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.
While I haven’t done any fishing since getting back from vacation, I have given some casting classes. These are all private lessons and (if needed) I supply the gear. On the 20th I was teaching a fella who is planning on retiring to the B.C. mountains.
A few days later I gave a fly rod casting lesson to a fella who’s van trip to the mountains was thwarted by engine failure.
I went a little earlier so I could shoot some birds.
The next fella was a guy who hasn’t had much success fishing but thought fly fishing was for him.
With these classes I use 6wt rods (which I feel are a good 1st outfit for Manitoba Waters) a real leader and real flies (with the points off so no one gets a hook in them)
All of these folks couldn’t cast even a little but by the end of the hour they had the skills that could get them fish!
I had been fishing since I got back from my trip to Newfoundland (where I fished a lot!). One because I was quite busy with gigs (playing music) two, we had some brutally hot weather and three, I was giving my music school a bit of a make-over.
But this date was booked way back and I was kinda needing to get back out there.
Because it was the Sunday of the last long weekend of the summer I could not take him to all my spots. Luckily I have a few spots that are less known.
We caught trout, pike and perch and missed out on bass which are pretty likely and walleye that are almost impossible this time of year for wading fishers.
The client was from Italy and marveled at all our wild spaces and so much open areas. Italy has almost twice the population of Canada but could fit comfortably inside our province.
Ironically, we happen to be planning a family vacation to Italy next year and my client this day has offered not only tourist advice, but to set up some fishing opportunities!
Funny how things work out.
So my favorite and secret little brook is under siege. Not from bait fishers or pollution, but from rodent developers. When I was introduced to this stream, 3 years ago, there was miles of fish-able runs up and down from the access point. Now the fish in this section are confined to one pool.
3 years ago there where 2 major beaver dams. They were old and well established. So they held fish. On a good day you could walk the stream for hours catching fish in a variety of riffles, runs and pools. At the end there was a beaver pond with more (and sometimes bigger) fish. Now we have all those runs under water and they do not hold fish at this time. The property owners don’t fish and don’t care. Now, brook trout streams need the beaver ponds. They hold back water to even out flows over the year, they allow sediment to settle to keep the water clear, etc. but with so much of this water on private land and inaccessible, I fear my days of fishing for wild brook trout are numbered. Here are some pictures of the trout caught from one tiny pool between the two marshes. As you can see there are over 30 fish!
I am not including the hits and LDR’s.
Now, for someone else, catching 33 fish without moving is a good day but I would rather catch 3 fish out of 11 pools, runs and riffles. As well I cannot imagine this is good for the fishery, spawning and such. The lower section was good in the spring but come summer and fall, it died off a lot.
I am torn between getting fly fishers involved and keeping it a secret, but I am not sure there is anything we can do. Maybe if the beavers flood the road the DNR will trap them out.
Sure as heck, if it was walleye they’d be fixing this.
I haven’t been out since the camping trip and not much since June. I tend to go away in the summer because it is so hot here and the fishing so poor that it is a waste of gas. So when the weather finally cooled off a bit I decided to hit my on again off again brook trout spot. It is quite a drive and quite a secret. The fish are small, quite a bit of tramping so not for everyone. But we keep it secret because all that won’t stop assholes from trying and therefore ruining it.
In the spring the whole area is great and stays good through most of the summer but, when the water levels drop they become harder to find. On top of the local beaver population is turning great runs in to silt pits.
I hit the lower section to only catch chubs.
As the chubs got bigger and the hits more frequent I thought I would get to ‘that run’ that always seems to have ‘real’ fish.
Looking up from my last chub I saw a large black bear walk out of the bush straight to that run. I reeled up and was going to make way back to the car. I waited to see if there were cubs and when I didn’t I took two steps down stream to see where it went, only to see it eye to eye. I booked it out of there making those ‘gruff and chuff’ sounds while I was I was also cursing myself for not making more noise, while out there alone, in fairly remote woods! I should have also notice how ripe the wild forage was!
Having made it back to the car in record time, I drove up stream to another access point.
The place is beautiful.
After wandering around the once nice runs that a beaver has turned into fish less silt pit, I finally found some fish.
After all that driving a bear, running and marsh hiking I didn’t have to budge an inch to catch my fill of these beauties!
Normally my summer vacation is based on going away during the hottest parts of our Manitoba summer. Since we are doing a reset on our vacations, to allow for a winter trip, we stayed close to home. That meant borrowing a friend’s trailer and a week on a spot at West Hawk Lake. One of the things I was looking forward to was fishing the last 2-3 hours of daylight without the 3-4 hour round trip.
