It’s summer! Welcome to freedom kids, it’s your time to have fun in the sun while out of school a couple of months. Hopefully you get the time away with your families and enjoy some fishing. If you’re in university or college, don’t forget to let loose and hit the water to catch a few fish as you bust your butts working to pay for school. For the rest of us? It’s a well-earned holiday weekend and it’s looking like a fairly good time to fish! Play safe, play fair, enjoy your time and make some new friends as no doubt you’ll meet folks on the water.
For all you trout anglers out there – PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE LOW FLOW ADVISORY – spotty rain storms don’t do much for our water flows and temperatures and we are already at a critical point in stream flows as it pertains to trout and grayling
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. To sum it up, expect slower fishing for the next couple months during spells of hot weather, bright sun, and during the middle of the day.
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.
Leeches are staple flies all year. The three best leech fishing methods are as follows, but in no particular order: indicator and a bead-head leech suspended a foot or so off the lake-bed; a slow intermediate line and a retrieved leech; or a fast-sink line and fly, with a quick and aggressive retrieve, often to invoke an aggressive response from the trout. I personally find that unless trout are very aggressive, the smaller leech you use the better. Mine average about a 2 or 3xl shank size #10-14.
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 larger callibaetis hatches (the speckled-wing mayfly commonly found on our ponds) are pretty well finished, and the smaller caenis (the tiny white ones with no common name that I’ve ever heard) haven’t started yet. Regardless, carry a few Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, Parachute Adams, CDC Biot Duns, and some Rusty Spinners just in case you come across a hatch or spinner fall. Again, lakes at higher elevations will carry this hatch out a little longer than lower elevation lakes.
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. Nick Sliwkanich
With the first weeks of summer behind us the walleye action across the province is heating up. Kids are now officially done school and families will be heading to their favorite lakes for summer vacations. Water temperatures will be warming up and our lakes will be getting much busier with the arrival of summer.
Walleyes will be feeding hard as temps rise. Large lakes like Slave Lake are still cooler than smaller lakes and temps in slave are in the low to mid 60’s. Slave is such a big waterbody and takes time to warm up considerably. Add in high winds and cooler water from down deep gets pushed into wind-blown shores frequently. Smaller more sheltered lakes like Baptiste, South Buck, Pinehurst and Moose Lakes are currently in the high 60’s and surface temps will be rising to the 70 degree range with the hot days in the weather forecast. Fish are moving deeper and the secondary breaks & mid-lake humps are also starting to pick up. Fishing shallow structure from 6 to 12 feet is still prime and pulling spinners on bottom bouncers is one of the best ways to find where fish are stacked up. Search out fish by covering water with spinners or cranks then slow things down and pluck them off with jigs tipped with leeches, minnows or plastics.
Two weekends ago was the Canadian Tire Slave Lake Anglers Cup. 94 teams were entered this year and it was a grind to catch bigger fish that were fat. My partner Kevin Schafer and I were doing well after day one sitting in third spot. Day two we knew what we needed to do to move up the standings and we fished as hard as we could. We had a good first weigh in of just under seven pounds, and were rewarded with a 4.32 pound walleye at 1:30 that was the difference maker for us on day two. We ended up in first place with a weight of 29.28 pounds 1.02 pounds ahead of second place finishers and past Anglers Cup champs father son team of Dale & Brandon McGrath whom had 28.26 pounds. Third was Jason Kofluk & James Holt with 28.08 pounds. Hats off to all of the Anglers Cup committee and volunteers on shore and at the weigh boat. The Anglers Cup committee along with the Slave Lake Firefighters run the best walleye tournaments in the province. If you have always wanted to fish a walleye tournament, enter the Anglers Cup and come up to Slave Lake in 2017. You will catch lots of fish and don’t have to run too far to find good fish as it has been won several times under three miles from takeoff.
Last weekend the Moose Lake Walleye Classic was hosted by the Elk Point Lions on Moose Lake. The event hosted 110 teams and had one of the higher winning weights if the past few years. The water levels are up in Moose and small perch and minnows were up in the shallows for walleyes to gorge on. My partner and I struggled to get a limit after our first weigh in and were a fish short day one. Walleye tournaments can be humbling and the highs of the previous week’s victory mean nothing on a different waterbody a week later. Day two we caught some nice fish to try redeem ourselves but still it wasn’t enough weight to move up much in the standings. Moose Lake experts Terrence Yuschyschyn and partner Jeff Hughes pulled off an impressive victory fishing slip bobbers above weeds for eyes that had moved up to feed on baitfish. Terrence and Jeff weighed an awesome 35.16 pounds, eclipsing second place finishers Dave Mackenzie & Danielle Kendall who weighed 34.52 pounds. Third was taken down by the father son team of Roman and Dustan Buryska who had a massive weight day two to vault up the standings to finish with an impressive weight of 33.76 pounds. This was their first time fishing the tournament together and it was great seeing them do so well. Once again the Elk Point Lions did a great job and everything ran very smoothly on and off the water with their group of great volunteers. If fishing bigger water like Slave Lake in a tournament is a bit intimidating for you, consider fishing the Moose Lake Walleye Classic next year. The fish will be fat with all the forage and it never gets too rough. (at right: Jeff & Terrence from The Moose Lake Walleye Classic with their parents whom also fished the event. Jeff’s parents are Sean & Terry Hughes (left side) and Terrences parents are on the right, Chris & Shirley).
