From our Newsletter

GUIDE TIPS by Jim Ward
Deep Water Steelhead by Jim Ward
The Brown Drake by Jim Ward
Browns Return to the Saugeen by Jim Ward
Think Spring by Jim Ward
Safety Tips by Peter Raymond

James P. Ward
RR #1, Paisley, Ont. NOG 2N0

     You've read the brochures, devoured the magazine articles and listened to stories of your friend's monster fish.  You're committed.  This year you are going to fish the big water, the new river, a different province.  It may cost you the price of a compact car but, for once, the adventure will be yours. You are, however, just a bit concerned about exploring this new piscatorial paradise alone and unaided.  New water, new flies, different fish.  Maybe, just this once, splurging on a guide for just one day would be a good idea.
     The good news is that money spent on a knowledgeable, local guide is not only a smart investment, but it may well spell the difference between a trip of a lifetime and an expensive experience that you don't want to share at the next club meeting. Finding a guide is easy.  Virtually all fishing publications have ads and local tourist bureau's can provide names.  The trick is finding the guide that suits your specific needs and then following these tips to make your day more enjoyable.  The following suggestions can turn a ho-hum trip into a lifetime fishing event.
 1.  Talk to your guide before booking him/her.  E-mail is great, snail mail is fine but nothing replaces person to person discussion.  If your goal is to catch monster browns on size 32 Caenis, but only in class four rapids, your guide will most definitely want to know.  A ninety cent phone call will help your guide clearly understand what you want and whether he can provide the service you need.  If he can't he can probably suggest a suitable replacement.  Discovering on your arrival that your friend's mentor Bill, the Master Guide, died five years ago from Beaver Fever and has been replaced by Weed "Far-out, man" Canabis can be a disconcerting and expensive mistake.

2.  Ask for references.  A good guide will have many more than you need.  A guide that balks at supplying names may either be very new at the game or have a nasty habit of beating his clients with the landing net when they lose a fish.  Customer satisfaction drives guiding just as it does any other service industry.  Experienced guides build up a clientele that fishes with them year after year.  This is a point of pride and something they willingly share with new clients.

3. Be honest with your guide.  He will ask you several questions during your conversation.  If you tell him that you can double-haul a four weight 110 feet, he may believe it….until he sees you cast.. If popping for bluegills on the family farm is the sum total of your flyrodding he may move you from the big water to a less demanding locale if it fits your stated goals. If wading is not for you, share the information.  If you think a dry fly is something found on a pair of jeans fresh from the Maytag, it might be wise to pass it on. Guides are in the business of not only finding fish but of teaching.  You'll get a lot more respect, and help, if you admit that you have 200 flies, but they're all Olive Woolly Buggers.  Even guides started somewhere and most of them remember the painful lessons learned along the way.  If they didn't want to help people catch fish they'd be slinging beer at the local watering hole, probably at a substantial raise in pay.
    Allergies, physical limitations, assorted health problems or anything that may effect your fishing is information he needs.  What you want and can do determines the location and the method the guide selects to put you over that fish of a lifetime.

4.  Ask about rods, lines, what flies to bring and any special equipment for the type of fishing at your destination.  If nymphing under a strike indicator is the only way to tempt the local monsters you want them with you or you are going to substantially enrich the local fly shop owner.  That's a good way to make a new, lifelong friend, but it can be expensive.  Normally the guide will give you a quick verbal overview and then send you a fly and equipment list at the time of booking.  If you haven't received something within two weeks of your departure date a second telephone call is in order.
     Guides usually carry enough flies to open their own shop.  In addition to being fishing fanatics the majority of them spend their off hours hunched over tying benches.  They will gladly loan you the odd fly, but if you lose it, you've bought it.  If you expect the guide to supply all the flies during the day then it will either be included in your end price or they'll be a set price for each fly.  Know the rules before you start.  It's amazing how your casting improves when you are paying for the flies you leave hanging in the trees.

5.  Confirm your conversation in writing.  Guides are, contrary to current wisdom, as human as the rest of us.  They too can make mistakes or write down the wrong information.  A follow up letter with your deposit can ensure that you are assigned to Cat the fly fishing guide rather than Fly the catfishing master.

