Over the past month, I’ve been able to get out on the water a few times by myself. With temperatures climbing above 30 degrees Celsius (85°F) on some days, I’ve been fishing the cooler headwater reaches of a couple of local trout streams. It’s places like this where I enjoy using my bamboo fly rod the most.
Getting to some of these waters required a bit of effort – hiking, biking, and bushwacking. I encountered fewer people the further I headed into the back-country.
I try to use my Partridge cane rod at least once or twice a year. I should take it out more often but I’m always afraid I might break the tip. I don’t have a spare tip section for this rod, so if something ever happened to it, I’d probably have a difficult time finding a replacement.
The upper reaches of these streams rely on underground springs, seeps, and tributaries, to maintain their flows during the summer months. The water entering the stream at these locations is cool. This helps to keep the water at a comfortable temperature for trout during the warm summer months. Wet-wading, wearing quick-dry pants or shorts is a refreshing way to fish at this time of year. Seldom do you have to wade more than knee-deep to cross from one side of the stream to the other.
The water in these streams is crystal-clear, making it relatively easy to spot trout finning in the shallow tail-out of a pool. In the deepest part of the pool, fish can be more difficult to spot, as they tend to blend in with rocks and pebbles strewn along the stream bottom. In this environment, they are masters at camouflage. Rather than looking for the trout, I look for their shadows along the bottom of the stream. Once trout begin to feed on the surface, you know exactly where they are holding. Then, it’s up to the angler to show them the right fly.
Wherever there is cover, there can be trout. Tree branches, bushes, and other vegetation overhanging the stream are great places to search for fish. Log jams and undercut banks are always worth investigating. Water shaded by trees is another favourite place to search for trout.
Some stretches of water can be more productive than others. Sometimes, you have to cover a lot of water to find trout hideouts. A pool that looks fishy might not hold any trout, while one that appears less-than-ideal might contain several nice fish. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason, as to why trout are attracted to one place over another.
You may only have one or two shots all day at catching a really good fish, so you have to treat every pool, every run, every pocket of water as if it holds the fish of the day. Such was the case on my last visit to a mountain stream near Crowsnest Pass. The fishing was a little slow that day. By late afternoon, I had caught but two trout. Now, it was almost time to leave. But first, there was one more spot to try – one more opportunity.
I’ve caught fish here before. It’s a short run, less than 10 metres (30 feet) in length and about half a metre (1.5 feet) in depth. Willow branches droop over the far bank, providing good overhead cover. The current in the top half of the run is quite swift, then slows down as it reaches the tail-out.
After watching the water for several minutes, without any sign of a trout, I cast my foam hopper toward the top of the run, along the inside seam. The fly drifted downstream nicely but nothing happened. I made another cast to the same spot. Just as I was ready to lift my line from the water, a trout swirled at the fly. It looked like a good fish. I set the hook but felt nothing. Next, I watched as the trout bolted to the other side of the stream, taking shelter beneath the overhanging willow branches. I waited a minute or two, then made another cast, this time as close to the branches as I dared. On the third or fourth cast, a trout rose and ate the foam fly. I lifted the tip of the rod and hooked the fish. Was it the same trout? I don’t know – maybe. The fish put up a good fight, making several determined runs toward the willow-lined bank. I kept the pressure on and was able to keep the fish away from trouble. It wasn’t long before the large, colorful cutthroat trout slipped into my net. It was a great way to end the day!