Category Archives: Destination Travel

More Great Reasons to Fish Andros South

I have had the opportunity to fish with the guides from Andros South Lodge for the past three years and I cannot wait to keep going back. One thing that keeps me dreaming of returning is the world class fly fishing opportunities. I would argue that the flats around South Andros are the crown jewel of Bahamian bonefishing. This is the perfect place for all different types of anglers from rookies to salty vets due to all the different situations and types of fishing one may experience with the Deneki guides.

10445464_10154205621045142_7092529999058456473_nYou can expect to see all sorts of fish throughout the fishing grounds near the lodge. From shots at single and pairs of bonefish to schools of ten to twenty or even hundreds at certain places one thing is for sure: You are bound to get casts at happy bonefish. If the bonefishing ever gets boring (which it won’t), make sure you have a 10 weight or spinning rod on hand in order to throw to some rather angry barracuda or Jacks. No matter how you slice it the fishing on the island is spectacular. Don’t fret over missed shots… You will get plenty.
10013701_10153860546745142_1810028254_n
I hold this place with such reverence because this is where I tasted my first success as a saltwater fly fisherman. The staff and guides will do all they can in order to make your stay and angling the ultimate adventure. However don’t just take my word for it. Pack up an 8 weight, some mantis shrimp and gotchas and check it out for yourself.

We want to invite you to experience this amazing place with us in Spring 2016!

Best regards,

JC Weeks
Fishwest, Webteam Lead

 

Why We Love the Andros South Lodge

ANDROS3There is a reason that we (Fishwest) go back to Andros South Lodge every year…everything about it is incredible. As a fly shop trying to provide a superior international destination fly fishing travel trip to our guests at a reasonable price, this place cannot be beat. At Andros South Lodge, you don’t need to remember that your salad fork is on the left, but never worry that the accommodations are sub par. Your every need is taken care of and you will never be hungry or thirsty. If you ever need anything, just ask.

andros4

Not to mention the guides; they are outstanding. There is an eight man guide rotation and there IS NOT a bad draw. From Freddie the singer to Josie the hunter to Torrie the entertainer (I could go on and on), every guide is unique, but the one thing they all have in common is that they KNOW bonefish. South Andros Island is home to some of the biggest bonefish in the world and these guys will give you the best chance to catch one.Andros1

Andros South Lodge is a special place and I hope to return there many, many more times. We want to invite you to experience this amazing place with us in Spring 2016.

Best regards,

Dustin Carlson
Fishwest, Founder

ANDROS2

Forgotten Florida – A Fly Fishing Adventure

If northwest Florida isn’t forgotten by many fly fishers, you could make a strong argument that it is certainly overlooked…

The Everglades, the Keys, Mosquito Lagoon… These places always seem to come up in any Florida fishing discussion.  Jacksonville and St. Augustine rarely get mentioned.  Nevertheless, at the end of March, I experienced the flyfishing these northwest Forida locations have to offer.  It was definitely well worth the visit.

IMG_0181I must admit that the primary purpose of the trip wasn’t fishing – it was a vacation with my eighteen year-old daughter, Kerri.  She heard about the great beach and historic sites in St. Augustine and suggested it as a possible destination.  Naturally, the first thing I did was Google the fishing possibilities.  Eureka!  Bingo!  There were definitely redfish to be caught and saltwater marshes to be explored.

We actually stayed in St. Augustine Beach, which is just outside of St. Augustine proper and about an hour south of Jacksonville.  There are lots of reasonably-priced beach side restaurants and reasonably-priced beach side accommodations. It’s nice because in so places today, the words “reasonably-priced” and “beach side” just don’t seem to go together.  Nevertheless, the beach is gorgeous and it stretches for miles.

We got up early on our first morning and made the 1 hour drive to Jacksonville.  Jacksonville doesn’t conjure up wilderness images like the Everglades, but its satellite view on Google maps reveals a lot of uninhabited coastal backcountry.  We met our guide, Rich Santos, on the edge of the Timucuan Nature Preserve, which is actually within city limits.  A front had moved through a couple days before and it was downright cold – even through several layers – as his skiff sped us up a creek into the saltwater marsh.

