As we continue to flow out of a cooler, wetter spring and early summer, the weather forecast is mostly fine – sure there’s a risk of thunderstorms across the province but the sun is going to shine and the air will get beautifully warm. Enjoy it.
East Slope Trout & Grayling
Well, north of hwy 16 the recent storm fronts raised levels. Many waters were just into mid-normal flows and the quick blasts this week sent many up a little, and a little less visibility. Assuming (hoping) we don’t get too much more precip in the way of heavy thunderstorms, we could see some great conditions by Saturday. South of hwy 16 into the Rocky Mountain House region, things are mostly stable with normal flows. Many waters are still carrying sediment but are quite fishable. The usual suspects in the Red Deer, Ram, Clearwater, and Bighorn will give you fits as they are a little high, a little off color, a little harder to get around. A note – the Red Deer below Dickson Dam through the city has less than 2 feet vis. And vis is much better at the city as the water mixing in to the reservoir will keep the tailwater muddy for some time yet. As you head further south the waters are still seasonal, which is a little higher than the last 2 years at this time, so expect to have to wade to get to fish on most waters. But the waters are generally clear and the fishing in good shape.
The hatches are at their peak of the year too. Gold stones, lingering salmonflies, lingering skwalas, yellow sallies, lime sallies, brown drakes, hexagenias, pmds, sulphurs, green drakes, blue-winged olives, caddis, sedges, damsels, dragons, I’ve likely forgotten a couple.
- A tidy trick is to nymph in tight to shore on our rivers, just along that first step drop-off as the various stoneflies are migrating in to crawl out and onto shore rock to hatch later in the evening. Some large trout can be found in a foot of water or less, and they’ll often shamelessly eat large nymphs drift past.
- Stay late as the low light hatches of caddis, hexes, brown drakes, and certain golden stones (Bow, Red Deer) occur at night or close to.
- Afternoon thunderstorms – the leading edge can induce a serious hatch or spinner fall. There’s usually a 1/2 hr window in there before your rod starts to cackle from the lighting. Play safe.
- Sun shine – if you have hot, sunny weather, the golden stones will roll. Actually, all stoneflies will so be prepared with some stimmies and foam patterns.
- Work every available pocket – the waters are just coming down. If there’s even a hint of a depth break along a log or rock shelf, I bet there’s a trout there. Why? There’s been plenty of water all spring and early summer and there’s still plenty of flow and cool water so trout have not yet been pushed out of these micro habitats. work ’em.
Since the last Fishing Forecast, a lot has changed in our walleye lakes in Alberta. Water temps are rising and are either in the mid to high 60’s or nearing the 70 degree mark. Weed growth is increasing and fish are now starting to move from shallower shoreline flats to secondary drop offs and mid lake structure. Movements up-and-down drop offs are more frequent for fish, especially in low light conditions, and wind and waves are playing a much larger role in fish locations with fish metabolisms speeding up as water warms. Flat calm water isn’t what we want as a walleye angler. A nice walleye chop is where the action is. Spots that are prime and chock full of walleye in a one to two foot chop such as a sharp drop off from 13 feet up to 8 will often clear out of fish when the wind dies and the lake lays flat. When this happens, look for fish to move to those deeper secondary breaks looking for forage.
Bottom bouncers and spinner rigs tipped with plastics or live bait are the best search tools allowing you to cover water and any depth with ease. A two ounce bottom bouncer trolled at a speed of 1.2 to 1.4 mph can be fished from 6 to 30 feet deep to effectively find where the walleyes are. Metallic perch blades in size 5 are my favourite and match the hatch well as walleyes love feeding on smaller perch during summer.
Tournaments on the Western Canadian Walleye Trail were held on Slave Lake and Moose Lake the last two weeks. The Slave Lake Canadian Tire Anglers Cup was held June 16-17th with Ken Carpenter and Tracey Crain coming out on top with a weight of 30.40 pounds. Close on their heels with the biggest weight on day two, Marlin Hovrisko and Jeff Koch brought 30.1 pounds to the scales, with Brian Dobson and Brandon Benson rounding out third with 29.9 pounds. Weights were up a lot this year from last year, as it took 29.28 to win it last year and 30.40 in 2017. There was definitely more fish in the 3.5 to 5 pound range caught by anglers this year. With the late spring, more bigger fish were shallower throughout the east basin of Lesser Slave Lake. Crankbaits and spinner rigs with bottom bouncers caught a majority of the fish, but several vertical jigging teams also brough nice weights to the scales. My partner Kevin Schafer and I tried hard to repeat as champs and brought 29.06 pounds for our 8 fish which was good enough for 5th place after sitting in 19th after day 1. Any time you can crack the top 10 and make the stage to cash a check, is a good tournament. The Anglers Cup is one of the best run events in the province and hats off to their organizers and volunteers on a great event in 2017.
