Archive for April, 2009

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I’d been invited here by the Kilpatrick  Flyfishers to be one the presenters at their 2009 Fly-Fishing Jamboree. The club was formed in 1985 and this was their 5th Annual Jamboree. It had been more than 20 years since I last visited Saskatoon and it was great to be able to return to this city.

The window of my sixth floor hotel room provided me with a spectacular riverfront view of the mighty South Saskatchewan River and the University Bridge. My hotel was directly across the river from the University of Saskatchewan campus.

The window of my sixth floor hotel room provided me with a spectacular riverfront view of the mighty South Saskatchewan River and the University Bridge. My hotel was directly across the river from the University of Saskatchewan campus (top left of photo).

 The Jamboree was a huge success and was attended by people from as far away as Prince Albert and Regina. It was a well organized event and I was especially impressed with the number of kids, young adults and families in attendance. It appears this club is doing an excellent job promoting the sport of fly-fishing in Saskatoon and surrounding area.

A young fly-tier

Eric Koshinsky and son, Darren, tying flies. A young fly-tier in the making!

Fly-tying demonstrations were conducted throughout the day by various club members. They’re really a talented bunch and their tables attracted a lot of attention.

Fly-tying demonstration

Fly-tying demonstration

Paul Oltsher (The Northern Fly Fisherman) had a large booth, with an impressive selection of fly-tying tools, materials and fishing gear on display. Joe Van’t Hof was also in attendance, with his large collection of antique tackle and lures.

The Northern Fly Fisherman Booth

The Northern Fly Fisherman Booth

 

Joe Van't Hof and antique fishing equipment & lures

That's Joe Van't Hof on the right, with his display of antique fishing equipment & lures

  Saskatchewan Conservation Officer, Gary Provencher, provided an excellent presentation, “Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs,” a unique program geared toward introducing youth to the sport of fishing. Yet another interesting presentation was made by Sonnet McGuire of Narrow Hills Provincial Park. This Park is located approximately 150 km northeast of Prince Albert. Sonnett’s presentation covered a variety of topics, including recreational opportunities, such as trout fishing, available in the Park. For more info on this Park, and to download a pdf copy of their fishing map, be sure to visit  their web site (click the link above). There’s some good fly-fishing to be had in Saskatchewan, if you know where to look!

I’d been asked to make a couple of presentations, including one on fishing in Crowsnest Pass, “Fly-Fishing Alberta’s Chinook Country,” and another on reading water and stream-fishing techniques. I also participated in the fly-tying demos.

Introducing my "Fly-Fishing Alberta's Chinook Country" Presentation. (Photo courtesy of Ken Dornan)

Introducing my "Fly-Fishing Alberta's Chinook Country" Presentation. (Photo courtesy of Ken Dornan)

Vic's fly-tying demo

One of my fly-tying demos. (Photo by Ken Dornan)

I had a great time and would like to thank the Kilpatrick Flyfishers for inviting me to participate in their Jamboree. Special thanks go out to Dennis Pagoda, Eric Lawrenz, Ken Dornan and Terry Cook. Thanks also to Dave Cook for treating me to a special “driving tour” of the city prior to the event. Saskatoon is a beautiful city, indeed!

A funny thing happened the other day. I was emptying the garbage can in the shop when lo and behold, I noticed a discarded Tim Hortons coffee cup. This was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill Tim Hortons paper cup that was buried in the trash, either. No sir, there was something special about this one. It was one of those popular “Rrroll Up The Rim To Win” contest cups, and the rim had not yet been “rolled!”  In an earlier post I mentioned the Tim Hortons donut shop down the road in Blairmore, and the first thing that came to mind upon seeing the unrolled cup was that it was a prank and someone was playing a cruel joke on me. It wouldn’t be the first time. If this was a joke, I wasn’t laughing. Then, I remembered a customer (I can’t remember who he was or what he looked like, though) had asked if he could throw his empty cup in the garbage behind the front counter. The next thing I thought of was what occurred in 2006 when a school girl discovered a Timmy’s cup with an unrolled rim in a garbage bin. Apparently, she could not roll up the rim by herself and asked another girl for help. Upon rolling the rim, they discovered it was a winner. They had just won a vehicle! The parents of both girls claimed their child had found the cup and that they were entitled to the prize. Meanwhile, the person who claimed to have tossed the cup into the garbage bin in the first place demanded a DNA test. In the end, the car was awarded to the family of the girl who first found the cup. The lesson in all of this is, “Never throw a Tim Hortons Rrroll Up The Rim cup in the garbage, without first rolling the rim.” You never know who’s going to find it.

