Thursday, April 24, 2014

Streams of Consciousness III

Luck is a word we throw around fishing a lot. Usually speaking of luck, we speak of bad luck.

"That was a nice fish. Must have been some bad luck to have it pop off at the net."

"Boy, that's some bad luck to have a storm rollin' over them hills as we were gearing up."

And the worst, when your buddy calls you from the salmonfly hatch only to be stuck in that meeting months in the works.

That's the bad luck, but what could be considered good luck usually gets chalked ups solely to skill. Alright, I am sure skill has a lot to do with the many factors that lead to a successful fish catching day on the water, or landing the trophy fish of a lifetime--but how many untold chance circumstances lined up for it to come to fruition?

Who planned the bluebird weather on the day you and your three buddies planned to hit the stream together? Who organized precisely which beats to take? Which skill set do you possess to have the trout pick your artificial over the natural right beside it?

I believe the adage that we can create our own luck in most areas of life, but why when we fly fish do we only create good luck? When you loose that fish it is because bad luck popped your hook out, not a dull point. Did the fish just not bite, or did they think your #14 Parachute Adams fished all day was a size too big? Is it a wind knot or a tailing loop knot? Are the fish very spooky, or do you walk with the delicacy of a wrecking ball?


People who fly fish are the luckiest people I know. We are lucky to have something to slow down. To absorb. To enjoy.

Not only that, but i consider myself lucky to have the people I share it with. My brother; our father; our friends; and the newest addition to my fledgling clan: my daughter.

Next time you are out. Don't think about the bad luck you are having and how your extreme prowess as an angler overcame all odds. Count your blessings, and pass one on to share in the luck.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Top Ten Signs You May Be A Fly Fishing Snob

Where does your mind go when you can't fish because the weather is the shits?  Obviously, the rational thuing to do is bitch and moan about the state of fly fishing, and all the snobby crap that happens.

Okay, so some of these infect me, others I've seen, and some are pure BS.

10. You only gear fish when you're desperate
9. The value of your fly gear is higher than your renter's insurance coverage.
8. You refuse to wear outdoor clothing that isn't made specifically for fly fishing.  (Isn't The North Face or MEC good enough??  Answer, Yes, it is.)
7. You refuse to buy Cabela's or Berkley brand fluorocarbon (in bulk) because they aren't "fly fishing specific," even though they clearly show the diametre in mm and work as well as anything else...
6. Your favourite dress shirt is either Simms or Orvis.
5. You'd rather get skunked with a dry fly than fish a nymph, wet, or streamer, even when you know it's the best shot. (I've never understood this.)
4. You bitch about and refuse to use any gear made anywhere in Asia. (Many Korean produced rods are pretty damn sweet. Hardy-Greys, anyone?)
3. If your hand-tied  flies aren't identical, you'll give the mismatches away as "seconds." (Do the fish really count 5-ribs on one nymph, and 6 on the next?)
2. You think that wearing a fly vest is outdated. (Only geezers and newbies wear those now, right?)

and...

1. You refuse to travel and fly fish without hiring a guide. Ever.

Happy ice out and pre-runoff everyone!

Nick

Friday, April 4, 2014

Finding New Water


In today's age of Internet forums, blogs, Vimeos and Youtubes, and Twitters, you might think that as a "digital native" I employ very modern methods of scoping out and scouting new water to fish. It is true that I do use some of the new tools to aid me in my search of new water to explore, but I still fall back on a number of tried and tested standbys.

Maps
If anything could be considered a secret shame of mine, it is maps. I love pouring over any map I have a chance to get my hands on. Cities, counties, provinces, countries, even mall maps where I am most out of my element.  It doesn't matter what the map is of, I love them all. Maps are my first point of contact when scoping out new water, and the last aid in helping me to get there.

The first maps I can remember helping me, and they are still some of the best, are the ones found in the yearly Alberta Fishing Guide. The maps are not the most detailed, but they are leaps and bounds better than your standard AMA Road Map (best for Provincial Park campground locations). These maps highlight a number of smaller streams, thought not every one, and have a fairly god spread of oil and logging roads that pepper the west of the province. Coupled with the listings of game fish species found (more on this later), this is an invaluable resource to exploring new waters in Alberta.

