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.
Rather than a whole bunch of little reviews and posts, I thought I’d Combine a few into one. Mostly to get me caught up on my blogging.
Cheap UV Resin For Fly Tying
First off is my long time coming entry into using cured UV resin.
This is liquid plastic you harden (cure) with a concentrated UV light. When you buy one of these for fly tying, you can count on it being unreasonably expensive. Luckily it is a product adapted from outside the fly fishing world and I picked up this consumer version for under $20
I am not dropping the ease of head cement anytime soon but it did make putting eyes on these party favour flies, a whole lot easier.
Fly Tying Supplies from Around the Web
As you can imagine, living on the prairies and far away from mountains or even hills, fly fishing is a rarity. The local supplies for fly tying are even more sparse. Even getting thread can be a challenge.
I didn’t by much this winter but I did try 2 new sources.
One was the wish app. I have been pretty successful purchasing music related stuff as well as some nice watches. I Found some products from Tigo Fly. In particular bulk tube fly supplies and plastic dumbbell eyes. They seem to only be available from Wish, Amazon, Ebay, Ali Express as their own site http://www.tigofly.com/ is non functioning.
I was particularly excited by the eyes. I love the look of eyes on many flys but lead, brass, and even aluminium have too much weight.
J. Stockard Hooks
I have bough off brand/store brand hooks before. Last time from Cabela’s. They were fine with the odd one needing tossing. These J. Stockard hooks seem a little better than that. I will definitely do that again.
Max Catch Travel Rods
As A Blogging Fly Guide and traveler, I can get an entry level endorsement deal from almost any Fly Fishing Equipment manufacturer. As a matter of fact I still have a standing one with TFO.
The problem is, many of these famous fly rod mane are just holding companies that get 3rd parties to make their gear and stick on their name.
This is nothing new. The aforementioned watches look very much like 5-10x more expensive version seen in stores with other names on them.
I can now get these equal to the task off brand rods for WAY less that my guide discount ever could.
I am tired of bring 4 piece rods and seeing if I win/lose the oversize luggage lottery. So I bought a 4 and 6 weight in 6 and 7 piece configuration. I have used them both on the water and they are great! Casting well and handling fish equally.
When you look at the tubes you can see one of them looks very much like the tubes you get from a famous rod company, that also has their made in Asia.
There you have it 4 potential blog post in one.
Till Next Time
Book Your Manitoba Fly Fishing Adventure
I was just at this little lake a while back and the difference is remarkable. Back on the 10th I caught 3 fish and shared the lake with a dozen or so boats and shore anglers. There were people there before me and after me. 4 Fridays later, my catch rate went up but, more importantly, I had the lake to myself.
Once the general fishing season starts, interest in trout peels off.
When’s the best time to go trout fishing in Manitoba?
When walleye (pickerel) season starts. The brief time (6 weeks) that the season is closed is the busiest time for new members to the forum and when I get lots of inquires via email , Facebook and Instagram.
I had to be back in the city to do a mixing editing sessions at my recording studio in Winnipeg so I left unnaturally early (for a professional musician) time in the morning and fished till mid afternoon.
Nine fish to hand, a few LDR’s and some other solid hits. All Rainbow Trout. Some bigger and some recent stockings
The winning fly of the day was my Fuaxhair Leech.
Here’s the photographic and video fun
East of Winnipeg is a nice large pond that is aerated and stocked with trout from the Whiteshell Manitoba Hatchery.
It was a windy day but not so much as to keep me off the water.
I landed 3 fish and had a few more battles including one that shredded my leader.
The winning fleyes were a Rusty (copper) nymph or a Rolled Muddler.
A friend and I were postulating that if muddler based flies were the starting point for new fly fisher men and women, instead of w**ly b*gg*rs that their success rate would go through the roof.
and some pictures of course
Trout season on creeks and rivers in Manitoba opens on April 15th. It might as well be on April first for all the trout you’ll catch.
There are a few place where stream trout exist. They are so few that they are guarded by distance or well kept secrets. The most accessible one is the Whiteshell river as it leaves McDougall Bay (West Hawk Lake) and rolls past the Hatchery. 19 years ago and for a good while after that, this was a gem of a fishery.
Mostly stocked, with a little natural trout reproduction the fish population in here was massive. Along with the trout there was rock bass walleye small mouth bass and pike.
Since then it has fallen on hard times. In no particular order, hatchery stopped/drastically reduced stocking. Hatchery staff, in a direct conflict of interest, would and continue to, raise the dam to keep the lake levels high enough for there friends who own places on the lake.
This has repeatedly killed off, not just the tax payer paid for stocked trout, but has also made the river hell for native fish. To make matters worse, the well meaning but misguide local fly fishers association paid good money for unneeded habitat restoration. In a weird move, the “lunker bunkers” and artificially created dead falls were put in backwards. With the water low levels so low, the tree roots dangling over it look both ridiculous and like an environmental disaster.
Not the first time
The hatchery has been a sore point for me the last few years. They cut back on stocking lakes in the area and the river right beside them while making sure western long drive aerated lakes got theirs. They built a lovely 3 story mansion for seasonal staff to live in, a lovely fish shaped balcony to over look the now lifeless river, paying for float planes/ATV’s/Snow machines to stock back country (inaccessible) lakes, new signs to welcome you to the hatchery and to stop fisherman from cutting through there. All the while claiming they didn’t have gas money to deliver fish and saying they might need to split toilet paper in ½ to wipe their butts.
As I write this, the hatchery is not making fish but is instead buying eyed eggs from the states. That might mean the end of brood stock (big fish put into lakes) This mismanagement might lead to the end of the stocking program in general.
So why the long rant?
To weed out non like minded people.
I still won’t tell you where this fishing spot is!
So with the trout lakes within easy drive of Manitoba’s largest (and arguably only city) in distress, the only trout stream destroyed options for trout are pretty scarce. You have the 3+ hour drive to parkland lakes (that are only good in the spring and fall) and the ponds (that have there own problems of winter and summer kill).
Trading My Fly Fishing Skill for Information
A few time in the last 15 years, someone has want to learn about fly rodding and has been willing to trade for local fishing knowledge. Because of that I have been introduced to secret spots in popular areas. I use them for myself, friends and clients. These places are free of crowds, styrofoam, sunflower seeds, discarded fishing line, etc. If I see anything like that I pack it out.
One such place is ________________ I go there a few times a year and NEVER have to pick up trash. NEVER see another angler and catch small fish. This place is know of in theory but not in fact. It is a place in distress as well. Not from mismanagement or under funding but from beavers and low snow pack
I’ll let the pictures do the talking from my last two trips there.