This past weekend the Moose Lake Walleye Classic was held. The wind was gusting 50+ km per hour during pre-fishing, lake levels were up over two feet from last year, and the walleye bite kept improving and trended upwards each day with much higher weights than last year. With the late spring and high water, fish spent much more time in the Thinlake River this spring which is the major spawning tributary for Moose Lake. Fish were still coming out of the river and back to the lake and a bulk of the boats concentrated their efforts in Franchere Bay. There are several mid lake humps and nice shoreline breaks with adjacent flats that hold walleyes looking to bulk up on baitfish and small perch before filtering out into the main lake and into Vezeau Bay. The fish were as fat as I’ve seen on Moose.
Depths from 8 to 16 feet were best for most anglers and big fish of the tournament was 7lbs. Most anglers fished live bait rigs consisting of 3 to 7 foot leaders below a sliding sinker or light bottom bouncer with a size 4 to 8 octopus hook and a leech, inflated crawler, or minnow. Moving slowly from 0.3 to 0.6 mph up, down, and along structure triggered fish. Many anglers also vertically jigged, as well slip bobbers also played a big role in many teams strong finishes.
First place was taken down with a whopping 40.66 pounds by Trevor Moar and Mark Holzwarth. Second was Chris Bahrynowski and rookie tournament partner Dean Swityk with 39.84 lbs. Third place with a weight of 38.6 pounds was the team of Jordan Leslie and Bob Heim. My partner Kevin and I caught a massive 23.04 pounds of walleye for our four fish day 1 and were in first place live bait rigging with leeches. Day two we managed to weigh 9.98 pounds for our first two fish but we couldn’t manage to catch our last two fish to seal the deal and weigh a limit of 4 fish. In typical Moose Lake fashion, many of our spots shut down completely in the afternoon on day 2 and we weren’t even able to get bites. We made some adjustments to our presentation, speed, and locations, knowing just two bites could change everything and we ground out the afternoon without catching tournament legal fish over 51cm. No matter how good of a start you have in a tournament you need a good finish to bring in a limit. Having an average of just over 5.5 pounds for our 6 fish weighed is phenomenal. After the event talking with other anglers, fish had started moving further into the main lake and less pressured fish were biting well there on the second day. Tournament fishing is a lot of fun and can be very humbling at times with lots of highs and lows. The top anglers at events not only find the right fish, but need to make the right decisions at the right times. During pre-fishing we want to not only find where fish are those days, but also figure out where fish are going to be with seasonal and temperature movements on tournament days as they change locations as conditions change. Sometimes patterns hold, and fish stick around and others they are transitioning to locations that may have had few fish when fished earlier in the week. That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching!
Good luck to all anglers on the water this long weekend and into the month of July. Please remember to clean, drain, and dry your boats to combat invasive species.
Fish Tales Fly Shop
The Bow is starting to fire! An exceptional back 1/2 to the week as some very nice browns and rainbows came to hand. It was a great week as the water levels are coming down and visibility is going up. As long as we don’t get any serious storms, we could be in for a very good week ahead! Happy Canada Day for sure!
School’s out and we’re about to enjoy our first long weekend of summer 2017 and Canada’s 150th! Conditions are shaping up nicely across southern Alberta. The 5-day forecast for Calgary is looking pretty good – despite the potential for afternoon thunder showers – but all in all it looks like a great weekend to get out and fish!
The Bow is fishing very well these days. Nymphs and streamers continue to be the most productive methods, but dry fly activity is starting to pick up. River levels are dropping/leveling out which means water clarity is improving. Water temperature is still pretty cool which keeps the fish happy – here’s hoping the cooler nights continue.
