Well, here’s another lengthy post as I continue work through content from this past season. This year turned out to be quite a bit different than seasons past. While I still spent time fishing my usual haunts, especially for the major hatches, I spent considerably more time than usual fishing different rivers (and lakes), in different ways. Below is a recap of much of my 2022 trout season, roughly organized by time of year.
Early Season: Brookies & Backcountry
As is typical for me, opening week and most of May was spent pursuing Ontario’s jewel of the north: Brook Trout. This is the time of year when the water is the cold and high – a perfect combination for fishing brook trout. While there’s certainly a group of likeminded anglers out there with the same idea, the vast majority of them are either fishing the tail end of spring steelhead, or off to their favorite Brown Trout rivers.
I fished mostly smaller streams for brookies this year (not including Algonquin). In fact, I may not have made a single trip to the Credit for brookies all season, which I think is a first for me. Regardless what I’m chasing, I always go out of my way to escape the crowds – and I managed to do just that.
These first few small stream outings produced some unusually colorful little brookies for early season, which was a real treat. I especially enjoy the very different coloration from different streams and habitats – brookies, more than any other trout, seem to really adapt their colors to the water they’re living in. Fishing with a 2 or 3 weight, they’re always a joy to catch.
I should probably be writing about this year’s trout opener, but I couldn’t bring myself to write another post before wrapping up this long overdue one. I hope you’re up for reading, because it’s going to be lengthy.
It’s been almost 10 months since our family vacation to Florida last July. It was a trip largely planned around my daughter’s visit to Disney. We’d spend a few days on the Atlantic side, where my kids would enjoy the big waves and breeze of the ocean, followed by a week on the Gulf side, relaxing on the calmer white sandy beaches. Fishing wasn’t even a consideration at the time. I was clueless to saltwater fly fishing… I’d heard about it and seen pictures of it, but being a resident trout purist from Canada, it’s not really something I ever thought about pursuing.
That is, until about a week before our trip, when some last minute reading prompted me to throw my fly rod in the back of the truck, just in case. I also packed a tying vice and a small selection of tying material, again, just in case. What little research I did left me with images of Tarpon and Snook (along with a few other species) ingrained in my mind. Embarrassingly, the only thing I really knew about these species, was that they were often targeted by fly anglers. I was surprised to read that Tarpon were apparently plentiful on the Gulf, in the Tampa area (which was just south of where we would be staying near the end of our trip). In addition to that, our timing seemed to align with the tail end of Tarpon season.
To be honest, the thought of catching any fish on a fly rod in a great big ocean was overwhelming and seemed hopeless – at least without a lot more information than I had thus far found online. So a couple days before leaving and during the drive up (while my wife shared some of the driving), I started emailing some guides in the area, trying to get an idea of what I could expect or where I could start.
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.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that! I’ve been pretty inactive on the blog lately… a typical case of the winter blues while I wait 7 long months for trout fishing to re-open (down to 4 now). I hope everyone had great holidays. Santa didn’t treat me to any new fishing gear this year, but a new pair of waders are definitely on the horizon since my Simms Headwaters waders found their way to the trash after last season.
I meant to post these earlier, but never got around to it. I was experimenting with a few Christmas flies last month. Here are a couple first attempts that we hung on the tree. The deer hair snowman was especially fun to tie.
A couple Christmas flies I made with my daughter to hang on the tree
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.
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
As usual, I haven’t seen much fishing since trout closer. I attended a steelhead clinic a couple weekends ago with a friend and we’ve been trying to setup a steelhead guided trip, which keeps getting pushed back. I’ve convinced myself that I’m simply waiting for the colder weather to drive the mobs of fishermen off some of the more accessible steelhead water – we’ll see if that actually holds true.
Interestingly, my two youngest kids have suddenly become fascinated with fly tying. This isn’t surprising I guess, since they are at that age (junior kindergarten and grade 1) where crafts occupy a large part of their time at home and school. They’re constantly asking to tie flies with me, so I’ve started letting them participate. I always make sure I de-barb my hooks at the vice when tying flies, but de-barbing isn’t quite enough when a 4 and 5 year old are carrying them around the house. So, I completely remove the hook bend, making them safe decorations but pretty awful fish catchers!
