Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Morning at the Office

I decided to readdress my wish to land that Coho this season and made my way to the lower river this morning with the centrepin gear in hand. To my delight, I was the only soul on my preferred stretch of river. As I breathed in the crisp fall air while assembling my 2 piece, Coho were rolling all around the pool.

Within the first few drifts, a female King aggressively took my offering and gave a series of determined head-shakes, and it was not until then did I become truly awake for nothing gets the blood flowing in the morning like a big angry fish on the end of your line. After a 3 minute battle, just as I thought she was ready to throw in the towel, she gave one last unexpected run upstream and was free.

I quickly retied and was drifting again within a few short minutes and redeemed myself with this female King.

It was certainly not a bad way to get the morning started, but it was not what I had come for. It didn't take long for another fish to take offence to what I had placed in its personal space.

But this time it was different. After a number of rapid and tenacious headshakes, it quickly became airborne, rotating, twisting and turning in mid-air. Wonderful hues of blue, grey, and silver flashed before my eyes. As it made its re-entry, it screamed through every corner of the pool and became aiborne once again. This fish was in the driver's seat and I was just along for the ride. As it began to tire, it resorted to head-shakes and rolling in my line, and I think it would have continued to do this for minutes longer if I hadn't managed to tail it.

Finally, a Coho in all its magnificence and beauty lay before me

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Precious Gem Market was Bullish Today

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Today's Catch

After a few failed attempts in the past to get our schedules aligned, I finally had the opportunity to fish with Dave again today . As always, it was a pleasure to share a bunch of laughs, a few drifts, and talk fishing with a good fishing buddy. Although it's been a while since we've fished together, Dave didn't hesitate to pull a few nice fish from under my nose. Unfortunately, due to a temporary camera malfunction (really!) I'm not able to showcase his good work here.

At the access point, we struck up a conversation with an older Scottish gentleman, probably in his late 70's, who knows fly-fishing and the river extremely well. Even in his old age, he manages to wet his line 5 days a week, and consistently walks a fair distance to a stretch of river that I've only been to once, mostly due to laziness. Throughout our conversation, he subtly offered up some valuable information of which I soaked up like a sponge. I would like to believe that it is becuase of fly-fishing why he still has that youthful spirit, and if that is what is in store for me when I'm in my late 70's, I can hardly wait.

Although today didn't produce the trophy that I had hoped for, it did produce a couple items of interest

Isonychia! A number of them were floating about this afternoon, which prompted a few risers.

Atlantic Salmon parr. Atlantic Salmon were once a thriving native species to Lake Ontario, but industrialization resulted in its extirpation in the late 1800s. Clear cutting of riverbanks for agriculture led to rising river temperatures, and bank erosion. Dams built to power mills prevented adult salmon from reaching appropriate spawning habitat. Ecological changes in the lake made it an unfriendly place for the Atlantic salmon to exist. Now, about a 110 years later, with the help of private sponsors, the MNR began a multi-million dollar initiative this spring to restore a self-sustaining Atlantic Salmon population back to Lake Ontario and its tributaries (Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program). I had the pleasure of taking part in the stocking of Atlantic Salmon fry in the Upper Credit River this spring. Although there are many obstacles to overcome and hurdles to navigate, hopefully one day the Salmo Salar will once again be the King of Fish in Lake Ontario.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mr. Bluegill - Counter Terrorism Unit

In the Washington Post today, an article explains how Bluegill are helping to fight terrorism.

Small numbers of the fish are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from the municipal supply, and sensors in each tank work around the clock to register changes in the breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the bluegills that occur in the presence of toxins.

So far they have detected over 30 toxic chemicals since 2002 and continue to guard the municipal water systems of San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities. Unfortunately, they currently don't have the skills to prevent the bombing of water mains and computers that control the water supply from being hacked, but they're working on it.