6.  A minimum of two weeks prior to your departure date start assembling your equipment.  Start with your clothing.  Check waders for leaks, make sure the zipper on your rain jacket works, retrieve your wading shoes from Rover and check the felts.  Put on all your major pieces of outerwear.  It's amazing how this stuff shrinks over time especially after a winter of pizza and beer.  Finding out you can't get into your waders on the bank of a 10C stream leaves you with limited choices, all either expensive or painful.
     Disassemble, clean, lubricate and then reassemble your rods, reels and lines.  Take all the line and backing off the reels and inspect it.  Discovering that the reel seat on your rod is loose or that the backing on your fly line is rotten 500 miles from the nearest replacement definitely limits your fishing.  Be critical.  If something is marginal, replace it before leaving.  It's cheap insurance.  Substandard, unmaintained, or just plain broken equipment can ruin your trip.  Every guide has horror stories about clients arriving with mismatched rods, broken reels, leaky waders and bargain basement willow wands that fold up on the first decent fish.
     Once your rod(s) are back together, take them outside and cast with them.  This may turn up an unwelcome surprise or confirm that the equipment is ready for the trip.

7.  If your guide has recommended a 7 weight rod with a WF floating line he has done so for a reason.  Showing up with a five weight with a sink tip can turn a great day of fishing into a waste of time.  Unless a guide is associated with a "name" shop he can be an excellent source of unbiased information on what works and what doesn't.  He has almost certainly seen, and probably cast, virtually every rod you can name and many you luckily can't.  Seldom will a guide say, "You need an XYZ 7 weight".  He'll may recommend a rod class, and, if gently pressured, express an opinion on what manufacturer produces a good rod in your price category.

8.  Make a packing list.  The length and complexity of the list is determined by your destination and the length of your stay.  A one day float on a river two hours from home for smallmouth generates a different list than a two-week trip to Quebec for brookies.  A generic list will include bug dope, sunscreen, necessary tackle, hat, sunglasses, food, beverages, any necessary meds, waders, wading staff and a rain jacket.  Having one handy, even for an evening outing makes getting out of the house easier and prevents embarrassing omissions.   At least once a year a client will discover that his favourite stick is leaning against the garage wall instead of packed in the car trunk.   That's why I have "spare rod" on my trip list.

8.  Last, but just as important, remember that the most cosmically competent guide can only put you over the fish and tell you what they've been taking.  From that point on, it's basically up to you.  There are hours, and days, and sometimes weeks, when, no matter who is fishing with what, the fish simply refuse to come out and play.  If you think about it, if it was otherwise, you'd probably give up fishing.


