Summer Updates

Wow, it’s been a long time since my last post! If I had a dollar for every blogger who’s written that, I’d be a very rich man. I have mounds of photos and some half-written posts that never got published from the last couple of months, but it would be tedious to give a full recap. So instead, I’ll just give a summary of what I’ve been up to and share a few pics and stories.

There’s no better place to start than the Credit. It is still, after all, where I spend most of my time on the water. In my experience, the river has fished quite well this year (aside from some warm spells that is). The last of the large broodstock Atlantics that were stocked in the upper river a couple years ago seems to have finally cleared out and I’ve been seeing a catching a good number of both brook trout and brown trout on the main branch. Lots of smaller browns and brookies as well, which is nice to see.

Of course, there are still the small Atlantics that continue to be stocked and there are also a curiously high number of rainbows being caught this year. I would say the rainbows are the biggest difference in the river. If the MNR and CVC are concerned about brook trout populations, this is the fish they need to worry about, not the brown trout. I’ve heard they are likely still escaping from ponds in Erin, although I’m pretty sure they’re also reproducing in larger numbers as well. In addition to the usual smaller catches, I have caught a few larger rainbows this year as well, which is quite unusual.

So, unsurprisingly, many of my outings this year have had me catching 3 to 4 different species, sometimes in the same pool.

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Most of the major hatches were present and decent throughout the season, including Hendricksons, Drakes, Foxes, Stoneflies, Yellow Sallies and Isonychia (which are still kicking around). I even happened upon a Hex hatch, which is not very common on the upper Credit – though, the only large fish I got out of it was a rainbow. Of these hatches, the Grey Foxes were the most reliable, at least earlier in the summer. They were present in good numbers for about a month and it seemed that every time I hit the river looking for a different hatch, it was the Foxes that ended up stealing the show. Often I was slow to realize this and as a result likely missed some opportunities to land some better fish that refused previous offerings.

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I’ve spent far less time this year fishing past dark than previous years. This is due, in part, to a few factors:

  1. Not being around during the prime night fishing times
  2. An unfortunate accident with a really hot cup of Tim Hortons coffee
  3. An encounter with a Bear, which had me spooked for some time

A few trips kept me off the river during the month of July and August, which is prime night fishing season. One of those trips was a family vacation to Florida, which (before some last minute research) had absolutely nothing to do with fishing. I’ve been meaning to dedicate a post to that trip, which was my first venture into saltwater. I’ll try to get to that post after this one.

Regarding the coffee accident… if it wasn’t apparent from the title of my blog, I really like my caffeine and I drink a lot of Tim Hortons. After a couple dozen years drinking hot coffee without issues, I finally managed to spill a HOT black cup of freshly brewed Tims all over my leg while preparing to drive home from my parents’ place in Windsor (yes, it only got my leg). That resulted in a 6 hour venture to the hospital and nearly a month of healing, during which I couldn’t really fish. I’ve suffered a lot of injuries in the past, but those second degree burns were the worst I’ve ever experienced.

Finally, about the Bear… yes, I ran into a Black Bear on the Upper Credit! I was fishing about an hour before dark by myself at a usual spot, when I noticed some bushes/trees moving on the opposite bank. As I looked closer, I saw a large dark animal walking toward the bank. I couldn’t make out the entire animal, because it was covered by a lot of brush. However, it was definitely large and wide – larger than any other animal that exists in southern Ontario – and it was black. As it walked slowly toward the bank, I began to back up. At this point, it seemed to notice me and stopped for a second, then briefly charged in my direction closer to the bank. I again stopped and this time started making a bunch a noise and shouting at it. It remained mostly still, though did inch a little closer a couple times. It managed to hide itself mostly behind some fallen trees near the bank and when I was fairly certain it was safe(r), I again started slowly backing up and left the area.

I had heard of Black Bear sightings in Caledon, though this was my first encounter – and happened to be with a bear that thought it a good choice to threaten charging. Thankfully the river separated us, though that honestly was little relief and likely didn’t add much to my safety. I believe it was a large cub and in fact, not a week later, I saw a news article indicating that there had been three sightings of the same bear cub in Caledon.

Needless to say, fishing alone in the dark freaked me out for a while after that, though I’m slowly re-gaining my courage and venturing out alone later again. Anyway, here are a couple nighttime fish from late June and one from the other night.

