It’s been far too long since my last post. Fall and Winter have come and gone and another new trout season is finally upon us. If it weren’t obvious from my lack of updates, I did nothing spectacular (from a fishing standpoint) during my annual resident trout layoff. October to May has become the busiest months of the year for us, mainly due to three children becoming ever increasingly active in sports. It happens to work out perfectly though… the sports wind up as trout season is finishing and they wind down as the next trout season arrives. It helps keep the mind off fishing, when there’s no fishing to be had.
Unlike the rivers, this season has started off pretty slow for me (due the the winding down part mentioned above). In the time I have found to get out, I’ve stuck close to home – repeating my tradition of avoiding the more overcrowded rivers in favor of small stream brookies.
Fishing small streamers for brookies on a frigid opening day.
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.
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.
Actually, it’s Mother’s Day… but damn those Hendrickson hatches have been thick lately!
Trout season kicked off a couple weeks ago and I’ve been uncharacteristically slow to take advantage of it. I injured my knee over the winter (torn ACL) and thanks to our great free healthcare system, I’ve made little to no progress in getting it treated or even looked at yet. I’m sure those who know me are sick of hearing me complain about it. Anyway, it’s had me sidelined and will no doubt continue to affect the type of fishing I’m able to do this season. That said, I’m pretty stubborn and have already found myself scaling beaver dams and hiking terrain much more rugged than I should have been.
My few outings so far have once again been dedicated to brook trout on small streams, something I just never get tired of. For me, the allure of these fish lies in their diversity and in the environments they inhabit. Small, cold, clean headwaters streams that are often overgrown and difficult to present a fly to provide a constant challenge. Every fish is a treat as no two are alike and while the smaller fish are usually eager to take a fly, the largest southern Ontario brookies are truly elusive.
I fished the last couple evenings and at times the Hendrickson hatches were very thick. In fact, they seem to be the thickest I can recall in the last several years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been on the water for a really good spinner fall yet, but the fish are keying in on them nonetheless.
Hendrickson from a fairly thick hatch on a small stream.
Each evening has produced a dozen or so trout, with many missed rises and brook trout juveniles attacking my fly with reckless abandon. At times the abundance of smaller fish can be detrimental to catching a larger fish that is holding in the same water, since the smaller fish will dart to your fly without a second thought. The result is the larger fish being put down after hooking the smaller one. This has certainly been the case a few times already this season for me.
An average, colorful small stream brookie from the weekend.
I also had a run-in with yet another Pike in a large slow hole on one of my favorite local streams. I was casting to brookies when I noticed something very large swaying back and forth at the bottom of the pool. From its long slender body, it was immediately obvious that it was a Pike: around 5-6 lbs. In an attempt to remove it from the stream, I cut the tippet off my leader and managed to sink a large streamer in front of the pike’s nose and hook it. It wasted no time in abusing my flimsy 3 weight and excess fly line slack and wrapped my line around a sunken tree. Needless to say, it’s still terrorizing the brookies in that hole.
I’m hoping to get some Hendrickson spinners tied in the next day or so and get back out while the hatches are still good. I may need to pack a heavier rod as well and pay that pike another visit.
Anyone who’s had the fortune to discover the beauty and allure of fly fishing the Upper Credit River for wild Brown and Brook Trout in years past surely has a heavy heart when they consider its current situation. The Upper Credit has always been a touchy subject. For decades, merely saying the name around those who fished it would result in a visible tightening of their lips. Today, you’re more likely to trigger a two hour rant about how the MNR and other groups have decimated the river with their misguided Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program and lack of focus on restoration and maintenance of the existing wild trout fishery.
A peaceful stretch on the Upper Credit River, now overrun with 4-6″ Atlantic Salmon juveniles.
In an effort to start things off on a more positive note, I want to share a couple great videos that my friend Steve Noakes compiled, sharing some of his fly fishing experiences on the Upper Credit River over the years. He’s a strong advocate for protecting what we have on the Credit River today and has been heavily involved in numerous conservation groups and restoration projects. If you ever doubted whether the Credit has a wild Brown Trout fishery worth protecting, Steve’s videos do a good job convincing you it does!