I had no difficulty rolling the rim on the cup I had just found in my trash, and didn’t need help. There would be no dispute over any prize (hopefully a brand new Toyota), and a DNA test would likely not be required, unless I won and the person that tossed his cup in our garbage bin reads this post. What are the chances of that happening — him reading this blog, that is? I felt confident, as I rolled the rim of the cup. Just as I suspected, there was not going to be any argument over who gets to keep the car and there would be no call for DNA testing. The message under the rim read, “PLEASE PLAY AGAIN.”  More coffee … anyone?

PLEASE TRY AGAIN!

PLEASE PLAY AGAIN!

On our way home from a trip to Lethbridge on Sunday, my brother-in-law, Paul, and I made a quick detour past Lee Lake to check whether it was ice-free yet. We discovered that except for a couple of small bays, the lake was completely open, thanks to the hurricane-force winds that had been blowing in Crowsnest Pass most of the day. We returned to the lake yesterday morning at about 10:30 and fished until 4:00 pm. The wind wasn’t quite a bad as the day before and we were able to deal with it, without too much difficulty. The nice thing about Lee Lake is you can always find a spot that’s sheltered, regardless of how hard it’s blowing, or its direction.

Within minutes of arriving, we had launched the raft and we’re fishing. Paul hooked into the first fish on his second or third cast. Paul’s visiting from Winnipeg and although he’s more experienced fishing for walleye on his home waters using spinning gear, he’s really taken to fly-fishing for trout in recent years and can hold his own with a fly rod.

How was the fishing? Quite good … actually. We were into fish from the get-go and it was pretty much non-stop action the entire day. Lots of rainbows in the 10 to 12-inch range, and a surprising number of fish in the 14 to 16-inch class. The only fly we used all day were Bead-head Prince nymphs, and we fished them under a strike indicator. One of my flies became so torn apart by fish that the only material left on it was the bead and a bit of thread holding the white goose biot wings to the hook shank. The trout didn’t care, though, and they kept eating it anyway! We only saw two or three bank anglers and one other boat the whole time we were out. More Canada geese have arrived at the lake and we also saw a bald eagle, loons and quite a few mallards. Here’s a couple of photos of the day.

Paul landing a rainbow trout

Paul landing a rainbow trout

Flying fish?

Flying fish?

There’s a saying in Crowsnest Pass, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Most residents of the Pass know this to be true, and know the weather most definitely can (and often does) change around here by the minute. I experienced this first-hand a few days ago, while fishing the Crowsnest River. Prior to the weekend, Terry had invited me to join him on the Crow on Easter Monday. He had already been out several times this spring, but it would be my first trip of the season. After a fishless winter, I was chomping at the bit.

 There were strong winds in the forecast, nothing new for Crowsnest Pass, so we decided to fish a section that was sheltered and would hopefully provide a bit of protection from the elements. We arrived at the river shortly before noon. It was quite pleasant, the sun was shining and it was warm outside. Best of all, the wind hadn’t picked up … yet.

Terry set up a double-nymph rig, using a golden stonefly pattern and a chironimid imitation as the dropper. The river had just a bit of color to it, so I chose a Wire San Juan Worm. This pattern works well on the Crow almost all the time, but it seems to be especially productive when the river is a little off color, or clouded, as it was today. We fished a couple of bends in the river, landing one rainbow trout, then decided to break for lunch. It was a good thing we did. Just as we were finishing our sandwiches the wind started to pick up. Something was blowing in from the west … snowflakes, actually.

Lunchroom with a view

Lunchroom with a view

We continued downstream toward a couple of fishy-looking runs, where Terry landed a nice sixteen-inch rainbow. The trout had taken his chironimid (midge) pattern. I managed to snap a few photos, before Terry released the colorful trout.

Terry netting a nice rainbow trout

Terry netting a nice rainbow trout

By now the wind was blowing hard, and sometimes you had to wait and cast between gusts. At times the wind seemed to settle down a little, allowing your fly to land almost where you wanted it.

