A Fish 12 Months in the Catching

About five kilometers north of where you’re staying, you’ll see a large rock that looks like a house. People have painted a door and a window on it. There’s even a satellite dish. Stop there. Fish downriver. Don’t go upriver. The water is only three inches deep for a mile. Ask me how I know…

The man from the fly shop’s words played over and over in my head as I drove to my destination. The landmark was unmistakable. Just as he described, it sat on the side of the road, slowly modified over the years by locals. I remember passing the rock on my last trip out here (more on that in a bit).

I pulled over and got out of my car. I grabbed my rod and flies from the trunk, climbed down the bank and waded the river to get into position.

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Summer of Small Streams

It’s been a strange summer here.

One of those summers where plans were put in place, routes were mapped out and then everything changed. This happened to me a few times this summer, first when a new boat wandered into my life, then when I signed up for a course for my professional life and again when everything went from flood mode to fire mode.

The unfortunate result was that I barely managed to get out fishing much at all.

The fortunate result was that the fishing I did do was that much better as a result.

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Stolen Moments (or never send an angler to cover an event next to a river)

I’ve started writing more for my local paper, lately. It’s a fun way for me to get out and do a little bit of writing that is relatively easy and enjoyable. As part of my new beat, I was sent out to cover a local festival.

As it happened, the festival was located next to a section of a local creek that I’d never really had a chance to see before. I’d heard rumours about the fish in this water,  but I’d never seen it.

As I wandered around the event and talked to people, I couldn’t help be distracted by the very, very nice looking stretches of water I could see. It made it a little hard to focus on the task at hand.

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The run that started it all.

Not only were there nice looking runs and pools, but the water was clear and no actual looked fishable. We’ve had an did very wet year here, to the point of almost disaster level flooding. Seeing fishable water was completely unexpected.

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How To Be A Better Angler, Part 6 – Really Get to Know Your Fish

A recent outing to a local bass lake taught me a good number of things about fishing. The first is that all the pollen that the pine trees have been releasing lately has made all the water on the bottom of the valley really murky, which makes fishing tricky. Another thing I learned is that unless I’m fishing in a very specific set of circumstances, I don’t know the first thing about fishing for bass (beyond looking for structure and they like it hot, but not too hot).

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My only fish to the boat that day.

Growing up, I didn’t really need to know a lot about fishing for bass. So much of my fishing was just walking to the end of a dock and casting. If I caught something, great. If not, I’d cast again. Eventually I’d either give up or try somewhere else.

In fact, outside of a handful of details that I picked up along the way, I didn’t know much about fish at all. I knew when a few different species spawned because it was either a big deal where I grew up (like the smelt runs, perch season and the big salmon run on a small river).

All of that changed when I moved to B.C. and started fishing for rainbow trout. Those first couple of years where I didn’t catch much in the way of fish were an eye-opener for me. I learned that if I wanted to start catching rainbow trout, I had to know more about them.

So I started reading.

And reading.

And reading.

Eventually, I hit the point where I could reliably catch rainbow trout on most outings, which was where I wanted to be.

As you might imagine, the more you know about the species of fish you’re targeting, whatever it happens to be, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to at least find when them when you’re fishing.

What Should You Learn About?

Absolutely everything that you can. The more information you possess, the more likely you are to be adaptable when you’re on the water.

Their eating habits: This is probably one of the biggest things you can learn. Take rainbow trout, for instance. Their eating habits have a tendency to be focussed around whatever particular insect happens to be hatching at the time. In the spring in the Interior here in B.C. the first major hatch is chironomids, that’s followed by sporadic hatches of backswimmers and boatmen, flying ants, damsel flies and may flies. Early in the season, you’ll do pretty well trying those flies as you try and match up to whatever is hatching. The more you know about their feeding habits, the better you’ll be at keying in on their food source and catching more fish.

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Trout food.

Where they spend their time: Where does you fish like to hang out? Are they deep water fish like burbot or do they like it shallow? Perhaps they like it deep at one time of the year and go shallow during others, like bass. The more you understand about stuff like this, the better. Not only does knowing where they like to hang out help you, but if you can figure out why they go there (are they photosensitive, does what they eat hang out there, is it where they mate) you’ll increase your success on the water.

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Where I typically look for bass (on this particular lake).

What is their life cycle: Knowing the life cycle of your fish can help you understand things like where they spend their time at certain stages of their life. Say you’re fishing an area and all you happen to be catching are smaller fish. If you knew that the young trout like to hang out in a certain zone of lake and, based on what you’re catching, you’re in that zone. All you have to do is move to where the bigger fish hang out (which you know because you spent the time learning about their life cycle). This can also help you stay away from spawning fish or target pre-spawners (who are usually looking to bulk up).

How Does This Help Me?

Like so many of the things I’ve been talking about in these posts, the more information you have about the fish you’re targeting, the more likely you are to have successful days on the water. It can be especially helpful if you’re trying to plan a fishing trip. For example, here in B.C. planning a stillwater trip any time during the month of May almost always going to be successful as you’ll be fishing during the peak of the chironomid hatch.

On the end of the spectrum, there’s no point in trying to plan a bass trip in Ontario, because they are early season spawners and the fishery is actually closed until some time in June (I could be wrong about the specifics here, it’s been a while since I lived in Ontario and some details may have gotten fuzzy).

It can also help you figure out why you’re not catching any fish. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of being too shallow or using the wrong thing or just being in the wrong part of the lake for the time of year you’re fishing.

This is great stuff to focus on in the offseason, as it’s possible to spend weeks, if not months just studying up on the eating habits of some fish (I know this because I sat through a three hour presentation on trout food once that was then broken down into an all day session on one particular part of their diet).

At the end of the day, that extra little bit of knowledge you’ve taken the time to turn could be the thing that saves a trip from being a frustrating weekend of not catching any fish, even though they’re jumping all around you.

Fishing with Joe from Cunningham Boats

Life is funny. One second you’re sitting on the couch enjoying a quiet evening and then, out of the blue, you get a message about a boat.

Now, as an angler and a life-long lover of boats, it’s not that unusual for me to get messages about boat. In fact, it happens fairly regularly. This time, however it was different.

The message was from Joe Cunningham, a boat builder based out of Pincher Creek in Alberta. He wanted, among other things, to meet up with me and go fishing in one of his boats, The Chironomind.

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A Great Start to the Season

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I last sit down to write something. Mostly because it also means it’s been three months since I did any fishing.

I mean, I’ve been out a few times, but the conditions weren’t great and the fish weren’t biting. Any writing I would have done would have read that it was written by Eeyore (I spent two hours staring at a hole in the ice. The guy next to me caught all the fish. Dang).

That, paired with a very busy time on the non-fishing end of my life, meant I haven’t had much to write about at all.

Then late April came along, I got a new boat and hit the mighty Columbia River in Castlegar.

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Shaking Off The Shack Nasties

The low cloud and fog didn’t offer up a lot of hope for a beautiful day as I had my morning coffee, but I really didn’t care. One way or another, I was going fishing.

There had been a few weeks where a cold snap, illness and work had all conspired to keep me house-bound. As you might expect, too much time inside a house with a very active two year old meant I was overdue for some time on the water.

Not only was I excited to get out on the water, but I was really looking forward to working on my nymphing skills. I’ve been trying to get better at nymphing since the summer, when I realized that actually learning how to do it properly would be time well spent.

I wasn’t quite ready to go when Chad, my fishing partner for the day, showed up, but I was close enough and in no time at all we were on the road.

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