Day One August 7th:
Decided a quick trip to the river was in order. armed with just a tenkara rod and a box of flies.
Nothing. Not a sniff. at first I chalked it up to me wearing a white shirt. Then I lost most of my leader and at the same time realized that I left my leader spools in the car. OK too much minimalism is a thing too.
Day Two August 8th:
Wanting a redo on the day before, I donned a neutral shirt and was very ready with leader spools. Nothing. Not a sniff. Not only that, I didn’t see any fish sign. No risers, no swirls, nothing. On top of that there were no hatches going on and very little mosquito action. The water was a good flow and its usual gin clear.
I have been fishing this river for 17 Years and I know the spots. My best flies on the best spots didn’t work. Hell I even tried the “pellet pool”
The month before it fished well. The only major difference was the bridge construction up stream. I mean, it looked good, but maybe there was a spill that wiped out the fish and insects or at least encouraged them to move downstream to the lake.
Day Three August 10th:
Ok, time for some lake fishing. So I hit Lyon’s Lake. I have fished this lake more than any body of water. To say I know this lake is an understatement. Nothing but a few perch! Not trout. I waited till the magic hour when even the summer skulkers come up. Nothing. For many years I have been able to get trout in the summer but the fish-ability and over all quality of this lake (and Hunt Lake as well) has declined. If you look at the numbers 13,000 rainbow trout since 2014 seems like a lot. I don’t know if the number (in 2001 they dropped 13,000 fish alone in there and that was followed by some years of great stockings and great fishing) or size of the fish needs to be increased to help them out compete the the perch or stay out of predators’ mouths, but the last few years have been real crappy.
Day Four August 11th:
This time Hunt Lake. This used to be a near perfect lake for brook trout. But it got lost in the shuffle by trying to things differently. So, a once idyllic brook trout lake was made into a splake hell hole (don’t worry you won’t find splake on the stocking list for this lake but I have caught these slinky lifeless hybrids). There have been only 6,000 Brookie stocking since 2014 (compare that to the 13000 fish they put in 2001) but over 100 brood browns. Maybe they were put in to control the perch but we know they also like brook trout fingerlings. Anyways the spring summer and fall fishing on this lake is pretty terrible right now and has been the last few years coinciding with the decline in stocking
Together with McHugh, I have been fishing these 3 lakes for 17 years and this is the worst they have been. Even in spring and fall.
The stocking is tax payer paid for and should create a fishery that works. It used to work year round and it can again if we can get back on track. Hunt for brookies, Lyons for Rainbows and McHugh for browns, all in proper numbers. In the years of the supposed ‘over stocking’ we never saw die offs due to starvation and the fishing was great for shore anglers and boat anglers alike. Of course I say this as stocking levels drop, ‘Parkland’ lakes seem to get the lions share of the fish and the hatchery is getting out of having their own brood stock.
As usual, there are some photo ops as well.
Hit my favourite stocked trout stream on the last day of June. This place has been my salve over the 17 years I have lived here. When I tire of lake fishing, trash fishing (places full of trash) warm water fishing, etc. coming here has been the cure. On this day the hatches where good the mosquitoes bad and the hits a plenty. There was even loads of Hex husks! (Who says it is pointless to fish during the hex hatch.
I was hoping for a trout hat trick but caught 4 of the hatchery’s products with a rock bass thrown in for good measure.
Nice to see them treating this stretch of river the way it was intended, as a C&R recreational fishery giving people a feeling of what it is like to fish (preferably fly fish) a typical trout stream. In years gone by we’ve had the water shut off at the behest of the cottage owners, zero stocking, weird stocking, etc.
I tell you, it is nice to fish a few stretches of water and get uncountable hits and landed fish.
I started with nymphs, switched to drys (for more flying fish and less hook ups) and back to nymphs. Nothing big just big fun.
On May 26th I took a Father Son duo fishing. They were both from Brasil. The elder was very experienced with the fly rod but spoke little English and the son spoke excellent English but knew little about fly fishing.
Worked out fine. Dad needed no monitoring, could cast and fish. Could read water and choose flies. This allowed me to help the son.
Over all they were looking to catch some fish and take in some wilderness scenery. The weather and the scenery cooperated, the fish, not so much.