Please boat safely and make sure to clean drain and dry your boats and gear to prevent the spread of invasive species. Boat launches and lakes are going to get busy. Take a little bit of time in the parking lot before launching to get your boat untarped and unbuckled to ease congestion at the boat ramp so others can launch and load up quickly.
Good luck on the water this week! Chris
Fish Tales Fly Shop
Kids are out of school, camping season is in full swing, and the first long-weekend of the summer is upon us. It’s a great time to break out the rod for some time on the water.
If you’re staying in Calgary this weekend you’re in luck because the Bow continues to fish well. Most recent reports have been of sub-surface successes although there are still lots of caddis and adult stones in the region.
Recent rainstorms – combined with rain and storms in the upcoming forecast – are VERY welcome but do impact river clarity. Generally the system above the Highwood clears pretty quickly after a quick rain. Don’t let slightly colored water deter you from heading out though- just be ready with some variety in your box.
If you want to focus on top, opt to fish during overcast periods or as the sun is going down when the bug life in general is more prolific. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a double dry setup like a stimulator or stonefly with a smaller caddis in behind. Sometimes it’s worth taking the time to observe the river before charging in and blindly casting. You may be surprised by what you see when you take the time to take things in.
We’re hearing lots of reports of fish on leeches, worms, stonefly nymphs, and various streamers. The variety of fish food in/on the Bow is like the buffet at an all-inclusive – some stuff changes depending on the day/season but a lot of it’s there all the time. The Bow River Smorgasbord should always include: San Juan Worms, Leeches, and Stonefly nymphs. That said, be sure to have a good selection of worms in various sizes and weights. A heavily weighted wire worm is great if it’s helping get things down but may be too much if the second fly you’re fishing is a heavier stonefly or leech pattern. Sometimes a smaller chenille or Reese’s Pieces worm may be what you need.
Flies to try:
Dries: Skid bitch, Swisher’s LLS Chernobyl, Chubby Chucks in tan, black caddis, elk hair caddis, Bloom’s Parachute Caddis, Swisher’s dancing caddis, PED’s, PMD’s
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.
Streamers: Black and White Clouser, Black and White Kreelex, Telleen’s bandit, Skiddish smolts, Coffee Sparkle Minnow.
East Slopes Trout & Grayling
Dave Jensen – Alberta Fishing Guide
Hatches: we ran into the first trico sprinner swarms down sought a few days ago. That’s usually a late July to early August hatch, so we’re a month to the good now. Blue-winged olive mayflies are out on cooler, low light days. Brown drakes continue to roll. Hexes are showing in the same waters the brown drakes are (not all but most). Golden stones are rolling – both the late night and dawn active variety and the more orange daytime variety. Caddis? Boatloads. Pale morning dun mayflies are in good numbers. Yellow sallies are in swarms on many warm mornings in through riffled waters. Green Drakes are out further south and just starting centrally – that too is early.
Honestly? The high country is firing – hit those cutthroat trout rivers and you simply will catch fish. 🙂 Joy!
Our lower elevation trout are somewhat in shutdown mode on warmer, sunnier afternoons. Not all, but things are tougher. You might want to learn to sight-fish and get on some banks to spot active fish that are feeding on nymphs and showing no signs of rising. Just because a river is devoid of rising fish doesn’t mean there aren’t a few active trout.
Conditions are very good and if we get cooler, rainier conditions, the mayflies and caddis will be on the water. Look for heads popping and – if the daytime doesn’t produce – stay LATE and close down the day until you’re worried about walking out. Some of the biggest trout of the year can be caught at dusk and this weekend looks to have epic conditions for that. Remember that mice and baby muskrats are on the water now too, so a fuzzy mouse pattern skid along reeds and weed lines is going to get a few takes – and that is just a ton of fun.
Things are going to be busy on our streams. You have = right to the water as the next person but you simply don’t jump ahead of anyone without chatting about your plans. If you arrive late, that’s on you and you give way to those on the water and ask their intentions and make a plan – talk, you never know who won’t be staying on the water past 1pm. If you arrive early, don’t expect to have the water to yourself and don’t be self-righteous about it – give way and settle into enjoying a few extra moments once the crowds catch up to you. If you are fishing popular waters on the Ram, Livingstone, Oldman, Crowsnest, Highwood, Sheep, St Mary, etc… expect to meet folks on the river and simply be an angel and give way a little.
Work the riffled water. Work the slots and troughs. Those big pools will have lots of fish. Deeper boulder gardens will certainly have fish. Double dry flies will work, then work deeper with droppers and nymphing. If nothing much is happening, never leave a likely spot without drifting and twitching a (not necessarily) big old streamer through. 🙂
Bottom line? Hit the water and enjoy your weekend. It should be a wonderful time!
Dave Jensen – Alberta Fishing Guide