Food For Thought


Most anglers have at least one or two stories about the “one that got away.”  These tales usually involve a trout of monstrous proportions that managed to slip the hook, just as you were about to bring it to hand. In most cases, it’s the size of the fish we remember most, when conveying the story to fellow anglers. For some reason, though, we never tell stories of any of the average or regular size trout we’ve lost while out on the water. It’s probably just as well, because these ones are a “dime a dozen,” and chances are not many people would be interested in listening, anyway.

Hunter Neal

Really ... it was this big!

 I’ve experienced more than my share of LDRs (long distance releases) over the years. I’ve had lots of SDRs (short distance releases), too! Actually, there’s a lot of ways to lose fish and I don’t mind saying I’m pretty good at all of them.

Sometimes, something memorable happens while you’re in the process of  losing a fish. That’s what happened the other day while I was fishing with Hunter and Gary. I was with Hunter when he hooked a rainbow trout of about 16 or 17 inches. Certainly not a monster fish, but still decent nevertheless. The trout surfaced within a foot of the stream bank and inhaled a Stimulator dry fly. We didn’t see the fish until it came up to eat the fly, but it was holding in one of those places where you just knew there had to be a fish. It was one of those classic takes where the trout rose in a slow, deliberate manner. Hunter’s timing was perfect and he set the hook as soon as the trout turned downward. Immediately, the fish bolted into the swift current and then rocketed into the air … not once, but twice. Each time, it cleared the water by at least a couple of feet. The trout seemed to travel through the air in slow motion, before landing with a splash on the water’s surface. It was exciting to watch all of this, as it unfolded in front of our eyes. We cheered loudly each time the fish became airborne! Then, just as Hunter started to gain control of the fish and was reeling in the last bit of fly line, it darted under some submerged roots in the middle of the river. You probably know what happened next; it became snagged and got away.

Hunter Neal

Hunter, with one that didn't get away

I could sense that Hunter felt a bit disapointed, but if he was it was only for a moment. Before he had even tied a new fly to his leader, he started talking about how cool it was to see the fish come to the surface and take his dry fly and then watch as it shot clear out of the water. At the end of the day, Hunter mentioned he was more than happy with the number of trout he caught that day,  but it was the one he lost that he’d remember most. I’ll remember this particular fish for a long time, too!

On Saturday evening, Hunter and I climbed part-way up Turtle Mountain to photograph the Thunder In the Valley fireworks display in Blairmore. We reached our vantage point a couple of hours before the show was set to begin and had plenty of time to organize our camera gear. The mosquitoes were relentless, but disapeared just about the time the fireworks started to light up the evening sky. Here’s a shot I took from the slopes of Turtle Mountain.

Fireworks light up the night skies over Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass

Fireworks light up the night sky over Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass

Now that all the rivers in southwest Alberta are in full runoff mode, many stream anglers have shifted their attention to some of the local trout lakes. Most of these lakes became ice-free weeks earlier than normal this year, thanks in large part to the mild temperatures we experienced in March. I’ve been able to venture out to fish some of these stillwaters a half dozen times or so and the fishing has treated me pretty well, at least until the other day.

Lake fishing can sometimes be a bit of an enigma to me. I still can’t quite figure out how angler #1, who’s using the same technique, the same set-up, the same fly, and fishing 30 feet from angler #2, who’s doing exactly the same thing and catching fish, yet angler #1 is not catching anything … nada, zilch, zippo. That’s what happened a couple of days ago, while fishing with my friend, Terry. In case you’re wondering, I was angler #1 and Terry (angler #2) was the one busy catching all the trout. Terry tried his best to help me out and at one point offered to move his pontoon boat so I could try fishing in his spot. By this time, I was beginning to feel desperate and took him up on his offer. But even that didn’t help. Meanwhile, Terry kept on catching fish from his “new” location. The only thing different between the way Terry and I were fishing were our strike indicators. Actually, even those were the same … only the one he was using was bright green in color and mine was bright orange. Now, that’s what you call picky fish!

I’m not trying to brag, but by the end of the afternoon, I managed to land two rainbows. At least I didn’t get skunked, and I’m grateful a couple of fish felt sorry for me. Afterward, Terry wouldn’t tell me how many fish he caught. He probably felt sorry for me, too!

BTW … If anyone is thinking of picking up some bright green strike indicators from our shop, we’re expecting a new shipment soon. When I returned to work yesterday, I purchased all the ones we had in stock. There’s lots of bright orange indicators available, though. Who knows, maybe tomorrow the fish will prefer this color?

Crowsnest Pass received yet another thunderstorm last night. It appears most of the rainfall occurred west of Blairmore and Coleman. By morning, visibility on the Crowsnest River had been reduced to less than six inches. Lately, it seems water clarity on the Crow is being effected more easily by these isolated weather events than in the past, particularly when the rainfall occurs in the Allison Creek Watershed. Allison Creek, located a few miles west of Coleman, is a tributary to the Crowsnest River.  Some Crowsnest River anglers are beginning to question whether the discoloured water conditions are a result of the clear-cut logging that occurred last winter along the Atlas Road and Crowsnest Mountain, adjacent to Allison Creek. This morning, while other nearby tributaries were flowing clear, Allison Creek was “chalk-coloured,” once again. This is at least the third time in the past two weeks the Crowsnest River has become blown out after localized rains. Each time it has been Allison Creek that has been the main culprit. 

Numerous complaints and letters of concern were filed with the municipal and provincial government last year by concerned individuals and groups against the proposed logging, but to no avail. It’s “clear-cut” that certain companies have a lot of clout, when it comes to decision-making time by those in power. More logging activity is scheduled to occur in this drainage in the coming months.

Allison Creek, earlier in the week ... flowing "chalk-like" in colour.

Allison Creek, earlier in the week ... flowing "chalk-like" in colour.