The Alberta Fishing Forecast Sept 5 – 7, 2014
A very interesting week!
With cooler temperatures becoming the norm, walleye have taken notice. It’s getting colder and all that is on their minds right now is stocking as much as they can in their stomachs before ice covers our lakes and rivers. Females are growing their eggs and will eat wherever they can find easy meals. Water temperatures are still in the 60 degree range in most lakes although they are slowly dropping each day. Fish are still relating to weeds, but weed die off is occurring in our lakes.
During the next couple weeks deeper walleye will become the norm. There is one big reason for this deeper migration – the annual fall turnover of our lakes. When the upper water levels (surface to about 12 feet down) cools to about 50F, that surface water matches the temperature of the cooler water of the lake body below the summer stratification layer. This equilibrium allows mixing of literally everything in our lakes through the entirety of the water column. This oxygen rich water is now mixed throughout the water column. The bad news is the gases and detritus (dead organics) held in check by summer stratification is also released. Add in some seasonal fall wind for good measure and things get mixed up nicely from top to bottom and lakes can get quite murky. Once the surface water temperatures cool below that of the lake body, stratification returns and the water clears.
Walleye key in on deeper structures after turnover and stack up like cordwood to feed as much as possible until freeze. Jigs tipped with minnows or plastics thumped off bottom will trigger strikes. I also like to aggressively fish 1/4 to 1/2 oz jigging spoons or jigging Rapalas right over top of fish marked on the sonar screen. It’s as simple as seeing a fish on the sonar and dropping these heavier offerings right on top of the fish. I get right to where the transducer is at the back of the boat and watch my lure fall down to the fish on the screen. If you didn’t get the fish’s attention on the drop down, a couple quick snaps off bottom followed by a pause and shake usually gets their attention! Marking fish and then catching them while watching everything happen on a sonar screen is very addicting. The best part about it is the interaction between you and the fish on screen. Let them tell you what jigging action triggers strikes – and repeat it because the lake’s population often behaves similarly.
River fish are living in a cooler environment right now compared to their lake counterparts but are feeding as much as they can as well. Fish are going to be aggressively feeding along current breaks and will begin stacking up in overwintering pools. Fall is hands down my favourite season for walleyes, especially in rivers. Fish are at their fattest and flows typically are at their least. Mix those factors with the return of students to school and the start of hunting season – you will have way less people on the water and more fish to enjoy to yourself! Slip sinker rigs with floating jig heads or #2 hooks and minnows are my go to for river walleyes (where allowed- check your river’s regs). You can cast and drift them or hold them along current edges in pools. Not only will you be rewarded with some gorgeous walleye, but you may catch some gorgeous sauger. They stack up in the fall in pools and often once you get into them the bite is fast and furious. Sauger are beautiful fish and I love their mottled brown hues especially when they are on the end of my line on a cool fall morning!
Have Fun! Chris
East Slopes Trout & Grayling
I think we all got a wake up call this week. The cold low that rolled through the southern foothills and out through the prairie painted a not so pretty picture! Sure, those not living or fishing down south can giggle for the moment, but just because the grayling fishing north of Hwy #16 is going strong right now doesn’t mean winter isn’t soon to arrive. With single digit daytime highs forecast for a few regions on Monday & Tuesday (a whole bunch of +6C’s across the province Tues!), this might be the weekend to get some fishing in before things change.
While the northern rivers through the Peace & Kakwa got some rain, most streams and rivers remain in great shape and are fishing well. Moving south, the Edson – Hinton area has seen spotty rain and showers but the streams and rivers remain in good shape generally. Into the Rocky – Sundre region we’ve had some precip but the streams are generally all in great shape once again. Like last week, it isn’t until you get into the Highwood drainage that things change. While the Bow R system is in good shape, the Highwood system is high and off color and cold. Further south, the entire Oldman R system is high and off color as well. Most importantly is the water temperatures: they’ve tanked. Much of the precip fell as snow and the warm air this weekend will melt and drain. Thankfully there wasn’t that much snow and most of it will simply be absorbed by the ground. Again, the trouble is that with snow comes cold in-stream temperatures – which narrows the hatch window to 1 – 5pm daily as a general rule.
Current Hatches: Hoppers (#4 to 10); Caddis (#12 – 16); Fall Caddis (#6 – 10); Tricos (#20 – 24); Tiny Western Olives (#20 – 24); Blue-winged Olives (#16 – 18); Slate Winged Olives (#16); Grey Drake (#12); Mahogany Dun (#12 – 14); Flying Ants (#12 – 16); yellow sallies (#16 – 18); Water Boatman (#16); Backswimmer (#8); a few flavs in the high country yet (#12).
