last week, the zones of water that are <10ft will be more productive than deeper areas. Spend your time searching different locations, using staple flies, and a few different presentation styles, and you’ll connect with some trout.
Check the stocking reports on http://mywildalberta.com/Fishing/StockingReports/ . If the lake is stocked with diploids (which behave like wild trout, with seasonal spawning activities, migrations, etc) you’ll often find areas of the lake with a lot of nice fish, and in relatively shallow. If the lake has triploids, they don’t always feel the need to patrol shallows in the spring, and you’ll locate fish through more areas of the lake.
Ideas to key in on this weekend:
1. Caroline/Rocky area lakes are most likely murkier (but still fishable) than more northern lakes; consider this if you’re thinking about driving from Edmonton
2. Chironomids are hatching, but most are small. If you see a hatch of decent sized bugs, try matching it.
3. Lake edges in <10ft (and truthfully, often less than 7 or 6ft) will often turn out the most trout.
4. If the water is nearing 50F, the trout will be more aggressive, letting you search the water with cast/retrieve presentations, instead of just indicator fishing (the latter will still work well, mind you! Just more options now.) It’s time to break out the slow sinking lines.
5. Fish the downwind side of the lake. The food gets funnelled here, and the trout will be there to eat, especially the really juicy meals such as baitfish.
Muir opens this Friday, expect the full contingent out this weekend, and while the atmosphere is always nice, don’t expect solitude.
I hope you all get a chance to head out.
Good fishing, Nick Sliwkanich
Editor’s Note – we were sent this image of the east end of Fortress Lake after Dylan and Travis of Fortress Lake Retreat hiked in the past two days. This is an exceptionally early spring. You can’t quite yet fish open water but it’s close.
East Slopes Trout Streams
Dave Jensen – Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine
This week’s hot daytime weather was great but coupled with above freezing overnight temperatures in the mountains the start of alpine snowpack melt began. Rivers like the N Sask and Athabasca rose and got murkier. Thankfully the temperatures are set to drop and we should see levels come down and visibility improve by Sunday. We’re getting closer to the inevitable spring run-off though, those mountain reaching rivers are on borrowed time.
Let’s start off with a new video from April 28. As always, the AFGLive video aims to share a present angling opportunity in Alberta. This should continue a while yet.
The current hatches remain the same. Skwala stones, late winter black stones, march brown mayflies, blue-winged olive mayflies, midges, water boatmen, a few field moths. A new addition this week thanks to the warm weather is the spring flying ant event. Fishing these hatches – the above video takes care of the stoneflies. Midges are best when found in mating clusters on the waters soft edges so look for risers in soft pockets or tailout slicks. Blue-winged olive nymphs are found in light gravel so look for trout nosed into drop-offs or riffles and troughs. Of course, just because they emerge from gravel doesn’t mean they stay on gravelly water – they’ll drift as far and long as it takes for their wings to dry and with this weekend’s weather you should find some good risers on flat water. Re: March Brown mayflies – their emergence is fast from the stream bed. They often pop so quickly through the water column that their wings are out of the wing case before breaking the film. One nymphing tactic is to tie as a dropper (such as a soft hackle hare’s ear or bulkier pheasant tail) 1t 1 to 3 foot depth below a #8 to 12 stimulator and cast well above the seam, drop, edge, etc allowing it to sink. As it comes in to the zone, stop/slow the drift, allowing nymph to lift to match the natural. Many trout will key into this movement and you’ll get some great takes. Their duns, like olives, will ride the surface for as long as it takes to dry their wings. Trout will often key on the struggling duns that dance on the surface so if you aren’t getting any takes during the often heavy hatch, try putting a wee drag into your drift then let it dead drift. This often solicits attention.
Streamer fishing remains decent. A variety of sizes and retrieves can be tried. I won’t tell you that a #2/0 Sex Dungeon is going to out perform a #10 Bow R Bugger. Some days it will. A #4 Yellow Yummie up against a Zoo Cougar? You tell me. The point is to get the fly into the zone, pay attention to the misses and successes, adjust what you are doing with your sink times, rates, and retrieves. We’ll eventually shoot some video that deals with streamers. Variety is always king when streamer fishing.