"New School" scouting techniques
Next come the more detailed Alberta Backroads Mapbooks. This series of books (4 relevant to Alberta) features highly detailed map pages covering Northern Alberta, Central Alberta, Southern Alberta, and the Canadian Rockies. Each page is on a 1:250000 scale, so each centimeter equates to roughly 2.5 kilometers (sorry for the Americans, Liberians, and Burmese who use imperial). Colours are also used to represent different types of general ground cover, terrain, and provincial and national parks. The most valuable aspect to these books is they offer a detailed visual for nearly all of the extant oil and logging roads, plus trails like cutlines, hiking paths, former and current rail right-of-ways, and even more streams than the Alta. Fishing Guide. Perhaps even too many as a lot of seasonal streams are also marked identical to fish bearing continuous streams.

Digital Visual Mediums
Services like Google and Bing have revolutionized the way I scout fishing locations. Each provider has their own pros and cons (generally I like Google Maps and Earth), but both do generally the same thing. The biggest advantage to fishers is areal photography that can be detailed enough to show deeper pools, drop offs, and shoal areas in larger streams and lakes. Occasionally I will even take a virtual flight over promising areas too see things like local geography, relative stream or lake size, and a more realistic idea of what the good old paper maps portray.

Along with the areal shots, another feature of Google I love is the StreetView. If you do not know, Google has been driving around the world in a car with a 360° camera taking pictures all over roadways. Alberta is extensively documented. I find this feature valuable to check out promising looking unnamed creeks or parts of familiar streams I have not been to yet. I can drive 6 hours away and check out what the bridge access of a creek looks like in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee. This method cannot be relied on. Not every road is photographed, and the quality of the photos depends on when they were taken in the year, and how long ago they were taken. A lot of California's roads were driven by Google in the winter, which means very low to no water in a number of creek beds, and much of the Eastern USA was done on more primitive cameras s the images are not as crisp.

Other Internet Methods
Probably the first was the digital age revolutionized scouting new water was through Internet forums. If you have not at least seen a forum, you need to use your Altavista search engine and take your Netscape browser over to one right now. The Good: A good deal of people are registered users and regular posters which translates to a lot of experience normally only found in small local clubs. Inquiring about a stream here is likely to get at least one good hint. Good hints are about all you can expect (and about all I even want) because...The Bad: Forums are also notorious ,Mine Fields where River X is always the best spot. Don't get me wrong, I do not want each and every little creek in this province touted as the best thing since sliced bread, but I think too many angers share the same disease where they will not pay-it-forward to others just looking and learning too.  My advice: if you hare doing some scouting, checking maps, scouring areal photographs and topographic studies and are just wondering if it does in fact hold fish, state as such in your thread. I am even more likely to respond to a request such as "I was looking through the Fishing Guide and it claims River X has browns; or I was driving home from vacation with the family as we drove over River X. Looked good from the road. Is it worth exploring? Send me a PM". To me those last two lines are the most important. 1) I am not looking for secret spots, exactly which fly to use, and whose hand to hold to hold while wading from run to run. I just want confirmation that sure, at one point there was fish in there, even if the respondent has not fished in in 20 years. And 2) keep it in Private Messages. For places like the Bow, North Raver, Red Deer, North Saskatchewan, Muir Lake, etc. there is already enough pressure and are well enough known to freely spread the information, but if you are thinking of some little Podunk trickle--keep it private and return the favour when you can.

The tool for the job
The Best
Nick doing some "recon" on a small Albertan stream
Still the best method of scouting is hiking up the waders, towing along a rod with a few boxes of flies and getting time on the stream. There is a small creek in Manitoba's Parkland the supposedly has wild brook and rainbow trout and on a similar Internet lead as described above, have tried it the past two times the wife and I were visiting family there. If you can take along a friend--better; if you can take along two--better yet. The more anglers the more techniques can be used, and the more water can be covered. I think partially my unsuccessful attempts at fishing this particular Manitoba stream come down to timing (always there before 12) and relatively short fishing times (once due to lightning, the other due to swarms of bird sized mosquitoes)--but also because I was fishing alone. Two anglers can feed off each other, spot fish, and use different styles to pinpoint what these particular trout are looking for.

So bust out the maps, scope out some locations online, call a few friends and scout out some new water this summer.