So next time you catch a Bluegill, don't forget to say "thank you".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Best of Both Worlds

A link on some of the fly fishing blogs that I like to peruse, such as Fly Fish Magazine and Fishing Jones is to an article written by Mark Taylor, an outdoors writer for Raonoke Times. Mark discusses the long standing division between fly fishermen and gear fishermen. As he so eloquently puts it, these 2 schools remain on opposite sides of the bank because of the common stereotypes of each.

In the eyes of plenty of fly anglers, conventional tackle anglers are a bunch of bait-chucking, worm-plunking, fish-killing, stream-littering, resource-abusing rednecks.
Many conventional fishermen don't think much of fly-fishers, either, considering them a bunch of fancy pants, "River Runs Through It"-watching, influence-peddling, elitist poseurs who think that money can buy fishing bliss.
The attitude is not good for anyone.

Another, but related misconception spanning the fishing world is that you are either a fly fisherman or a gear fisherman. It is this misconception that leads to the ignorance on both sides of the other means to the same end. Many fly fishermen stay clear from ever using traditional gear or ever admitting to it for fear of being labelled a meat-hunter redneck, while many gear fishermen will steer clear from ever trying fly fishing for not wanting to be a part of this elitist cult.

Giving way to these misconstrued ideas is sadly self-limiting in the pursuit of our finned friends. Gear fishermen will never know the reward of delicately placing your hand tied fly in front a rising trout to see it gently sip it from the surface, and the ensuing explosion as you raise your rod tip to set the hook. Fly fishermen will never know the exhiliration of being so intimitely connected to a steelhead as when using a centrepin reel, feeling every head-shake, turn, and roll in the palm of your hands as they act as the always adjusting drag system. Limiting oneself to just one method of fishing will probably make you good at it, but it will never make you a great fisherman.

I'm not a great fisherman (which is a whole other issue), but I love them both, and I could never choose one over the other. Variety is the spice of life as they say.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Autumn is Here!

Just as the Red-Breasted Robin signifies that spring is here, the arrival of Steelhead in our rivers and streams signifies the official arrival of Autumn - at least for the migratory salmonid fisherman.

While I was out strolling a wild trout stream yesterday, a friend of mine was stalking a south shore Lake Erie tributary in search of some early Steelhead. Due to exposed clay banks, last week's rain still left the river quite stained but cleared somewhat as the day progressed. The bite was at its peak midday and tapered off as the heat of the afternoon sun penetrated the water. Most of these early fish were in the 6-8 pound range with magnificent iridescent silver sides. These trips typically start by rising from bed at 3:00 am to arrive riverside at 6:45, to return home much after dark making for a very long day; but a small price to pay for any diehard steelheader.

Thanks to Dave for the great pictures and report.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Return to the Fly

With only 13 days left of the 2006 Trout Season, I purposefully pulled myself away from the urban jungle of the Lower Credit River, which is now starting to emanate the wretched odour of aging salmon, and unethical tactics. Below is a good depiction of the scene there this weekend, of which I did not take part.

I left this to once again enjoy the solitude of just me, my fly rod and a wild trout stream. I was welcomed with scenery that I then realized how much I had missed.

The impending warm front generated a great deal of fog this morning, which I thought would alleviate any apprehension that a trout may have in rising. But the decent Trico fall that I had hoped for this morning never did materialize, and only stray Caenis floated about. The trout remained deep within their lairs. Dry flies would stay in the box today, and the Hare's Ear, PJ and Flash-back Pheasant Tail, and Prince were the order of the day.

The PJ Pheasant Tail nymph was the first to be deployed and I soon tied into a medium sized Brown that seemed to have an identity crisis, as it cartwheeled through the air like a Steelhead. On it's second leap, it was free.

As I made my way downstream, I switched to my trusty Hare's Ear, which yielded nothing. The PJ and the Flash-back Pheasant Tails also were refused. Two hours passed without a sniff and my enthusiasm began to waiver. Finally, I decided to give the Prince nymph a try as I revisited the various runs, holes, and overhangs. I stopped at an old favourite spot of mine that had not produced for me since my "One of Those Days" entry. On my second drift through the wood strewn run, the line twitched very subtly and I instinctively raised the rod. Immediately, I felt head shakes and saw a brown flash within the depths. After a spirited tug of war, she came in for a quick photo, and off she went into her wooded den.

