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!

Spring Rains

It seems that all the rain we were wishing for at the start of the season has finally caught up with us. The Grand River has jumped from a steady and measly 4cms to over 40cms for the last several days and other rivers in the area, including the Credit, have been running high and dirty. It’s put a bit of a damper on fishing some potentially great hatches, but I suppose that’s to be expected at this time of year. The good news is that it looks like some excellent fishing conditions are just around the corner.

Between the untimely thunderstorms, rain and other life commitments, I haven’t been able to spend much time on the water lately. Two or three hours after work, one or two times a week is about all I’ve managed. Most of my outings have been for Brook Trout and well… there’s not much to see there. Just a bunch of average but equally beautiful fish, as are all southern Ontario Brookies.

An average small stream southern Ontario Brook Trout.

An average small stream southern Ontario Brook Trout.

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2014 Trout Closing Weekend

Yesterday wrapped up another season of resident trout fishing in Ontario. It was an extended closing weekend for me since I took Monday and Tuesday off to spend on the river. In fact, I fished a solid 5 days in a row this year – likely a new record for me.

Friday and Saturday were spent exploring small streams close to home, none of which I’d fished before. These are tiny, virtually untouched waters that contain moderate numbers wild trout. The smaller fish in these streams are all too eager to take even a sloppily presented dry fly, but the larger fish require stealth, small tippets and perfect presentations. Of course, larger is relative to the size of the streams here, so a 12″ fish is a trophy on waters like these.

I spent a couple days exploring small, quiet streams like this one.

I spent a couple days exploring small, quiet streams like this one.

Most of these streams have a mix of brookies, browns and rainbows, with an average size of about 6″. Over the course of two days, I spent hours catching trout in these waters, bushwhacking my way through overgrown banks, fallen trees and spider webs. Before heading in on Saturday evening, I decided to check out one last spot. Years ago, a fly fisherman who grew up in the area told me that the “Holy Grail of Brook Trout” (so he called it) existed somewhere in a nearby town, but he had never been able to find it. I hadn’t really given it much thought until now – after all, he fly fished the area for decades and wasn’t able to find it, so I assumed I wouldn’t either.

After scouting a few likely roads in town, I pulled over at the entrance to a trail and double checked my maps. It looked like a stream ran fairly close by, so I grabbed my 3 weight and headed out. As I hiked further, the sound of running water grew from non-existent to that of loud rapids. When I reached the stream, I found a fairly slow stretch of water above the rapids, with a nice little pool that was now completely shaded (it was getting late).

I had a bushy size 12 Stimulator tied on, which seemed like overkill for the fish that usually inhabit waters like this. However, before downsizing, I thought I’d give it a few casts. I carefully approached downstream of the hole, knelt behind some tall grass and presented a cast about 25 feet upstream. As the fly drifted over the middle of the pool, I watched a good sized brookie dart up from below and inhale the Stimulator. As fast as it rose, it dove back down from where it came and an even larger brookie chased after it. The second fish was an honest 3-4″ larger than the one I’d caught, which itself was pushing 12″!

A beautiful small stream Brook Trout

A beautiful small stream Brook Trout

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Preparations

June turned out to be a busy month both on the water and on the fly tying bench. The rivers are now teeming with bug activity and you just never know when that epic day on the water might arrive… where everything comes together to produce those perfect conditions that bring even the most wary of trout to the surface.

This is the time of year where our fly boxes need to be the most diverse. Depending on the time of day, river and hatches, you might be casting streamers, nymphs, wet flies, emergers, tiny dries, large dries, or even huge topwater patterns. Consequently, I’ve been hitting the tying bench a lot lately, trying to cover all my bases. In what has been an increasing trend of mine, I’ve concentrated more on sub-surface patterns this season to up my odds when fish are either not rising, or when they’re rising but refusing dry flies. Below are some flies I’ve been tying and fishing on some of my local waters.