Trev

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nail Knot Cheat

I am not good at tying knots. In fact, If I can avoid tying them, I will as much as possible. I use loop-to-loop connectors for the leader to fly line, loop to loop leader to tippet, and if I could use snaps to flies and catch fish I probably would.

That being said, the nail knot, to me and probably to many, is the epitome of difficult freshwater knots to tie (Bimini Twist need not apply). Just about the only place I still use a nail knot is creating loops in fly line for shooting heads, the rear of fly lines that do not already have them, and creating removable sink tips for floating lines.

Here is a trick I devised while thinking about splicing fly line cores, wrapping rods, and tying nail knots. A nail knot works by having both tag ends wrapped tightly underneath the circular binding wraps. Rod builders hide their tag ends by hiding their guide wraps underneath themselves. They do this by wrapping over a loop of thread, and once they have cut the tag, they slip it through the loop, and pull it underneath the wraps.

Here is my method for an easier nail knot. For simplicity, I will not show the fly line looped as i would do to make a loop, but simply straight.



1) Line up your looped mono (or light dacron, or needle threader) underneath your fly line. Bring your leader material (the knot material) over the line, begin wrapping backwards towards the fly line tip over the leader, fly line, and loop. When you have completed 6-7 wraps, slide the leader material you were wrapping through the loop.

2) Pull the loop and the leader material fully through the wraps. Lubricate. Pull tightly.

3) Trim tag ends. Seal with Zap-A-Gap, KnotSense, Aquaseal, or some other waterproof glue.

With a nail or nail knot tool the wraps around the fly line are very large and loose and easily unwrap or overlap (not a good thing). In this method, those wraps are already small and tight and are less likely to slide off the fly line or unravel when a little tension is taken off. Glue is important if only for insurance and peace of mind.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gear Re-Review: Redington Classic Trout 9' #6 fly rod

My CT lounging beside a  brown trout stream; perfectly matched with a Lamson Velocity
I initially reviewed this rod way back in August of 2011. In my opinion, my review was lacking mostly in substance and amounted to little more than me saying I enjoyed fishing the rod. Therefore, here is an updated review of the Redington CT 9' #6 fly rod. 

I initially purchased this rod during the winter of 2010 when I was working at a local big box outdoor retailer here in Canada and was able to overhaul my rood, reel, and line selection for a lot less money than my newlywed budget would normally allow. Prior to becoming the gear junkie that I am today, I only possessed two fly rods, an 8' #4 for small to medium sized streams and a 9' #6 for everything else. Now both of these were not great rods, and calling them good is being generous. 

Picking up the CT for its described medium action, this rod perfectly fit in with my more classic attitude to rod actions at the time, without falling into the all too common trap of medium action rods being heavy, tip stiff, and only bending in the middle with a healthy amount of wobble after the cast.
Not so with the CT. The blank progressively bent deeper towards the middle and butt with more and more line from the tip. And although rebound was not lightning quick, casts are not sent out to left field due to excess wobble on the forward stroke.

As I wrote in my initial review, this rod really can be a jack of all trades trout tool. It is a pleasure and presents delicately enough for light dry fly work, and has plenty of guts in reserve for when some monster kype comes out of no where for that size 18. It is also a great option when casting small to medium sized streamers (I have yet to try this with any Sex Dungeons or Butt Monkeys), and anything it lacks in power for the heaviest of flies it makes up for in versatility. This rod has seen plenty of time slinging indicators on stillwaters prior to my nine-and-a-half footer purchases, delicate dries prior to my long 4wt and fiberglass rods, any anything in between to honestly say this is my favourite rod in my quiver.

Today, if you ask most fly shop employees what is the best all around trout rod, they will probably say a  9' #5. There are shootouts to prove it. Not long ago, 5wt rods were considered on the light side of trout rods, with #6's and #7's being favoured day-in and day-out for the majority of trout fishing. #6's have the delicacy to lay out beautiful drag free drifts to wary wild browns, but the meat to floss out healthy specimens from stillwaters and tough root balls alike.

I think best of all, this rod is attractively priced. A great rod over-priced will see no sells and will eventually make its way to the bargain bin. This rod flies in well below what I think it is worth and is a real gem of the current Redington line-up.

