I met a lot of Brookies this year being part of the Stewardship Program. Say Hi to a few of my friends.
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I met a lot of Brookies this year being part of the Stewardship Program. Say Hi to a few of my friends.
I have taken an interest in the Stewardship program over the last few years and decided to take part this year. I had already done the written test and last Saturday and yes people do fail the ID test. We did our first outing of the season to properly identify species and qualify for Stewardship licensing. There have been some vocal negative remarks online about the program but I have to say, given the visual proof I saw this is a more than worthwhile program.
I’ve been in Alberta since 80’ and just in that time span I have seen a swing in species domination on some of the stream I love. The native and naturally producing Cuttthroat and Bull Trout population on some small streams has been affected by Brook Trout, in this case a non native and evasive species that out eat and out breed our natural species.
The first part of Saturday’s program was an electrofishing survey that we where all involved in. Leslie from Trout Unlimited who was running the program was great going over what was expected of us all and stressing safety. We ran a section of the creek collecting Trout and categorizing by sorting into different buckets. Great care and respect was given to all species, which impressed me.
The focus was for everyone to ID the different Trout based on criteria so we could quickly spot the species. Care was taken with each person so we could take advantage of all information offered. There where great on-stream discussion ongoing on everything from bug life to habitat and habits. I have to say it was a fun afternoon and even this old Dude was able to learn a thing or two.
It was easy to see the problem by the huge number of Brook Trout compared to the very few Cutthroats. The stats are below, and are really telling.
After the fish survey was over we received our last instruction on how to record our catch streamside and follow the details needed every time we did an outing (Paperwork needs to be done during each fishing trip with species, location, etc. recorded) keeping within legal boundaries. This is not an ad hock system and you certainly can fail testing at the various stages. The result is knowledgeable fishermen who are helping balance a system naturally. There where a few Cutties taken but it was low. Only 5 out of the 100 Trout taken by angling where Cutthroats., you can immediately see the offset balance in evasive species.
I came away with a deep respect for the program people involved and what it needs to accomplish. Here are a few pictures of the day.
Thought I would post some tips occasionally about fly tying, This is one that is really handy. If you have access to pill containers, they make really great dubbing holders. they come in a variety of sizes. Just drill a hole in the bottom with an electric drill and you have a great storage unit. Fills easily through the cap. This one holds 3 packages of dubbing and I just peeled the label off the package and put it on the tube.
Spring is always the time I look forward to buying my new fishing license. After a long winter with cabin fever is setting in its an excuse to visit my favorite fly shop, buy the license and feel legal and secure for another year of fun on the water. It has always been a pleasant ritual. I certainly have spent my share over the years on licenses, often buying them in several provinces along with special waters and out of country.
“This year” the wife quipped “you don’t have to buy a license this year” eh! I quipped, “you’re 65, no license required”. I had a moment of shock, when did that happen?. I knew that but I need a license to fish, suddenly a cold chill went over me. What if I’m checked and it was some sort of plot to catch people without a license. Perhaps something in small print or maybe a wives tail, after all it was the wife who brought it up. Ok, Ok keep calm now, don’t lose it, we’ll get through this. I decided to call the local Fish and Game and find out from the source.
A very pleasant young lady answered the phone with a happy “can I help you sir?” Wow someone I can actually understand and speaks English, I felt great that I wasn’t talking to an answering service out of country. I decided to play with caution in case they traced my number. “I have a friend who turned 65” I said thinking how clever I was not admitting to anything. And I want to know if I need a provincial license. I thought if they traced the call I could say he really wasn’t a friend juts someone I met in a fly shop.
“Oh Sir!” she said you don’t need a license any more (caught like a rat in a proverbial trap), just be sure to have valid ID like a drivers license and a current WIN Card. Wow talk about efficient. “Can I help you with anything else” my mind went blank, what did she just say, I thanked her profusely for my “friend” and I’m sure I heard her smirk. Probably one of a long line of Dudes my age with the same question. Humm… so it was true, but how will I handle a CO if confronted in the field, run, admit my lack of a license. Sorry Sir! I don’t have a license that thought almost put me into another panic attack no piece of paper, Oh God here come the jitters.
Paper trail… I have a few of my old fishing licenses from various provinces over the years that I’ve thrown in an old tackle box along with a few of my Dad’s in his Loaded fishing vest that I have never had the desire to de-vest as it reminds me of my time on the water with him and Grandpa. Time to review history to date on the water. Took the vest down and was rewarded with the smell of his pipe after these many years gone. And there it was in an upper pocket in a small dark suede zip case. Couldn’t resist sniffing the bowl to get a whiff of the Old Sportsman tobacco. Went for the upper pocket that I knew was reserved for licenses.
First a guide pin from the Maramachi a wonderful metal object that was thoughtfully made and well crafted. Then wonderful printed versions from Ontario, British Columbia and other assorted provinces. I studied them; often they where quite beautiful and intricate, with fishing themes, fancy crests and classic borders to rival that on currency. And then came buttons, each carefully emblazed with a serial number of the user, completely waterproof and built solid with a huge pin on the back to attach to jacket, hat or vest, what a great idea.
Ok, that was interesting, time to go through more current versions of mine. Many from British Columbia where I grew up or from the USA during trips exploring classic waters, all crafted to emulate the fishing life.
Such a big difference from what I have bought over the last few years. The present state of Alberta Fishing Licenses is a very sad excuse for a till receipt that you don’t want to expose to the sun as it will fade to nothing and water will dissolve it. Nor can you laminate it, as it will go dark. What fiendish mind thought of this, obviously not someone who had spent time in sun woods and water, all of which will spell sudden death to a register receipt, much less wet hands from handling a fish. I kept mine in a small baggie with my WIN card, (kind of a silly option as its not a sandwich). Now that WIN card is a nice impervious to weather plastic credit card type item, much like my boating operators license. There is obviously a disconnect here between licenses and user. My heart pines for these great options of the past, I’m posting some examples here.
