The first fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a small-mouth bass in a southern Ontario stream. That fish and fight hooked me on fly fishing and I love to return to that regularly. I thought that, after good rains followed by steady weather, today would make a prime time to try. We went to Big Creek Manitoba. This is a big creek that feeds into the Winnipeg river system inside the Whiteshell Provincial Park. We launched our float tubes and and went at it. I found active fish pretty early.
The first fish was my first bass of the year (not counting Florida) and was nice at just under 18″.
I called to my fishing partner to come over as there were plenty of active fish in this inlet.
The next fish might have been the best of season and maybe my best bass.You can hear and see it on the video at the end of this article
After that there was numerous hits tugs and struggles. I worked the area, where I lost that fish, pretty hard and but only got one more bass and pike to hand.
My partner caught 5 smallies and zero pike.
Here is the full video (at least until the battery died).
The storm clouds you can see in the background of the photos and videos, finally caught up to us and we got off the water.
We were craving a burger from the Nite Hawk Cafe so we drove to the south east part of the park. If that seems like a long drive to you, you’ve never had one of their burgers!
As we were in the area, we thought we’d take a look at the Whiteshell creek after the disappointment of June 8th’s trip
Apparently there was supposed to be a tour ending with a stocking on the 9th. Our thinking being, 2 weeks might have given the fish time to acclimate.
There were no fish.
I don’t know if they stocking was so small as to be meaningless, the stocking didn’t happen, the mergansers picked them off or what. But no trout but also no native fish or fish sign at all.
The head waters are in trouble and maybe all of this is the after math of the stream ‘improvements’ and the bridge reconstruction. Maybe it will rebound in a few years. Maybe not at all
ON Friday myself and a friend hit a few spots along the Whiteshell River.
This Manitoba river winds through the park from McDougall’s landing to the Nutimik portion of the Winnipeg River. There are a handful of places where the river is accessible from road points without too much hiking.
We hit a few of these
We found mostly 12″ pike and the odd perch.
We found this very unusual. Typically the pike would be bigger and there could be more variety in species, but this has been a bizarre spring and the fish patterns are WAY off!
We also found it unsatisfying, so we headed down to the stocked portion of the river. This is usually stocked, stocked early and often
Not a sniff. We did read that they were going to make a big deal out the stocking the next day at the end of some tours ad presentations.
We are suspecting that the lack of stocking over all and the not publishing of reports for 2 years is to hide from the public how bad things are. Particularly how bad stocking is for non politically motivated lakes and streams.
There was some work done to create more fish habitat but someone put the ‘dead fall’ in backwards. A tree that falls into a river does not fall roots first.
I am not sure the logic. On one hand the roots will provide under water micro habitat for minnows and fingerlings. On the other hand they look hideous and unnatural. They are also going to be line and fly snaggers.
I am hoping this spring levels out and a normal summer leads to a great fall but right now the warm water fly fishing is weird and the stocked trout fishing is in precarious need of fixing, particularly in the fairness department.
Headed out to my formerly favorite lake, Lyon’s.
I say former because changes in focus on the delivery of services by the hatchery have changed this lake from being the jewel of the stocking program to an also ran.
The drive is still not bad, the launch is easy and the scenery is stunning.
First off a trip to the Whiteshell is not complete without a stop at the Nitehawk Cafe!
The lake was busy with kayaks and canoes as well as some shore fishing.
After launch I made sure I had the essentials!
It didn’t bode well as I got a fish on the first cast!
I was to go on catching a few of these. Clones is the best word as they were all the same size. These would be the most recent stockings.
When I started the clouds and light rain boded well but the the sun came out. It got hot fast and the fishing slowed down. But then come the perch that have always been in the lake.
It picked up a bit when the sun dipped.
I fished from 2-9:15 and caught a handful of trout fresh from the hatchery (7 in total). Saw one bigger fish work the shallows but that was it.