IMG_0174He stopped at a little hole just downstream of a bridge.  My daughter was rigged up with a spinning rod and a jig.  Rich had me using a floating line with a 15 foot intermediate tip.  He tied on a black over white Clouser with a good amount of gold flash and big red eyes.  It was the first Clouser I’d ever seen with a spiky hairdo, since the deer hair butts just behind the hook eye were left sticking up. Instead of the typical slender profile, the fly took on the more tubular shape of a mullet.  The idea was to cast upstream and scratch the fly along the bottom back to the boat.

Given the post-front temperatures and bright skies, I truthfully wasn’t expecting much.  Nevertheless, within an hour, both Kerri and I had connected with a couple of redfish and a couple of seatrout.   One trout measured 15 inches; the reds were about 18 inches each.  The remaining trout was pushing gator status and stretched out to 21 inches.  All of them hit hard and fought strong and deep.   I was actually surprised at how hard the big trout pulled.  I didn’t think they were noted for their fighting ability but this one pulled off a fair bit of line against the drag.

IMG_0168As the action slowed, Rich had the skiff nosing up the creek, deeper into the marsh.  Beyond the creek, there were expanses of marsh grass.  Beyond the vast expanses of marsh grass, there were big beautiful trees.  Jacksonville had seemingly vanished behind us.  Our next stop was where the creek widened out into a shallow flat about the size of football field.  The wind was really starting to pick up and the water was quite discoloured; nevertheless, Rich hoped we might see some reds pushing water.  He had me change my line to a full floater.

There were definitely a school or two of redfish working that flat.  Every 10 minutes or so, they’d create a good bow wave and show themselves. If a school of bonefish makes nervous water, a school of redfish makes terrified water! The water surface doesn’t merely dance around a little bit, it looks like a motorboat wake. Sometimes, I got off an intercepting cast and sometimes we just watched them in the distance.  My daughter even threw a live shrimp at them but none wanted to eat at all.

Eventually, Rich piloted the skiff down the creek and we tried another couple flats.  The word creek is a bit deceiving because it was more like a maze of channels surrounded by marsh grass.  We also worked a couple of juicy looking outside bends. No matter where we stopped, fish activity had apparently ceased and desisted.  With whitecaps starting to form on the bigger flats, we called it a day.  Although not stellar, it had definitely been fun.

IMG_0294The next day saw us poking around the historic sites of St. Augustine.  The temperatures were starting to climb and even though St. Augustine has the charm of old world Europe, all I could think about was redfish getting active in skinny water.

The next morning was pleasantly warm and I woke up early.  Kerri, as teenagers are prone to do, was going to sleep in and hit the beach.  I met guide Tommy Derringer at a local marina for a half day fishing. We started with his skiff idling through the picturesque St. Augustine harbor past sailboats and sportfishers.   Soon, he opened the throttle and we roared north down the Intracoastal Waterway, leaving civilization behind us.  Once more, there was nothing to see but marsh grass, the odd boat, and big trees.

IMG_0198 After a 20 minute run, he eased the boat onto a flat covered with clumps of marsh grass.  He took the poling platform and I was on the bow.  The water was still discolored but Tommy was quite sure we’d see some tails.  Eventually, Tommy poled us up a narrow creek that fed the flat as the tide fell.  It reminded me of a Montana spring creek.  There were slight riffles on the surface and banks of marsh grass instead of pasture.  On Tommy’s advice, I cast my fly upstream and let it drift down through some of the more prominent riffles.

“There’s an oyster bar up ahead,” said Tommy.  “There’s always a fish or two on top of it.  Right where the creek widens.”  When we got to the broad spot  – it was like a big pool – Tommy staked out the boat.  I could see the oyster bar underneath about 6 inches of water about 50 feet away on the far side of the pool.  And I could see 3 or 4 redfish patrolling the bar.  They were a good size – maybe 6 pounds or so.  Unfortunately, the geometry of the situation forced me to throw backhanded.  And the wind from a couple days ago was still persisting slightly. So my casting wasn’t up to snuff and I didn’t draw any interest.

