The weather forecast across the province looks to be split for the peak of summer’s long weekend! Friday will reward those with an extra day off while Saturday will see a cooler, cloudy turn for much of the province. No matter, you’re heading out and it’s time to do some fishing.
East Slopes Trout & Grayling – Dave Jensen, Alberta Fishing Guide
INCREDIBLY, the stream flows are almost all within normal range throughout trout and grayling country! The waters all have a touch of a warmer feel to them but they’re all certainly within range and of seasonal flow. That’s great news. 🙂 The first time that we’ve had that universally in 2 years. Wonderful.
Thunderstorms continue to track across the region and it’s throwing a wrench into the stability of visibility. That makes it tough as our streams and rivers will continue to vary in flow rate and clarity, but that’s the way it is. Just this afternoon a big cell came SE out of the Blackstone across the lower Ram. Last night a massive cell came eastward from the Forestry Trunk Road – and it was from as far south as just north of Cochrane to nearly Nordegg. Be prepared to move around quite a bit on your journey this weekend. If there are thunderstorms and you planned to fish a sandstone/shale canyon, you might be in tough, but a grassed, meadow tributary nearby might give you a great place to work rising trout & grayling.
Trout are still well spread out thanks to normal flows. There are some pockets of water down in southern Alberta (Oldman, for example) where the rainbows, cutthroat, and bulls are locked into pockets and pools thanks to prolonged drought, but otherwise our trout and grayling are in summer cover. Look for log jams, boulders and the little pockets of depth alongside. Look to undercut grassy banks and weedbeds on brown trout waters. Look at those deep pools with slots and troughs on the cutthroat waters. Anything where there is an obvious color transition, there will likely be a trout or grayling this time of year. 🙂 And don’t be shy about using a big foam hopper, big deer hair flies, etc with an 18″ dropper nymph to a simply #12 to 18 pheasant tail. More fish are caught on those this time of year than literally any other set up.
Hatches: a few golden stones; hoppers; tricos (remember to fish tiny trico mayfly patterns alongside a #14 or 16 caddis as an indicator that fish might eat); pmd mayflies; blue-winged olive mayflies; caddis; ants along wood. Once again – STAY LATE or ARRIVE early. Some excellent fishing is still happening at every stage of the day and some very good fish show in low light periods.
Walleye Forecast – Chris Kindraka
Walleye fishing has hit its peak in the province. Fish will be snapping hard at the peak of their feeding habits right now. The fish are feeding aggressively and if you want to get in on some great action, now is the time to hit the water. Lakes and rivers are both fishing well and water temps will be in the low to mid 70’s.
Forage is growing up and still inhabiting the weeds but more and more fish will be found off secondary drop offs during the day. Bottom bouncers and spinners will be hot to find fish – and to catch numbers of them along the base of structure. I like to use different blade colours with beads to match the forage color. Colours like silver shiner or perch are good bets to match natural forage in clearer water and brighter colours like fire tiger and clown in stained water. The deep cup on the Northland Baitfish Image Colorado Blades pit off lots of thump and flash to call fish in. Size four and five blades on double hook snells that are three feet long tipped with live bait or your favourite plastic crawler will work well. Using a two ounce bottom bouncer will give you great bottom contact while probing structure and trolling from 1.1 to 1.5 mph. When walleyes bite spinners, resist the temptation to set the hook right away. Wait patiently until you feel your rod load up and you get another good tug before setting. Initially the fish swim with the bait when they first hit and then your rod will load up when they turn to swim off with it. Waiting a few seconds will pay off!
Trolling crankbaits is also hot this time of year and nothing beats them for covering deeper flats. Deep Reef Runner Ripsticks, Rapala Taildancers, and Berkley Flicker Minnows will get you down 20 feet plus and represent larger forage profiles. Trolling with line counter reels and referencing dive charts will help to get into the strike zone and keep you there with him much line you have out with the depth you want to fish. Keep note of where bites are coming on your electronics with icons and come back to fish through the producing areas with a slower presentation.
