During long winters of fly tying and dreaming of stillwaters and spring trips and hoping beyond hope that the conditions will be perfect to produce fishing memories that will last a lifetime. Well, I just returned home from such a trip. Now, in the dream, everything is perfect, weather, hatches and cooperative fish but in reality the perfection never materializes and this trip was nothing different.
This is not an Alberta trip but seeing as there is no Saskatchewan Stillwaters category, this will have to do. Besides I was just barely out of Alberta by 10 km. I was told that the lake had 33 campsites, all of which sit empty for the most part and on May Long Weekend there were 23 empty sites. This wouldn't be so fantastic if the lake only had mediocre fishing but the stories I heard of 10 lb. rainbows and 6 lb. brookies with no one fishing for them had me intrigued to say the least.
The plan was to leave on Monday and return on Friday but as unpredictable as the weather has been in Western Canada this spring, so were my plans. I ended up not leaving until Tuesday morning, giving Mother Nature a chance to change her attitude and lucky for me she did. From Fox Creek it is 2.5 hrs. to Edmonton and then another 2.5 hrs. to Lloydminster, on the Saskatchewan border, to pick up a license and supplies.
A short one hour trip from Lloydminster and I arrived at the lake. Driving around the campsites, the regional park looked like a ghost town and I selected a site close to the boat launch. there are 15 sites with 15A power and, though I was tenting it, the power would come in handy. Besides the price was $15 per night compared to $10 for nonpower.
Going solo, it takes a lot longer setting up camp and by the time I was set up and had the 10' Spratley all rigged up it was 7 pm and I needed to explore the lake which, coincidentally, is slightly larger than Logan Lake. It doesn't matter where I'm fishing, in the evening it is always the same setup. So I strung up the Cortland Camo Intermediate with a 15' fluorocarbon leader and tied on the very productive Wine Killer to the end of the 7 lb. tippet.
It took about 10 minutes of circumnavigating the lake keeping the fly in 10-12' of water with about 80' of line out when I got the response I was looking for, a tap-tap of the rod tip but I hesitated to respond because I knew that this happens often when fishing leeches and I had a feeling he'd be back and a split second later he was. This time the rod bucked and the line started screaming off the reel. After a short fight brought on by crazy spinning jumps and somersaults causing the tippet to wrap around the vent fin rendering the fish helpless. I netted a 22" x 5 lb. chrome bright rainbow, untangled the tippet, unbuttoned the leech from the upper lip, a quick photo and she was good to go and did so with very little reviving.
Alas, that was to be the only fish I actually landed that night. After releasing the fish I noticed a fair bit of activity at the east end of the lake so I made my way down there to scope things out. I anchored up in 8' of ginclear water and started working the leech. Twice it happened in succession, just as I was picking the line up to recast I felt that old sensation....pump..pump...snap! Lost two of my favourite leeches and that was that. At 9 pm the action died down and being totally bushed from a long day, I hauled my butt off the water and to my tent without even so much as a campfire with hopeful anticipation of what the next day would bring.
Wednesday morning I awoke at 7:30 to a very brisk wind, the kind that would produce 2' swells on Tunkwa but my hope was that being a lake surrounded by tall spruce that there would be at least a little reprieve from the wind and when I walked down to the lake and saw a 6" chop on the water I thought, "I can make this work." Back to camp, a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast and I was on the water by 9 am.
Due to the strong wind coming out of the east, I went to the east end of the lake where I figured the calmest conditions would be met. The Traxxus helped me slip into the shallows undetected and I noticed a few chironomid shucks that indicated size 16 naturals. I anchored up in 8' of water and set the indicator at 6.5'. After 2 hours and a dozen different patterns I hd nothing to show for it so it was just about the time I was going to give up on fishing chironomids that I saw my first clue of what was to be a memorable experience. First of all, let me say, it is sooooo important to be observant when on the water. Looking to my left I saw an adult caddis with his wings at a 45 degree about 15' away from the boat. This told me he had just emerged and was drying his wings for the inaugural flight so I watched and soon enough he was gone. It took another 15 minutes of just watching and waiting and I was rewarded with an emerger beside the boat. I grabbed my net, a Moby Whale, with fine mesh and scooped him up. Turning him upside down I noticed a rusty brown body and released him to flight. Knowing I didn't have any caddis pupa in rusty brown, I took the chironomid off the dry line and tied on......what else......a summer duck coloured pumpkinhead and this would turn out to be the last pattern I tied on for the trip......not the last fly....just the last pattern.
