What you are about to read – keep in mind that these lakes are artificial, stocked, and managed for best production in a region of low angler density. I am not one to ever name waters (I’ve disowned friends who’ve done so on wild trout waters) but given the dynamics of these waters, with those in charge seeking to expand the program to additional waters, there is no benefit to keeping this to myself. On that point, I could keep this success to myself / ourselves, but these fisheries, being artificial, need people to use and support them to show that we want this quality of fishery to exist. I would hate to have this kind of success, keep it to myself, all the while knowing that by doing so I am in fact jeapordizing my/our chances of having fishing like this in the future because not enough people made use of it and the program died. There is no point or benefit to hoarding the information on one hand while ‘showing off’ photos on the other hand. And by no means are we showing off with this post – anyone can have this kind of success simply by showing up. It is likely the most user friendly fishing you will find anywhere. Where else can you drive hard top, launch your boat and catch this class of trout simply by showing up? You don’t need to be an expert, have fancy gear, special flies, be guided, or shown how. With even the least bit of homework on lake fishing (and there is plenty of info on the internet), you can do equally as well. Talk to people, share, enjoy the experience!
Above – you can literally cast from the front seat of your car and catch 10 lb fish.
This spring’s trip was an amazing success and underscores how local efforts can go a long way – it’s locals who care, take the time, put everything into their efforts. The spin off is that everyone else gets to enjoy a fishery when such efforts become as great a success as the Parklands project has become. In this case, the local involvement includes the long time efforts of the Dakota Fly Fishers club as well as Manitoba anglers, gov, tourism companies, local companies, etc. If you have not done a trip to that region, it’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a trip and have a great likelihood of good to excellent trout fishing. Every lake is managed and stocked and the region needs continued use and support to show gov types that anglers want this kind of fishing. Use it to keep it! Hopefully this report helps garner a little more attention because that’s exactly why they have created the fishery.
Alright, we left home a little late – departing Red Deer at 8pm. We hit the old route to Kerrobert, SK, on to Saskatoon – Yorkton– Russell, MB. The Kerrobert section had been horrible in years past, but this year we really knew we were in trouble when, after bouncing along for 20 minutes at 60kmh we then hit a road sign that said “Bumpy Road Next 85km”. Things got very dicey on the highway. Another 15 minutes up the road we came across a brand new sign “Road Surface Failures next 44km”. Check the speed at 30 to 50kmh as the holes in the road could swallow the 4×4 van. It inspired a new route through the beautiful hills near Oyen on the drive home. We enjoyed an amazing drive home across the open prairies, looking west to a stunning, late season chinook arch over the Rockies.
We camped at Patterson Lake campground. If you have a trailer, RV, or like to camp, the campground has wonderful large, powered stalls. There are no water supplies at the campground and only a long-drop (Kiwi term, sorry – outhouse). The campground fee is only $15. There is also a campground just north of the town of Sandy Lake (on route to Corstophine L). If you don’t camp, the best accommodations are hotels/motels. There is a basic motel with restaurant in Shoal Lake 20km south of Patterson/Tokaryk Lakes; the town of Russell has the Russell Inn (which supported the FLIPPR project) as well as a couple cheaper, simpler motels as well as several restaurants 45 min from Patterson/Tokaryk; the town of Roblin has several hotels and a few restaurants and is about ½ hr from Twin Lakes where tiger trout are found (a new FLIPPR project on Percy Lake near Twin Lakes has been stocked with browns and brookies); and while the town of Sandy Lake has a campground and basic services, if you are fishing Pybus Lake it’s worth the 45 minute drive to stay in the city of Brandon as it has every supply you’ll need, offering a good stock up ½ way through your trip. There are good boat launches at all lakes though beware when launching at Pybus as you could lose a trailer in the mud 4 feet from shore where the gravel ends.
We arrived in Russell and bought our fishing licenses at the Russell Innprior to hitting Tokaryk Lake for a half day’s fishing. The wind was up, the air cold, and the fishing slow but we managed to land several nice rainbows and browns. There was a great midge hatch but where the hatch was coming off the waves and howling wind precluded anchoring. So be it, there were good fish caught elsewhere.
