This year, I am trying to do something else as far as reporting goes. Rather than post my weekly trips and then fend off inquires as to ‘where is that’. I though I’d wait until those sorts were safely hovered over their ice-holes.
June 19th Whiteshell River Headwaters
This stretch of water has been the jewel of river trout fly fishing in Manitoba, for as long as I have lived here. The hatchery is “RIGHT THERE” and yet there were no fish. The water levels were great. I fished till sunset. No rises not pops no dimples…nothing. Sure they have fallen on hard financial times due to cut backs and mismanagement but they are still making fish RIGHT THERE. To stock this river would require zero effort or expenditures. The pothole farmer ponds with aerators are getting their fish out west but the creek beside the fishy factory, nope. Well a creek did get some fish. 4,000 fish they dumped into McKinnon Creek to die when the truck broke down heading to one of those aerated ponds.
Lyons Lake August 2nd
And then the Heat Wave
The blistering prairie heat from late July to mid August is why we go to the east coast every year. So my tying output went up.
Back at it Fall Fishing
Alright, fall feed bag! Last time I was here caught a bruiser!
September 30th Whiteshell
The fall colours, the cooler temps.
It’s a beautiful here in the North central Whiteshell, a rare chance to wade and fish in Manitoba. It is also a lovely walk and chance to see birds and other wildlife!
Lac Du Bonnet Trout Ponds
Too small to call a lake and bigger than your average pond. The only aerated pond east of Winnipeg. It is well stocked and, even when it winter kills, it gets a fresh load while other places languish. I usually use a 6wt on these types of trout ponds. The fish grow fast and large on the fecundity and living in warmer water. But the first fish was of salmon proportions in a brown trout. Probably a brood stocking, maybe it over wintered but, either way, it was a hell of a fish with lots of fight! I landed the fish and was able to catch a few more good fish be fore the stress THAT fish put on my rod caused it to break. One of the rare times I hit the water with just one rod so that was the end. But it was a good day!
Western Brook Trout Oct 4th
I won’t tell you where. You’ll have to do your own homework. The fishing can be spotty and they are not big but what the place doesn’t need is a lot of fishing traffic and the accompanying litter Styrofoam, sunflower seed packs, Michelob cans. Also we have permission as this runs through private land.
The rest of the year
So I went went out a few more times and places nearby but mostly to sort out my 6wt switch rod. As well, I wanted to check out some spots to see if they iced up at all. Given that my 2 weeks of Christmas Fishing in Florida was cancelled due to the restrictions, I figure some open water might be a good salve on a mild day.
So I bought a new line for the switch and it works fantastic as well ordered a 4wt switch. As it stands right now I have booked a week on and near the St. Mary’s River in the Kootenays for August and sorting out the gear needs for that and the coming season.
Till next year
One thing that has not been affected by the government shutdowns is fishing. The only exception to this was cancelling our Fairford River trip. People still went but there was no official day to meet up thereby circumventing the gatherings restrictions.
You may ask why I am lumping 4 months of fishing related reports into one post. Well the answer is simple. I was in the process of changing web hosts and any updates I did on the old server, would not make it to the new one.
Fly Fishing Reports for the Months of May and June.
On the opener, as we call it, I elected to stay near home. I work Saturdays and the opener is ALWAYS on the mother’s day weekend. I went to Woodhaven Park where Sturgeon Creek runs through and got skunked.
On next weekend I went to a secret location that has been fantastic in the past but is falling on hard times. I keep it secret not to be a jerk, not because the fishing is easy but to stop the dilettantes from ruining it with styro foam, litter, driveway blocking and other activities that would lead to not trespassing signs and such.
The next weekend I was back to Woodhaven after work.
Lot’s of active fish, a few hits, but just this one pike.
The next weekend saw hit up Big Creek on the western edge of the North Whiteshell Provincial Park. Pike abound as well as small mouth bass.
It was windy and we had all kinds of weather.
The next week I spent the Friday guiding a fellow around the same area. He didn’t do well but he had fun. Each location had fish as I tested the water and found active fish.
Fished twice in the same weekend!
On the Sunday after we went to check out some water coming off the east side of RMNP. Rumour had it some brook trout were stocked in one of the creeks, creeks that had had stockings before.
We found no fish but some fantastic water that could hold fish if the province had the will.