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I suppose the last update I have is regarding the Grand River. This is the river that introduced me to fly fishing and I have given it very little attention in the past few years. I remember in my teens and early 20’s, spending hours casting to countless rising trout on the Grand and catching stockers at will. That sight of rising fish after rising fish is something I have have rarely seen since those days. The Credit simply is not a dry fly fishery, at least not most of the time (hatches are less reliable and, honestly, the fish are simply smarter on average). I’ve even struggled to find rising fish on the Grand in recent years. Whether that’s due to bad timing, increased fishing pressure or others reason I am not sure.

However, Ryan and I did venture out to the Grand on two back-to-back nights at the beginning of July, for the first time this year. We opted to fish a very heavily trafficked section of the Grand, one that I always tend to bypass in favor of less crowed waters. What I have never understood, is how on earth a small section of river can be so heavily and frequently over-fished and yet continue to produce not only a large number of fish, but big fish. The Grand is weird that way. I guess it’s a combination of a lot of dumb fish (the stockers) and huge concentrations of food in certain sections of the river keeping the bigger fish around. Either way, in the few hours we spent fishing this stretch of water, we cast to more rising fish and had more success than I think we had combined the last three years on the Grand. No huge fish, just a lot of chunky fish and a couple larger ones for me.

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I wish more sections of the Grand fished as reliably. I want to believe they do, but in my experience, most don’t. Even when they look like they should and even when they have better water and far less fishing pressure, they just don’t. Some of the more frequent locals and guides will say “the whole upper river fishes just as good”, but almost every time they take a client out or fish by themselves, there’s back to that same spot 🙂

Anyway, absolutely nothing against the Grand or those who guide and fish it more than me. They certainly know it better than I. As much as I love the Credit and it’s wild, elusive browns, the Grand is very much a special river in its own right and is definitely a central figure to the sport of fly fishing in Ontario.

To wrap things up, I was out on the Credit the other night for a couple hours and caught a few nice small to mid sized browns. One of the fish was sipping Isonychia at the very back of a pool, tight to a fallen tree. I managed to drift an imitation back there and it exploded on my fly. I wasn’t overly big (maybe 13 or 14 inches), but it was a memorable take and an impressive looking brown to boot. It had a very obvious wild brown signature blue/black patch on its cheek.

Impressive looking Credit River wild Brown Trout.

Normally you remember catching the same big brown twice. However, while this fish wasn’t big, it resonated with me in a weird way, like I had caught it before. Then, as I was going though my photos for this post yesterday, I realized that I actually had caught it previously this season. In the same pool, feeding on Grey Foxes back at the end of May (it’s in one of the slideshows above).

Here’s the same fish again for a comparison. You can clearly see that the spots are identical and it’s the same fish. Gotta love catch and release!

The same fish as above, caught back in May!

Fly Fishing Glen Haffy

When local rivers are running high and dirty, some unsafe to wade and others only marginally suitable for throwing big streamers, it’s nice to have another option. Moreover, when the short resident trout season ends at the end of September and the only fishing left is migratory species near the mouths of rivers and some warm water fishing, it’s great to have somewhere to turn.

To this effect, I decided to try something new this year. The trout ponds at Glen Haffy’s Fly Fishing Club offer some excellent stocked Rainbow Trout fishing for about 8 months out of the year. As an added benefit, they also enjoy a healthy population of native Brook Trout that enter one of the ponds from a small spring creek. The ponds are nestled within hundreds of acres of conservation land and offer excellent fishing in a truly serene atmosphere.

Early morning view from one of Glen Haffy's trout ponds

Early morning view from one of Glen Haffy’s trout ponds

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Panfish and Critters

Last week was a bit slow on the fly fishing front, which is a bit of a shame considering there’s only a couple weeks left of trout season.

I took my two boys out for some pond fishing Saturday morning. The oldest (8) has his own fly rod and waders, but I left them at home since the younger one (4) isn’t quite old enough for the trout streams yet. Fishing for panfish via hook and bobber every once in a while keeps their interest peaked and that’s the most important thing at this age. The fish in this particular pond were absolutely ferocious. As soon as the line hit the water, swarms of sunfish would rush to devour the worm. Unfortunately they’ve become so good at stripping the worm off the hook, that I spent a solid 2-3 hours doing not much more than re-baiting hooks. At least the action was consistent and the kids caught some fish.