IMG_0314I only had about 3 shots before it was time to go.  The water was draining out of the creek pretty quickly and we didn’t want to be stranded. The rest of the day saw us poling along oyster bars that lined the Intracoastal Waterway and also plumbing the deep water rocks along the inlet to the St. Augustine harbor. Other than a very small, very enthusiastic bluefish, my daydreams from the day before didn’t come to fruition.  Nevertheless, the sight of those redfish picking their way across the oyster bar made the day worthwhile.

Before I said good-bye to Tommy, he pointed out a couple of nearby opportunities for some DIY wading.  He said if he wanted to get me into a fish somehow, if not in person.  I appreciate that kind of enthusiasm in a guide and promised to give it a shot.

The next day was a non-fishing day.  Kerri and I drove out to Okefenokee Swamp for some guided kayaking.  It was spectacular.  We got some close-up views of alligators – sometimes maybe even too close-up – and watched the sunset from the heart of the swamp.  It made for a late night.

IMG_0253The late night was OK by me since Kerri was looking to sleep in again the next day.  I made a beeline for a spot Tommy told me about.  It was almost like a roadside version of where the redfish were on the oyster bar.  There was lots of marsh grass and even a little creek flowing through it.  Regardless, I did connect with a redfish – only about 15 inches long – but, for some reason, very satisfying…  And just in time to meet Kerri for an afternoon at the local outlet mall.

There are definitely some good flyfishing opportunities in northwest Florida.  It might not be the place for a hard-core fishing trip, but if you are looking to combine fly fishing with a family vacation, it really fits the bill.

Hola, Señor Bass

I live in the Canadian province of Manitoba, a land blessed with hundreds of thousands of lakes.  However, in the whole province, there is only one lake with a reasonably catchable population of largemouth bass.  It’s certainly not a huge population and – judging by my catches – it’s a selective one.   I actually think the bass in that lake are not far removed from steelhead or musky – fish of a thousand casts each.   Being only forty minutes from my house, I paid the lake six visits last summer and caught a total of two bass.

Enter Lake El Salto, a bass factory (Dare I say a big bass factory?) just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico.  High numbers of bass and higher daily temperatures lured myself and my partner Deb there over the Christmas holidays.

Below is a brief look at the trip…

IMG_0091THE LAKE.  El Salto is a reservoir about 2 hours from Mazatlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  It was created in the 80’s and stocked with Florida strain largemouth.  Hordes of tilapia help keep the bass fat and happy.  With scattered mats of floating hyacinth against a backdrop of forested peaks, El Salto is also a gem to look at.  Adding to its visual appeal are an amazing number of herons, egrets, and coots.

THE LODGING. We stayed at the Angler’s Inn, right on the lakeshore.  A lodge van picked us up at the Mazatlan airport and dropped us off at a Mazatlan resort three days later.  The room was very comfortable and the food was outstanding. To make sure we made it through to supper, as soon as we got in from evening fishing, an appetizer and a drink were pressed into our hands.  All drinks and food were included.  Filet mignon and barbecued ribs are examples of items on the dinner menu.

IMG_0157
THE FISHING.  The fishing day was split.  The boat left shortly before sunrise at 6 AM and returned to the lodge for lunch around 11 AM.   A hearty meal and the accompanying margaritas induced a short siesta, then it was back on the water from 2 PM until dusk at 6 PM.

Dawn and dusk saw me working poppers around very bassy-looking cover.  When the sun was higher, I threw a Gummy Minnow to the same types of spots.  Weedguards were helpful in retrieving less than perfect casts.  Occasionally, I used a fast-sinking line to probe deeper water.

THE BOAT AND GUIDE.   The boat was a fast and stable Bass Tracker with fore and aft seats for fishing.  The lodge supplied a stripping tub; with the forward seat removed and the stripping tub in its place, the bow casting deck became very fly fisher friendly.  There were two comfortable seats amidships for high speed runs between spots.

IMG_0077Juan, our guide, had been working at the lake for twelve years.  El Salto has many arms, coves, and islands; he ranged all over the lake and showed us a lot of good-looking water.  Jaun was also an expert at using the electric trolling motor to keep the boat in perfect casting position.

