The usual fanfare is here: the high country trout streams open tomorrow! Things are heating up on many of our waters and there are some great places to fish right now. The jaundice yellow on the AB Gov Stream Flow website is shifting to the north (now only the Athabasca & Peace drainages have high stream flow advisories), and those central to southern river stream flow graphs are settling down. More on our trout streams & rivers further down…
Walleye – Chris Kindraka
Walleye fishing in northern Alberta is starting to heat up massively as water temperatures warm up. If your favorite trout stream destination is high and blown out, now is the time to hit our walleye lakes and not feel guilty about cheating on the trout for fish with spines and teeth.
Water temps on most lakes are in the high 50’s to low 60’s and in most its been about a month or so since ice off. The fish have been feeding hard after spawning and are starting to fatten up nicely. The big females will be feeding big time now after taking a small rest after spawning. There are also lots of shiner minnows up shallow too as lake levels are up from the last few years and the baitfish are feeding in flooded shoreline vegetation and ant hills etc. Walleyes will still be found in the vicinity of their spawning areas in shallow flats that warmed up quickly. With weed growth accelerating as temps warm fish will be hanging in and around them looking to ambush a meal.
Jigging along weed edges or slip bobbing with a light breeze will put fish after fish in the boat after locating them pulling bottom bouncers and spinners to pinpoint schools of fish. My favorite blade/spinner color in June is a perch pattern. Alternating 7 beads in chartreuse and orange with a metallic perch size 4-5 blade is my favorite. Tipped with a crawler or plastic worm it’s a great perch imitator and walleyes love eating small perch.
Tournament season has also started with the first leg of the Western Canada Walleye Trail taking place last weekend on Pinehurst Lake. The ice didn’t come off Pinehurst until May long weekend and the bigger females were just starting to feed hard after spawning in late May. First place went to Brian Oestricher and son-in-law Jeff Gillespie with 41.28 lbs. Second went to day one leaders Kevin Schafer and a Robin Edwards of Slave Lake with 41.20lbs and third was taken down by husband and wife team Keith and Janet Koch with 39.18 lbs. This upcoming weekend is the Slave Lake Anglers Cup. The weather forecast isn’t looking great with the chance of high winds Saturday and cooler temps in the mid to high teens but the fish have been biting well during pre-fish. Last year my partner Kevin and I were lucky enough to take it down with 29.28 pounds and I expect similar weights for this year. I’ve been hearing of more fish over 5 pounds being caught this year but with the late spawn fish are still a bit on the skinny side. Hopefully we can catch a few bigger ones and have another strong showing. Good luck to all anglers on the water this weekend taking in the Anglers Cup. The volunteers and organizers aways do a great job and it is the extremely well run, a prime example to follow.
If you get a chance to head out this weekend, pay close attention to the weather just to make sure you are prepared for the conditions. Make sure your life jackets are on and your idle and kill switches are hooked up. Clean, drain, and dry your boat to combat invasive species and remember to pull your drain plug while trailering as failure to do so will result in a $187 fine if stopped. Good luck on the water! Chris
Central Trout Lakes
By Nick Sliwkanich – The Drag Free Drift
With much of June completed, we’re in a bit of a transition period. The recent bout of up-and-down weather has further sent the trout lakes into a bit of odds and ends fishing wise. Water temperatures on the central lakes are hovering in the mid to high-ish teens for nearly two weeks, and some days are seeing summer-like doldrums, while others are offering the combustible springtime fishing that we crave so badly.
Chironomids are still coming off many days, though the intensity of the hatches are winding down from late-May levels. I did run into a bit of a “bomber” hatch a few days ago, and seeing the large #8-10 bugs was a very welcome sight; when they are present, trout often gorge on them. But the usual chironomid hatches composed of #14-16 bugs are still the norm when the midges are hatching. 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.
Some more summer conditions should be taken into account as we get further into June. 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. During last weekend’s low pressure snap, I pumped three fish out of the couple dozen I landed, and got a combined total of two tiny scuds, one wriggling bloodworm, and a dead chironomid pupa. No doubt the fish were in a bit of a funk that day, and it was equally unsurprising that I caught fish all around the lake, and also on a variety of flies, lines, and techniques. 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.
But summer fishing on trout lakes isn’t actually doom and gloom. 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. I personally haven’t seen many damsels on the lakes north of Edmonton (a combined 4 nymphs and 3 adults over 4 days on the water this week), but while I haven’t seen the migration yet, it has to happen soon. 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.
Late spring staples include: chironomids (esp. bombers and bloodworms), leeches, dragonflies, damselflies, caddis, and mayflies.
Fish early or late in the day as water temperatures rise.
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 in the next couple weeks. 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.