In June we spent the first weekend revisiting a spot I took my client to in May. We did well.
Hunt Lake Rebound
The next weekend had me going solo to the southern Whiteshell. I picked a funny day to go. It was the free park admission and free fishing weekend. To say it was busy was an under statement!
Stopped at Lyon’s lake and it was a turbulent mess with the high SE winds. I was committed, equipment wise to lake fishing, so the river was out of the question. The thought about grabbing a bite at the Night Hawk Cafe and just driving home crossed my mind! Glad I didn’t.
While parking was at a premium at Hunt lake, it was mostly for the hikers. As I arrived the park patrols were checking barbs on the dock and sending folks home. Educating not fining!
Rigging up quickly, I got to work. My goal this year was to slow all my presentations down in general but on these eastern lakes in particular. I had gotten to used to fishing these lake as they were and as they ‘should be’ instead of fishing them as they are.
With a sink-tip 4wt as my opening bid I was quickly rewarded!
It was slow after that but there was some surface action. The problem was the high winds made most of the lake un-fishable. Normally, even in the worst winds, this little lake is immune. Anyways I caught a more normal sized brookie and perch and the last fish was another good one.
After years of neglect and a blatant favouring of western lakes, it is nice to see this lake produce. Not just for me, but for the dock anglers as well.
The only drag is the drive home had a 50km detour off Highway 1 to get home.
Around this time of year my fishy senses start to tingle as the pike and bass move into the shallows of the Winnipeg River tributaries. They are there all year long but the numbers and sizes are better early season (May from the opener to the middle of June). A narrow window of opportunity exists before the bigger fish move deeper and they spread out in general.
Mostly Pike, lots of hits and some sign of Bass.
Typically going on a Friday, after the long weekend and before school lets out you wouldn’t see another person but these are unusual times for sure and the parking lot and launch were the busiest I have ever seen them.
Busy weekend Fly Fishing wise. Friday I went fishing, Saturday I taught a casting lesson. A guy from outta town. Live near some good fishing and wants to do it with a fly rod.
Remember the super keen guy who want me to guide him? Well with my info he went and caught his first fish. But he still wanted to go fishing so I took him on my Whiteshell tour. The aforementioned snow and sudden melt made the conditions horrible for my Friday fishing and we got skunked at multiple location on this day too.
I did show him some great spots that he revisited the next week and still got skunked.
Guess we’ll have to wait till spring!
I would have hoped the water would be prime this time of year. We all know about the fall feed bag that fish put on this time as we head to cold cold weather.
Well a little something happened this month. We got a record snow fall early on. I mean more snow than we’d get in an entire winter. If that wasn’t enough, it all melted in a week!
So the water temperatures dropped while the water levels rose…significantly!
I don’t know if this merely put the fishing down or out right killed them in this tiny water body.
But I got skunked!
The fishing reports from before the snow were good.
It was also very cold and windy.
But if it was always easy, it wouldn’t be interesting
So this guy is really hyper to have me take him fishing. As he was local, I really didn’t want to take advantage of him. I could tell him some places to fish with out him paying for a day of my time. So I offered the one hour casting class as an alternative. If his casting was tight, I could spend the time giving him fly fishing options. If it wasn’t, we could get it there.
Turns out it was a little of both. His basic casting stroke was good but his setup was a little off and he definitely benefited from some tips about what flies to use, different kinds of retrieves, how to play a fish, etc.
The lakes of the eastern part of Manitoba used to be jewels. While they are still beautiful they are low on fish. A long time ago, they used a poison to kill off native fish in these lakes to create a ‘clean slate’. The, then, infant stocking program began to load these lakes with hatchery raised fish.
For years they were raising way more fish than they had places for. The number of lakes increases but these lakes still got a good balance of fish. We had 3 good lakes plus some ponds and inaccessible lakes in the heavily populated east and 2 lakes in the less dense south western part and a few more in the the Duck Mountain region.
It was a good balance of streams, small ponds, small, medium and large lakes. Something for the wading angle the float tube angle and the boat angler.
Over the last few years the focus became on the new western lakes. We already had a few aerated lakes in William and Bower but a group really got crazy at finding naturally killed off lakes (winter summer kill) putting aerators in them and then getting them stocked.
Now we have a situation where the demand is greater than the supply.
You may ask a few questions?