What more can be said this year than the grayling reports out of Yellowhead Country? Good catches continue and the grayling are still literally leaping out at dry flies. The warm weather Fri – Sunday will likely be the peak of the season as staged grayling in many long, deep runs will certainly continue to rise feverishly. Yellowhead – Grande Cache will continue to fish well through the weekend. Note that several streams and rivers are now closed due to fall spawning bull trout, but there are many waters open to angling. Rainbows, smaller bulls, and grayling will all be on the feed.
Cutthroat trout will be on the move to stable, permanent wintering pools. Some will already be there and others will migrate between for a time yet. But many will have abandoned the shallow edges and troughs in favour of deeper slots and pools. These are also places that will see most pressure and the colder in-stream temperatures will keep them deep until early-mid afternoon. Deep nymphing with/out and indicator is usually best. “Naked nymphing” (without indicator) is a good idea on the deepest pools and adding a few BB shot to get things down in a hurry will increase your odds. Sight-nymphing is coming into shape now as well as many cutt rivers are quite clear (north of the Bow anyway!)
Rainbow trout in the Crow, Bow, southern tailwaters, etc will likely remain shallow for tricos, caddis, and hoppers. The larger rivers will carry decent in stream temps a while yet and these softer edges will hold rainbows throughout. Like all trout, there are always exceptions. Streamer fishing for rainbows – or running a mid-sized Rapalla – will now be effective, especially on larger rivers. The annual return of yearlings from spawning tribs to the Bow happens every year about now and it’s a good time to use big, ugly streamers and Raps.
And speaking of Rapallas… brown trout are about to get aggressive on the pre-spawn. We’re 3 weeks to prime spawning season and many central brown trout streams will see the adult fish leave to spawning springs within 2 weeks. They’ll start to nip and chase each other in between feeding on the often good afternoon hatches. Small flies, big streamers, Rapallas… all are apt to be catch fish about now! We’ll let you know when they’re spawning – when to leave them alone. That season is coming but we’re not there quite yet.
Again – we encourage you to have a go this weekend because next week is likely the turn to colder water, tighter daily hatch windows, and slower fishing for the season west of Hwy #22.
Central Trout Lakes
First off, I’d just like to say that I hope everyone had an enjoyable Labour Day Weekend on the water. The weather and fishing were equally fantastic. Judging by what I saw on the water, people were out simply to enjoy their fishing and tended to be very courteous to one another.
It currently looks like most of the Central Region will be experiencing rising pressure and warm weather trends, albeit likely a tad windy on Friday and Saturday. The pressure is likely to drop Sunday, ushering in cooler temps, cloud, and rain, which are set to carry through next week.
This is a good new-bad news situation. The good news it that rising pressure and some wind action will keep the fish in shallower water, hungry, and actively searching for food. The flipside is that starting Sunday (or whenever the low pressure arrives), the trout are likely to become a bit dour and tougher to catch, at least throughout much of the day. That trend is going to continue throughout the week.
I’m not about to re-hash too much of the fishing prediction from last week, as this weekend will be similar. The same techniques, flies, and shallows (less than about 10-foot) are still going to be producing, so I’m going to keep this simple. A couple leeches, emergers, or even water boatmen hung under an indicator will produce well this weekend, especially Friday and Saturday when I imagine trout are going to be in the upper reaches of the water column.
The last couple forecasts have been fairly sinking line oriented, so let’s spend just a little more time this week looking at how a floating line can be a top-notch set up at this time of year – there are several reasons. One reason is that a floating line can simultaneously search two or three levels of the water column at once, and with consistent accuracy. I often use three flies, each two to three feet from the last, suspended under an indicator. If the top fly is four-feet from the surface, I can search depths from four all the way to thirteen-feet deep, on a single cast. This will be especially useful on Sunday, or after the low pressure sets in, as the trout will be initially quite active, but will soon get less predictable. A good searching pattern, like a #10 black or brown leech, slowly and tantalizingly bobbing under an indicator, will be just the ticket to get a couple sluggish trout.
Another great advantage of a floating line set-up is that by casting upwind, you can cover a lot of water. A 50 or 60-foot cast, with two or three flies in two or three depths will quickly tell you if there are or are not willing fish nearby.
Lastly, indicator fishing can keep your flies “in the zone” for extended periods. Once you find a pod of active fish, or an area that has actively cruising trout, an indicator cast downwind into that region will hold your flies there for as long as you can remain sane.
A sinking line technique usually has moments of heavy action, but a “dead zone” in the middle of your retrieve. Typically, the very start of the cast (known as “the drop”) is productive, followed by the rise of flies at the end (known as “the hang”), but often the middle is totally ignored.
Floating lines with an indicator can certainly maximize the time your flies are in front of the trout.
I like to use flies that average a #10, but might be as big as an 8 or even a #6, to as little as a #14.