       Steelhead love deep water runs when they're resting on their upstream travels. Often you can see them finning happily away just a few inches off the bottom totally oblivious to your offerings swinging over their heads. Your options tend to be limited; load up on the split shot and hope you don't knock yourself out on the forward cast, put on a sink tip or full sinking line or move on to other fish. Rig as in the illustration below and you are ready to fish.
       There is another option that's fast to rig, fairly easy to fish and will let you reach those deep fish. As a bonus, it's also extremely effective and accounts for more of my yearly rainbow than any other method. The roe-bag crowd calls it float fishing; we call it using a "strike indicator".  All you need is a selection of strike indicators, your favourite nymph pattern and a few  split shot.
       Strike indicators come in a variety of types. The most versatile and easiest to use are either the twist on type, (your line fits into a groove in the side of the indicator and you twist it a couple of times to lock it in place), or the hollow type where you run your leader through the centre and secure it with a toothpick. Personally, I like the second type as they are easy to adjust for depth by just sliding them up or down without twisting or untwisting. DO NOT BUY THE FOAM STICK ON PADS OR THE ORANGE BIO-GOOP PUTTY. The foam is hard to take off, is not adjustable and leaves adhesive on your leader. The goop falls off, leaves a residue and even though its reportedly biodegradable it seems to take forever to break down and looks ugly on the stream bed.
       Thanks to the float fishing crowd split shot is readily available in dispensers with up to six different sizes included. You shouldn't need anything larger than BB decreasing to #6. If in doubt, go small when purchasing. You can always add shot to your leader if necessary. Buy the removable shot but not the type with "wings". The wings cause the shot to spin in the current twisting your leader and leading to a horrible mess. Dinsmore makes excellent removable shot. Its a little more expensive, but since it's reusable you actually save money.
       For leader and tippet material you can save yourself some money and forget the little tippet "wheels" the fly shops sell for $15.00 and pick up the 125 yd. spools of "Triple Fish" fluorocarbon mono filament made for the spinning crowd. It sells for around $9.00 and there's enough on a spool to last for years and you won't be tempted to skimp on knots or tippets.
       Reload empty tippet wheels to make it easier to carry. I carry 10, 8 and 6 pound test.
       No matter what the water conditions, I never use anything lighter than 6lb. Rainbow are strong fish and fluorocarbon is almost invisible in water. It's also limp enough that fly presentation doesn't require lighter tippets.
       Fly choice tends to be a matter of personal preference. I've used woolly buggers, glo-bugs, stone fly nymphs, isonychia nymphs, egg sucking leeches and yarn flies. All have worked. When in doubt I usually start with a stone fly pattern. The only constant is that none of the patterns are weighted. I want the deepest part of my leader/tippet to be the last split shot with the fly riding a few inches above it.
       Rigging a float system is not difficult. Estimate the depth of water. If you believe the water is 5' deep position your strike indicator one foot above the estimated depth at the six foot position. The next step is the selection of split shot. The first few times you try this you'll either constantly hang up on the bottom or not get your fly deep enough. Experience is the teacher. Your goal is to drift your fly a few inches off the bottom without hanging up. If the last split shot on your leader is occasionally "ticking" bottom you have it just right. By adjusting the "setting" of your strike indicator and the size and number of split shot you can be amazingly precise with your depth setting. The last split shot should be approximately 12" from your fly and should be the smallest shot of all on your leader. (See diagram) The number of shot required is determined by the depth of water and it's speed. The deeper and faster the more shot you'll require.
       Unlike the roe bag boys, we cast our presentation upstream, above where we believe the fish are lying. Short casts of less than 30 feet work best. Mend your line so that you get a drag free float. If the strike indicator slows, stops, jerks, moves sideways or does anything other than drift placidly down a stream, strike. You don't have to jerk it out of the water. A short strike works well if you've minimized the slack in your fly line and allows you to continue fishing if the float movement was a "false alarm."
       Surprisingly, its relatively difficult to spook fish using this system. I've caught rainbows within 15 feet of my waders and browns literally at my feet. Fish seem to respond readily to the natural drift of whatever fly you are using however they sometimes take very lightly. Be prepared to strike at the slightest hesitation or movement of the indicator. With a little practice you'll have another tool to add to your fishing arsenal.



       On the Saugeen, Brown Drake hatches can be extraordinarily heavy but very short lived. They often last for only three or four days, but they can provide exciting nymph and dry fly fishing. As with many things in fly fishing, there is some controversy over which species actually resides in the Saugeen. Based on my observations and measurements I vote for Ephemera guttulata as opposed to Ephemera simulans as the majority of duns and spinners are larger than the stated sizes of the smaller simulans.
       Whatever species they are doesn't seem to matter to the trout as they provide a substantial meal. They are the second largest mayfly on the river after Hexagenia.
       Ephemera guttulata is known variously as the Brown Drake, the Shad Fly, the Fish Fly and the Coffin Fly. These nymphs are burrowers, living in mud and silt or behind large rocks where sufficient material accumulates to provide a home. They emerge fairly quickly, and are surprisingly adept swimmers. Since the nymphs average 25-30mm, (one inch equals 25mm), and are paler than most mayfly nymphs, they are easily visible to the trout and taken readily.
       You can easily recognize the duns or spinners by their large size, (18-30mm not including the tail), their three long tails and heavily blotched wings. Ephemera are the only mayflies with three tails and blotched wings. The hind wing is quite large and the body is noticeably longer than the forewing.
       Fishing the spinner fall can be frustrating. It usually takes place after dark and there are enough naturals on the water to make the possibility of a trout rising to your imitation less than guaranteed. I've found that fishing a nymph during the daylight emergence to be much more productive. Bouncing one along the bottom with or without a strike indicator often produces big fish gorging themselves on these large nymphs. The following pattern is one I've used with success:
Brown Drake Nymph Pattern
Hook: Size 8 or 10 nymph hook
Tails: 3, short, amber hen hackles.
Ribbing: very fine gold wire or mono to provide segmentation.
Abdomen: pale tan dubbing or even a thin zonker strip of tan rabbit.
Thorax: dubbing as above.
amber hen hackle.
Legs: amber hen hackle.
       Remember that the abdomen is longer when compared to the thorax than in most mayflies. Even though these nymphs are burrowers, they can and do swim. If a standard presentation does not produce, try a retrieve of very short strips as the nymph drifts downstream. Fishing across and down with these nymphs is usually a waste of time as the action is foreign to this species. Make an upstream presentation, allow the nymph to drift past you and then, when it's below you, lift it slowly from the bottom. This mimics a nymph emerging and often triggers strikes.