With higher temps during the day, early mornings and late evenings are cooler and are my favourite time to hit the water. Fish generally will be a bit shallower and anchoring up or spot locking next to a nice weed edge with a decent drop off nearby is one of my favourite places to find fish as the sun comes up or goes down. I start by pitching out 1/8 to 1/4 oz jigs tipped with a minnow dragged up the break and will work shallower and pitch to the weed edges too. I like to hold on the edge of the drop off so the deeper edge and the shallows are both in casting distance and fish can be intercepted moving up or down. As they move so will the areas you fish and you may go from pitching out deeper to a great vertical jigging bite, then be pitching jigs into the edge of the weeds at 4 feet deep.
Boat traffic will be high and launches and parking lots will be congested. Please be considerate to others launching and loading their boats and get everything ready or put away in the parking lots instead of at the ramp. Also keep those life jackets in and kill switches hooked up and don’t forget to clean, drain, and dry your boats to prevent the spread of invasive species. Good luck in the water!
Well, the last week and a half of crazy weather has sure thrown a few curve balls at those angling on the Bow River from Calgary to Carseland. The river has seen some downright scary thunderstorms, full banks and dirty water, and some tough and amazing fishing. After all of this turmoil, we’re seeing the conditions on the river begin to stabilize as our weather patterns do the same. I’ve seen the most quantity and quality of Brown trout boated by guests over the past week and a half – and that has made for some really memorable moments on the water. A few total behemoths have been lost, missed and moved which has undoubtedly made for some huge surges of adrenaline and a few, choice explicit terms slipping out after going toe to toe with some of those gnarly, wise, warriors.
Streamer fishing has been good. We haven’t had the sheer numbers and eats as we had leading up to the rains, but the quality of trout has more than made up for the quantity. As the turbidity begins to stabilize over the next week, we should have some totally nuts streamer fishing. Keep an eye to the forecast and watch for days with cloud cover, load up on 20 lbs tippet and be prepared to toss some meat. This high water surge has pushed fish up to the bank, so be prepared to spank it, hard and feel your effort rewarded by some ferocious strikes and screaming reels. There are tons of fry pushed up into the shoals and shallows right now, so think shiny and small….
When the sun has come out to play, our guests have been consistently catching quality fish using various leech patterns under indicators. We’ve been having them give the line the odd twitch, and while that dead drifted leech has been producing well, sometimes all it takes is a few extra twitches to agitate the indecisive fish into pounding the life out of that leech. Simply flip over a few rocks the next time you’re out there and you’ll understand why these patterns have been working so well.
Once the water has really cleared up, be prepared to switch back to size 18’s in black and dark colors. Trico’s have been around since the beginning of these monsoon July rains, and prior to this high water, our guests were doing very well during fishing a team of two tiny black and brown nymphs. Caddis are also moving around a bit, once again, so small larva patterns have fished well. But those tricos are coming in waves now: while I really have only personally witnessed one 20”+ brown sipping on them in shallow water during the muddy water (cool right?), the “smoke clouds” or spinners twenty feet in length and five feet in height are an impressive feat of nature in their own right and definitely worth a trip to the river in the morning to check out. With water clearing we should expect to see fish starting to key into them this week.
Flies: Black and brown wooly buggers 6-12; Peacock buggers 6-12; Pheasant tales 16-18; Black and Olive Copper Johns 16-18; Payczech nymphs 14-16 in olive and tan (hotspots are good); Trico spinners and RS2’s 18-22; Wire/chenille worms size 10-12; Acetone worms 8-12; Muddler minnows olive and/or black size 8; Kreelex minnows Size 8; Trico RS2’s and Spinners in 18-22.
Central Trout Lakes
Nick Sliwkanich – The Drag Free Drift
We are solidly into summer conditions on the central trout lakes. Surface water temps from 19-22C are now widespread, and trout behaviour is affected accordingly. Trout are cold-water animals, and do best in water that is cooler than 16C.
But trout still need to eat, you just can’t fish during the middle of a hot day (23+ = 18+C water temp now) and expect to see the lake’s best fish. On a majority of waters, fish early, fish late, or fish in bad weather. All of those conditions will be more conducive to happily feeding trout on stillwaters. You can extend your fishing hours by fishing lakes further west and higher in elevation, which will receive colder nights, and the trout’s active periods last longer throughout the day than lower elevation waters.