Although Jaun generally guided folks with conventional gear, he was certainly comfortable with a long rod on board.  He was adept at recommending flies, lines, and leaders.  And he also understood the need for backcast room.

THE WEATHER.  Keep in mind this was the end of December…. At dawn, the temperature would be in the 50’s or 60’s, which made for some chilly boat rides even while wearing a fleece and a shell.  During the day, it would climb into the 70’s or 80’s and even a lightweight shirt felt downright hot.  Nevertheless, having just escaped a Canadian winter, it was a good kind of heat.   At dusk, as the fishing day ended, the temperature would get comfortably cool once more.  There was never even a hint of rain.

IMG_0139THE CATCH.   I fished three morning sessions and two afternoon sessions and caught about 15 bass.  They ranged in size from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds.  I used fly tackle exclusively and also caught a portly tilapia on a popper.  Deb fished only two afternoons and used spinning tackle; her numbers were about the same as mine but her fish were larger, boating a couple of three or four pounders.

Overall, the fishing was spotty at best but good enough to keep us anticipating the next cast.  Most other boats at the lodge had similar results, although a couple parties had sessions where they caught tons of fish, including a 6 and 7 pounder.  I think the weather was actually too good and the clear blue skies put the bass in a negative mood.  As well, high lake levels gave them more water to melt into.

IMG_0085MISCELLANEOUS. The rainy season is from July to October and Lake El Salto fills up.  During the remainder of the year, the lake is drawn down.  The boats can often be docked a half mile from the lodge when the lake is low.  Juan said that low lake levels concentrate the fish and improve fishing.  He considered May and June to be his favorite months and said the bass spawned in March.

Optimistically, I took a lot of BIG flies and brought along a 9 weight rod. Given the size of the fish caught and flies used, anything from a 6 to an 8 would not be out of place.  I used a Sage Largemouth for top water work and it excelled at this.

IMG_0135OTHER ACTIVITIES.  Although Lake El Salto is just about the fishing, nearby Mazatlan has great resorts, a picturesque old town, and all kinds of non-angling activities.

WOULD I GO BACK?   Yes!!!  I definitely think it deserves another shot.  Or perhaps Lake Picachos – a nearby lake that Angler’s Inn recently built a lodge on.

 

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

Diary of a Baby Tarpon Addict

I’ve been to a fair number of baby tarpon spots but I finally got a chance to spend three July days chasing them in Campeche, Mexico.  Here’s a sample…

5:35 AM:  The hotel van driver drops me off at the pier in total darkness.  I’m a little worried ‘cause the parking lot is completely empty.  Where is the guide’s vehicle?IMG_0018

5:43 AM:  Ah-ha!  The drone of an outboard answers my question and the guide pulls up in his panga.

5:55 AM: We’re driving through complete blackness at what seems like full throttle.  The only immediate illumination is the guide’s flashlight.  It is my second day fishing and the guide is taking me to the very edge of the usual fishing grounds.

6:09 AM:  The sun begins to peek over the horizon.  With a bit of light, the boat speeds up.  I’m quite relieved that we weren’t going as fast as possible through the dark.

6:50 AM:  The guide pulls up to where a creek pours into the mangrove shoreline.  The channel is about five feet wide.  With the first day jitters behind me, I get a fly tied on and my first cast off reasonably quickly.IMG_0027

6:54 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the left into the mangroves.   And it’s gone…

6:57 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the right into the mangroves.  And it’s gone…

7:01 AM:  Fish on!  This one  remains cooperatively in the middle of the creek and I land about a 3 pound snook.  I’m pumped!  It’s only the second snook I’ve ever caught.IMG_0046

8:21 AM:  I haven’t seen anything since the snook.  But my casting is dialed in.  I’m actually feeling rather smug.  I haven’t snagged a mangrove in at least half an hour.  I’m dropping my fly in every juicy little pocket that presents itself as we pole down the shoreline.

8:22 AM:  The guide calls out, “Tarpon!  By mangroves! 11 o’clock!”  I see a couple dark shapes in the clear water.   Naturally, my casting ability instantly implodes and the fly ends up in the mangroves about 4 feet above the tarpon. The tarpon simply melt away.

