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.
Over the last several years, Green Drakes have been making a welcome comeback on the upper Credit River. Last year’s hatches were some of the best I’ve seen in recent years and it came with some pretty fantastic fishing as well. So, it only makes sense that this year’s Green Drake hatch would be met with lots of anticipation.
The weather hasn’t exactly been ideal for mayfly hatches this season, though it’s given us some really nice water levels going into the end of spring. We did get a good run of weather in time for the drake hatch though, which started promptly on the first day of June. A number of anglers and “bug watchers” were out eagerly awaiting the beginning of the hatch and all saw good numbers of Green Drake duns that evening.
A Green Drake dun from the beginning of the 2017 hatch on the Credit River.
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’ve been getting behind on my updates this season, partly due to starting a new job, but also because I’ve been fishing rather than writing in much of my free time. I’ve shifted my working hours a bit earlier as well, which has given me more free time after work for fishing and family, but less free time for writing. Things are finally starting to normalize again though, so I expect to resume a more normal frequency of updates going forward.
Since the Green Drakes in early June, I’ve been back to the Credit just a handful of times to fish for browns. I went into lots of detail about the Green Drake hatches in my last post, so I won’t reiterate that here. However, I did manage to fool one more nice brown on a Green Drake spinner during the tail end of that hatch. It was a stronger, heavier and more colorful fish than the previous ones I’d caught during the hatch – and it put a nice bend in my 4 weight.
A large Brown Trout from the tail end of the Green Drake hatches on the Credit River
Speaking of my 4 weight… I managed to break it last month while fishing the Credit. I was never particularly gentle with the rod (Hardy Zenith #4) and I suspect it may have suffered some prior damage where it broke. It’s been sent back to Hardy for repairs and I’m hoping it won’t take too long to return, as I’m left to fish with a 7′ #3 and 9′ #6, neither of which I’m overly fond of for brown trout on the medium sized rivers I fish.
If this wasn’t a fly fishing blog, you might think this post was about our fellow Canadian rapper/musician who shares the same name. Come to think of it, the title of his hit song Started From The Bottom is surprisingly appropriate for the topic at hand. Maybe he was thinking about aquatic insect hatches when he wrote it… or, maybe not.
Of course, I’m referring to mayflies here, the Green Drake specifically. If you fly fish the upper Credit River, you probably know that the Green Drake has been going through a rough time. Once a prolific and highly anticipated mayfly hatch on the Credit, it underwent a rapid decline in the past couple decades and had all but disappeared. Dr. Henry Frania, an entomologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, has been studying the Green Drake issues for many years and rather than reiterate his findings, you’re better off Googling it yourself. Essentially, it had been found likely that the nymphs were dying due to ingestion of a toxic substance (chemical or organic). As a result, very few nymphs were reaching the adult stage, leading to the Green Drake being (for the most part) functionally extinct on most of the Credit River.
Fast forward to 2016 where (as I indicated in my previous post) the season started with some of the heaviest Hendrickson hatches seen in years. Blue Winged Olives were also in good numbers, followed by Sulphurs, Yellow Sallies and Gray Foxes. Next up was the infamous and ever-absent Green Drake. I was told they made a half decent showing in 2015 (relatively speaking), although I managed to miss them entirely. In serious need of a break from work and feeling optimistic with the number of bugs so far this year, I took a few days off in hopes of witnessing some of these giant mayflies. As it turned out, the weather and timing were perfect and I was able to spend three evenings among what was possibly the largest showing of Green Drakes since their decline many years ago.
A slightly beat-up Green Drake Dun from the Upper Credit River
September is always a month of mixed feelings for me. It’s easily my favourite time of year to be on the river, with the cooling temperatures, colourful scenery and hungry trout. Unfortunately, it also brings much shorter days and the end of open season for most fly fishing in Ontario.
I spent my Labour Day with a bit of a change in scenery, opting to fish the Brook Trout water above the Cataract on the Credit. I’m usually hesitant to give specifics about where I fish, for good reasons. However, I think in some cases, secrecy and tight lips can lead to lack of awareness about issues. This is water that has been in a state of decline for the last decade or so and only more recently are these issues coming into the foreground. There are definitely still healthy Brook Trout here, but in much smaller numbers and generally in smaller sizes as well, especially at the more easily accessible locations. Catch & Release and barbless hooks are more important than ever here.
I fished a long stretch of this section Monday and caught mostly tiny brookies, in the 4″ range. This is water that, not many years ago, was teeming with brookies in the 8-10″ range, some larger. It wasn’t until I made my way much further downstream, around dusk, that a fairly thick hatch of some (unidentified) large mayflies got things going. I assume the bugs were either Isonychia or Hexagenia atrocaudata (Late Hex). I tied on the largest fly I had in my box, a size #8 Robert’s Drake. I cast it upstream into the corner of a back eddy where a large amount of foam was accumulating and this fish smashed it as it hit the water.
If you haven’t heard, the MNR is currently considering a plan that will see a number of changes to the current Credit River fishery. The plan is focused around improving the existing native Brook Trout population and protecting the Atlantic Salmon that are being stocked into the Credit as part of the ongoing (and largely unsuccessful to date) Atlantic Salmon restoration program for Lake Ontario.
Details on the working proposal can be found here. Apparently, the MNR will be going public with this at some point for broader feedback. When they do, I sincerely hope they get lots of eyes and feedback on these changes, especially from those with intimate knowledge of the river. My main beef with the plan as it stands is the proposal of removing current catch-and-release regulations for Brown Trout on the upper section of this river. They want to allow (and encourage) harvesting of Browns of any size from this excellent and one-of-a-kind fishery. The thought of even considering this change is painful in so many ways… I simply can’t understand the justification.
Looking downstream on the main branch of the Forks of the Credit River