To be thorough, I drifted the same run to again see another subtle twitch, which turned out to be a smaller the 10" fellow with a lot of spunk. Now feeling confident with my Prince nymph, I continued upstream to another spot that I was convinced held fish. On the second drift, the fly line stopped suddenly and I raised the rod to feel a series of heavy headshakes. I could now see the fish clearly in the shallow run. It was a big male with brilliant colours in the 15-17" range. As we looked one another in the eye he shot downstream under a fallen tree and threw the Prince nymph back at me. The last time I fished this spot, I had a viscious hit that I wasn't ready for, and I'm convinced it was him again, taunting me for the second time. . .now, it's personal.

13 days left in the Trout Season - I will have to make the most of it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Urban River Wildlife

After 2 days of good rainfall, another fresh push of Kings and Coho have arrived in the Lower Credit River. Many were shooting through the shallow riffles like propeller-driven torpedoes, while others frolicked and porpoised in the slow, deep runs. The air was crisp and refreshing, and the blanket of fog was gently lifting off the river's surface as if to awaken it from its night slumber. A family of White-tailed Deer peered out into the meadow adjacent to me and cautiously made their way to the river's edge to have their morning brew. The green of summer has begun to give way to the orange and red of fall subtly unveiling itself in dazzling beauty across the tree line. I reveled in this moment. . .as it was short-lived.

Serenity was replaced with the splashing, thrashing and unnatural chatter of "Urban Wildlife". The river's edge was invaded by them, and each was equipped with their choice weapon; some of these weapons were refined and beautiful; others were archaic and barbaric. The diversity was astonishing - Darwin would have been beside himself. There was one specific strain out today that stood out from the rest. It was a rare site indeed, as they make a brief stop here once a year in their migration to wherever their destination may be. Although they are a dying breed, perhaps even endangered in my area, I imagine they are more prevalent in others.

Have you seen one on your local river?

Urban Wildlife

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Week Among Kings

This week marks the first time of the season where I have placed down the fly rod, albeit momentarily, in pursuit of a species that is now making a re-appearance in the local streams and rivers where they were born. In the Great Lakes area, no other species carries on its shoulders as much controversy, even anger and resentment as the Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (King Salmon). But if any fish could shoulder such weight, it is the King. Kings can reach in excess of 40 pounds in Lake Ontario, making it the largest migratory Salmonid to run the gauntlet. But none of this division among anglers is at the fault of this nobly named fish. With its sleek shark-like stature, copper back and silver sides, the King Salmon can be a thing of beauty. Its brute strength, and surprising acrobatics make this an exhilarating fish to toggle with. Most migratory salmonid fishermen fondly remember catching their first King Salmon.

Once a King enters its natal river, however, its time on the throne is short-lived, as it begins to darken and become worn from its journey. Because of the size of the runs and the sheer density of them in the river, it brings out people from all walks of life - including those that regularly don't fish, and those that shouldn't fish. As I was making my way down to one of my favourite spots before first light on Friday (August 8), 5 "gentlemen" were heading back to the parking lot with 5 landing nets and 1 fishing rod among them. Without proper enforcement, activity like this runs rampant - this is unfortunately the dark side of the King Salmon fishery and it is why many fishermen stay clear from it.

But with all this said, it was nice to have the weight of my float rod and centrepin reel in hand for the first time in 4 months, and the feeling of being connected to fresh fish up to 25 pounds.

Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) also run my local river (but in much smaller numbers), and I had the pleasure of crossing paths with one this week. Although I had to settle for a long distance release on this one, those who have fished for these incredible fish will know that it's extraordinary just to fight one for a little while. I am, however, now even more determined to land one this season.

This is an interesting time of year as I remain torn between the float and the fly. But it is also my favourite time of year, as the dog days of summer begin to retreat and the cool crisp air predominates, which inevitably leads me to thoughts of my favourite salmonid of them all - the Steelhead!