I’ve already written a bunch about the issues the river is currently facing, some of which you can read here. There’s also an interesting thesis on the subject, written a few years ago by a University of Waterloo student. April Vokey even made a stop at the Credit River during part of the first episode of Shorelines last year, where she interviewed and talked with several key people on the subject. Although you won’t find a lot of political debate or side-taking on the show, I’ve heard from at least a couple people who have exchanged words or email with her, that it was shocking how many strongly opposing voices were encountered during the process.
I find it interesting that after so many years of having such a high quality resident trout fishery, only now are people starting to talk about it publicly. In fact, The New Fly Fisher even aired a show on fly fishing for Brown Trout on the Credit recently, something that I believe would not have happened during the river’s tight-lipped past. I can only wonder whether part of the inspiration for airing this was to raise awareness of the river and the great wild trout fishery that exists, at a time when the river has little left to lose (i.e. Atlantic program and proposed Brown Trout culling by MNR). I could probably write a whole series of blog posts on the subject of naming rivers, but the long and short of it is: perhaps things would look differently today if there had been less secrecy, more awareness and more voices to speak up.
All is not lost (at least not yet), but if things don’t change, it will be. I mentioned the proposed Brown Trout culling above and also in previous posts. The unfortunate truth is, even though this is only still a draft proposal, there is already culling going on in secrecy. There is evidence of at least one occurrence of a number of large browns being lifted out of a section of the upper river. I’m not sure where they were taken, but my guess is they either died during the lifting/transfer process or they were dumped somewhere into the lower river where they will die shortly afterwards (and where there is no suitable spawning habitat).
It seems that every time I write a post on this subject, I have to cut out three quarters of what I want to say just to keep things on topic and interesting. Rather than having all this information eventually get buried in old blog posts, I plan to add a new top-level page to this site that’s dedicated to the topic and more easily accessible. If you have pictures, videos, information or simply ideas you’d like to share on this subject, feel free to let me know and I’ll consider adding it to that page or linking it.
Despite the gloom, I’m very much looking forward to getting back on the river when the season opens and making the most of what we still have. Only one month left until opener!
Lack of rain and low water has continued to be a problem for the last several weeks, putting a damper in any chance of successful fall Steelhead fishing close to home. We did finally get a decent rainfall a couple days ago, with a bit more in the forecast, so hopefully more fish are making their way into the rivers and things will pick up.
In the meantime though, I’ve gotten out for some stillwater trout fishing at my usual spot. On calm days at this time of year, trout are cruising the shallows and stripping small unweighted streamers has been both fun and productive. It’s a nice change from having to fish an indicator setup or a sink tip line to deeper fish in hotter weather.
Stillwater fly fishing in the fall is about as peaceful as it gets.
Another trout season has come and gone and while mine ended in a traditional fashion, the majority of the season was anything but traditional here in southern Ontario. In an effort to keep this post positive and prevent it from derailing into another rant on our poor fisheries management in Ontario, I’ll simply say that 2015 will be remembered by many here as the demise of the resident Brown Trout. Yes, I’m mainly talking about the Credit River, so this isn’t a blanket statement (yet). However, some quick research into Ontario MNR fisheries management priorities should make it pretty clear that no river is safe in the foreseeable future, unless something changes. I’ll leave it at that for now, but I’ll be posting a longer rant on this in the upcoming days / weeks.
Now, on to the good stuff. As is customary, I spent the end of the season targeting Brook Trout on small rivers and streams. Even if our Brown Trout rivers had been fishing well (or, at all…), I’d still choose to target Brookies at this time of year. The waters they inhabit are scenic, have very little fishing pressure and the fish are in full pre-spawn colors at this time of year.
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.
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 couple days ago, I got out to do some stillwater fishing for rainbows before work. I joined a fly fishing club this year that has some spring fed ponds which boast populations of native brook trout and stocked rainbows. The club is normally opened a few months outside of regular trout season, which (in addition to the opportunity for decent stillwater trout fishing) was my main motivation for joining. Unfortunately, late ice kept the ponds closed until trout opener this year and I’ve been busy fishing rivers for resident trout – so this was my first time getting out to the ponds.
I left early (5:30 am) to ensure I’d have access to one of the few boats that are available for use. I was pretty surprised to find a couple others already on the water when I arrived at 6:15. I headed to a second pond that was still quiet and empty. It was as perfect a morning as they come and the water was like glass. It was refreshing to be out fishing without having to wear bulky waders and a vest/pack for once.