Stopped into Iron Blue today, thought I would take a few pix (With permission) to post for the curious. Its nice to have a shop that is close to where I live in the NW. They are a supporter of this forum so please support them. Really nice selection of fly gear, equipment, and especially good and a pleasant surprise fly tying materials that are nicely focused to the local and traveling tier. Picked up a nice Simms wading staff that I have been thinking about. Have a look at the gorgeous nets if you are there. Well worth the trip to Dalhousie Station.
Was itching to get out on the water and wanted a quick trip. Really wanted to hit some small water but time was a factor as we had company coming in the morning. Decided on the south part of the Bow River. Packed up the waders, fly box and various bits of gear and headed out. Walking down the hill to the water I could see a couple of guys fishing the stretch I was thinking about. No problem, a good stretch of the legs would put me into a few deep runs where I had pinched big fish before.
I started nymphing with a couple of small stones and a prince. Not much action for the first hour. Changed up on the next run to a brace of wet flies and was rewarded with two small rainbows in a row about 14 to 16 inches in fairly fast riffles. Working my way downstream I was flanked on the upper bank by a couple of coyotes that paced me slowly and kept appearing every half hour or so. The next stretch was long and smooth but deep. Usually a good bet in the evening for dry fly but it is winter and you never know. With the season change and the cold, fish are moving into their wintering holes. There was a solid Chinook blowing so It could men some dry fly action.
There where a couple of small trout bulging just out of reach. Isn’t that the way, they always seem a bit out of reach. I could just make out a mini Blue Wing Olive hatch way out there on the water. They moved and changed in a small cloud, so I changed up to a small deer hair Serendipity emerger. The water was walking speed so it was nice fishing, with long smooth presentations. Then I spotted the tailfin budge and almost break water. Stood for a bit without casting and was rewarded with a very impressive tail that flicked drops.
Didn’t see another budge but on intuition I made a soft cast with the rod a few feet above the spot figuring that the fish would move forward after breaking the film. Felt a soft nudge then nothing. Decided to wait and could just make out another light budge about four feet above where I felt the take. It was so subtle I wasn’t sure I saw it. It was getting on toward evening and the Crows where gathering up into a huge flock. Did you know that a flock of crows is called a murder? I think it was a foreboding of things to come.
Changed up to a small BWO emerger that I tie and waited a bit. The fish had drifted back into its original position but still fed about a foot below the surface. There are times in fishing that a cast feels perfect. Not the clumsy wind blow ones or even those good ones that are a bit high before they come down. I always love the casts that straighten out above the surface then land lightly without seeming to mar the surface film. A bit of soap that I carry makes sure that the leader sinks and it drifts at the right depth. The coyotes where now mousing in the adjoining field.
Nudge again very lightly almost like when you tap the rod softly with a knuckle. Lifted the rod to set the hook and all hell broke loose with a big rainbow smashing into a deep run. Turned the rod toward the bank and felt a solid fish. Then he jumped; I could hear the fly line hissing through the water surface trying to follow the fish into the air. There are certain fish that stand out for me. I don’t know why but I get this snapshot in my mind that often recurs with certain fish. This one is there burned into my collection of memorable times. The Trout was a really large, one of biggest I have had the honor to fight on the Bow. It seemed to hang in mid air far to long then, we made quick eye contact, then it hit the water with one of those slicing, wild, headshaking, deep runs that get the blood going. I lifted my rod tip up, having lowered it for the leap and as the rod came up to meet the fishes deep run I heard a loud crack that seemed to go right through me. Well I must say I don’t scare easy but that sound really did me in for a couple of seconds and I froze. Man it was loud like the crack of a whip or a small firecracker. At first I didn’t now what had happened.
Glancing at the top of my rod I saw it was now a neat stub. The Rainbow broaching deep and I watched helpless as the top section of the Fly Rod slowly slide down the fly line to disappear into the dark water. So now this 25 plus inch rainbow is really pissed with this total new feel to the line and decided to try to do another high jump. The fish just don’t seem to get the full gravely of the situation. Here I was with an expensive rod broken, and that’s enough to take in for me at the moment but this fish took to the air again. Here I stand on the Bank of the Bow the fish high in the air again, the line bowed between me and the fish, hanging in the middle as the line sliced out of the water on both sides till it hit the broken tip that had just broached surface.
Now there are times in life where action isn’t possible but life seems to take It’s own path not asking you for a second what you think, or how it should play out. This was one of them, the fish was in the air, and the broken rod tips tension released its hold on the water surface and twanged up into the air like rock star banging out a chord. The Rainbow trout threw the hook and out of balance smacked down in a crazy body flop throwing up an ungraceful splash of water and instantly disappearing from sight. My focus was now on the rod tip. It was fascinating, released of its line it expelled its earthly energy in one last graceful summersault high into the air and seem to hang for a second in the gathering dusk and then it plunged down and hit the water tip first in a neat dive into about thirty feet of deep water.
Perhaps sometimes after the flood next year it will be deposited on shore and some fellow angler will puzzle at the broken section with tip attached. I stared out over the water in the gathering dusk, the decision having been made for me about further fishing, I headed back to the parking area with my stub of a rod. In the last Sixty years of fishing this was the only time I ever had a fly rod break on a fish. Certainly it was an odd feeling. Walking back to the truck the coyotes started their mournful howl behind me. Imagining it was for my broken rod I smiled and hiked up to the truck.
Parmachene Bell classic wet fly