Except for specialized situations like stillwaters, pike, big streamers, specialized nymphing and tiny trout, and the windiest of days this is my go-to rod. A true trout 6wt that can be a one rod arsenal for the beginning fly fisher; a pleasing action that has a lot of reserve power for long bombs, wind, or heavy flies; one I will not be throwing back.


Trev Sliwkanich 

N.B. -- This is the original 2010 production run of the CT. It was sadly replaced with the Tempt of which I had not heard many reviews, and the CT was recently re-released. I have not contacted Redington to see if these are the same tapers.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Streams of Consciousness: Part II

Nick and I always were eager to explore and push the boundaries in our fishing. From the time we were free to use the old tin can boat at the cabin of our youth we were going farther and for longer than we ever would with our dad. Looking back, I can't say the fishing was ever better where we went, but the father we got from the cabin the bigger and more plentiful the fish seemed.

As I wrote before, once Nick and I were granted the freedom to fish on our own while camping, we took every opportunity to sprint up countless creeks and rivers looking to get the first boot prints out on the stream that day or slide down near vertical drops into valleys that would, in our mind, rarely see other fishermen. Looking back now, understanding how pressured the water in Albert is, I know that the water we fished was and is some of the most pressured water in the province's Eastern Slopes.

I can only think now that what drove us to hike such distances in pursuit of 12-17 inch trout must have been a sort of madness. In a way I think we were insane, driven by this lust for exploration, pushing further, to boldly go where no man has...

I do not think our exploration was caused by our love of fishing, but rather a quality given to us in our childhood by those who surrounded us. We were never ones to be encouraged to scrub behind our ears, stay out of the tree lest we break an arm,or come inside from the rain so we didn't catch a cold. Our father is a high school science teacher, and always took detours off the highway on family vacations to go collect some wild flower seed specimens, some closed pine cone shells, or just to see what some unnamed hike might be like.

Along the way while pushing father Nick and I saw a lot of stream miles, definitely more than we needed to. Looking towards this summers fishing, and how I will eventually fish with kids strapped to my back, to toddling along with a bargain basement glass rod I cannot wait to fish slower and see less water. Sure, I will still hike the odd stream into some new (to me) water, but I will treasure the time spent with friends, loved ones, and even Nick, slowly working away at feeding trout and likely holding water. Plopping casts into each pocket, laughing at the micro-fish we pull out, and snap each other back to reality when some gargantuan char sips a  CDC Emerger and snaps our 6x; this is what I want to remember.

I can't tell you squat about most of the miles I put on, but I can sure as hell tell you what happened there.

Trev

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kitting Up: Trout Lakes

A nice ice-off rainbow.
Lake season is just around the corner here in Alberta. Early season lake fishing is one of my favourite seasons of trout fishing in this province. The weather usually cooperates (you will get the first sunburn of the year is you are not careful), the trout are hungry and get excited sunning themselves along the open water near the shore, casts need not be long (20-30' of ice free water is all that is needed), and it means summer is quickly coming!

Here I will post a general set-up I use on lakes, along with some personal idiosyncrasies that I find helpful.
N.B.--Italics for the gear; Quotations are my commentary

The Rod(s):
Med. Fast to Fast 9'6"-10' 6 or 7-weight




9.5' rods in a 6-7 weight let you launch more line, and haul in larger trout quickly. 
"I like the length of a 9'6" and 10' rods, especially for bank fishing. The extra length helps lift the line over any small obstacles and increases the distance your false casts travel, therefore making it easier to send the line farther."
"6 and 7-weight rods are perfect for putting the wood to the fish, and when using heavy fluorocarbon tippets ultimate shock absorption is not necessary. Also, it really helps when casting a team of flies with a big indicator."



The Reel(s):
Large arbour reel, solid smooth drag, inexpensive spools or cassettes

"As I will address in the next section on lines, having a reel which multiple spools or cassettes is an asset to hold numerous density lines to meet any situation at any depth."
"Large arbor reels assist in picking up line fast to get large lake trout onto the reel. they also help in keeping lines from developing large coils."