One of the colorful rainbows I managed to catch after lunch

One of the colorful rainbows I managed to catch after lunch

We caught a few more fish, then decided to head back upstream and try some of the spots we fished earlier. That’s when things really changed … the weather, that is. Clouds rolled in and the sun disappeared. The temperature dropped significantly, and the wind picked up even more. To top it off, it started to snow … almost blizzard-like.

It started to snow ...go figure!

It started to snow ... go figure!

 Then, as quickly as it started, the sky cleared. This went on for the next couple hours. It was like a roller coaster – sunny, cloudy, snowy, windy, calm, cold, warm … !  In the meantime, we kept on fishing and catching the odd trout. It was great!

The sun comes out ... again!

The sun comes out ... again!

Terry, with the last trout of the day! It was time to head home :(

Terry, with the last trout of the day! It was time to head home :(

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve received quite a few calls and emails from people wondering about the ice on Lee Lake and whether or not it’s off yet. By this time last year it was completely ice-free and anglers were already enjoying some decent fishing. I checked on Friday (April 10th), but it was still frozen and there was no sign of it beginning to open, even along shore. While there, I noticed a bunch of Canada geese standing on the ice by the island, directly across from the boat launch. It was great to see they had returned to the lake from their winter retreat in the south. They were also squawking as noisily as ever. It seemed like they were waiting for the ice to come off, too, and some appeared to have already staked out the choice nesting sites on the tiny island.

What a difference three days can make! I drove to the lake this morning before heading to work, to check things out.  As I approached the highway turnoff, I noticed a vehicle in the Lee Lake parking lot. This could only mean one thing, right? My hunch was correct, there was open water and a couple of people were fishing from shore. As of this morning there’s about 30 to 40 feet of open water near the boat launch, more in other places. Barring a return visit by Old Man Winter, Lee Lake should be ice-free by the weekend. Other lakes in southwest Alberta, including Beauvais, Dipping Vat and Payne (Mami)  should start to open soon, if they haven’t already. Beaver Mines and Police Outpost lakes are situated at higher elevations and usually become ice-free a bit later than some of the others. It won’t be long now and there will be a lot of happy lake anglers, and Canada geese!

NEWS FLASH … I  fished the Crowsnest River yesterday. First time out this spring! Post and photos to follow. Below is a photo of Lee Lake this morning.

Lee Lake beginning to open

View of Lee Lake this morning from the boat launch

I know, you’re probably thinking I’m going to begin today’s post by talking about fly-fishing or something related to trout fishing in Crowsnest Pass. Well, I thought I’d surprise everyone and write about something entirely different. You see, I’ve been quite busy since January, working on a couple of photography projects. Along with fly-fishing, photography is another one of my passions. Anyway, I’ve been spending almost all my spare time over the past three months looking at photographs on my computer monitor. This has kept me busy during my days off and most evenings. Well, I finally finished these projects, at least all I can do at the moment. “You had a day off then?” … you ask. “Yes, last Monday,” but I had a tough decision to make. Do I go fishing, or do I pull out the snowshoes and head for the hills? You see, snowshoeing is yet another passion of mine. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much of that this winter, either.

Fishing on the Crowsnest River has really been picking up lately and it was tempting to grab my fly gear. However, I also realized there’s an entire fishing season ahead of me, and although there’s still plenty of snow in the back-country, it’s not going to last much longer. Before you know it, all that white stuff covering the mountains is going to melt and disappear. This could very well be my last opportunity to get out snowshoeing. You guessed it, I chose snow over water. I grabbed the snowshoes, threw my camera gear into my pack, climbed into my pickup and headed toward the Atlas Road, northwest of Coleman. Along the way, I saw a pair of mountain bluebirds, the first of the year. You know spring has arrived in Crowsnest Pass when you see these colorful little birds flying about. 

