Well, trout season is officially over here in southern Ontario, which means my fishing days are going to be limited to some remaining warm water fishing (bass, pike) and possibly some steelhead fishing if I can manage to find a place and time where the crowds aren’t too bad.
My wife graciously agreed to let me spend way too much time on the water this past weekend, to finish off the trout season. I took Friday off work and managed to get out for three consecutive days, all of which were spent on different sections of my favourite local river. By the way, you’ll notice that I rarely mention river names or locations. This is on purpose, in an effort to avoid random lazy people from typing a couple words into Google and going away with sensitive and hard earned fishing locations. If you really want to know where I fish… well, I probably won’t tell you unless you’re family or friend 🙂 But, you’re more than welcome to ask.
Anyway, on with the report!
Friday, September 28th
Friday was supposed to be a full day of fishing, but I slept in a bit more than I would have liked and as usual, I needed to do some last-minute fly tying to top up my box. The main ties included a bunch of Red Humpy dry flies (which are always productive on this river), as well as a number of Simulators and a couple Gartside Gurglers for a bit of night fishing.
I ended up leaving later Friday afternoon and headed to a favourite stretch of river, where I would wade for a few hours and eventually settle into a nice piece of water for some night fishing. This area is very picturesque to begin with, but add to it fall colours and it’s paradise. Driving up was definitely enough to put me in the mood:
The river was virtually empty, as usual. I saw one other angler at the access point and he was headed down another section than I was. I had the river basically all to myself for the remainder of the day.
I fished upstream for a few hours. The day fishing wasn’t overly productive, but it was decent. A number of small browns were caught in the 8-10 inch range. After a while, all the brown trout in this size start looking identical to each other, so I’ve basically stopped taking photos of them. I did manage to hook into a nicer (14-16″) brown that was holding in a small piece of slow moving water behind a fallen tree. It was a somewhat tricky spot to cast to with faster moving water beside and below it, but with a single drag-free cast, he slammed my Red Humpy. Unfortunately, one leap and a headshake later and my barbless hook came loose.
A couple more small fish were caught (and a couple lost) before dark began to set in. I equipped a headlamp, made my way to the spot I would settle into for a couple hours of night fishing, then waited for it to get dark enough for the big browns to come out. I was stripping Gurglers and foam mice. About an hour of fishing and I had a few mediocre splashes by some bantam weight browns – but they all either missing their target, or change their minds at the last moment. Then I changed two things:
- Changed from a size 6 Gurgler to a size 2.
- Started stripping faster.
The first cast that combined these two changes resulted in a tremendous take. I had him on for line for about 15 seconds, then my hook popped out… again a barbless hook, but I have a feeling I simply didn’t set the hook hard enough this time.
I thought I had the fish on long enough to spook the pool, but a couple casts later proved me wrong. I made sure to set the hook this time and it seemed like I was in for a good fight. This was a much bigger fish than the last one, likely 20″+. Unfortunately, my clumsiness would be my downfall yet again. I had too much line out and as I fumbled around in the dark trying to get the line out from under my feet and onto my reel, he leapt with a fierce head shake and snapped off my 4x tippet 🙁
Again, I quickly learned from my mistakes and decided to make two final changes:
- Changed from 4x tippet to 3x flourocarbon tippet: These big trout, in this light, are obviously not too picky about tippet size, or fly size for that matter. In fact, I’m sure I could get away with 2x.
- Made sure not to trim my knots too close (I had a feeling this caused my leader to tippet knot to break).
I missed a bunch more fish that night, or more likely, they missed (or dodged) my fly. I did manage to hook into and land one good fish, though not as large as the one lost before it.
Saturday, September 29th
On Saturday, I decided to hunt Brook Trout as my trip the week prior served to wet my appetite with some nice looking brookies in full fall colours. I managed to get out at a much more respectable time (before noon), although I would have to skip the night fishing due to some unexpected rain and lack of proper rain gear.
Fishing was unexpectedly tough and I had to really work for the fish. I don’t mind though, as time on the water is rewarding even without catching fish. In fact, I probably walked more than I fished on Saturday, deciding to venture further downstream than I ever have in the past, where there are no access points and very infrequently fished water. This part of the river is slightly smaller than the brown trout water and is also a bit prettier.
In total just a handful of fish were caught, mostly on Stimulators and a few on an Isonychia nymph – most were in the 7-8″ range. I actually experimented with a size 6 Gurgler for a couple minutes just before leaving… it was still light out and I had absolutely no expectation for it to work, especially on this brook trout water where the average fish size is much smaller. I was shocked however when a nice brookie slashed at my Gurgler only a few casts in! Not sure exactly how big it was, but by the size of the splash and sound it made, I’m guessing it was well over 12″. Fish missing this fly seems to be an extremely common occurrence, that’s for sure…
Sunday, September 30th
Truthfully, I wasn’t supposed to fish on Sunday. My wife had planned to go to a cooking show in Toronto and I was staying home to spend some well deserved time with the kids. I was completely fine with this, especially since I was able to put in so many hours the previous two days and the forecast was originally showing rain Sunday.
The plan was for my wife to be gone most of the day – coming home at dinner time or later. So, I was surprised when she opened the door at 3:00 pm, which was much earlier than we had expected her back. At this point I had spent several hours with the kids and was feeling a little less guilty about my fishing the previous two days, so I got the idea in my head that I might get a chance to sneak out for one final try at evening fishing. Surprisingly, my amazingly understanding wife was OK with this.
Even better, the weatherman lied, again… it was sunny with a few clouds all day. Although I had clearance to leave, I wasn’t in much of a rush and decided to spend 2.5 more hours at home with the kids. Finally, when playtime was done and everyone was heading inside for the night, I left for a few more hours of alone time on my favourite river.
By the time I arrived, suited up and walked in, it was about 6:30 pm – so I had under 1 hour before dark. Needless to say, I spent only a short amount of time casting some dry flies in some runs and riffles, where I had a few rises from some browns. But it was the night fishing I was really here for – I felt like I had finally put the pieces together Friday night and was ready to land some big browns.
While the theme of fish slashing at my fly and missing definitely kept up, I managed to lose a single fish and land two others that I hooked into. They were both caught on a size 2 Gurgler and one of the fish was most likely my largest Brown to date. I haven’t figured out exactly how big he was yet, but it should be easy when I get around to it since I have a shot of him next to my fly rod. He was definitely over 20″ and in fact, he was much too big for my net, so I had to land him by hand.
2012 definitely went out on a positive note and left me itching for 2013, which is 7 long months away… One last shot of the hero Gurgler that took so much abuse over the last few days and lived to tell the tale.