My son tells me his favourite fly is the “Wuggy Bugger”. He helped me tie this one and he liked it so much that he’s been taking it to bed with him. It’s not a real Wolly Bugger of course, as it has no hook or hackle, so I hereby declare this new pattern the Wuggy Bugger, as named by my 4 year old son.
My 4 year old son, snug in bed with his “Wuggy Bugger”
I mentioned during the off season that I’d been considering building something to better organize my fly tying tools, which up until now have been stored in a bunch of boxes and ziplock bags. I considered everything from full blown desks to much smaller portable tying stations. In the end I decided to go with a simpler portable tying table, which takes up less space and allows me to easily move my tying area around the house (or even on a trip).
The design I ended up using was based off this one. I used pine for the base and all of the other wood. It’s still pretty bare bones since I have only incorporated my main tools so far. As you can see, there’s lots of room for additional tools and containers, but it’s already much more functional than what I was working with before.
Initial version of my portable fly tying station
Features so far include:
Metal rods to hold spools: thread, silk, tinsel, wire, etc
Slots to hold main tying tools: scissors, whip finish tool, bodkin, thread bobbin, hair stacker, wax, etc
Larger holes for containers
Hangers for larger more awkward tools, such as hackle pliers
Hole to hold my magnifying lamp
Enough table space to hold my vice, a tying book and some materials
Space under the rear ledge to store materials or containers
Possible additions/modifications I’m considering:
Pull-out drawers under the ledge at the back to store hooks, bead heads and the like
Additional metal rods to hold more spools
Additional holes and hangers for more tools and containers
For most my fly fishing years, I have favoured the dry fly more than all other types of flies. My very first trout was taken on a dry fly, my most memorable days on the water involve dry flies and they produce arguably the most exciting takes from fish. I would typically rather prospect for trout with a dry fly than tie on a nymph or streamer, even when the fish are not rising. Considering most fish feed under the surface, this is a bit stubborn.
I’ve grown to appreciate the nymph and streamer for what they are and I certainly fish them more now than I did in the past: but still, I don’t enjoy them as much as I do fishing closer to the surface. Most trout fisherman generally consider these 3 types of flies: dries, nymphs and streamers. There’s also the more recent hybrid emerger, which is fished just under the surface flim, but these are what you’ll find predominantly in most fly shops and fly boxes. Yet, the sport of fly fishing grew up exclusively on another type of fly, one that is largely ignored by most anglers today: the wet fly.
I’m not stating anything ground breaking here. This subject has been brought up by lots of others, on the internet, in books and elsewhere. Speaking of which, I just received a copy of a new book, which is why this subject is fresh on my mind:
Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas! Woke up extra early this morning to 3 very excited kids and things are just settling down. Hope Santa was good to all of you and hope you have a great holiday and happy new year.
While searching the infinite database that is the internet, I came across a couple fun tying ideas that I think I will use as inspiration next year. Enjoy!
As is obvious from my sudden lapse in blog posts, things have been pretty slow to non-existent on the fishing front since the trout season closer. This is the norm for me around this time of year, when the weather gets suddenly colder and rainier and the fishing slows down.
That doesn’t mean I’ve got nothing to write about though. As we get some drier days and the crowds thin down I’ll be getting out for some fishing here and there. Also, this year I’ll be spending more time on the fly tying bench restocking my supply and experimenting with new flies.
In fact, I’m currently in the midst of doing some research for a little side project: building a custom fly tying station. I haven’t quite decided yet whether this will be a full size fly desk, or a smaller, more portable tying station. There are some neat ideas out there and I plan on combining them to make something of my own. Here’s a couple links I have been looking at with some neat plans:
The idea is that this will cost very little – possibly using nothing but scrap wood I have lying around my garage. I’ll post some more details and pics as I flush out the design and start working on it.