- Why does a province as under populated and wild as Manitoba need a stocking program?
- Why would you need to stock a non-native and non- reproducing species?
- Why would you depend on aerators and and remote infrastructure to keep these fish alive?
- Why would you allow any retention of these fish?
- Why would you allow bait fishing of these lakes?
- Why would you allow ice fishing on these lakes
What started off as novelty has turned into something else.
the something else is hard to define but put simply; a lake that is aerated and maintained by a local government gets fish put in by a level of provincial government in the hopes of getting tourist dollars. The concept is that if 2 lakes can generate income more lakes would too?
That’s not how it works.
Anyhow the bottom line is the eastern lakes went a few years without any stocking (don’t believe the stocking reports) and every new lake got fish.
This put a strain on the hatchery budget and we now buy eggs from the states where we used to rear them ourselves.
They now stock the eastern lakes with tiny fish only so they are easy prey for water fowl and other fish eaters.
This was the long way around to telling you I got skunked bad on a lake I have fished for 2 decades.
Not even the bait fisher introduced perch
Clearly not in Manitoba.
As part of my trip to the UK and as part of the Scotland portion of the vacation, I book an evening of fishing. Now I made it a trout trip but salmon were a possibility.
Fly Fishing in Scotland
IF you thing the regs in Manitoba (or anywhere in Canada or the U.S.A) are complex, mixed up, unfair, etc. take a look at Scotland.
I haven’t untangled all of it but here is is in a nut shell.
- You don’t need a license.
- It is home to lakes and rivers full of trout, salmon and pike.
- It is all owned or righted to someone.
- You can’t fish it without their consent.
- Their consent is usually in the form of a ‘ticket’.
- ‘Tickets’ cost money (LIKE A LICENSE).
- They are only good for a day or portion of a day.
- Rivers are divided into ‘beats’.
- Your ticket is only good for that one beat on that one river.
- You’re in a little trouble if you fish for trout without a ticket
- You’re in A LOT of trouble if you fish for salmon without a ticket
Now these ‘beats’ are well maintained and fences have steps or gates to let anglers in. Sometimes even a shed to get out of the rain. Trees are cut down/moved/anchoured to make better runs and easier wading. They are well maintained and litter free.
To someone from Canada or the U.S. this can seem very unfair as it makes fishing unattainable for the average person. In Scotland it is just the way it is.
When a Guide Hires A Guide
Given this tangley mess, I elected to hire a guide. That alone was complex. Given that I was going to be in 3 cities. (Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh) and there are rivers all over theses areas. We elected to go without a car which meant trains bus and the occasional Uber or taxi.
I essentially went with the one that answered back reasonably quick and would pick me up. Turned out that was Inverness, and the River Spey.
Fly Fishing Mecca
To fly rodders, the River Spey is special. I mean, an entire method of fly fishing is named after this river. The guide picked me up at my rented flat in Inverness. Surprise he had another fly fisher with him. Not a client but a army buddy or something.
As we pulled away he promptly told me the area I was staying wasn’t very good and quite rough. We’d been there a few days and while it wasn’t Beverly Hills, there’d been no trouble, no noise and no sirens.
What he would call rough most would ‘working class’.
I think he forgot to get boots for me and we swung by his home where they were on the front step. Off to the river. After a bit of scouting we suited up. He had nice Grey’s waders (though mine was missing a suspender buckle) really liked the gators on them. I thought ahead and brought a sling pack for my water, camera, pipe, tobacco, etc.
The guide rigged me up with a 9wt switch rod and a skagit floating line. I have lots of 2 handed ability but our lack of decent rivers doesn’t give me much chance to hone the skill. I played lots of country music back in the day but I wouldn’t walk into a country gig tomorrow without a lot of prep.
The first spot had him put me under a tree. Not what I would deem an ideal spot for someone with rusty 2 hander skill. Matter of fact I felt like he was trying to give me the most difficult set up to fish.
Spey casting referesher
I was thankful for the refresher and tips on 2 handed casting and I got the hang of it reasonably soon. Since it was re-new to me, anytime I let my guard down, the cast failed.
I caught some salmon parr in the first runs. It was basically 1/4 cast, let it straighten out, twitch a few times pick up the line, throw it, move down a few steps and repeat. Very effective way to cover the water.