The long-awaited stonefly hatch hasn’t really started yet but we anticipate surface activity heating up in the next few days. That said, we know some fish are being caught on large stonefly dries so you may want to try a Swisher’s LLS Chernobyl or skid bitch with a small beadhead trailer.
Flies to try:
Dries: Skid Bitch, Swisher’s LLS Chernobyl, Stimulator, Chubby Chuck, Krystal flash caddis, Swisher’s Dancing Caddis, Bloom’s Parachute Caddis, PMD, lime trude, yellow sally
Nymphs: SJW, chenille worm, Reese’s Pieces, chenille stone, Smethurst’s stone bomb, wired stone, Stroll’s Shimmer stone, Creepy Sally, BH pheasant tail, Evil weevil, prince nymph, tungsten princess, black, claret, or olive leech.
Streamers: Black and White Clouser, Black and White Kreelex, Telleen’s bandit, Skiddish smolts, Coffee Sparkle Minnow, Galloup’s Dungeon, Galloup’s Silk Kitty, Thompson’s hopscotch sculpin, gartside leeches.
We are so lucky to have this river flowing right through our city! Hope folks can find some time to get out and enjoy it. We still have availability for guided trips. Our guides have been having some spectacular days with clients. Contact the shop to book your day today!
We’ve crossed into summer and some days are seeing summer-like doldrums, while others are offering the combustible springtime fishing that we crave so badly. With the weather forecast we’re looking at full on summer lake fishing. Let’s get prepared:
- Chironomids hatches have moved somewhat deeper it seems over the last ten days, with good fishing now on the buzzers being found more in the 14-20ft depth than in the 10-14ft range. Be sure to use a couple flies that will sink down, maybe use a swivel or split shot to help out a bit more, and use a slip indicator, so netting fish is a bit easier.
- Fishing is often going to be better earlier and later in the day, rather than during the heat of the afternoon sun. Staying out late after waking up early can be pretty tough with the days of 20-hour light up north, but picking either early or late, and sticking it out can pay off.
- Cool, overcast days will also give good potential, so long as they aren’t brought on by abrupt low-pressure fronts, which are well-known to put fish off the bite.
- When the fishing is slow, it pays to change it up as you’re unlikely to nail it down to a magic tactic to land a ton of fish.
- Dragons are out en masse right now, and while major hatching migrations may or may not be going on during any particular day, immature #8-12 nymphs are always present and are prime flies to use during summer months.
- Damsels are out in lower numbers this year and a moderate migration seems to be the best we’ll do, so keep them in mind as you work the tops of weed beds. Be ready with #10-14 olive nymphs and keep you eyes peeled for them migrating near the surface.
- Caddis are hit and miss depending on the lakes you frequent, but always be ready with a few soft hackles to imitate the pupa, and some elk hair sedges for the adults.
- Mayflies, mainly callibaeitis, are now out, but are fairly spotty to find in fishable numbers. Unless you see a lot of them, or can visually see cruising trout which are targeting adults, it’s nearly always best to target either nymph feeders, or fish something else entirely. Dry fly fishing on lakes can be difficult enough, without trying to match a super-thin hatch of #14 or 16 mayfly spinners. Keep the flies simple, like hares-ear or pheasant tail nymphs, and rusty spinners and parachute Adams work well for the dries.
Over the next few weeks, keep the following tips in mind.
- Fish are often found in deeper water. Starting in 12ft is a decent bet, and use your observational skills to move deeper or shallower. The less insect life you see on the surface, the deeper you should fish.
- The best lines to try will be floaters with indicators, intermediates, then fast sink type 4-6 lines to get down in deep water.
- Flies with motion tend to suggest life more than flies tied of stiff materials (chironomids are the exception), and really do fish better on slow days without much hatching.
I hope you manage to get a few days out on the water this weekend! The water is prime, and while hatches are now going to be in flux, by paying attention to what happening, and by playing the conditions, you’ll have some exceptional experiences on the water.
- LAST BUT NOT LEAST! Our lakes are going to be busy so PLEASE leave a wide berth – 40m minimum – when passing any watercraft that is fishing a shoal or weedbed. They might be just figuring out what the trout are taking and if they’re into their first fish and you come too close you will no doubt spook the other trout off the shoal or weed bed, ruining their day.
Good Fishing ~ Nick Sliwkanich