My four-year-old son reeling in a sunfish

My four-year-old son reeling in a sunfish

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The Cruel Grand

During my time off work last week, I made a couple trips to the upper section of the Grand River. This river has had its share of hard times in the past couple years. Last year it was the abnormally high spring and summer temps, which resulted in nearly unfishable conditions for much of the summer. This year, temperatures have been ideal, but the record rainfalls have had it running extremely high and dirty.

With a break from all the rain and cooler temps of late, I figured the river should be back in tip-top condition. So, last Thursday I set out at sunrise with an arsenal of Tricos, expecting to be tossing tiny dry flies to eager fish. When I arrived, the river flows were as expected, but the water was inexplicably murky – as if a huge rainfall had just gone through. Apparently, the heavy rains in weeks past have caused somewhat of a backup of sediment and algae in Belwood Lake, which is still being released from Shand Dam. The river was definitely more slippery than I’ve ever seen it, so blaming it on algae seems logical. Still, I didn’t travel 45 minutes at 6 am to turn around and drive back home.

Other than the water colour, everything seemed normal. Deer on the river, Cranes and the resident Osprey about and a bit of insect activity, hinting at the likely hatches in the coming hours.

It's becoming a normal occurrence to be greeted by a Deer in the mornings here

It’s becoming a common occurrence to be greeted by a Deer in the morning

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Pocket Water

I can’t say I frequent this stretch of river, yet it’s possibly my favourite and most memorable place to spend a day on the water. This is certainly one of the more scenic sections of river in southern Ontario. I rarely see another person here during a full day of fishing, which is likely due to the difficulty accessing it (a very long hike is required) and the fact that so many other more accessible sections of river offer easier and larger trout. For me, it’s a day out to enjoy the scenery and peace and quiet. The fact that I might also catch a few fish is an added bonus.

Scenic pocket water on a southern Ontario river

Scenic pocket water on a southern Ontario river

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Early Mornings on the Grand

Unlike many fly fishermen, I’ve never been much of a morning person. It’s not that I don’t enjoy waking up before the birds to a fresh pot of coffee and being the first person on an unspoiled river. If there’s anything in life that can get me out of bed, it’s definitely fishing. However, the convenience and success of evening fishing has stolen the majority of my outings in recent years, not to mention the fact that I’ve always been a bit of a night owl. This season has been somewhat of a departure from my usual fishing schedule. A relatively new neighbour of mine also happens to share a passion for fly fishing, especially on the Grand River. Due to our schedules and family commitments, we decided to start making some early morning trips to the Grand. It’s about a 45 minute drive from our place, so being there before 6 am means waking up at or before 5 am – and if you know me, that’s no small feat.

Admittedly, as great a river as the Grand is, I haven’t fished it too much in the past few years. Most of my time has been spent on other less popular rivers. However, the several trips we’ve made so far this year have reminded of a few things I had forgotten:

1. Morning is an amazing time to be on the water

Stepping out onto the water at the crack of dawn is a wonderful experience. The crisp morning air, quiet, calm and undisturbed water instantly makes you forget how difficult it was climbing out of bed. With the entire day ahead of you, your sense of urgency is non-existent. Wildlife is abundant and fish are still a bit more careless than they might be after a day of dealing with anglers. On a morning trip last week, we were greeted by a pair of playful deer as we stepped into the river. They remained for several minutes before finally realizing we were there, after which they calmly walked back to the river bank out of sight.

A couple deer greeted us on the river

A couple deer playing in the river

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Algonquin: Big Crow Trip Report

I was going to start this blog post out with “as expected”, but this trip started out with the unexpected. As planned, we did manage to get away to Algonquin Provincial Park last week for a few days of backcountry paddling, portaging, hiking and wildlife viewing. This is the second year in a row that we chose Big Crow as a destination, since bad weather prevented us from doing much exploring last year.

The idea was to set out Thursday bright and early, driving about 3.5 hours to the Opeongo Lake access point. As luck would have it, I came down with a cold Tuesday, which led to a severe lack of sleep and general feeling of being run down Thursday morning. With almost no sleep and the cold still lingering, we would have to postpone the trip by at least one day, or at worst cancel the trip altogether.

After getting a bit of sleep Thursday afternoon, I was feeling a bit better. However, come Thursday night, I began to feel hot. I took my temperature several times, expecting to have a fever, but everything looked normal. I was convinced we needed to turn the air conditioning on in the house, but everyone else was cold. Lying in bed at night was uncomfortably hot, so much that it affected my sleep for the second night in a row. My alarm was set for 5:15 am and when it went off, I awoke with a total of 2.5 hours of sleep. Aside from this, I was feeling surprisingly well: it seemed that the worst of my cold was behind me. Against my better judgement, I decided to stick to the plans and we set out at just after 5:30 am for Algonquin.

