Welcome to Trout Fodder; your guide to Alberta hatches, aquatic entomology, and fly fishing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Boys of Summer

For me, Dragonflies really define the summer season on our local trout lakes. Many adults emerge in late spring to early summer and can survive for up to two months by feeding on all of the other bugs (both aquatic and terrestrial) that emerge throughout the summer. The adults are acrobatic fliers and are fun to watch as the patrol their shoreline territory for prey, potential suitors, or intruders. As long as adult Dragonflies are around you know it's summer.

Here are a few shots from this past summer:

Spiny Baskettail (Epitheca spinigera)

American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)

Variable Darner (Aeshna interrupta) laying eggs in a rotten log

Epitheca spinigera soaking up some summer rays

Shortly after emerging several adults are resting on lakeside foliage.
They will eventually disperse; some flying several kilometers from their birthplace.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

El Dorado - Alberta Style

I know this is old hat for many Alberta fly anglers but I finally made the pilgrimage this summer to catch what is likely the most beautiful trout in the province - Golden Trout. This was something I had thought about doing many times over the years, and after considering that if I didn't go now, I might never go, I was motivated enough to take on the challenge - and I am glad I did.

Rainy Ridge Lake (the calm after the storm)
I always thought that Michelle Lake near Nordegg would be my most likely destination, but the thought of taking the time to backpack into a remote lake only to have other anglers fly in by helicopter did not appeal to my sense of adventure, so I opted for Rainy Ridge Lake in southern Alberta. Little did I know that I would be solo backpacking into the worst weather we would see all summer - mid-July temperatures plunged to just above freezing in the mountains, with sustained winds at 60 kph and gusting to over 90 (the rain and sleet were literally coming in sideways) - nearly impossible to build a fire.  I did enjoy the challenge, but at times I was in near survival mode wearing every stitch of clothing I brought in. Good thing I brought a toque!

A Rainy Ridge Lake Golden Trout
I did manage to catch a few fish between wind gusts at the more sheltered end of the lake, but once the weather cleared (on the last day) everything fell into place. A caddis hatch set things up for some exceptional dry fly action. Overall it was a great 5 day backpacking trip with several dozen gorgeous trout landed - for me, the highlight of 2014.

All the Best to everyone in 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Crafting Cane: Bamboo Fly Rod Builder - Don Andersen

It's been over a year since I attended an introductory course on documentary film making. Part of the homework for this class involved planning a documentary film from concept to the initial shooting phase. At that time, while looking for a suitable subject for my first film, I was lucky enough to connect with local bamboo fly rod builder Don Andersen. Despite the fact that this was my first ever short film production, and not knowing exactly what the final product would look like, Don was gracious enough to allow me to film at will, and granted me full latitude in editing the final production. I can tell you that this took a tremendous amount of trust on Don's part. I owe him many thanks for allowing me into his shop to film, and for his patience as I struggled with the seemingly endless creative process of editing the film.

Here is the final product of many hours of shooting and editing. It is available in 1080p HD through YouTube. I hope this will be the first of many fly fishing based film productions.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Name Game

I had a few responses trickle in via e-mail (troutfodder[at]gmail.com) in response to this photo from a few weeks back:
Ameletus dun shortly after emerging, with nymphal exuvia to the lower left
Most people thought a Parachute Adams would be a good choice to imitate the newly emerged dun. While that fly would certainly be a good match for the slate gray dun, this is a good example of where moving beyond the simple formula of matching color and size has its advantages. Knowing that this hatch is the mayfly genus Ameletus provides the fly angler with an additional piece of information crucial to making the right fly selection.

Rather than emerging mid-stream like many other mayflies, Ameletus emerges by crawling out on stream side rocks - making the dun stage of the hatch unavailable to feeding trout. Dry flies and emergers are not the way to go during an Ameletus hatch.

Ameletus Dun waiting for wings to dry before it flies to stream side vegetation - along with
two nymphs making their way out of the water to emerge
Ameletus nymphs fall into the mayfly swimmer category - they have three tails with interlocking hairs that allow them to swim rather quickly in short bursts. Nymphs of this genus tend to occupy slower moving water, and for that reason many authors discount them as an important food source. But even though they have a propensity for slow water, they still can be found in good numbers in faster freestone streams - they just tend to occupy the margins where the current is slackened. During emergence migrations, as the nymphs dart around, some get themselves into trouble by getting caught in the faster current. A dark brown nymph in size 12 or 14 is just the ticket to imitate these nymphs.

Ameletus nymph crawling onto a stream side rock to emerge
(note the dark wingpads that are characteristic of a mature nymph)
Ameletus have two emergence periods on most waters in Alberta - one early in the spring, and one late in the fall. This puts them on the menu when little else is available. In fact, the only hatch that typically overshadows an Ameletus hatch on the waters I fish is a Baetis hatch. If Ameletus are hatching, and there are no Baetis to be seen, an Ameletus nymph is what I reach for first.

If you look at the nymph in the above picture and compare it to a Pheasant Tail nymph, it is almost a perfect match. Drifting a Pheasant Tail (size 12 in the spring, and size 14 in the fall) will usually connect you with a few fish on those cool slow days. And aggressive line mending makes the fly move in short spurts characteristic of Ameletus attempting to swim to safety.

So, why bother learning the names of the bugs that hatch on your local waters? Quite simply, knowing what genus or species you are dealing with open the door to a wealth of information that greatly narrows down fly selection and tactics. It's all part of the formula of matching the hatch.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Fly Would You Use?

If you encountered this hatch on your favorite trout stream late in the season
what fly would you reach for first?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Season End Game

As the sun sinks low on a late autumn day 
a lone mayfly takes advantage of the warming rays 
to lay a final clutch of eggs
 while the last fish of the season swims for freedom 
and a deep winter lie

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Breaking the Ice

I managed to get out to some brown trout water this past weekend, and even managed to catch a few fish.

The day started out a little on the chilly side (-8C) but given the heavy snow-pack, that was probably a good thing. The frozen crust on top of the two to three foot deep drifts kept me afloat (most of the time). Regardless, when I wasn't stuck up to my waist, I was still sinking more than a few inches with each step – getting around proved to be quite the workout.

The creek was in good shape with about a foot or so of visibility, and with the air temperature edging up to just 6C by the afternoon visibility remained relatively constant. I expect that will change as the temperatures rise and the local runoff builds momentum.

Winter stonefly hatches seem to be a week or two behind schedule this year - Utacapnia trava would normally be winding down by now but they were still coming off quite heavy in the afternoon. Zapada cinctipes were also a part of the mix. I did not see any females returning to the water to lay eggs.

It’s always nice to get out and catch those first fish of the season.