9:15 AM:  A small barracuda grabs my fly.  Luckily he doesn’t bite me off and I unceremoniously strip him in.  When he is ten feet from the boat a gang of three tarpon show up.  They are large for babies – about 20 pounds each – and look like they have mayhem on their minds.  At least as far as the barracuda is concerned…IMG_0050 2

9:20 AM:   The barracuda is unhooked and back in the water.  Somehow, the tarpon don’t notice as it darts away.   They are circling about 30 feet from the boat and they still look like a bunch of thugs.

9:30 AM:  Evidently, the tarpon are shrewd thugs.  They ignore two or three different flies and drift into the mangroves. IMG_0108

10:45 AM: The guide poles us by a large tree that has toppled into the water, extending well beyond the mangrove shoreline.  I crawl a Seaducer along the length of the tree.  Blow up!   A tarpon clears the water three or four times.  He is still hooked; I’m hopeful that this could be my first tarpon to the boat.

10:50 AM:  Yes! It makes it to the boat for a picture and a release.IMG_0045

11:45 AM:  After eating lunch further down the shoreline, we return to the fallen tree.  It’s a good call on the guide’s part because another tarpon inhales the Seaducer and comes to the boat.  But not quietly, of course – thrashing and churning all the way.

1:05 PM:  We’re on a large flat covered in turtle grass.  Every few minutes or so a tarpon comes within range.  It’s like this for about an hour and a half.  These tarpon are pretty cagey and I get mostly refusals.  Nevertheless, three or four end up leaping skward with my fly in their mouth.  But – sigh – all but one fall back down to the water with the fly indignantly tossed aside.  I have to admit I’m used to that.

2:35 PM:  We start the run back to Campeche.

4:00 PM:  I’m in the neighbourhood bar, enjoying a superb Margarita.  Life doesn’t get any better ‘cause I’ve got one more day of fishing left….

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Here’s a few notes about Campeche and the fishing…

Campeche is a great place to take a partner who doesn’t want to spend everyday in the boat.  It is an amazing city with stunning and historical architecture.  There are lots of comfortable hotels and good restaurants. IMG_0021

An 8 weight rod with a floating 9 weight line was perfect for Campeche’s baby tarpon.  I found a leader that was 11 or 12 feet long led to more grabs than the standard 9 footer.  Puglisi patterns, Seaducers, and Mayan Warriors a little better than 3 inches long worked well.   There was a lot of blind casting but a fair bit of sight fishing to both rolling and cruising tarpon.

The tarpon were generally between 5 and 10 pounds.  They were plentiful and grabby.  I never seemed to have to wait very long for my next shot.  Most baby tarpon locations seem to suffer a definite slow down during the heat of the day but the action in Campeche stayed reasonably consistent.  On an average day, I would get at least 10 or 15 strikes.  For the sake of brevity, I left out a few grabs in my diary above.

The diary also left out a couple noteworthy spots that were fished on another day…  Quite close to Campeche, there are some beautiful mangrove islands that seemed to hold rolling tarpon all day.  There are also hidden lagoons tucked into the mangrove shoreline where I literally watched schools of baby tarpon swim laps.  Although my partner never caught a fish, she fished those spots with me and had a great time just soaking up the scenery.

2014-08-17 12.11.05

Although he didn’t speak much English, the guide was great.  As well, he had a good panga with a casting platform.   My outfitter for the trip was Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures; they also have operations at Isla del Sabalo and Tarpon Cay Lodge.

**Editors Note: Fishwest hosts a yearly trip down to Campeche Mexico with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Spots on our 2015 trip are still available however they are going fast. For further details please contact us at support@fishwest.com or visit the “Destination Travel” page of Fishwest HERE** -JC

 

 

 

Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

“Amping” your way to fish

Car camping is when you throw your gear into the car and hit the road.  Canoe camping is when you throw your gear into a canoe and hit the water.  How about when you throw your gear into a modern jetliner and hit the sky?  I’d call that air camping, or amping, for short.