Over the last week most of my success has come on black patterns with some subtle red flash mixed in, but that is quite likely just because of where I have been able to fish. I’d feel confident fishing any good, mobile leech pattern in black, maroon, olive, or brown, from #8-12.
Anglers should carry several styles of leeches, but also add in some minnow imitators (and don’t be afraid to use smaller baitfish, say #10 to 14 2xl), and boatmen/backswimmers.
I hope all of you have a very enjoyable and productive weekend. Do your absolute best to see some water this weekend, as the weather next week is set to be cold, wet, and unstable. That also means that this Saturday, with highs near 25˚C, will likely be a bit busier than normal, so remember to be courteous to other anglers, give way when you can, and to stay positive. A lot of our waters aren’t very large, and over-crowding can sometimes seem like an issue. I’ve always found a way to make it work, whether it’s fishing away from the pack, sometimes needing to explore some new water, or just fish with everyone else. Most anglers on the water are perfectly nice people and are even willing to help out with flies, ideas, or just some friendly chatting during the downtimes.
Have an enjoyable weekend, and if you’re out next week, stay warm and dry!
Fish Tales Fly Shop
Bow river anglers (and users in general) have had a week of ups-and-downs. (No pun intended.) Dry fly fishing has continued to be effective and we’ve had good reports of success on nymphs and streamers.
On Wednesday, September 3 the river dropped from about 90 cms to about 45cms in order for some in-stream measurements of Harvey Passage to be completed. We learned about the planned drop to levels normally only seen mid-winter (and often not even then) thanks to a Facebook post last week (thanks Brent). Unsure of how these things come to pass and frankly somewhat skeptical of what we all learn on Facebook, I mulled it over.
As Wednesday approached I started making a few calls. I contacted a biologist with ESRD and a friend who works at Trans-Alta. I learned the information was valid; all necessary permits were in place; all government levels apparently in-the-know. The planned drop would take place to get information about the streambed below the Harvey Passage….. I don’t claim to understand this – I’ll leave it to the biologists. I was advised there’d be a release of water at 1 a.m. on September 3rd followed by a closing of the spigot – so to speak. So I asked…. Is there enough water to fill it back to normal levels. The response was a definitive “yes.”
Now what could we do? The time for discussion, advocacy, bitching is not once the permits are in place and the work is set to start. It is in the quieter times leading up to this type of work – when anglers, outfitters, guides… river advocates of all sorts need to be communicating with one another and advocating for the benefit of the resource.
Now it’s Thursday, September 4 and the water levels on the Bow are back to ‘normal.’ We continue to be concerned about the affect of this short stint of low water… What has it done to the prolific hatches of caddis and tricos? What about the BWO’s we’ve started seeing of late? Will we see evidence of stress to the fish in the coming weeks? Have we lost some of the minnow population that resided near the river’s edge? If so is it because of this?
Time will tell.
The cooler temperature and rain – thankfully not snow – we had in Calgary yesterday may have offset the potential impact to bug life. Time will tell.
Now we are watching as we continue to fish. Initial reports from the river today is that fishing is tough to good – just like other days. On the upside the tricos, midges, and caddis are still out in full force. Perhaps this is proof positive that nature is resilient….
Going forward we anticipate conditions will get back to what they were early in the week. September is one of our favorite times to fish. The fish are fat and fiesty as they continue to gorge and prepare for the upcoming winter. The rainbows become aggressive. The colors of fall surround us as we venture out to our local waters. The heavy rainfall experienced in parts of the province yesterday has impacted tributaries to the Bow and will be dumping in dirty water in the short-term. A recent quote from guide John R, “Highwood is like Montazumas revenge.” But things should be settled by the weekend.
Bow river flies to try:
Dries: Hoppers in size 8 or 10 (with a dropper), Caddis patterns in size 16 or 18, tricos like MFC Christiaens GT, griffith’s gnats, WD40′s. Small tippet is likely the order of the day.
Nymphs: San Juan worms, Prince nymphs in 16 and smaller, Tung-stud, Tungsten El Diablo’s, Tungsten Jig Assassins or Jig Hare’s ears, BWO Killers, boatmen patterns.
Streamers: Black and White Clousers, Hickman’s Skiddish Smolt, Bow River buggers, peacock leeches.
Lakes in the SW Calgary area: (Courtesy of Wayne P from earlier in the week) The fish in the lower elevation lakes are still in the summer doldrums. Surface temperatures are still warm. Fish deep with full sinking lines. Dragon fly nymphs & Boobies have been very productive. In the last week, the boatman have started producing fish with the odd fly ant hatch also producing.
The upper elevation lakes have all been fishing well. Sedge fly fishing is coming to an end but leeches & minnow patterns are still producing well. Looking forward to some great fishing as the water cools and the fish start looking up for boatman and backswimmers.
Happy Fishing! NS @ Fish Tales Fly Shop