It didn’t take long to discover the Atlas Road was a mess, and I should have known better. Recent logging activity, combined with warm temperatures and snow-melt, had turned the road to mush. I was determined to go, though, regardless. With a flick of the switch, I shifted into four-wheel drive and off I went. I’d almost forgotten about the logging that occurred here this winter, but it wasn’t long before I was reminded. Shortly after entering the Forest Reserve I passed a series of roadside clear-cuts, some of which provided views of Crowsnest Mountain never seen before. Immense piles of trees were stacked along the road, waiting to be picked up and delivered to a sawmill, somewhere outside Crowsnest Pass. I continued along the wet, muddy road until I reached the trail-head. From here I’d be able to snowshoe some distance above the valley floor. Surprisingly, the snow was still quite firm, despite the warm mid-day sun. I made good progress and reached the crest of the ridge in just over an hour. I’d hiked here several times last autumn to scout possible locations for photographing Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters. To my dismay, some of the fresh clear-cuts in the valley below were interfering with the compositions I had planned from my scouting trips last year.

View of Turtle Mountain & Seven Sisters, with recent logging activity

View of Crowsnest Mountain & Seven Sisters, with recent logging activity

 I had to do a bit of scrambling to find an alternate location to set up the tripod, but found a decent spot to snap a few frames just as the light was beginning to fade. Moments later, the sun left my side of the valley for the day. I returned to my truck and started for home. The Atlas Road was in even worse shape now than earlier, and by the time I hit Highway 3 my truck looked like it had just taken part in the Bellevue Mud Bog Competition. It took thirty minutes in one of the bays at the local car wash, and fifteen bucks, before I could recognize my vehicle again! Washing my truck is definitely not one of my passions. However, now that I own a clean truck again, and have snowshoeing out of my system, I plan to begin participating in one of my other passions … fly-fishing!
Crowsnest Mountain & Seven Sisters

Crowsnest Mountain & Seven Sisters

Welcome to the official blog of The Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop & Guide Service. Yup, we finally have our very own blog! This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for some time now, and to make a long story short … I’ve decided to become a blogger, like millions of others. I realize it’s still early, but I think I’m going to enjoy doing this, too. Thanks (I think?) to all those who provided the encouragement, and particularly Stuart for helping me with everything.

The content of my blog will be geared largely toward fly-fishing in Crowsnest Pass and surrounding area. I’ll also talk about some of the things occurring in and around the shop. And who knows, from time to time I may even include other interesting tidbits of information (not “Timbits,” as in Tim Hortons), and perhaps even the occasional anecdote or personal point of view. 

For those of you who don’t know about us, I’ll give you a quick rundown of who we are and what we do. We operate a full service fly shop & guide service in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada. We’re located along Highway 3, in the town of Bellevue, about a 2-1/2 hour drive southwest of the city of Calgary, or 90 minutes west of Lethbridge. If you’re travelling to the Pass from the east, you’ll see our fly shop on the north (right) side of the highway as you approach Bellevue. Turn right as soon as you pass the small campground. The Crowsnest River, one of Alberta’s premier trout streams, is located directly across the highway from our shop, and is only a stone’s-throw away. From here, you’ll get a great view of Turtle Mountain and the famous Frank Slide. If you look further west, through the V-shaped gap between Turtle and Goat (Bluff) Mountain, you should be able to get a glimpse of Crowsnest Mountain towering in the distance, providing it’s not obscured by clouds. If you’re heading here from the west (British Columbia), look for us on the left side of the highway, once you’ve passed through the Frank Slide.

Our fly shop, with Turtle Mountain and the Frank Slide in background

Our fly shop, with Turtle Mountain and the Frank Slide in background

I’ve been guiding in Crowsnest Pass and area since 1984 and our fly shop opened in 1993. We carry a complete selection of fly-fishing equipment and gear, including flies, leaders, rods, reels, waders, accessories, maps, books, videos and angling licenses (Alberta & BC). We also provide guided fly-fishing trips in SW Alberta and SE British Columbia. That’s right, we’re licensed to guide in BC, as well. In addition, we offer fly-fishing instruction and conduct various schools throughout the season. We specialize in providing local advice and information on fishing in this area. If you’re heading this way, please stop by and say hello. You can get more details regarding our fly shop and the services we provide by visiting our web site. The link to our site is also located in the sidebar.
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Oh, and before I forget … if you’re looking for genuine Timbits donuts (and perhaps a “double-double”), there’s a Tim Hortons in Blairmore. You’ll see them on the south side of Highway 3. It’s only an 8-minute, 40 second drive from our shop. Trust me, I know!