          The upper stretches of the Saugeen River have traditionally been classed as "cold water fisheries" that support resident populations of speckled, brown and rainbow trout. In addition to providing excellent fishing, they are valuable nursery areas for spawning migratory trout and salmon. As recently as the early 1970 -- 92s stretches of the Saugeen downstream of Walkerton contained large resident brown trout and still host resident rainbows that are regularly caught weighing up to 5 lbs. Unfortunately, stream degradation resulting from poor farming practices and industrial and residential pollution all but wiped out the brown trout below Walkerton. In 1997 members of the LHFC received permission to begin stocking brown trout in selected areas. In order to successfully re-introduce browns to a given area certain basic parameters had to be met; water temperature, flow rate and forage base were all critical to the survival of any stocked fish. Fortunately, investigation revealed that certain areas below Walkerton met or exceeded the criteria as well as providing habitat with restricted access, which would minimize fishing pressure during the critical introduction period.
        Programs such as CURB, which provides incentives to farmers to restrict cattle access to rivers and improvements to local sewage plants and industrial waste handling processes had successfully improved water quality leading to excellent habitat and a pronounced increase in the forage base. Browns were stocked in this area in the fall of 1997 and the spring and fall of 1998. Unfortunately, the summer of 1998 was the driest in recent memory resulting in greatly diminished flow rates, high water temperatures and significant reduction in habitat. On the plus side, insect hatches were tremendous, with blizzards of caddis and hendricksons supplying excellent feeding for the new trout. Much to the surprise of personnel monitoring the trout, the fish not only survived the dreadful conditions, they thrived. Growth rates far exceeded expectations. Fish that had been released in the fall of 1997 at 8 in. had grown to 12-14 inches and weighed as much as one pound. Rather than compete with the resident rainbows, browns had moved into slower water sections of the river next to rapids, which provided them with cover and access to food. This access to deep water may have been one of the reasons that the browns prospered while the resident rainbows suffered. As recently as last week large, healthy browns were being caught several miles from their release sites, both up and down river. (This section of the Saugeen is open to fishing until Dec. 31.) Fly and spin fishermen have reported catching browns throughout the summer and anglers whom normally fish the Grand and the Credit are starting to pay attention to the Saugeen. If the last two years are any indication, we may be well on our way to developing and maintaining a world class brown trout fishery that will be unrivalled in Ontario.


        Now that the water is hard, the temperatures are in the negative numbers and all our favourite stretches of river are closed, it's time to start thinking of next year and what we can do to make our fishing even more enjoyable. One of the most frustrating experiences for fly fishers is casting to water you know holds fish and producing absolutely nothing. In these situations, we often think that if we had just the right fly, things might be different. Maybe a smaller size with dubbing of East Tanzanian Musk mouse with a touch of Siberian Sabre Tooth Tiger hair. Perhaps an Exterminator tied with the right wing feathers from a Dodo bird. On that guaranteed deadly fly peddled in the fishing press by that world famous fly-fisher who's name you can't quite remember but who will gladly send you a dozen for the price of a new reel. On the other hand, you may give consideration to research that the fishing press has recently "discovered" that more often than not an impressionistic imitation is all you need. This is specially evident when nymph fishing. As long as the nymph is approximately the right size and colour, it will take fish. Anyone who has seined the bottom knows that nymphs of the same species vary significantly in size and colour. You can make this work for you by reducing the patterns you carry and minimizing the "Gosh, what fly do I use" process. The following patterns are proven winners in the spring. They are easily customized to meet your creative impulses and they "mimic" a respectable range of nymphs. Tie a handful and give them a try when the water softens.