When we got below bridge, more of the same. The conversation was very telling and explain some of this and the rest of the day. He told me bluntly, that he had lost is passion for fly fishing and he was done. This was his last year.
I have heard of this with a few people who had made fishing their jobs. Heck I have heard of it with people in music. It is very rare. The fact he would tell a client who was getting skunked was rare and weird.
After that 2-3 hours, we climbed back into the truck and headed up stream. On the side of the road we had a delicious meal of mince pies & lemon cake.
Fishing the Evening Hatch
The few times I have hired a guide, I always choose the evening half. I hate to get up early and so staying out late is more my thing. The shadows get long, the flies hatch and the fish let down their hair.
At this point the water was real skinny and the rod was total overkill. He was trying to get me to lay down delicate presentations with a distance and wind punching rig. When I said I was having a hard time doing that with this set up. I could do it but seriously why was I using an 11′ switch rod to fish water I could use a Tenkara on??
His response was to give me a lecture about how you have to be able to everything with the same rod in Scotland!
Anyways I caught a brown and he literally laughed at it and said ‘that must be the smallest trout in there’.
Anyways we fished till 11pm, it was still light. I caught 2 browns and 5 salmon parr.
In retrospect I feel he took my $600 bucks and then used the 6 hours to show who was the better guide. (Please note his friend fished the same water with a single hand rod and caught nothing)
I am not upset I didn’t do well, that’s fishing. It was hot, no clouds all day, no real hatch at sunset, etc.
How it could have been better
- Treat me like a client and not the competition.
- Have more than one rod weight option.
- The flys weren’t working maybe change the fly?
- It was a 6-7 mile beat, we could have started high and fished down stream.
- Seeing the big ones weren’t happening, downsize the rods and go for numbers.
Now you may be wondering why I am not telling specifically who this was. It is for a good reason. While he was being a dick and counting down to the day he didn’t have to spend his days on beautiful rivers for $1200 a day, his daughter still loves fishing and is the other half of this company. (Her clients got fish that day…hmmmmmm.)
The Manitoba headwaters of the Whiteshell river is not the true head waters, that is somewhere in western Ontario. The Whiteshell Rivers winds through the Whiteshell park in eastern Manitoba. It is a series of river runs and lakes starting with West Hawk Lake and ending at Nutimik Lake (part of the Winnipeg River System.
We went to the headwaters in search of trout that are stocked there. The last time I was there it was a disaster. Not only where there no fish, but there was no signs of life. No bugs no hatches…not even a mosquito.
There was extensive work on a new bridge but there is no mention anywhere about a spill or anything related. The only thing up stream of the bridge is the lake so it is likely there was a spill of something related to the bridge construction.
If something happened, it was hushed up.
Combined with the lack of water over the years (due to hatchery employees raising the dam at the request of their lake home owner buddies) this once jewel of the east has fallen on hard times.
Cant fish with out food in our bellies so off the the Night Hawk Cafe (Vegans look away)
On to the fishing
This time, the water levels seemed better (and the make shift 6×6 was removed from the dam). While we didn’t get a lot of trout (1) the bass were up from Caddy Lake.
And the one trout, a recent stocking for sure!
Over all this bit of water is looking better than is has for quite a while (under the direction of a different person).
I for one am very happy to have a place to go to and is friendly to the MAJORITY of fishers who don’t have a boat!
On the northern edge of the Whiteshell Provincial Park is where you’ll find Big Creek.
Really just a back bay of the Winnipeg River System, it does have flow from the wet lands south of 307.
What ever is in the river has no impediment to getting to this water but typically it is pike and bass (small mouth).
Today was also the summer solstice but no sun was available. Lots of wind. Wind from the SE to be precise. On this flat part of the world, there is no place to hide. So I battled the wind with my legs and on almost every cast.
I was rewarded with a few pike a few hits and a real nice bass that never made it to hand.
I was also getting a lot of LDR’s that I found out later were spawning suckers along the edges.
I also hooked and played a nice smallie. I was filming with my GoPro but somehow lost the video in transferring it to my PC.
The winning fly was a marabou muddler in orange for both species
I also hooked some braided line and pulled up a bunch of devil’s lures. Spent 30 minutes untangling that mess.
When I was done there was a family just leaving after a few casts and I donated the 2 spinner baits to their tackle box.
I could only manage 6 hours of that wind and left around dinner time.