That night we crashed hard and woke to worse weather that turned into steady rain and a stiff wind. We fished Patterson Lakeand we all cleaned house. Amelia & I found a reed bed at the mouth of a constriction with a subtle drop off. Andrew was just out of sight fishing the narrow channel between the islands. Honestly, it didn’t much matter where you fished – trout were everywhere and it got a little silly. We simply hung leeches under an indicator and launched in tight to the reeds. Amelia & I lost count of the fish and double headers we had. But at +7C with a heavy rain and stiff wind, the fishing was good enough to keep all of us out past 9pm. Most of the fish were 2 to 6 pounds. We lost and landed several nicer ones.
The next morning the wind shifted easterly, never a good sign – theoretically. To let the cat out of the bag, we headed to Pybus Lake. Andrew had not had great success on Pybus prior to this trip, his best day 6 fish after a full day. Many days most people barely scratch a bump. It is not reliable and while we hit it in what apparently had to be prime conditions (cool water, heavy cloud, strong wind) the still, bright, hot days of later spring and summer can be a beast on fishing success. A further note of precaution – Pybus is a murky lake with 2 or 3 feet of visibility in the spring that falls to a foot in the peak of summer thanks to algae bloom and weed growth. All that explains why on Saturday morning when the weekend crowd took to Patterson Lake we had Pybus completely to ourselves. But, there are some large fish. Scratch that – huge fish.
Andrew warned us how slow it could be but assured us that the fish would make up for it. Well, 25 minutes in we’d all landed a trout. It was Amelia’s first that set the stage though. When her bobber (indicator) went down and she set the hook, the line simply peeled out, reel singing. What she landed had to be 13lbs, likely more, but why over-estimate? Does it matter? It was a wonderful trout. We spent a couple of hours anchored up and hooked up about 20 trout, all in the 6 to 12 pound range. We moved from that bay to explore the lake, focusing on the structure we could find. Since the lake is essentially tan brown stain that you can’t see into, we focused on the shoreline reeds and wood. No need to get into much detail. It was silly. Amelia was perpetually hooked up. Andrew touched a lot of fish but lost many. We all had a lot of fun catching but equally as much in watching each other totally mesmerized by the fishing. The sizes of the fish were one thing, but it what happened after the hook up that made it so intoxicating. These huge, hot, strong fish simply ran wherever they wanted and all we could do was hang on. And we didn’t land everything hooked, which was a nice change from Patterson and Tokaryk.
One trout stood above all. AJ hooked into a slab of a fish that did a side landing jump for the ages. It kept running, jumping, and literally would not quit. She couldn’t turn it for the longest time and it simply remained just out of netting distance as it lapped the boat. It dwarfed everything else we saw on the trip and was as thick as my thigh. It was easily 16 to 18 pounds. Like all fish stories, it got away as the welded loop of the fly line and loop in the leader jammed in a guide of the rod just as the fish wrapped up in the anchor rope. Bugger of a moment, but so what? There were plenty of monsters that day. We tried to get a grasp on how many fish we hooked up and it was well over 50. AJ alone landed 12 to 15. Everything was 6 to 13/15 pound range. Though it was cool and windy, we stayed until last light and caught fish perpetually.
The next morning we were supposed to head north to Roblin to check out Twin L tigers. But, given that the fishing was so unpredictable and amazing we simply went back to Pybus. Amelia & I got fish right off the hop but it then turned off for us until late day. Honestly, all my lake fly boxes are up at Fortress Lake Retreat as I thought we wouldn’t need them as we fish streams in New Zealand. It became important because what I had hastily tied for the trip was all too big, too bulky, or too heavy – though they worked very well the day prior. Conditions and fish foraging changes.
Andrew continued to clean up on a couple of more slender, lightly weighted flies. It wasn’t hot and heavy but he still managed to land a dozen or so for the day, all 5 to 13/14 pounds. It was great to watch him have a great day. We had to move locations a few times as the wind and whitecaps became unbearable. And everywhere we poked around we watched him pick up a fish, but only one. It wasn’t until evening that we finally took him up on his offer of a couple smaller, slender flies. And of course, seeing his flies, I dug into my boxes and found a few in that range. And through the evening everything in that size and profile caught fish. Again, last light rights – the fishing was too good to pass up.