And for the first time in a decade – since the spring of 2005 just before the big flood hit – I’m happy to say that our brown trout aren’t universally suffering nor skinny-as. The mild winter, low snowpack, excellent spring weather and good hatches thus far have them mostly in good shape. After the winters and spring we’ve had the past decade, hopefully this is a respite. (yeah, yeah, cue the June monsoons!).
The Crowsnest shot up this week as well. Some very good nymphing and streamer fishing is reported. The Oldman remains in fishable shape tho it did rise considerably in the heat mid week. Think streamers and deep nymphs. There are pockets of good dry fly fishing in the softest edge waters.
I’d like to remind you our high country cutthroat and rainbow trout spawning waters remain closed, so too the Red Deer R below Dickson Dam. Our regulations have had a great move to protect trout during their spawning season so if you’re out fishing and think you want to fish the Ram River, for example, know that the cutthroat trout are spawning so it’s closed until mid June. Think through when a river’s trout spawn and you’ll figure out when it’s closed. Bulls, browns, and brookies are fall spawners. Rainbows, cutts, grayling, and golden trout are spring spawners. This is the brief version of things just in case you don’t know, but stream specific regulations are available in your regs.
Fish Tales Fly Shop
The Bow isn’t producing quite as well as it was a few weeks ago but folks should still try to take advantage of early season opportunities. The bug life is prolific with midges, BWO, March browns, small caddis, and skwala activity on the surface, and a multitude of nymphs, leeches, and minnow life below.
River levels are up a bit from a couple weeks ago (about 67 cms at the time of writing) which means the clarity has dropped. Sections of the river – particularly below the Highwood – are a classic ‘streamer green’ color at the moment. Don’t by shy about trying your luck with a big streamer like a Dungeon, Urchin bugger, Polar Minnow, or Skiddish Smolt.
Nymphing will still be your best method on the Bow with San Juan Worms, black copper johns, pheasant tails, prince nymphs, and golden/skwala stonefly imitations being some of the go-to patterns.
If you’re out in the next while be sure to take a few minutes to watch the water before beginning to wade as you may stumble upon delicate risers. We saw many March browns during our Mackinnon to Jansen Island (Legacy) float on Tuesday. It’s a sight to behold when you see those big dries drifting down the water (and even better when you see a fish rise to them….) Try a larger Adams or a March brown pattern if you find yourself out and able to fish risers. Other dries to try include griffith’s gnat, swisher’s dancing caddis, or a parachute Adams. The hatches have been prolific which means the fish are fattening up on the Bow-river-smorgasbord that is spring.
Nancy @ Fish Tales Fly Shop
And one final note. We had a special note from the Raven Brood Trout Station. “Howdy folks. Just a friendly reminder that all waters within the Raven Brood Trout Station and the boundaries of SW-05-36-05-W5M are permanently closed to angling to protect the springs and the hatchery from disease. If you want to visit us and go for a walk to see the show pond fish or tour the hatchery as well as photograph the many birds, please come down HWY 22 and use our front entrance off of TWP RD 360. We offer a lovely tour on saturdays and our day use and springs area offers excellent fish and bird viewing opportunities during day use hours. Stay tuned for updates on the new Wren Trail that will provide additional access to some excellent birding and wildlife viewing habitats. Thanks for your understanding and compliance. To help keep everyone from getting confused or lost on our property here is a nice tidy air photo from Google Earth. the orange line is the property boundary for the Raven Brood Trout Station and as such shows all waters within SW-05-36-05-W5M. Those waters include, The Raven Springs and show pond areas, the upper and middle reaches of Beaver Creek, and lower Beaver Creek below the weir up to the confluence of Beaver Creek with The Raven River.”
We’d like to remind people that just because a sign might be down or a fence out of position is no excuse to sneak into closed waters.