Chironomids are pretty well done hatching in droves, but bloodworms remain effective during the hot summer months. Fishing a bright red bloodworm, or even just a red chironomid pupa pattern, just inches off bottom is a decent plan of attack even during the doldrum months of July and August. Chironomids will still fool some trout even when they aren’t a dominant hatch.
Damselflies and dragonflies are still migrating and hatching, but the mass movements of both insects are winding down in many locations. Mature damselfly nymphs (2xl size 10-12) are best fished closely to the surface, and retrieved with a constant hand-twist retrieve with the odd pause. Immature nymphs are smaller in size (maybe a size 14 or 16) and can be fished more deeply, and often near the weeds on the bottom of the lake.
Dragonflies run the gamut, and range from a #4-12, and a light olive to dark brown, almost black. Keep these ones near the lake bed, which can be done using either floating or slow sink lines and weighted flies, or with a fast-sink line and a floating fly, like a deer-hair dragon or a dragon Booby. The larger dragonflies are active hunters, and can be retrieved quickly. Smaller dragon nymphs crawl along the bottom and are scavengers. Experiment with retrieve styles until you determine what works best. Woolly Buggers with shortened tails, a large Half Back, and even Carey Specials make great suggestive dragonfly patterns.
Caddis hatch on our lakes for much of July and August, and offer great potential during the hot summer months. I’ve not encountered many instances when matching the larval stage in lakes was absolutely required, but many when the pupal and adult stages were important. The pupa are typically tan, olive, or brown, and can be matched with specific caddis pupa flies, or just basic wet flies. Larger caddis pupa are matched well by the good ol’ Carey Special in the correct colour. For adults, a CDC caddis, Elk Hair Caddis, Mikaluk Sedge, or even a Stimulator work well. Caddis tend to begin hatching in the evening, so don’t leave to early. Once the sun lowers a bit, start using a pupa on a sunk line of your choice (faster sink rates for deeper water, slower for shallower), then consider a dry fly once things get going in the evening.
The trout have now largely vacated the shallows during the heat of the day. This week it was tough to get many trout in water shallower than 8ft when the sun was up, and 8-12ft and deeper was a decent producer. Remember though, most food is in shallow, so that is where feeding fish will be, too. During morning, evening, and low-light conditions, when trout are most likely to be vigorously feeding, start in water less than 10ft, and experiment from there.
When fishing deeper water (darker water @ right) it’s imperative to locate trout. Fishing from a pontoon boat or float tube, slowly kicking around a deeper area, weed bed, or drop off, while fan casting, is a terrific way to locate feeding fish. Experiment with different lines, sink times, retrieve styles, and pattern types. Don’t get hung up on exact, specific patterns. General, impressionistic flies are often best this time of year on the lakes.
Blind trolling is generally less effective than casting for trout as is shows a limited presentation to the fish, and you cannot easily and precisely control and alter the depth of your flies in the small increments that often make a huge difference. You also alert the trout of your presence by driving right over them before your flies get there, an especially poor idea in shallow or clear water.
Our lakes are getting busier each year, and we need to be considerate of others, as no one should ruin someone else’s fishing. Just like boats drifting on a river should heed a large area to wading or anchored anglers, if you’re trolling give an extra wide berth to casting anglers as they are carefully covering water. Just because you don’t see them casting to a specific spot right now doesn’t mean they aren’t planning to in another minute or two. It is most likely that they are carefully working around the anchored position so as not to line and spook trout by casting 100ft on the first cast. Trolling or driving a boat too closely will spook an entire area that other anglers are trying to fish. A radius of at least 200ft is minimum.
Enjoy your time on the water this weekend. Be safe, drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, and remember to get up early, and stay late into the evening to get the best the lakes have to offer. Good fishing.
We’re taking a couple of weeks off as this Fishing Forecast is likely to hold true based on the 2 week weather forecast. HAVE FUN!