We spent that night in Brandonas, being so cold and wet we simply wanted a hot shower. From Pybus it was 1 ¼ hrs to Russell so we opted the 45 minutes to Brandon. The next day – back to Pybus! The wind got outrageous. The rain and sleet and dropping temps made life miserable. We literally couldn’t fish but 80 yards of shoreline tucked behind a small stand of trees. The rest of the lake is quite exposed and not even our double 25lb claw anchor set up would hold us 10 yards off shore.
That third day was my day, however, and I hooked up a couple of slabs right off the hop. The highlight of the trip’s fishing came for me as we watched trout preying on minnows. The rain like spray of minnows popping out of the water to escape the rainbows gave away the predator route and on a couple fish I was able to pop my fly in ahead of the chase. One fish was chasing minnows back and forth deep in the reeds. I cast the bobber in tight, my fly hanging 12” under. I watched the spray move up the shoreline and back, and then it angled out slightly, right at my fly. I had time to call out “watch this, here he comes!” to Andrew and Amelia. 3 seconds later the bobber went down hard. On the whole the day was slow fishing but I think we each landed 4 to 8 or 9 fish, again, all in that 6 to 13/14 lb range.
By 6pm AJ had enough of 5 full days of cold, howling wind in her ears and she finally relented. Andrew & I put out to fish and got a couple more, but the wind was so bad we had to double anchor in the reeds 3 feet off shore to hold position. But we caught amazing trout. 3 days fishing Pybus and we didn’t see another angler, which is a shame given the quality of the fishing experience (for us it was the unpredicability as I wrote about here, for others it might be the sheer size of fish). These lakes are implicitly for use and angler enjoyment, so please pass word along.
We mulled over staying on, but we woke to cold weather and howling wind. AJ & I left Andrew and headed home. The skies had cleared and it was a gorgeous day for a drive – through Oyen. I doubt my wheels will ever travel through Kerrobert, SK again. Yes, Saskatchewan roads are that bad.
Our success on these trips comes as we are able to fish early in the year when cool water conditions prevail. Mid spring sees some different fishing as damsels, scuds, chironomids, dragonflies all have focus on trout’s menu. If you need a chironomid primer, please check out this chironomid series I assembled 5 years ago.
Summers are tougher as algae blooms and reed/weed growth can take lakes over and the bright, hot weather can really slow things down. By everyone’s account, these are April – early July and late Aug
– early Nov lakes.
The Parkland setting is unique and has its beauty. I am more a mountain person but this region has its charm. While Saskatchewan is relatively flat, the SW corner of Manitobais gently rolling with a few rivers and forests of aspen and birch abound. Again, it certainly has its charm.
Closing thoughts. There is a new program coming on board this summer to support the Manitoba Parkland project. The lakes need aeration and while the hardware is in place, the electricity bill needs be covered. Please be sure to stop in at the Patterson Lake campground and talk to Bob Morenski. He’ll be in the first big, white trailer or out on the lake with a blue pontoon boat. They are setting up a membership drive to fund the aerators. He’ll likely ask you for $20 or so to support what is there. Honestly, folks, we’re all likely coming form a long distance to fish these lakes. The least of our cost is a small fund raising. If he asks you for $20, plan ahead and give him $50 or $100. The extra few $ on a long trip is a small % increase cost to your trip but goes a long way in supporting the future of these fisheries. If you enjoyed this report and photos and plan to head out to Manitoba, you can show your appreciation by making that donation. It’s exactly how we can each contribute to keeping the program going. Where else can you catch trout like that 3 feet off a hard top highway?
If you or someone you know is headed that way, brow-beat yourselves to make that donation. The only reason you are going is for the fishing, what better way to support the fishery? I think the following shot spells out how unique this fishery is – please do your best to support it.
Let’s close with a ‘few’ more shots:
So, how’s that for 5 days of fly fishing?