An essential part of a stillwater trout kit
The Line(s):
A good selection, in order of importance: 1) Floating; 2) Intermediate Sink (1-2 ips); 3) Type 3 sink (3-4 ips); 4) Neutral Sink (0.5 ips); 5) Fast Sink (5-6 ips)
Conventional monofilament and fluorocarbon lines

"Most lake presentations, especially from shore, can be achieved with a floating line. Once you have a floater, acquire an intermediate and Type 3 sink next. Neutral Sink, or Hover, lines and Fast sinking lines are good additions to the arsenal, but not always necessary for Alberta's lakes."
"Neutral Sink lines are excellent when a wind will blow around a floating line but the presentation is too slow for an intermediate sinking line."
"Having multiple reels, or cassettes assists in a quick change to adapt to conditions. In  a boat I have 3 rods strung with a Floating, an Intermediate, and either a Neutral, Type 3, or Fast Sink line."

The Fly(s):
Leeches get more trout, but I've caught more big trout on shrimp.
Leeches; Scuds, Buzzers/Midge Pupae, Damselflies and Dragonflies, Backswimmers/Waterboatmen, General nymphs (PTN/Hare's Ear, etc.), Streamers, ...

"I could go on, but this selection will do for most subsurface imitative needs. It behooves you to carry the odd dry fly, however some Parachute Adams and Elk Hair Caddis in appropriate sizes will also cover a lot of situations."
"It is important to know when the general seasons of your lake; however, leeches, scuds, streamers, and general nymphs will perform most f the year."
"It is all in the presentation and depth. Fish your flies unnaturally or in the wrong place, and you will assure yourself of a skunking."

The Extras:
Telescoping net with a large basket
Folder Stool and Bag (similar to this)
Waders

"Especially when fishing alone, a long handled net--upwards of 4 feet long--makes landing trout immensely easier."
"Rather than carry a waist pack, vest, or backpack, I like to use a stool with attached bag. Not only is the bag useful for fly boxes, extra reels or spools, but the stool is a great place to sit when re-rigging or fishing with an indicator."
"Waders are an excellent addition whether fishing from the bank or in a boat. On the bank they allow some wading for extra distance or quicker landings. In a boat, they keep you warm and dry on cool wet days."



This is just a short description of my ideas of a well rounded trout lake kit, with a focus on bank fishing. Open water can't come soon enough...

Trev

Monday, March 17, 2014

Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine (AFGMAG) Is Live and in the Wild!

It is an annual tradition in Alberta stretching back 44 years. A magazine, detailing not the regulations, but a listing of (most of) the bodies of fish holding water in the province with directions, species and relative size of fish.

If you are familiar with fishing writing in Alberta and the west in general, there are some of the familiar faces like TJ Schwanky, Brad Fenson, and Fred Noddin, but also some new additions that I hope will continue to write and be selected to contribute in the future.

Other news for 2014 is the sale of the Magazine from Barry Mitchell to Dave and Amelia Jensen who have been guiding in this province for around 20 years. Already I am seeing some changes to the website including a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have not yet picked up your copy, I recommend it. Some will argue that the listings rarely change and can be out of date but $10 a year to support a local business is well worth it in my books.

Among the usual conventional fishing articles, fly-fishing articles you will find this year include:

Jim McLennan on Shallow Nymphing
Jay Jones on Backcountry Trout
Jeff Lauze on Saskathewan's Trout Lakes
The Drag Free Drift's own Nick Sliwkanich on what makes a fly pattern effective

Niel Waugh, another famous-in-Alberta writer, has a lengthy article on changing attitudes within ESRD about the relationship between the science of fish and the regulations of fishing. A good read, and a lot more calm than my recent rant. Thanks for the info Neil!

Look for it wherever fine magazines are sold. And 7-Eleven.

Trev

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Welcome to the Land of Plenty (of collapsed fisheries)

I support province wide C&R for 5-10 years. All species.

Now this is not the ravings of some fish-have-feelings nut, but of someone deeply concerned with this provinces aquaculture. You will not see me lamenting degraded fisheries due to environmental or habitat degradation. Alberta is on the cusp of some highly eutrophic lakes and rivers and I think a number of them are close to  becoming the sloughs of tomorrow, same as we have sloughs that were unpassable lakes 125 years ago. No, I am lamenting purely fish policies that have lead to the collapse of numerous game fish populations throughout the province in the last 15 years.

