Thursday, 30 August 2012

Proper trout.

There's something about watching the lazy take of a fat cutthroat intent on swallowing an inch and a half of foam and metal in the heat of the July sun that I have always found hard to shake. So come mid-July I headed westward to the usual stalking grounds in the Alberta foothills.

We started off slow... we were rusty. You don't want to rush these things, or injury (to both body and soul) will result.

Some days were spent at base camp, becoming acclimatized to the thin mountain air and having a serious discussion of the days ahead. Also some other things I forget.

Once we were in top athletic form the circuit began. Southwards, from familiar waters to the unknown. You would be right to draw comparisons to the passion and thirst for adventure of a young Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle.

On these crystalline waters we accepted only the tightest of loops.

We made our beds in the most dreadful and desolate of places, for we were motivated beyond the desire for simple comfort.

Countless miles were walked, often with no sign of the very water we worshipped. Only an inexplicable mantra as our driving force. Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisii.

And then something changed. It began.

The true impact of those few days may not yet be known. But something is different. Every time I pour a healthy splash of Clamato into a warm can of Old Milwaukee, I can sense the sea change.

Honda Motor Corp., Spitz sunflower seeds, Environment Canada realtime radar, Joe, Jesse, Aaron and all those who selflessly sacrificed their physical well being to help with our training regime at base camp. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Honey! I’m going out for some milk!

You know what I’m talking about. You have a list of things you need to get at the grocery store and when you get there, for whatever reason (sales, hunger, tiredness), you come home with much more than what was on the list. Sometimes you don’t get everything on the list. Sometimes you come home with something that’s better than what was on the list…

Partly due to a bit more free time, I’ve been a bit more determined to get some fish in the freezer this summer/fall. I didn’t fish much early in the summer (Chinook) due to work and developing giant blisters on my toes.

However, I went out for sockeye at the Babine weir the day after it opened. There were three of us and we caught our limit (2 each) in about 3 hours (Note to DR and OB: heavier sink tip required). Some of the results were consumed at our second wedding anniversary. We cooked it on cedar planks with a lemon/maple syrup marinade accompanied by a scotch/maple syrup glaze. I even used some of our coveted, preciously little homemade syrup.

With sockeye checked off my list, I turned my attention to coho. My buddy, Eric, and I decided on a somewhat secretive spot on the Bulkley; about 20 minutes from our house. After getting turned around in dense alder for an hour or so, we found it and before I even put my line in the water I spooked a half dead pink resting in the shallows. A good omen? However, after a few hours we only caught a few bull trout and a white fish. Not quite on the list, but they would do for a night’s meal. As Eric was gutting one of his bull trout, I went back to tossing flies. Although we hadn’t seen any coho, I was at least happy that my casting had improved since last year. Just as those thoughts were going through my head, I felt a gentle tug on the line. This was followed by a much stronger pull. Fish on! 

It was all a bit of a blur, but I remember some acrobatics and one big mad dash downstream as I was forced to palm the reel. I eventually worked it closer to shore and I could see the blue-tinged fins on what appeared to be a good-sized coho. Now, you have to remember, I was focused on catching coho that day. It was a good spot for coho and it was the next item on my salmon shopping list. Besides, I was trying to fill a freezer here. However, once we got the fish into the net, it was quite clear that I had grabbed the wrong item off the shelf. This was a steelhead. Fucking, eh.

  •  I have to thank Oliver for leaving me a TON of flies down here in April. They have produced and I’m going to reclaim some of craft corner for man crafts this winter. Also, Oliver. You might want to tie a few more of these for your next trip down here.
  • Alana’s first reaction was: “What!?! We can’t eat that!” I guess I’ll have to go back and try again.

Update: So, I did try again. Actually, last night after dinner and… another steelhead. Looks like we’re going hungry this winter.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

New Rod

After our fishing trip to Alberta (which Dustin has yet to post about), I decided it was finally time for a new setup. I briefly tried Aaron's new rod and realized I needed something stiffer than what I had, but still wanted a 5 weight as the fish in the places I fish are generally small. After minimal research I decided on the Powell Tiboron XL- 9 foot 4 piece 5 weight.

It is lightweight but apparently has excellent casting distance.

I also picked up a new reel. I again opted for price, but this is still a substantial upgrade over my ten year old L.L. Bean package. I got the Redington Surge reel.

I like the setup. The cork is a little weird on the handle, and some of the reviews said it was a little small, but it fits my hand fine.

To test it out I headed up the Poudre Canyon with Lani, and my friend Jared. Recently, there was a massive fire in the canyon, followed by heavy rains. This caused a ton of runoff, and the bottom part of the river has been really dirty for the past month, so most of the good fishing is higher up. However, we were in our shitty corolla that burns about a quart of oil per 10 miles when going uphill, so we opted to try and fish a little lower down. 

It was midday so not too active, but I had gotten some suggestions from a local fly shop. The Poudre is much different than what I am used to fishing in Alberta. It seems that up there fish will take just about anything if they are active. They are very particular here- if you do not have the right pattern, or right size there is no chance of catching fish, and I have never caught anything on tippet bigger than 6X. The suggestions were all for size 18 or 20 nymphs, with a variety of patterns, but I was incredulous so I started out with a hopper-dropper setup with a larger nymph. I didn't catch shit, so switched to a 2-nymph setup with a size 18 pheasant tail on the bottom and immediately started catching fish. 

The water was warm so they were not hitting hard; I missed several, lost a couple, and landed two. The new setup was great; casting actually felt effortless in comparison to my old rod, and so I found I could cast a lot more accurately.

Definitely worth it to get a new rod. I am still figuring out how to fish the Poudre, but probably will take the advice from this fly shop more seriously.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Tomorrow - a second attempt

In the morning, I'll head out for my second hunt of 2012. A friend and I will hike into the northern tip of the Boundary Ranges for four days, looking for a full-curl Dall ram.

For a number of reasons, this spring's bison hunt didn't (and won't) get a follow-up post (chief of which was that Dustin fell asleep while I was telling him the story). This time, though, will be different. There may not be sheep, but there will be mountains, there will (probably) be snow, there will be dehydrated chili, and there will be a story (and maybe some photos).