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A day on our foothill streams

 

Hiking a cobble shore, Wayne and I make our way upriver, keeping a keen eye to the water. There is a long, smooth, piece of water that is a little darker than the rest. It is a deep run, and I am curious. I wade out wet, in my running shoes and shorts, waist deep, and chuck a huge streamer. Half way down the drift I feel the sharp tugs of a biting fish. It is likely a grayling, but the fly is much too big for the grayling, who is doing his best to chew it down. I take a couple steps downstream and repeat the process, and again, my oversized streamer is met with the dogged persistence of a hungry grayling.

It was nearly a fish a cast at this run

It was nearly a fish a cast at this run

Just in front of me a fish rises, and another. Then another. The long, deep run is loaded with fish. I’ve seen enough. "Wayne, there are fish everywhere!", I yell to him in excitement. He starts to work his way down to me. I wade ashore and change up my bull trout streamer, and pull out my tiny bobber and beadhead prince nymph. It’s just the right size for the river’s grayling and mountain whitefish. I start with 3 feet of line between bobber and fly, but soon extend the length to 6 feet. The water is about 4 feet deep.

A bobber and beadhead fly is a sure fire way to catch grayling and whitefish

A bobber and beadhead fly is a sure fire way to catch grayling and whitefish

In front of me, I keep a sharp eye on my colourful bobber floating along in the surface film. It darts under and I set the hook. A grayling immediately jumps and splashes about. It’s about a foot long and in great shape. I admire it in the water beside me for a moment, and then set it free. This is the start of a glorious two hours of fishing. Nearly every single drift, be it Wayne’s line or mine, is met with a bite. More than half of these fish are grayling, but with our leader lengths long enough to allow the bead head fly to sink near bottom, we are catching good numbers of mountain whitefish too. I can’t imagine how many fish we caught, but a good estimate would be to count the number of casts we made and divide that number by two, and that would be a pretty reasonable number.

Get the fly close to bottom and mountain whitefish were eager to bite

Get the fly close to bottom and mountain whitefish were eager to bite

The fishing is excellent; beyond good, but looking upstream we see a multitude of pools and riffles with big, chunky rocks. Some of these rocks are the size of cars, inviting us to seek more, and push the adventure further. Wanting to see what was going on; we hike to the series of pools with the big rocks and find fish. They are not present in the astounding numbers that they were at the big deep run, but every pool holds fish, and on average, these fish are bigger. The coolest discovery comes when we look in and around all those rocks. In the shallows, tucked in tight, are tons and tons of minnows. They are about an inch long and everywhere. We’ve seen this show before.

Large rocks meant minnows, and bigger fish nearby

Large rocks meant minnows, and bigger fish nearby

Large rocks meant minnows, and bigger fish nearby

Large rocks meant minnows, and bigger fish nearby

We find that pools that have a bunch of large rocks to hide in and around, or downed trees that have a bunch of branches to duck under and in between, provide perfect cover for baby fish to hide out, so they do. This gets the attention of every fish that likes to eat smaller fish, and because there is competition, and survival of the fittest, the largest fish generally end up taking over the prime spots. Carefully fishing through these pools with oversized streamers will often enough, pull the biggest fish off the bottom to take a run at them. So this has been my ‘go to’ fishing strategy, when I’m searching for a big bite. If the big streamer fly does not pan out, though, I do not give up on the streamer fly idea entirely. Instead, I size down.

A glorious day on our foothill streams

A glorious day on our foothill streams

My bull trout streamer flies area typically 4 to 8 inches long, and they do a good job of filtering out the smaller bites. But if I’m looking to catch more fish, and still have a shot a decent ones, I tie on a one inch, or slightly bigger streamer and probe the same water. While I fish my huge streamer flies high in the water (less snags, and also big enough for a large fish to chase), I run the smaller streamer flies tighter to the bottom. This brings more fish into the fold and I have excellent success using this method be it for trout, whites, or grayling.

Probing with a streamer fly is a great way to find bigger bites

Probing with a streamer fly is a great way to find bigger bites

I am a huge fan of running streamers under indicators (bobbers) and I catch a lot of fish this way, but there is a time when the water is too fast or too deep, or both, to get the fly down to the fish. This is when I change things up, and run my streamer on a simple split shot rig. That is, I run a split shot a foot or two up the line and tie the streamer on the end. I put a large enough split shot on so the rig gets to the bottom easily, where the fish are. I probe the entire pool and usually catch fish. I also do this with little nymphs, like a bead head prince nymph, or a bead head pheasant tail nymph with equally good results.

