February 22, 2007 - Over the course of the previous night Calgary was re-introduced to winter. I awoke (earlier than I might have knowing the conditions) and realized the only fish I’d see would be on a monitor. The Eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies host one of the more favourable winter weather patterns I’ve experienced - Chinooks. The short explanation of a Chinook is that it’s a warm air mass that can raise winter temps in southern Alberta for a few hours or up to a few days.
Along with the warm temps often come high winds and very interesting cloud formations. What it means for anglers is that increased water temps might get the fish moving a bit and line guides and hands won’t freeze up too much. For those looking for a more detailed explanation check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinook_wind
For the dedicated angler - the Chinooks are significant events. The idea I’ve been toying with is naming them similar to the way storms are named. It would simplify conversations where we reminisce of Chinooks past. The following photographs document a couple of the Chinooks this year. The first set is from New Years day and the last is from the past 6 days on the Bow River (let’s call it Betty).
New Years Day What a better way to welcome in the New Year; we aimed to set a tone for the year with this outing. A good sign of things to come for 2007!
Hookset, fish on!
First Rainbow Trout of the year - not bad. Sam working a nice fish
I’ve had the luxury of doing some fly fishing with a number of different people over a number of days recently. Friday I was out on my own for a bit with the Spey rod. Saturday I made it out with Sam and an old acquaintance, Jamie, from University. We spent a lot of time nymphing. Sunday afternoon Sam and I snuck out with the spey rods and some streamers; the wind would have made nymphing a challenge. Over the course of the afternoon we got a lot of hits - Sam landed the trophy of the day, a nice brown. Monday saw Jamie, Sam and I out on the water again (it was a long weekend in Alberta). We did well nymphing again. Late Tuesday afternoon
I made it out for a bit with Chris (aka wetduck) for a short nymphing session. Again, the wind was a hassle and lower temps that day lead to some ice on the guides.
We still managed some decent fish, our time on the water extended by the sun coming out from the clouds for a bit. Finally, Wednesday I met up with Bill and Rick for some more nymphing. Funny story there - I think it was one of Ricks first times nymphing/using a fly rod. I passed him a rod and suggested he throw the line in the water while I finished getting my rod rigged up. Maybe his second cast into the water and he announces he’s got a “fish on”… Beginners luck eh?
In the winter there is one main hatch that occurs daily - midges. Having a pupa pattern handy when the hatch is on can be useful. The size and proportion is the important detail, the colour can vary. A #18 pupa is one of my main winter weapons.
Aside from midges, any nymph in the size #14-#16 range will produce (e.g. Prince nymphs, Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails, etc). I prefer a light colour bead head hare’s ear. I don’t think there is really one magical fly though - the fish are opportunistic and the presentation is really the most important detail.
Drag free drifts and getting the flies deep in the water column are the factors that will account for getting fish. The other fly worth mentioning is the San Juan worm. I personally don’t use it - but the plain fact is that it catches fish.
Casting upstream with a nymphing rig using a single-hand switch cast
Brown trout - moments before the hook popped out, doh. Smaller Rainbow
Jamie’s Big Brown
Bow River Rainbow
This Rainbow took the midge
While out with the spey rods Sam and exchanged rigs for a moment, didn’t take long for Sam to get into this nice Brown trout with my gear. Nice guy…
Sam working in a big fish.
A face only a mother and fly fisher could love. Picture Perfect Rainbow