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.

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.


1 comment:

  1. Nice stuff. I've been doing that all winter, making our new hit list.