From our Newsletter
by Jim Ward
Deep Water Steelhead
by Jim Ward
The Brown Drake
by Jim Ward
Browns Return to the Saugeen
by Jim Ward
by Jim Ward
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Beaver Fever and has been replaced by Weed "Far-out, man" Canabis can be a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.
DEEP WATER STEELHEAD
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
THE BROWN DRAKE
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Wingcase: 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.
RETURN TO THE SAUGEEN
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.
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 size...work with what is comfortable for you)
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.
GENERIC PHEASANT TAIL
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
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.
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.
Rib: copper wire to match hook
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....
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.
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.