The drive up Friday was relatively uneventful. We grabbed a Timmies breakfast and slipped out of the GTA before rush hour traffic. We had booked a 10:00 am water taxi from Algonquin Outfitters to take us from the Opeongo Lake access point to the Proulx Lake portage. Last year, we decided to canoe across Opeongo Lake and while it was a great experience, it just doesn’t make much sense to spend half a day paddling this giant lake when you can zoom across it in 30 minutes with a water taxi.

We reached the access point at 9:30 and we rushed to get everything ready for the taxi at 10:00. The boat ride across Opeongo was chilly… a brisk cold wind blowing in my face for 30 minutes was just the ticket to wake me up and give me some energy for the portage and paddling that lie ahead.

At the Opeongo - Proulx Lake portage at 10:45 am

At the Opeongo – Proulx Lake portage, 10:45 am Friday

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Trout Season is Fading

It seems like trout fishing season (open May-September on most waters here) was barely existent this year.  Now, there’s only one week left before it’s gone. Hopefully I’ll be able to sneak out a couple more times next week, before or after work and on the weekend.

I absolutely loving fishing in the fall.  Cool crisp temperatures and colours galore, on both the trees and the fish. Yesterday was full of walking and roller coasters, as I took my son to Canada’s Wonderland, but today I managed to get out for a few hours of fishing. Normally I would choose to fish my favourite brown trout water this time of year, but seeing as how I failed to catch any fish during my Algonquin trip, I thought I’d try to make amends and head to some brookie water today.

Fishing was pretty slow for most of the day. Rain was off and on and temps were quite cold, but overall it was great to be out. I managed to catch a few small brookies in the first couple hours – nothing to brag about, but better than nothing.  I also took a break to watch a beaver that lives in this section of the river (I’ve seen him here for several years now).

Resident Beaver chilling out on a rock in the middle of the river

I started out casting dry flies and eventually switched to a small streamer since there wasn’t anything happening on the surface. The streamer provided 2 hits, but no fish landed.  As daylight faded, I approached a nice stretch of water and decided to go back to dries. I tied on a size 12 stimulator and the second cast produced a nice brookie.

Nice colourful resident Brook Trout caught on a Stimulator

I had hiked in quite a way from my car and it would be a long walk back. Since I packed my headlamp, I figured I’d push my luck and stay a while longer and hike back in the dark. Then it hit me… I had put my headlamp in my fishing net in the car… and now I was wearing my fishing net on my back. Unfortunately, the lamp was no longer in the net. It had obviously fallen out somewhere along my trek today, which took me through a lot of heavy brush. Not only did this mean I just lost my new $50 headlamp, but it also meant I had to stop fishing if I wanted to avoid stumbling back the 30 minute hike in dark without a light. Doh!

Speaking of Spiders…

In my last entry I posted a picture of a nasty spider that crawled out of my waders and onto my arm. Well, that reminded me of another spider I found while fishing the Credit River a few years ago and it could have eaten the previous one for lunch.  Seriously, this was the largest wild/native spider I’ve ever come across and it scared the hell out of me.  I had no idea there were spiders this large in Southern Ontario.

Fishing Spider encountered on the Credit River.

Unfortunately the picture quality is not too great as the camera I was carrying at the time was pretty bad.  It’s hard to get a sense of the size of this thing, but it was resting on a huge boulder in the middle of the river and was probably about the size of a child’s hand.  Apparently it’s called a Fishing Spider (genus Dolomedes).

Not Your Average Fish

Earlier this summer I took a camping trip with my 7 year old son and a group of friends to Mikisew Provincial Park, which is located just west of Algonquin Park. This was strictly a weekend getaway to do some camping and a bit of fishing with my son.

Normally I would not post this here, since this was not really a fly fishing trip.  The kids were spin fishing off the rocks for bass.  There were a couple bets going around for largest fish and silliest fish. Needless to say, the boy who caught this won the latter award.  The poor frog had sealed his lips around the barbed treble hook of a spoon.  Thankfully we were able to remove it release him with minimal injuries, but after spending several minutes trying to free the hook from this poor guy, it really shows you how much safer single barbless hooks are!