Welcome to the Labour Day weekend. If it’s raining, too windy to get on the lake, or you just need a little down time, be sure to check out the free summer-fall Digital Magazine to the right hand menu. It’s loaded with photos and videos for late-summer through the fall season!
Central Trout Lakes
By Nick Sliwkanich – The Drag Free Drift
I hope everyone had a great end to August! While it’s bittersweet to be finishing summer, the prospects of the best stillwater trout angling of the year is quite exciting. This long weekend is shaping up nicely, with some good-looking fishing weather throughout much of north-central Alberta, though a little chilly. Clouds and hopefully calm skies will present us with a myriad of options. I’m not certain about every region, but my acreage south of Athabasca was hit by some serious frost a few nights back. That means that fall is here, and the fish, bugs, lakes, and anglers will all be acting accordingly. Backswimmers, leeches, shrimp, and baitfish are back on the top of the menu, and while a few straggling hatches will no doubt occur, pay most attention to these staple food sources. While summertime trout hold in deep water, foregoing high volumes of food stuffs in favour of, you know, oxygen and breathing. 🙂
Heavy feeding was a sun up and sun down affair, but now is morphing back into an all-day smorgasbord. Yes, daybreak and sunset will typically see heightened feeding, but you will typically see extended feeding periods throughout the day. With cooling water temperatures, trout will again begin to freely feed on the shoals of the lake, near shoreline reeds, or near other structure in water less than 10ft deep, where light readily penetrates to the lake bed. As fall progresses, the feeding periods throughout the day will be longer, and the fish will be shallower, until we peak around two weeks before freeze-up.
With fish feeding shallower and on predictable food sources, our lives become quite easy, and using three basic tactics we will successfully catch trout.
- One: suspend a leech, scud, boatman, or baitfish pattern under an indicator. Start about a foot off the bottom and experiment from there. Sometimes even a foot is too high, but other times you can get trout just a couple of feet from the surface. That being said, 1-3ft from the bottom is most consistent.
- Secondly, a slow sinking line coupled with a leech, scud, baitfish, boatman, booby, or other attractor will entice active fish to chase, and you can successfully fish one level in the water column for a long distance.
- Lastly, a fast sinking line in shallow (less than 10 or 12ft) can fish a booby with deadly effectiveness. Personally, I like to use two flies at once, but may use three if I’m desperate or want to experiment.
Fall is often quite windy, so I like to use a relatively stiff 8 or 10lb fluorocarbon leader, which helps turn over wind resistant flies. My first fly is usually 8-10ft from my fly line, and the second fly a further 4-6ft.
- Water boatmen are the hatch that many fly anglers wait for on stillwaters. Use a foam fly, a sinking line and a sporadic retrieve, or, use a floating line, a weighted fly, and an indicator (check out my article in last year’s Digi Mag for a more detailed piece on boatman fishing).
- Leeches: use a stripped fly on a sinking line, and pair it with a Stillwater Nymph, attractor fly, or shrimp pattern.
- Boobies are fantastic flies, white/white, or black with Chartreuse eyes are my favourites. Keep all the flies between #8-12, and you won’t be far wrong.
Fall trout are the fattest of the year, aggressive, and lakes are often empty as many people hang up the rods and pull out the shotguns starting in September. Even if you enjoy hunting, don’t miss out on the best fishing of the year. It’ll be starting now, and we have another 8 or 10 weeks to look forward to. Don’t miss out. Good fishing.
East Slope Trout & Grayling
Dave Jensen – Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine
Hmmmm. What colour is your rainbow? Because if it’s all purple and pink, good for you, you’ll have good fishing. But for the rest of us, things might be more challenging this long weekend. With highs of 7 (Pincher Creek on Monday) to 13C along the foothills through the long weekend, things are going to be a touch chilly. And cloudy. And a little damp. Stream levels remain 2 to 5 times normal flows in all of our waters north of the Bow drainage. It has been quite a dividing line since the July long weekend as the Bow R & north continues to see rain, while the Bow River & south sees drought and low, clear water. If you want good water clarity, head south – it’s that simple.
But that doesn’t mean all the good fishing is south right now. A great big “IF” there isn’t more rain streams like the N Ram and the tributary waters of the Blackstone, Ram, Berland, Little Smoky, and others could produce very well. There might not be great terrestrial action in the cold weather, however, hatches of blue-winged olive mayflies will come off in droves today through Sunday. And this time of the year you could clean house with dry flies and with small dropper nymphs. If you spin-fish, instead of working through a pool quickly, stop in at the flies section of your fishing shop and pick up a few small bead head nymphs like hare’s ear and pheasant tail nymphs and hand these 3 to 6 feet under a slip bobber. You’ll be shocked at just how many more fish you can catch going slow, small, and deep. Once you work the run this way, then try your spinner blades and other hardware to finish off the active trout. Changing things up to match the conditions may produce.
Streamers & spoons, Raps, etc are producing for bigger bull trout, browns, and rainbows. Even cutthroat will take meaty offerings, especially in higher, murkier water as we have right now. If you can safely get onto the river and wade, pull out the big stuff and hit the pools and deeper troughs. The fish are there, you simply have to get deep and go for it.
