Rise and Shine

*crawls out of a hole in the ground*

Well, we’re a month into Spring, Steelhead are in the rivers, Trout season opens in four days and I have a week of vacation coming up.  My fly tying station has been occupying a good part of our kitchen table for the last couple weeks, which is always an indication that final preparations are underway.  Things are looking up, sort of.

There’s been a lot of research and purchases of new gear again for the 2015 season, which I’ll probably go into more detail on in a later post.  It’s somewhat of an addiction I guess – no matter how content I feel with my current gear, it’s never long before I find a reason to either upgrade or expand my collection.  This year’s list includes waders, a sling pack, new fly lines, new reels and possibly a new Steelhead rod.

On the negative side, the MNR has released an updated draft proposal for changes to the Credit River Management Objectives.  This draft further outlines proposals to basically turn all clean/cold sections of the Credit River and its tributaries into purely Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout water.  This includes removal of existing wild Brown and Rainbow Trout in much of the river.  The MNR will likely make this proposal public at some point in the near future, providing a window of time for public feedback and comments.  I sincerely hope that as many people as possible become well informed on this matter and make their voices heard.  If you’re interested in some of my initial thoughts on this matter, read this.  I’m sure I’ll post more on the subject in the coming weeks.  While I love Brookies (no comment on the Atlantic Salmon), these proposals have me going into the 2015 season with a sense of sadness, knowing that the excellent self-sustaining wild Brown Trout fishery we have in the upper river could be nearing its end.

Enough of that for now though… it’s time to dust off your gear and prepare for another season of trout fishing in Ontario!

Winter Just Won’t Quit

This week was march break for my kids and with spring less than a week away, we hoped for some half decent weather – anything above freezing would do. Well, we got our one nice day, at 6 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, the next day brought another big snowfall and was followed by a day of nearly -20C (-30C with wind chill).

Another foot of snow on March 12. The streams are going to have no lack of water this spring.

Another foot of snow on March 12. The streams will have no lack of water this spring.

It’s hard to believe that we’re expected to be hitting the rivers in less than a month and the rivers are still completely frozen over and covered with snow. In a few weeks, I’m also planning to check out a nearby fly fishing club as I’m considering getting a membership this year. They have some catch and release fly fishing-only trout ponds that will not only allow me to extend my fishing season, but also be a fun and safe way to get my 9 year old out fly fishing more often.

It’s time to hunker down and top off the fly boxes. Despite the horrible weather, I’m already getting excited for opener!

Happy Holidays!

I’m not really a fan of this term, but since I haven’t posted since before the holidays, it seems appropriate. I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and New Years!

The end of 2013 shaped up to be pretty eventful for me, most of which had nothing to do with fishing. My last opportunity to hit the river was a guided steelhead trip in the middle of December, but due to 2 feet of snowfall the night before our trip and abnormally cold weather, it ended up getting called off (again).

Here in the GTA, we had the worst ice storm I’ve ever seen a few days before Christmas. It left us without power for a couple days (thank god for gas fireplaces!). The amount of damage done to most of the large trees around here was unbelievable – trunks snapped right in half, trees peeled down the centre and large tree branches everywhere. It’s hard to believe a bit of ice can cause that much damage. Here are a couple pics I snapped in our front yard the day after.

Small branches from a tree in our yard, covered with over an inch of ice.

Small branches from a tree in our yard, covered with over an inch of ice.

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Blog Updates

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"

My 4 year old son, snug in bed with his “Wuggy Bugger”

Trout Hangover

I saw a tweet a few weeks ago that hit close to home for me, describing the time immediately after trout season closing as a trout hangover. That’s almost what it feels like when I put so much thought and effort into fishing at the end of the season. Since so much fishing is crammed into so few days, my fishing gear, tying gear and other related gear gets abused, pushed to its limits and in some cases, lost. During the active season, if any of the above were to happen, I would fairly quickly remedy the situation – otherwise I would not be properly equipped for my next outing. When the season ends however, there’s no immediate motivation to do so.

A few examples from this year’s end of season:

  • I lost my pair of $200 polarized sunglasses and broke my landing yet – neither has been replaced yet
  • I have yet to unpack my backpack / fishing pack
  • My fly tying gear is scattered everywhere
  • I still need to clean my fishing gear for storage

Basically, I sort of crash after all that buildup of excitement and anticipation ends and I suddenly lose the motivation to even think about it. So yeah, I’d say it feels a lot like a hangover.

Thankfully, it’s not permanent and the fact that I’m even posting this means that I’m recovering. I need to accept the fact that there’s still fishing after trout. It mostly comes in the form of Bass and Steelhead. In fact, I took my son out fly fishing for Bass a couple weekends ago and although we didn’t catch much, it was a refreshing change.