This used to a great lake. Back when a lot less lakes in the province were stocked, this lake got lots of fish. When the attention shifted to making then stocking the aerated lakes in the west, there were less fish to stock. Then the number of lakes in the west boomed. This (and the other Whiteshell Lakes) got zero fish for 2-3 years. The new director, who was clearly more focused on the western lakes, claimed the eastern lakes were ‘over stocked’ for years and used this as a basis for denying these lakes fish. That is when the fishing declined and has stayed pretty crappy and forgettable to this day. Even when the stocking returned (at seriously reduced levels) the lake has never been the same. Now we sit with crappy lakes in the east and a domino of failing aerators and bucket biologists in the west. There are still some good lakes in the west. But a system dependent on pot hole lakes not freezing during our long and cold winter and aerators to prevent winter kill seem precarious at best.
The economic benefits of these trout aquariums has been proven to be a reasonable return on the money via tourism, so there is definitely a need to continue the program. The problem maybe is every reeve and mayor wants a piece of this action and squeaky wheel politics is putting too much emphasis on the west.
I have lost count of all the new stocked trout lakes that have popped up in the west. Some I only hear about because it winter killed when the electricity was off for a few days or some reeve or mayor swapped out a working aerator for one with cost benefits etc.
You know how many new lakes there have been developed in the east in the last 20 years?
And that one is really (you guessed it) an aerated lake that just winter killed this year.
I am not against the western lakes as they have proven their worth but the Whiteshell lakes have clearly been the ones to suffer. These lakes just need fish. They don’t need aerators and the associated maintenance. They just need fish. The budgets are cut and they don’t have gas for the stocking truck but 2 of these lakes are seconds from the hatchery.
|Eastern Lakes||Western Lakes|
|Distance from main population/ international airport||Close||Far (except for Anton’s Lake)|
|Resource needs other than stocking||Needs no aeration||Needs aeration|
The western lakes provide economic benefit and grow big fish while the east grows smaller fish and the Whiteshell doesn’t need the help. But is that the only reason to stock the water, so you get more tourism?
How about stocking lakes based on the benefit of ALL Manitobans?
Got a last minute call to guide a visitor from Ontario. He had a trip with friends planned but that got cancelled.
Gave him the choices and he picked Anton’s Lake just west of Minnedosa
The client got in the water an took off to be left to his own devices (after having me choose a fly and nix the bobber…err…strike indicator.
He decided to go to the enticing back bay that never seems to have fish and I went to where the wind was pounding the shore.
Experimenting with a floating line and a weighted leech pattern and a sinking line with a minnow patter, I got my first fish. A recently stocked rainbow fell to a black muddler.
More experimenting got me a nice fat 23″ brown trout on a Sparkly Nymph pattern of my own Design.
I called the client over after this fish and got him to work the same shore line. As the wind was constant the main trick was to keep kicking into the wind while casting to shore where the fish would tend to be feeding. Even stopping your kicking to fix your gear or tie on a new fly would push you into the weeds and spook the fish. As this was his first time in a float tube, he still managed to get a couple of bows one in the 16″ range. As he was content to be off on his own I did not get any pictures of them. I did manage one more brown.
While this was not a classic day on Anton’s we still out fished the trolling gears guys who report anything from 0-1 fish caught.
Every spring, on the last day of the general season, we head up to the only open water in the province. Fairford river is 2 hours north of Winnipeg. Because of the drop it never freezes along a short distance from the dam on highway 6 on its way to Lake St. Martin. The species caught can vary widely but this year is was just Lake Cisco (locally know and tulibee) This is the first year I did not attend for non weather reasons. Any kind of weather can happen at this time of year. While some years have been beautiful this year was more like its normal self with a daytime high of -7
OK, OK not exactly a local report, but I do a small amount of traveling each year and I always fish. This year my semi annual Christmas/New Year Florida panhandle trip got changed in to a Orlando/Kissimmee late March trip. So 10 days – 2 travel days and 4 theme park days leaves 4 fishing days.