South of Calgary, this is sight-fishing season and the low, clear water will reveal all to those who take 5 minutes to walk up a hillside and look down on the water. 5 minutes on a 10 foot vantage point and you’ll spot the best fish in the pool in many cases. And once spot, it’s caught. Right? Sight-nymphing is incredible this time of the year. Hopper-dropper fishing is also very effective in riffled water. But some of those southern waters are extremely worked over – those fish have been tucked into the exact same holding water for months now and are sitting ducks. You might have to pull out the small nymphs and work those fish slowly, somewhat painfully slow at times. But you will get them. They’re fish, they have to eat, it’s what they do!
Hatches: hoppers; blue-winged olives; slate-winged olives (high country); a few green drakes; fall cadddis; water boatman; backswimmers (yes, fish eat them); caddis; mahogany duns; a few pmds; flying ants are heavy on the next warm, sunny day (next Friday); beetles.
Kids officially are back in school and the labour day weekend is upon us. Water and air temperatures are getting colder and walleyes will be trying to feed as much as possible before temperatures really start to drop. Water temperatures are still in the low 60 degree range in most lakes although they are dropping daily.
Fish are still relating to weeds but they will start to die off this time of year. The rain and wind we have been experiencing in the last three weeks has really turned the fishing from what usually is quite good into much tougher days on the water. Add in some lightning and hail, and that’s enough to turn any bite off. Unfortunately the weather isn’t looking good for this weekend or the next week, and the summer peak bite that sometimes extends into early September is now over for good. For the long weekend it’s looking like it will blow like crazy on Saturday which means that to be on the safe side, it’s probably not good to be on the water, especially on larger lakes with winds in the 30’s and gusting into the 40’s.
The rainfall we have had this summer has really been a blessing to raise lake levels in many waterbodies that were low this spring but has wreaked havoc on our river systems. The North Saskatchewan River was up significantly and with the forecast calling for more rain, its unlikely it will be clearing up any time soon. On Slave Lake, the influx of dirty water from tributaries and a lot of wind from the west have really made water clarity a big issue slowing down what usually is a decent bite on the north and south shores. Finding clearer water is key to finding fish, but when the wind has been blowing like it has miles and miles of shoreline are dirty, and the only clearer water is deeper, if it hasn’t already been dirtied by the wind and waves.
Crankbaits with high vibration and lots of rattles for noise will help fish zone in on baits with their lateral lines while trolling stained flats. Depending on how frequently yo mark fish, slowing down and jigging with thumper jigs or buckshot rattles can call them closer. Fish won’t be very aggressive, and tipping your jigs with a minnow, or a folded over crawler can help increase bites with added natural scent. Weeds would usually play a huge factor this time of year on Slave Lake, but with dirty water fish have more room to roam with a distinctive advantage over their prey while looking for meals to fatten up this fall. Smaller lakes where the water isn’t as dirty, fishing them will be more productive and probing the edges with jigs and plastics is one of my favorite fall tactics. A 5’ Jerk Shad or a Mimmic Minnow Spin pitched to the edges of cabbage is a great way to catch fish in and around vegetation.
The Golden Walleye Classic is this weekend out of Shaw’s Point and from the looks of things it will be a much tougher bite than usual. Anglers that get their four tournament legal walleyes each day will place high and it will be a grind to get a limit each day. Weights will probably be down from last year with the stained water throughout the shorelines. We are not allowed to fish deeper than 18 feet to avoid causing harm to fish due to beaurotrauma so keying in on pockets of fish in shallower water will be key once anglers locate them. Good luck to all anglers and boat safely on the water this weekend. Make sure your life jackets are on and stop switches are hooked up at all times above idle speed.
Fish Tales Fly Shop
September is upon us. It’s one of our favourite fishing months of the year. However, it does seem a bit early for the leaves to be changing color and starting to drop.
Bow river fish continue to be in prime condition. Rainbows are fat and feisty and beautifully-coloured at the moment. Browns are hunkered down and feeding up. The fishing continues to be good to better-than-good depending a bit on weather conditions/temperature. We’re still recommending subsurface be your go-to method – streamers and nymphing will work. Be aware of the weeds and ready to remove them regularly when fishing below the surface. If streamer fishing, sometimes a good “slap” of the fly line on the water will rid you of the vegetation just be sure to get rid of all of it.
We are hearing more reports of hopper eats and there are certainly lots of hoppers around. Ideally we’ll start seeing the naturals moving closer to the river’s edge which will improve the odds for hopper setups. This is the time of year a hopper/dropper rig generally works. Try a prince nymph or water boatman pattern as your dropper of choice.
Flows are pretty low once again and river temps do creep up pretty rapidly on warm days. Cooler nights are offering a reprieve. Please keep best methods for handling fish in mind when landing and releasing your catch. Keep fish wet, revive for at least as long as you fought, handle minimally whenever possible.
Flies to try:
Streamers: Marabou clouser, skiddish smolt, coffey’s sparkle minnow, wooly bugger, bow river bugger, leech patterns. If you’re fishing a double streamer rig (be careful), you may want to try one dark and one lighter in color and be sure to switch up your retrieval. Some of these fish are down right aggressive and will strike a fly that’s really pushing through the water.
Dries: Dave’s hopper, Yeti hopper, Adams (there are BWO’s about and you might see a riser), flying ant patterns are always a possibility this time of year as well.
Side note: David and Terry joined Dave and Amelia Jensen a couple of weeks ago for a day on the river. Here’s a link to the nymphing video “38 minutes” that the Jensen’s put together from that day.
And this week, we leave you with something a little different. While from the USA, the following film is one person’s why important places with your family are important. It’s a great watch if you have the time – extremely well put together.