First stop was a hydro dam along the Winnipeg river. Except for the dam, the scenery is great. This place is usually good for a few fish, but on this day, after a couple of hours, we got none.
Down the road to the next stop. Where we did get some action in the form of hits and a couple of fish.
One small rainbow trout and one medium tiger trout.
Off again to get some pike and maybe a walleye or bass.
First stop was a launching area where we got some hits and landed on small pike.
Next (and last) was a favorite area of mine. Rare for Manitoba, in that that is more than a few feet of wade-able river.
The elder got 6-7 pike. I even took off my guiding hat and caught a couple as well.
As we had been at it for 10 hours we headed home. On the way we saw a bear in the ditch.
Here is the (short ) film of our day.
Changes At the Hatchery
So we are down to one hatchery location. This isn’t news but it is relevant. In reaction to, or in anticipation of actions of the newly elected government, the hatcheries has started on some austerity methods.
Those of you who are in the know who might think they are cutting back on
- Stocking back country lakes most can’t access
- Stocking ‘put and boil in the summer heat’ ponds
- Making hybrids that use the same amount of resources but produce less fish
Well you’d be wrong.
Other than a hiring freeze, that seems to date back to well before the election, they are cutting out the rainbow trout (and possibly brown trout) brood stock program. Instead having fish on hand to harvest eggs and milt, they are buying pre-fertilized eggs. The reasons are sound for going in this direction. Apparently hatchery fish take longer to spawn than in the wild. But gone are the days when you could accidentally catch a 24″ trout in an unlikely location. And gone is the security of making your own fish reared in your own water.
Another strange development is the addition of Albino Trout???
I guess they where giving away these fish from the “Trout Lodge” to their new best customers here in Manitoba so all tax payers were paying for was the rearing of eyed eggs to swim and the truck to the stocking locations around the province.
I am not sure the value of these fish beyond that. As one person put it “They look like someone threw a light bulb in the water”. Glow in the dark pink-eyed hatchery fish should prove no match for the loons, mergansers, and other piscivorous species out there let alone the trout that have been in these waters for a few years.
Better to save these fish for the ornamental ponds the were probably designed for.
Your Tax Money.
That stamp on your fishing licence, that became a permanent print on the licence, that was supposed to be only for fish enhancement, is now for fish AND wildlife enhancement. That means the fisher (who out number the hunters) will be footing the bill for all things outdoors and not just fish as intended.
Many years ago and many times since, it has been suggested that some of these aerated lakes with tax payer fish in them, should maybe have a ice fishing ban placed on them. Not all but maybe the ones that had special fish in them that don’t take well in other stocking locations. Two reasons have been given against any such change.
- That banning a form of fishing is seen as a form of favoritism to fly fishing. This is bunk, we have bait bans and motor boat bans all over the place based on biological reasons. (Even though keeping the gut hooking, grip and grin, photo op, eyeball freezing ice holes off a couple of sensitive lakes can easily been seen as biological. So we could have ice fishing bans on lakes LIKE EVERY OTHER PROVINCE IN CANADA AND EVERY NATIONAL PARK IN CANADA.
- That, if we did ban ice fishing on any lake whatsoever, that some locals would ruin them by illegally stocking them.
Well guess what. Pike, perch and even catfish have been introduce to many of the aerated stocked trout lakes. Some can be blamed on overland flooding but most are a direct result of the so-called “White Pail Biologists”
The worst of both worlds. We could enact a law for fear of someone breaking a different law and sat back while they broke that law anyways.
So we still have no 20th century regulations in place outside of barb-less hooks. and the can and cannot fish regs, designed to be simple. are a joke.
- Complete closure on all fishing except on stocked trout lakes (that now have closed season fish in them) April to mid May.
- We can net for suckers during that time but not angle for them
- We can angle on lake trout water in the presence of pike, bass and walleye
- We can’t angle for pike (like we can across the Ontario border) anywhere
- As fly fishers we can only use 2 hooks as each fly counts as 1 lure but we can throw a 3 treble (9 hook) plug.
- We have no C&R season for any fish
- We have almost no C&R water
Afraid of change much?
The other stretch of secret creek is becoming a series of beaver dams. Sure the fish are there but it is more like pond fishing. Very few wading stretches. On top of it the land is flooded so gettin between those ponds is hard to impassable. So I broke out my back roads maps and Google Earth and found a new stretch. Wider, less tangled, no beavers, one dam that you can fish and walk around. Fewer fish but a better fly fishing experience.
Don’t ask where because I will not tell you.