The prince nymph, hands down, fools grayling and whitefish.  This fly is gold

The prince nymph, hands down, fools grayling and whitefish. This fly is gold

Back at the river, I am looking at a pool with big rocks, riffles, and some deep water in front of me. "I wonder", I say to myself, and I pull out the big bull trout streamer fly. I cast, retrieve, cast again, retrieve, and so on. About half way up the pool I am hit and I can see the flash of a good grayling. A little later a smaller fish takes a shot.

A great day summed up

A great day summed up

A great day summed up

A great day summed up

I know that I can easily catch these fish if I size down, but on this day, I have caught plenty. I am instead happy to be there, in that moment, enjoying time on the water with Wayne, in a beautiful wilderness setting. This is, and has been, a great day fishing our foothill streams.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(2) A day on our foothill streams
(3) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(4) Fly Leaders
(5) In the Zone
(6) Learners Permit
(7) Flies of Summer
(8) Selecting the Right Boat
(9) The Italian Job
(10) Making a difference
(11) Pass the Salt
(12) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(13) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(14) Fall brings the big walleye out
(15) Hoppertunity Time
(16) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(17) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(18) Early Season Fly Fishing
(19) Walleye Logic
(20) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(21) Grammy’s Fish
(22) Top 10 Trout Lures
(23) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(24) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(25) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(26) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(27) There’s No Place Like Home
(28) A Golden Opportunity
(29) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(30) Un-matching the Hatch
(31) Alberta Super Bugs
(32) Glass is Back
(33) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(34) Speed Kills
(35) Entering the Twilight Zone
(36) Old Man River
(37) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(38) Small stream BT fishing
(39) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(40) In The Walleye Zone
(41) Zoo Trout
(42) Fly Selection for Beginners
(43) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(44) New Waters
(45) Big Bad Burbot
(46) Looking Back
(47) Out of Africa
(48) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(49) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(50) The Browns of Autumn
(51) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(52) Walleye Town
(53) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(54) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(55) Going With The Flow
(56) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(57) Swinging The Fences
(58) A View From The Aerie
(59) Dixieland Delight
(60) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(61) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(62) Montana's Cool Missouri
(63) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(64) Toothy Critters
(65) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(66) Top Ten Flies
(67) Northern Exposure
(68) Home Water Lessons
(69) Chicken Of The Sea
(70) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(71) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(72) Keep It Up!
(73) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(74) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(75) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(76) Hawg Holes
(77) Saltwater Salmon
(78) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(79) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(80) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(81) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(82) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(83) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(84) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(85) Fall Walleye
(86) Wet Flies
(87) Versatility the Key to Success
(88) Grayling of the Boreal
(89) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(90) Size Matters
(91) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(92) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(93) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(94) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(95) The Point Of It All
(96) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(97) Fall Fly Fishing
(98) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(99) Big River, Big Fish
(100) Bottom Bonanza
(101) Fishing Small Flies
(102) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(103) Four Seasons of the Bow
(104) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(105) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(106) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(107) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(108) Edge Walleye
(109) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(110) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(111) Four Corners – Four Waters
(112) Chasing Pothole Trout
(113) Springtime Stoneflies
(114) The Torrents of Spring
(115) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(116) Bust Them With Bait
(117) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(118) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(119) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(120) Terrestrials
(121) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(122) Rocky Mountain High
(123) Reading the clues
(124) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(125) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
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(127) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(128) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(129) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
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(131) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
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(133) Trust Your Electronics
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(135) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(136) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(137) Walleye can be Humbling
(138) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
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(140) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
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(142) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
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(144) Frequently Asked Questions
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(146) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(147) Deep Water Perch
(148) Post Spawn Brookies
(149) A Fisher's Life
(150) The River's Last Stand
(151) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(152) Coho on the Coast
(153) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(154) Summer in the Mountains
(155) Peak Walleye Season
(156) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(157) Last Ice Rainbows
(158) The Burbot Event
(159) Tackle Matching
(160) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(161) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
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(163) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
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(166) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
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