It’s been a season of big trout for many fly fishermen in southern Ontario this year, at least according to those I’ve talked to and (to a somewhat lesser degree) my own experiences. It makes sense though… the rivers have had an abundance of water, keeping big trout holding in water that might otherwise be warmer, shallower and clearer. High dirty water has also kept dry fly purists at home, reducing fishing pressure on many rivers.
I won’t say it’s been a record season for me though, as I had an especially difficult time keeping big fish on the line earlier in the season. I’m not sure if I’ve finally shaken the dust off my streamer fishing skills, or if the trout have had a change in attitude (or both), but hook-ups with big fish have picked up somewhat over the last month for me. I suppose I can also attribute this to the arrival of warmer weather and the corresponding increase in night fishing success.
A big wild brown from last week, caught just past dark.
It’s hard to believe there’s only a couple weeks left of spring. I’ve spent quite a bit of it on the river this year, albeit with a somewhat different focus than normal. Some of this can be attributed to the excess of high, dirty water we’ve seen this spring – although my knee, my (sometimes stubborn) sense of exploration and Atlantic Salmon can all take part of the credit (no pun intended).
Early spring was largely spent pursuing brook trout on small, quiet streams. The MNR dumped an undisclosed number of adult/broodstock Atlantic Salmon into the upper Credit this year, including some previously brook trout only sections of river. This drew an unprecedented number of new anglers to the river – some with good intentions and others, not so much. The fact that these fish were dumped into some of the smaller brookie-only waters (which were already sensitive to over-fishing and predation) had me pretty unhappy about the state of things on the Credit, so I stayed clear of that area for a while.
I spent the duration of the 2016 trout season fishing without an ACL in my right knee. It took nine months after injuring it last January to get an MRI, be referred to a specialist and have reconstructive surgery scheduled. If any good came of the long wait, it was that my surgery was scheduled for October 5th – just five days after the end of trout season.
For the last week, I’ve been confined to a couch in my living room where I’ve relocated my computer and enough conveniences to keep me entertained. The first couple weeks of post-op will be mainly resting and icing my knee in between physiotherapy, leaving a lot of time to waste watching Netflix and messing around on my computer. It’s a long healing process, but if all goes well, I hope to be back on the water for trout opener next May, not missing a beat.
With lots of time to waste, I’ve been going through and organizing some of my old photos. As I browsed through my mess of fishing pictures, I realized how much we favor celebrating larger fish, with the smaller ones rarely making it into the spotlight. It’s understandable how we’re all drawn pictures of large fish, but it’s the rest that keep us entertained on slow days. In fact, we spend the vast majority of our time on the water catching small fish, helping us learn and fine-tune our fly fishing skills so that perhaps one day we’ll come back to catch grown-up versions of the very same fish we release.
So this post is dedicated to this season’s smaller, often overlooked unsung heroes of fly fishing. Without these little guys, fly fishing would a whole lot more dull. As it happens, these fish by and large inhabit the most picturesque environments that can be found. In Southern Ontario, our Brook Trout are the real gems of our cold water rivers and it’s no surprise that most of the fish here are Brookies.
Colorful small stream brook trout caught on a new budget Echo Carbon 2wt rod.
Last week was an odd one on the fishing front. It began with a drive down to Windsor to drop our kids off at their grandparents’ place for the week. Since I was only staying for one night, I thought it best to leave most of my fishing gear back at home. However, as their place is on the water, I packed one of my spinning rods along with the kids fishing stuff – I figured I’d be able to sneak at least a few casts in the evening. I brought only a single lure: a weedless frog, still in the package. The canal they live on weeds over pretty heavily in the summer and there are lots of bass to be caught if you have the right gear.
It’s always a great feeling when you succeed in matching the hatch: you determine exactly what the fish are feeding on, manage to find a fly that closely resembles it and start catching fish. Often times this is how fly fishing goes. However, there are times when none of the logical patterns seem to work and instead, a fly that represents nothing the fish are currently feeding on seems to work best. It might be an Elk Hair Caddis when there are no caddis on the water, or it might be an attractor pattern. The Patriot is a good example of the latter on many northern Michigan rivers.
I got out again Friday morning before work. There weren’t many bugs early morning, so I started fishing wet flies. When that was unproductive, I moved on to nymphs and later tried streamers. Fishing was slow, with little more than a couple missed hits on the wet flies.
As the sun came up and the temperature began rising, I started seeing a bunch of these:
Lots of Tricos were hatching an hour or so past sunrise