Bass definitely change their feeding habits in the fall and I’m not overly familiar with it. One effective and fun way to fish for them during the summer is with top water flies, but this is no longer true in the fall. Also, since most bass fishing is done in water that can’t be waded, it means I need to find a better way of getting at fish in deeper water. In the summer, I would use my float tube but I’m not too keen to jump in it with the colder waters of fall. What I really need, is a pontoon boat.

Steelhead are a different story and still something that I avoid like the plague. It’s not that I dislike them: I certainly have nothing against catching 10+ lb Rainbow Trout that can and do frequently take you into your backing. It’s just that I dislike the environments that must be endured to fish for them most of the time in Southern Ontario. Perhaps it makes me sound like an antisocial snob, but I don’t particularly enjoy sharing water with many other fishermen, especially the type that often lurk by the hundreds on small stretches of water during a good Steelhead run.

Surprisingly (or not), the number of productive resident trout rivers in Southern Ontario is relatively small in comparison to the number of productive steelhead rivers. However, though you might often find yourself enjoying a nice stretch of resident trout water by yourself, you’d be hard pressed to encounter such conditions when out on one of the many steelhead rivers. It’s a real dilemma for someone who is accustomed to the much more solitary resident trout fishing of this area. I also understand that this is not exactly the norm everywhere and when I complain about the conditions here, I’m only referring to Steelhead fishing Southern Ontario (though I’m sure the problem is not unique to this area).

On the plus side, our area boasts an extremely large number of Great Lakes rivers and tributaries that see large runs of Steelhead. I’m sure there are ways to experience more solitary Steelhead fishing in the area, which I have simply not discovered. One obvious way is to stay away from the more popular rivers: in other words, don’t try to fish the Credit River at Erindale Park. Another is to get out on a drift boat, but to be realistic, this means hiring a guide. While I’m all for putting money into the hands of fly fishing outfitters, at several hundred dollars per day, it’s simply not realistic to rely on drift boat guiding as a way to enjoy the sport. My only other idea is to fish when the weather sucks – but of course that means less enjoyment for me.

The long and short of it all is that I really do need to find a way to enjoy fishing into the fall and winter, after my trout hangover ends. My current stance on this is that I need to splurge and do a couple Steelhead guided trips, to hopefully get a better inside scoop on locations, timing and ideas on how to target Steelhead without massive crowds. At this point, I’m very much a novice when it comes to understanding this fish so anything I can learn will surely be useful.

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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Merry Christmas!

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!

Christmas Bugger (source)

Fly Ornaments (source)

Winter, Fishing (or Lack Thereof) and Video Games

Every year I dread the end of trout fishing season in southern Ontario, but I always try to be optimistic about the possibility of getting out for some steelhead fishing during the colder months ahead.  It’s never really been my thing, but I figure there must be a reason everyone else is addicted to it, so it’s worth a try. Well, it’s all coming back to me now… the reason that optimism never turns out.

Dark, work, kids, weather and more dark… that about sums it up.  The much shorter days mean less opportunity to get out after work and less time spent outdoors with the kids (I have three of them by the way).  That basically writes off weekdays completely and when the weekends come, it’s a lot of catching up with the family.  For me, evenings are always prime fishing time and that just doesn’t work well this time of year.

It’s not all a loss though, since thankfully there are things other than fishing to keep me busy.  Like… tying flies, or reading about fishing, or playing fishing video games!  OK, just kidding (sort of) 😉

Seriously though, I’ve wondered for a long time why there are absolutely NO good fly fishing video games.  Just think about how great a fly fishing game would be on the Wii, done properly, where you cast using a realistic motion with a Wii Remote.  I’ve searched for fly fishing simulations and the only ones I could find are extremely outdated and not very appealing, at least aesthetically.

In case you weren’t aware (or it wasn’t obvious from my writing), I’m a pretty big geek.  I’m a software developer, currently on the gaming team at RIM (BlackBerry).  You know those really outdated BlackBerry games, Brick Breaker and Word Mole?  I made those, years ago granted.  Technically I did not create Brick Breaker – just took over it a couple years after it was created when I joined the team.  Word Mole though, was all mine (along with a couple artists and a co-op student).

Anyway, my point is that I spend a lot of times either writing games or playing them and I’ve been giving this whole fly fishing simulation a lot of thought recently.  If I can muster up enough motivation and free time, I am seriously considering starting a project working on one of my own, with modern 3D graphics, realistic environments and simulated casting motions using something like the Wii Remote.  Maybe then, my southern Ontario resident trout fishing can extend into the winter months (in my family room)!

If you’ve got a bit of geek in you as well and think this is a good idea, I’d love to hear your thoughts/comments.

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!