IMG_1064I have to admit that I like to indulge in a comfy lodge every now and again.  Motels are also awfully convenient.  But camping has advantages.  It gets you right into the middle of some beautiful country, or maybe even right on the bank of a trout-filled river.  It practically eliminates lodging expenses and you can fish as early or as late as you want.

However, if you only have a week for a vacation, you probably don’t want to spend multiple days transporting your tent by car.  This is where amping shines.  Watch your supplies roll down the luggage conveyor belt and you won’t be looking at Internet images of fly fishing paradise that evening…  You’ll be actually be there instead.

Packing all your camping and fishing gear into airline-friendly packages is much less daunting that it seems.  Assuming you travel with a partner, it can be done if each person has a couple of large duffle bags.  Two checked bags per person is a fairly universal maximum for modern air travel.   Make sure they don’t exceed the airline’s size limits!  Backpacks also work but duffles accommodate bulky items with greater ease. Load two of the duffles with personal clothing and fishing stuff; let the others swallow the actual camping gear.

IMG_0656Besides clothing and personal items, here’s a list of what my girlfriend and I took the last time we did this:

  • Sleeping bags, full size pillows, and an inflatable air mattress with a foot pump.
  • An 8 X 8 nylon tent with a full fly and a ground sheet.
  • A single burner Coleman propane stove –minus the propane canister – and an electric lantern.
  • A large frying pan, a medium pot, a minimum of cooking utensils, and a small pail for carrying water.
  • A minimum of eating utensils and glasses or mugs.
  • Waders, wading boots, 2 fly rods and reels each, and one small chest pack with flies and terminal tackle.

I wouldn’t say that this is travelling light.  Notice the two full size pillows!  Although very compressible, a lot of people might do away with them. Some might also swap out the large tent for a lightweight backpacker’s model. Opting for a tiny backpacker’s stove is another way to save space.  (And maybe make room for a fully stocked vest instead of a little chest pack?) Some unlisted miscellaneous items – like a favorite travel mug – are nicely transported in a carry-on bag.   There are probably dozens of ways to compact this list.  Be sure to weigh each bag in advance to avoid surpassing weight restrictions.

Obviously, there are essential items – like food – not on the list.  To remedy this, pick up a rental car and go shopping as soon the plane lands.  Besides groceries, a cheap styrofoam cooler is a smart purchase.  Don’t forget to buy a propane canister for the stove.  Bear spray might also be a good idea, depending on your destination.  Whether bear spray or propane, airlines don’t like the idea of pressurized containers on board their planes…  And rightly so!  Empty boxes from the grocery store will make storing and organizing all the supplies inside the rental car much easier for the duration of the trip. The cooler, propane, and bear spray can often be given away before returning home.

IMG_0937We have managed to see – and fish! – some interesting parts of the continent on “amping” trips.  New Mexico, for example, has some amazing small stream fishing.  We camped on the banks of the Cimarron River, a tailwater that drains Eaglenest lake.  Most tailwaters are broad, flat rivers but the Cimarron is small, intimate, and delightfully varied.  It runs through both forest and meadow.  There are riffles, rocky runs, deep bends, and logjams.  And did I mention trout?  Both wild browns and stocked rainbows.

IMG_0950I’ve always believed that fishing quality is directly proportional to distance from an access point.  The Cimarron really challenged that idea…  One morning a chap fished the riffle right beside our campsite – something I had never even considered – and landed three wild browns on a hopper imitation.

On the same trip, we also visited the lower reaches of the Rio Hondo close to where this rocky little stream joins the Rio Grande at the bottom of the Rio Grande gorge.  Needless to say, it was an interesting descent in the car.  The stream chattered over rocks and ledges; most of its water was far too thin for trout. Nevertheless, some determined hiking led to a few good pools and very willing fish.

IMG_0935Another amping trip led us to Olympic National Park in Washington.  We pitched our tent amongst huge cedar’s and hanging moss, a stone’s throw from a gorgeous (but foggy!) beach.  It was like being on location for The Lord of the Rings.