As you may already know, ponds in Florida have a default setting of having fish in them. It is harder to find a random pond without fish than it is to find one with. This is even more true in the Kissimme area. The most common species are blue gill and large mouth bass but you can find crappie, pumpkinseeds, bream and shell crackers too.
The fishing was slow and even when put against the chuck and duck crowd I either caught nothing like them or something unlike them. I also got to go out on a big lake on a nice pontoon boat. It suffered from a non functioning trolling motor and an absence of an anchor so we could never sit on a good spot long enough for the fish to calm down and everyone got skunked.
There is no sense telling you about the pond on Marigold or inside Celebration. There are ponds on the sides of roads, inside communities, public parks and golf courses they all have fish and everyone is used to seeing fishermen (though fly fishermen not so much). Each pond does carry the potential of having its own alligator, particularly the ponds that have year round canal connection to other ponds.
These ponds offer us some unique options
- New fish
- Easy Access
- Short Drives
I have fished ponds in Florida behind malls, on golf courses, the side of a high way, inside a gated community, inside state parks, etc. they all held fish.
Suffice it to say that if you find yourself in the area and have a free day, go fishing.
I have been trying to get my flies documented and have tried a few options. As of late I have become lazy and just used my iPhone. As great a convergence device as it is, it comes up short. So, using others as a water mark I brought all my tools together:
- light box
- Nikon D200
- sigma DG 70-300mm on Macro
- low f stop and slow shutter speeds
Not quite there but way better,
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Another great day with the water cold enough for the trout and the air temperatures great for humans! Headed east again to see if I could better my numbers from last time. A bit windy but not too bad on this small body of water.
First fish, a small tiger trout on a mid lake weed hump, was caught using a damsel nymph on a sunk line.
The next fish I saw were a bit of a surprise.
I saw, what I thought was, tailing fish. I made perfect casts to it and got nothing. I also didn’t spook it. I thought is was concentrated around a log but the log turned out to be another fish. The water temps were perfect for a spawning dance as males competed. I saw this repeated all over the place. I assumed that catching browns was off the table. Here are some pictures of the action.
Not noticing an abundance of hits on the damsel and sinking line I went to floating and a variety of bead heads, settling on a GRHE to catch my second Tiger that was closer to 16″-18″.
Lost that fly in the bull rushes and switched to a slower sinking bead body soft hackle fly of my own design. This got me my next Tiger Trout (told you I wasn’t gonna get a brown).
Ran into a kayaking fly fisher who sat on a known hot spot but got nothing. He saw a few of the fish I had caught and asked what I was using. He told me he was using a leech pattern. In a teachable moment, I told him that fishing leeches this late was a bit of a gamble as they weren’t active and trout might not key in on them. He left and I cast to the hot spot and well….
I hate to be right…wait no I don’t
Caught one more near the launch around sunset.
One thing I have noticed in my last few outings here, is the lack of rainbows. I don’t know if they are still there (lots of bonk on the head types frequent here) were put off by the over active browns or are being out competed by the tigers.
Still good though!
The 15 is almost the halfway point in October. In most years this means only 16-32 days left in our fly fishing season. Our (very few and far between) trout streams close at midnight October 31st and the beginning of ice on the lakes is not far away. We have manage to get on a lake as late as November 18th, but that is a rarity.
Last time I was at Lyon’s, it was an epic skunking. Sure it was the height of summer but never have I been shut out on this lake.
Things are somewhat back to normal now.
9 Trout to hand mostly in the 12″ range the one that made it to the net but not photogenically, was a fair piece larger maybe 16″. All but the bigger one, was a jumper making amazing leaps out of the water, probably only because I didn’t film it
OF course the pictures Except for the perch they are clones of each other. I could have take the same fish and re-positioned it over and over and the effect would have been the same Please excuse the lower quality of the photo as I was trying a lower resolution to same time on editing later.