Time for our semi annual trip the Wood Falls Section of the Manigotagan River 200km north east of Winnipeg Manitoba.
Each year we go open minded and so far it has given something different each time.
Once known as White Bass hot spot the last few times we have been there has been Smallmouth Bass Northern Pike and Shorthead Redhorse Suckers.
This trip we were into bass, lots of bass and good size. They were females fresh from leaving the males on the beds protecting fry. So they were hungry!
A few bite off and one pike landed.
I was using a 6wt Switch rod and my partner was using a 7wt. Fly of the day was the Black over white Clouser. Other flies worked but not as well.
Also included is this video I shot between fish. A mix of drone footage, hand held and still photos.
With the new regs in place, giving us year round fishing (except for the Holy Walleye), the need to scream 2½ hours north to the only fly rod friendly water in the province, before seasons end, is gone.
It was a great run. 20 years of getting some fishing in before the 6 week closure.
We had good years, brutal years and everything in between. The thought of going another 6 weeks after a long winter propelled us northward willing to brave brutal winds bone chilling temps a icy waters and frozen line guides.
Now, if you want to scratch that itch, we can go any mild day of the year.
In some ways I’ll miss it.
It really was thing to look forward to.
It really attracted new comers to the sport
It highlighted the hardcore fly rodders.
But 20 years is a good run for a tradition that helped build fly fishing in the province.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In baseball, hitting for the cycle is hitting a single, double , triple and a home run in the same game. For me it was getting one each of our major warm water fish. A bass, a pike a walleye and a perch. The perch didn’t stick around for a photo but there is film to come!
I was happy to get the ‘hat trick’ (which is 3 goals in a hockey game) at my first location but the 4 species is nice. It was strange that the pike was the elusive one as in Manitoba, the pike is everywhere. Most of the fish fell for a #6 Muddle variant with the last one falling for a deer hair slider