To be honest, we didn’t have the patience to try for any Pacific Northwest summer steelhead.  Instead, we dropped in on the Queets River for sea run cutthroats.  Reading about sea run cuts told us they liked deep, snaggy, slow water.  Nevertheless, we couldn’t resist fishing the riffles and bouldered runs of the Queets.  The action was fantastic but the fish topped out at a disappointing 6 inches.  They were all rainbows without a cutthroat in the bunch.  I guess that bodes well for steelheaders in the next few years.

IMG_0888Eventually, we did find some deep water near fallen tree.  Voila!  We also found a few willing sea run cutthroat.  They were heavily spotted and covered with a silver sheen, almost devoid of color except the telltale throat slashes.

Throwing all your camping gear on a plane is an economically excellent way to explore some of those far-off waters you may be dreaming about…

Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.

Canadian High Mountain Lakes (Gorgeous views guaranteed! Epic fishing a possibility…)

I am not a dedicated fisher of alpine stillwaters.  I have never planned a fishing trip where these destinations were the main focus.  On the other hand, I am an enthusiastic hiker who is always on the lookout for spectacular scenery. Not surprisingly, some of the most scenic trails wind up on the shore of a high mountain lake. And I am dedicated enough to tote along my fly rod

I have to admit that the fishing on these expeditions has been largely hit and miss, with much more emphasis on the “miss” portion.  Many mountain lakes –  because of short growing seasons, limited forage, winterkill, and a lack of spawning habitat – do not support large trout populations.  Other mountain lakes have a decent trout population, but while I’m fishing, which is usually close to noon in the middle of summer, the trout are hunkered down and uninterested.

Nevertheless, if there is a lake at the end of the trail, I am going to toss a few casts.  Occasionally, it pays off, like this past summer…

My girlfriend Deb and I were in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.  We decided to hike the Alderson-Carthew Lakes trail; the word from the Visitor Info Center was that the views were stunning and the fishing was off the charts.  We set off at 9 AM, carrying day packs loaded with rain jackets, lunch, and fishing gear.

1For the first six miles of trail, the only scenery was the forest pushing in on either side of us. It was an uphill trudge through swarms of horse flies.  When the sign for Alderson Lake came into view, we were ready to stop.  About the same time, a hiker from the opposite direction told us that the trout in Carthew Lake –3 more miles up the trail – were going crazy.  So we decided to keep going.

At this point the trail started to climb into a truly amazing alpine environment. We were soon looking down at Alderson Lake and up toward the peaks that hid Carthew Lake:

2In another hour, we were at Carthew Lake.  It was how you would hope all mountain lakes would look, especially after hiking 9 miles to get there.  Better yet, there were trout rising sporadically.  The sun was high in the sky but the lake was cold enough that the trout – and whatever they were eating – welcomed the warmth.  I threw a small Adams beyond the sun-drenched shallows to the darker, deeper water.  It was engulfed immediately.

3

And so it went.  Every cast to the edge of the deep water brought an instant fish.  They were native, colorful cutthroats.  Most of them were eight  to ten inches long and a couple stretched out to twelve.  I was pleasantly surprised by the size; to be honest I was expecting hordes of stunted six inchers.

Casts that fell on the shallow, clear water were even more entertaining. Although a fly that landed on the shoreline shoal was never gobbled instantly, a cruising trout would notice it within a minute.  Then I would have the pleasure of watching the entire take.

4

The trout were just as active subsurface. Deb was using a spinning rod and a tiny spoon.  At any given time, she had a fish on and two or three others chasing it.

The fishing certainly wasn’t challenging, but it sure was fun.  After about an hour, we started to make our way back down the trail.   The scenery was just as gorgeous on the way back.

5

Post-Script….

A couple weeks later, we were further north in Alberta, on the road between Banff and Jasper National Parks.  We hiked into Helen Lake, a tiny tarn sitting amongst the usual array of peaks and meadows.  We left the fishing gear in the car, figuring that the lake was so tiny and so high that its fish population would be zero.  Wrong!

6

From the shoreline we could see dozens of cutthroat finning through the shallows and rising with semi-regularity.  It would have been a sight-fishing dream.  The moral of the story:  Always hike with fishing gear!