I remember how it all began. I was 12 or 13. Nick and I had a summer or two of unsupervised fishing at the family cabin for pike and walleye in the 14-footer tin can and 9.9hpr Kawasaki motor. The pike limit was something like 3 or 5, no size. Sure we threw back the hammer handles, but we enjoyed bringing a good brace back for dad or Gido to clean and fry up later that night in peppered flour and oil. Then it happened. We got the new regulations with dad's license: Baptiste Lake: Pike--3 (it could have still been 5 for all I can remember) over 25cm. Holy Crap!, we thought. How were we ever going to catch a pike over 25cm? This flabbergasted us. Why would there be a size limit on pike? Needless to say, the size limit did little and one fateful spring buying our licenses we were again hit with a similar shock. Pike--3 over 63cm. This time, it was real. We struggled to find any pike over 63cm (but a lot of high 50's). It couldn't get any worse.

It did. Next time it was 1 over 63cm, then a couple after that 0.

The story is similar all over the province. Just this past year, the province instituted lower limits on burbot/ling-cod and a closed season in March. I understand that by necessity governments need to react to empirical evidence and that by the time enough evidence is compiled it can be too late for a body of water, but when will the decision-makers wake up! This status-quo, maximize catch limits to maximize fun is damaging our province. Alberta is not a wilderness. You can fish anywhere. Everywhere has been fished.

We do have one success story: Bull Trout. I'd argue that Alberta is one of the more famous places for Bull Trout for two reasons. 1) After an extensive public relations campaign it is our provincial fish and for conservation has had a zero kill restriction for over 30 years 2) we have lots; lots of big ones due to the C&R regulations and fishing for them is promoted as a conservation success story.

As I see it, we have two options going forward: 1) we can reverse our current direction, implement C&R regulations on all or nearly all of our water bodies, let populations rebound, and think about instituting a tag system of retention similar to hunting or 2) Put up nice signs at the Alberta border which read: "Welcome to Alberta! Have fun fishing BC/Saskatchewan."

Trev

Monday, March 10, 2014

Please be a Human Being

Maybe I am having some sort of Fisherman identity crisis. I am the "newish" father of a wonderful 10-month old little girl; and have been thinking a lot about finally getting to take her out fishing this summer. I really hope she will love the sport as much as I do, and that it will lead to many great memories of time spent together. I guess what concerns me is what kind of world she will be given by those of us currently entrusted with the future.

Now I am not speaking environmentally; that already troubles me enough. I worry about who will be her role models. As Tim wrote, the fly fishing role models I grew up admiring were Don and Grant from Sport Fishing on the Fly. They were passionate, hard working, and patient, but most of all honest and real. I know I can always exemplify this, but who else will she look to?

This is not meant to be a wholesale condemnation of those who make fly fishing films, self promote on blogs or twitter, or otherwise have personae in social media (film is one of my early passions, you are reading my blog, and I'd be a hypocrite). I only wonder where passion for the sport lies in some of these things. There are times when I wonder why the people in these films are fly fishing.  Is it catching big fish? Does that make you a big man? I think nearly every fly fishing film in Alberta is about a "remote" location "nobody" has been before. Let's be honest--Alberta is no wilderness. Let's be honest--every trout is not 24 inches. Let's be honest--why do you do this? This is not what humans do. Please be a human being.

I don't mind trophy fish photos, but how often in a film do you see average trout, caught by average guys or gals, having fun? Don't get me started on fly fishing gals. A certain one who shall remain nameless seems to go to great lengths to conform to trash magazine standards of beauty with her bleach blonde hair, copious amounts of eye make-up, and a stardom and fan base I do not even begin to understand. For Pete's sake, if you type her name into Google's search some of the top suggestions are for "Name age/married/engaged/boyfriend".

I truly am fearful about the direction fly fishing is going. I see in it all the tropes and cliches of extreme sport films like skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. I was more inspired to fly fish by the mountain climbing/adventure film 180° South than by the latest "Epic Fly Fishing Film". Is this the direction we want to go? I know it is not the direction I will, nor will my daughter with all hope.

This post was inspired by two others I read recently. One by Michiganfly entitled Is It Just Me? and Bumpy Water's Top 16 Phrases You Should Immediately Edit Out of Your Epic Fly Fishing Film.