It was now 11 am and still sitting in 8' of water with the indicator at 6.5' still, I started working the P/H and half an hour later was rewarded with a 3 lb. chrome bright doe. It took another half hour for another fish which was just not good enough for me. Relying on the depth sounder, yes it's a Fishing Buddy, albeit as unreliable as it is, I found that there were fish working 80-90' away, by way of the side view function on the sounder so I pulled up the anchors moved 50' into 10' of water. It was now 12:30 when I lowered the anchors into place, set the indicator at 8.5' and commenced working the pumpkinhead. Allowing the fly to sink to it's predetermined depth I gave it two twitches and the indicator was gone, plunging 3' under the surface. After setting the hook a spirited fight commenced and the 5 lb. chrome bright rainbow succumbed to the Moby. After a quick throat pumping revealed one small chironomid I released her to fight another day. The next cast and the same thing happened, two twitches and fish on, this time a 24" x 6 lb. chrome bright doe. The next cast, exact same thing with the exception that I had to retrieve the fly 2'. It was now about 1:30 and I was drawing the attention of the three other boats on the lake, all trolling and all private cabin owners. The smallest of the boats, an 18' ski boat occupied by two gents named Ken and Ron, looked out of place on a lake with a speed limit of 5mph but they were the only ones with an anchor and after grilling me with questions I invited them to anchor beside me. I set them up with flies, the proper depth and technique of retrieve. On the second cast Ron ripped the fly through the top of Ken's ear who went on a rampage of rage berating his buddy and something about lack of skill but after it was all said and done we had a good laugh. Unfortunately their anchor was too small to hold their boat in the wind and soon enough they were off trolling again. The steady action continued all day as the caddis hatch built to a crescendo, not a heavy hatch but an enduring one. By 5:00 they were becoming a nuisance, landing on my glasses,going down my shirt, up my pant leg, you name it. The next fish would prove to be the heartbreaker and I knew it was a cookie cutter 5 lb'er if there is such a thing. When I set the hook, for a split second it felt like I set it into a log. It took a moment in time before it registered in my age induced failing mind, two violent headshakes and the fish was running at the boat. I don't know how I collected all that slack line up but when it went tight he was still hooked. He came to the surface 10' to my right and I had a real good look at a flank that measured close to 30" and he ran.....boy, did he run. Must've been my ugly mug because that 90' of flyline screamed off the reel in about 2 seconds and he was into the backing and not slowing up. He finally stopped running after ripping 80 yds of backing off the reel and then it happened. In an effort to pick up some of the backing onto the large arbour reel I started reeling.....right about the time he decided to go on another run and what I felt was the heartsinking ping! I knew he was gone.
Great great story Johnk!
Thanks guys, appreciate the sentiments. This particular lake has some beautiful rainbows and brookies. I thought for sure that with the big shoulders and small heads that are synonymous with triploids, that is what they had to be but after some quick queries I found out there is no triploid stocking program in Saskatchewan so I was amazed all over again at these diploids.
I hope to get back there early September and possibly October as well. I don't think my mind could withstand a winter of dreaming about this lake without one last visit in 2010.
Fantastic read John! I hope you get back there as well... we all know what it feels like to "loose that one fish" that breaks your heart. Especially the snap offs. Just kills me. Be sure to write up your next visit.
Definitely will. Taking "The Troutbum Trip" at the end of September. Two days fishing, one night sleeping in the truck, diet of campfire "dogs" and whiskey!
Just not enough time for fall fishing. Will be back in BC from Oct. 4-10th splitting time between Williams Lake and Kamloops region. Hopefully getting the chance to show Trout Tramp where the big muleys live around Tunkwa and, oh my gawd, I'll be turning 50 on this trip! No better way to spend it, methinks!
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