Grand River

If you fish the Grand River, you know how frustrating it can be if you rely on dry flies to match the hatch. Although I don’t spend as much time on the Grand as I do other rivers, I’ve come to realize that it’s a largely sub surface and emerger river. In response to this, I tied a bunch of the following emerger patters in various sizes, mainly for caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I’m sure that by simply swapping out different colors and materials, these could be used to imitate a much wider variety of caddis and mayflies.

Caddis or BWO emerger, loosely based off a Snowshoe Emerger pattern

Caddis or BWO emerger, loosely based off a Snowshoe Emerger pattern

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Slow Days on Stocked Rivers

There have been only a handful of fishable days on the upper Grand River so far this season due to high flows. The first of these (the second day of the season) was apparently somewhat productive, but after the water levels rose again for a while and then fell last week, the Browns seemed to have completely shut down. On the couple days I fished it last week, not only did I get skunked, but so did every other angler I met on the river. I stopped by Wilson’s one day after fishing and learned that every angler who visited the shop that day experienced the same results.

The Grand River was quiet in more ways than one last week

The Grand River was quiet in more ways than one last week

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Happy Trout Opener

After one of the longest and harshest seven months of off-season in years, trout season is finally upon us. Last weekend marked the first day of open season for resident trout and steelhead in the upper sections of rivers. With the extended winter and massive amount of snowfall we experienced, it was met with cold temperatures, wind and colder, higher than normal water conditions. Of course, this wasn’t much of a barrier for the hordes of fly fishermen looking to cure their cabin fever.

As expected, the sections of rivers experiencing steelhead runs were completely packed with fishermen of all types: men, women, children, fly fishers, spin fishers, worm and bobber fishers, poachers and just plain troublemakers. Basically, the type of conditions best described as asshattery.  Needless to say, I stayed clear of that mess and as usual headed for more remote waters in search of hungry resident trout.

The only other angler I would encounter on opening day was my fishing partner (seen in the distance)

The only other angler I encountered on opener was my fishing partner (seen in distance)

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Damn Rain

It rained something fierce here last night and most of the day today. I’ve been bent on spending most of this and next weekend fishing before the season ends, so when the rain let up later this afternoon I took a drive out to the Credit. I knew what I was getting myself into of course, but I was hoping by some miracle that the river would not be complete chocolate. Well, it was running close to a foot higher than a week ago and as for colour, I’ll let this picture do the talking:

Credit River after heavy rains last night and today

Credit River after heavy rains last night and today

I obviously didn’t attempt to fish this, which was too bad because the sun had just come out and there was a nice hatch going on. Apparently the Grand was still running nice and low today, but I’m sure they’ll dump Belwood Lake sometime soon and change that real fast.

Redemption

The title of my last post may have been a bit misleading. It wasn’t to say that the Grand is necessarily fishing poorly at the moment, but rather that it’s been cruel to me lately. Specifically, preventing me from fishing dry flies due to murky water and of course, the evil osprey that stole my fish.

This morning I woke up early again and headed to the river for a few hours before work. I had intentions to fish the Credit, until I read a tweet by Wilson’s, mentioning that the Grand was in excellent shape. It was pretty obvious during my last outing that fishing a dry fly in such murky water was pointless. Rather than sticking to the tried and true nymph, I focused primarily on streamers and soft hackles – and while I hooked into a few fish, it wasn’t really high percentage fishing.

When all else fails on the Grand, fish a Caddis. Better yet, fish a Caddis Pupa. I should probably adopt this strategy more often. If only catching trout on dry flies wasn’t so fun, or if swinging wet flies and streamers wasn’t so easy – then I guess I would. Today though, I was out for revenge and decided to stick to the tried and true. I’ve been trying to get my wife to take up fly tying and conveniently, she recently tied a handful of a very simple caddis pattern for me: Rick’s Caddis, from this book.

The result was somewhat of an improvement over my last trip. I was catching fish all morning and the only time the action let up was when I spooked the pools by landing too many fish in them. I missed quite a few trout due to poor hook sets as I wasn’t expecting so many fish back-to-back. None were exceptionally large, but I’m not complaining – there’s no such thing as a bad trout in my book.

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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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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