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.
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!
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
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.
Tenkara Fly Fishing
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.
On of many perch that hit but one of the few that stuck
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
I caught one smaller
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.
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
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.
I have a bit of a tradition that I keep. The last day trout season in Manitoba (at least for rivers) is the last day of October. The closest trout stream is the Whiteshell river. Sometimes I go before that. Fall is great ther because the fish have been stocked and acclimated and start acting like trout before they move to the lake or get predated upon or killed over winter or whatever happens to them so as there are no fish in the river in spring
Although this is a site dedicated to Fly Fishing I Manitoba, I do travel and fish elsewhere.
If you are at all like me, you have read a boat load of outdoor, general fishing and fly fishing magazines. Pretty well guaranteed you will have come across an article on Atlantic salmon fishing and probably one, two or a few about the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. 250 kilometers of river with the best salmon numbers of any river in North American !
A few years back I went to Newfoundland. I was psyched and geared up to fish for the ‘King of Game Fish’!! When I got there the weather was hot, the streams low and most closed to fishing.
I did manage to raise a few in Grosse Morne (in national parks you can fish w/o a guide) but not a hit sniff or bother.
This year I figured against salmon fishing (though I did bring appropriate gear in my 8 and 10 wts). I checked out the local Fredericton fly shop, Fredericton Outfitters, where I found very friendly helpful owners and staff. They proceeded to tell me that we were in the area at one of the best times, that the river had fish, the levels were dropping and that people were getting salmon.
So we asked about guides and such, when they mentioned Wilson’s Sporting Camps who had access to the best pools on the river.
Turns out they had an opening and we could come up and fish the afternoon and evening for a discount rate.
It wasn’t a long drive, 1½ hours,by fly fishing in Manitoba’s standards, but by the time we got there we considered staying the night.
They offered us ½ of a duplex and almost apologized about it, but the rooms where awe some, clean and classic in design. Came with everything you needed to make food etc.
And our cabin looked out onto the Miramichi.
Now the term ‘world class’ is bandied around a lot. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate the term in most of its uses. Particularly when used to describe something similar you can get elsewhere in the world and is therefore considered ‘world class’. By those standards I am typing on a world class laptop….
But despite the very unassuming nature of Keith Wilson (to whom the camp has been in his family for 150 years) Wilson’s is considered world class. If I was in doubt; I found a European salmon fishing magazine in our cabin that wrote about fishing in Russia, Norway and yes Wilson’s.
So 1½ hours from an international airport and you are on a legendary river, fishing for a reasonably unique and potentially large fish in a pristine environment…ya that pretty well sums up world class fishing.
So here I am with my wife at a world class lodge (normally $700 per person, per day and not including tip or licenses) getting ready to fish a river that is on most fly rodders life list.
So into one to the jet outboard powered 26′ canoes for one of the smoothest and scenic boat rides you’ll ever have.
My wife, Adelle, Henry our Guide and yours truly.
Yours truly looking kinda happy
My wife thinking that holding the hat that way makes it look better and our guide Henry
Our guide, Henry has been fishing/guiding the Miramichi for 57 years.
The method for hooking salmon is quite simple and either works or doesn’t or in the words of our guide, “if they’re there they’ll bite if they’re not they won’t”.
So you tie on w/e fly you heard works, the afternoon it was the Undertaker, then ¼ cast and drift through the run till the line straightens. Then step up or down the run, strip, t-snap or snake roll your cast and repeat.
It was nice and overcast, raining off and on and a bit cool so perfect for fishing. We didn’t feel a single bump but some fish did pop up. One made a big splash upstream and Henry said ‘that one got past you’.
We went in for dinner and back out at 6. This time we fish a run/pool just in front of the lodge.
The lodge from the river
We changed our flies to Green Machines and finally started getting some hits. My wife was killing it with salmon parr and 1 nice brookie. I was getting hits but no hook ups. The light was fading, it was 8:30 and we are supposed to be off the water at 9, I had made 1,000’s of casts.
At 8:45 I could finally yell ‘fish on’. Put a good bend in the rod, got a coupla jumps and, just before the net and the perfunctory ‘grip and grin’, the hook popped! Now It didn’t matter because my wife was taking lots of video. We have video of the trip up river, down river, our room, me casting, etc. But in the excitement of someone actually hooking a salmon she forgot to hit record.
I won’t guesstimate the fish length because as Henry says ” that fish’ll be 40 inches by the time you get home” but fair to say it was a grilse (1 year in salt and between 5 & 7 lbs July weight)
So a few more casts in the fading light, then the trip back to our cabin, where we had a cup of tea and watched the sun set on the river and then the bats and fire flies come out.