Good Fishing ~ Nick Sliwkanich
East Slope Trout Rivers
Dave Jensen – Alberta Fishing Guide
Hmmmm. Well, after drought and severe drought the past 2 springs at high country opener, the Wicked Witch of the East returns. There is no joy in Mudville. Well, for anyone hoping to fish the opener north of the Bow anyway. South of the Bow there is better news but you’ll still likely have to settle in for a lot of deep nymphing and streamer fishing, or run a deep spoon or plug – something bulky, deep, shiny, white, black… and fished DEEP in order to entice those cutts and bulls (did we mention to fish DEEP?!!!?). The Oldman drainage is the best bet in the province for cutthroat this weekend as the river levels are on the low-end of normal. A lot of clearer water can be found in the upper river and tributaries (you’ll likely do very well). The river just above the dam certainly is fishable. A follow-up storm the last 2 days has again raised levels in the Highwood drainage so more poking around is needed.
And then you get into the Red Deer, Clearwater, Ram, Blackstone, Brazeau, McLeod (soon tho!), Athabasca, Berland, and all points north that are still far too high to warrant a long drive. Save for the upper 1/2 of the Raven, most of our brown trout streams remain brown. Upper drainage beaver ponds are fishing very well.
That all said, this is the late June Forecast and the 2 week weather forecast has very little precip. So things are going to get very, very good, very soon. Book it Dan-O.
This video shares some very clear water conditions and while that may not be so true as water levels come down, the principle is 100% accurate because these back waters are exactly where high numbers of trout hold in the broken current of high water, these are refuge locations that are simply trout magnets. So while you might not see the trout, they’re in there doing exactly this.
Hatches: Here’s where life gets interesting. We have a true variety as salmonflies, golden stones, yellow sallies, skwalas, green drakes, brown drakes, a few hexes, pmds, blue-winged olives, caddis.
We’ll steal Vic Bergman’s Crowsnest Angler recommended flies as he has the hit-list covered: Nymphs to use include: Kaufmann Stone, Black Stonefly, Woven Brown & Black Stonefly, Golden Stone Nymph, Bead-head Prince, Pheasant-Tail, Hare’s Ear, Evil Weevil, Copper John, and San Juan Worm. Streamer patterns include: Cone-head Bugger, Clouser Minnow, Zonker. Dry Flies include: Stimulator, Sofa Pillow, Salmon Fly, Yellow Sally, Elk Hair Caddis, PMD Thorax.
And a gorgeous evening scene from a bridge in central Alberta recently.
Fish Tales Fly Shop
The proposed outflow from upstream reservoirs is projected to stay consistent with current levels and flow for at least the next couple of days. Once flows level out a bit we will start to see the Bow clearing from it’s current “double double” state to ”streamer green” or better.
The reality is the Bow hasn’t had much pressure lately. Some folks have been fishing from shore but driftboat excursions have been pretty limited. We had a report from Bow river guide, Paul Grindlay on Thursday after he spent the day on the Bow. He figured visibility was about 6″. Leeches were his most effective fly of the day.
As water levels start to recede it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for stonefly activity. Turn over the occasional rock and check for active bugs along the shore. Receding water and blooming wildroses are both good indications that it’s time for these bugs to become more active. Caddis are still around and you may see some occasional mayflies.
Flies to try:
Dries: skid bitch, Swisher’s LLS Chernobyl, Fat Frank, Fat Albert, Swisher’s Dancing caddis, Jake’s Hi-vis UV Olive Caddis, CDC and elkhair caddis, parachute adams.
Nymphs: dead drift a leech pattern – in black, brown, claret, olive. San juan worms, cranefly larvae, caddis pupa like Joca’s caddis pupae or the Evo Caddis Pupae, Smethurst’s Stone Bomb, Rubber Leg Squirrel, chenille stone.
Streamers: Swisher’s Sex Dungeons in black, white, olive, or natural. This pattern consistently produces and can be used for a variety of species and conditions. Wooly grubber in brown or black, Thompson’s Hopscotch Sculpin, Black and White Clousers
We reached out to Susan from the Crowsnest Cafe and Fly Shop on Wednesday. She reported that the Oldman and Castle were big and slightly off color. The tributaries of the Oldman are in better condition. The Crow – which was in decent shape earlier in the month but affected by recent rains – was lowering and should now good. The forecast for the weekend is looking good and that good weather should help things along.
Several folks have been on preliminary scouting trips and report similar findings.
Dries: Salmonfly imitations, stimulators, lime trudes, yellow sallies, Dunnigan’s Dunn Dunn PMD’s, Keller’s Peppermints
Nymphs: stonefly nymphs, prince nymphs, caddis pupae, Evil Weevils.
Streamers: Galloup’s Dungeon or Menage-A-Dungeon (a triple articulated fly), Catch’s cousin It (not heavily weighted), Clark’s Rat (heavy conehead), clouser minnos, Kreelex minnows.
Please be sure to exercise caution when wading. Higher flows mean areas you could cross late in the season last year are probably impassable. Also be aware of instability on stream banks wherever you go exploring this weekend.
Happy Fishing! Nancy