    Isonychia (Slate Drake, Dun Variant, Lead Wing Coachman, White Gloved Howdy) is an important early season emerger. Nymphs run from 15-18mm, (hook size 10-14). Traditional patterns call for a tail of 3 short dark brown hackle tips with a red-brown dubbed abdomen, a red-brown dubbed thorax and a wingcase of dark turkey tail feather. Woodcock fibres are tied at the head to imitate legs. This is a nice pattern, easy to tie and, at a distance of one foot can't be distinguished from a pheasant tail nymph. In addition, it's spectacularly unproductive on the Saugeen during isonychia emergence. Try the following:
Hook: Tiemco 200 #10-14 (Iso's vary in with what is comfortable for you)
    Mash your barb, slide on a silver bead and lock it at the eye with a couple of turns of thread. Return your thread to the near the bend and tie in six inches of fine white thread. Then tie in a few fine strands of purple marabou. You want a streamlined, tapered tail when the fly is wet extending a 1/4" past the bend of the hook. Dub in a tapered abdomen of purple dubbing to the thorax. Rib the abdomen with the white thread using 3-4 turns. Tie off the thread on the top of the hook and dub in the thorax with more purple dubbing producing a streamlined outline. You do not want a bulging thorax like you would tie on other flies. Pull the white thread straight forward from the abdomen creating a straight white line along the top of the thorax to the bead head. Tie off the thread and tie in a white CDC collar around the base of the bead head pointing to the back of the hook. The collar can be sparse. When the fly is wet, the collar looks like emerging wings. Lock the thread behind the bead with either half-hitches or a whip finish. "Head cement" is optional. This tie has been spectacularly effective for me when the iso's are packed in the gravel of the riffles and getting ready to emerge. The white line on the thorax is clearly visible just before emergence and that's why it's part of the pattern. An option is to tie the white thread from the tail of the fly straight forward to the base of the bead rather than ribbing the abdomen so that you have a white stripe along the back of the fly. Or, you can leave the stripe off the abdomen and just have it on the thorax. All of these seem to work just as well. Fish it on the bottom under a strike indicator. Browns, rainbows and steelhead like it. The bead is for weight and flash, but if you don't like bead heads, leave it off. Since Iso's are found throughout the year, it's a good "searching" nymph.


Last spring, over 100 steelhead ingested this pattern from opening day right through the summer. It is an excellent generic pattern that can be used to "imitate" everything from stoneflies, (in larger sizes) to the smallest nymphs. It's easy to tie and modify to meet your personal tastes.
Hook: Heavy wire, standard or 1X/2X long sizes 22 to 8.
I tie a lot of 14, 16, and 18's to generally imitate Ephemerella subvaria, rotunda or dorothea nymphs, (Hendrickson's). Steelhead seem to like the 14, 16 sizes specially when subvarias are hatching.
Thread: Brown or black.
Rib: copper wire to match hook size.
Abdomen: Dark brown dubbing: hare's mask, beaver, whatever you like.
Back, tails and wingcase:
Pheasant tail fibres: black, brown or natural dark side up.
Thorax: Dark brown dubbing.... as above.
Tie in the wire and leave it extending off the bend of the hook. Dub a tapered abdomen, then tie in your pheasant tail fibers with the tips extending off the bend of the hook over the top of the abdomen. Use the wire to tie in the fibers and rib it forward to the thorax. Bend the fibers back a bit over the abdomen and wind in place using the wire. Cut off wire. Dub a full thorax and draw the fibers over it to form the wing case. Tie off fibers, whip finish and cement. Pick a few fibers from the thorax to represent legs.
Options: Flashabou can be used instead of wire to give that extra sparkle.
    A bead head versions using a gold bead sinks better and is quite productive. Later in the year when the fish get "jaded" try tying with golden pheasant tails. Again, fish it right on the bottom, preferably under a strike indicator and hold on.

Safety Tips

         This might effect you. It is the time of year to renew your Outdoors Card for the 1999 year. You should have received the notice in the mail by now. The Ministry indicates that they want 4 to 6 weeks before delivery. Send that renewal notice soon. Furthermore, the members that want a fishing license for 1999 should buy them now before the fishing season opens in the last part of April.
        Please consider obtaining the Conservation Fishing License to promote the philosophy of catch and release. This action will help show your desire to protect the fishing resources at hand to other fishing enthusiasts and land owners that you might encounter.
        A reminder to all members that the Saugeen River bed can remodel each year. This is due to the fact the river bed in different sections is more composed of sand than a rock base. Therefore, that favourite place to cross the river or wade out into the current might not be there this year. Please be careful.