Tag Archives: Canada

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Canadian Fall Fishing: Topwater Crappie Action

I’ve come to realize that crappie take top-water flies with incredible enthusiasm. Although not a “classic” fly rod target, their surface-slurping tendencies – especially in the fall – deserve your attention…

13 inch Minnewasta CrappieAlthough the spring crappie bite can be awesome, late summer and early fall can be even better.  At my latitude in southern Manitoba – just north of the U.S. border – this time period typically runs from the last week in August through the first two weeks of September.

When the weather is pleasant and settled, crappie at that time of year turn on like crazy.  I usually fish small, shallow, flatland reservoirs and the fish swarm into the same weedy bays they frequented in the spring.  They are also drawn toward turns and points on rocky shorelines.  The rip-rap along a dam is another magnet.

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The magic really starts to happen an hour or two before sunset.  The crappies often give themselves away as they swirl after baitfish and other critters.  Better yet, they eagerly suck in #8 to #12 streamers attached to a intermediate line and a 3 to 5 weight rod.  A type II line also works well, especially if the water is 5 or 6 feet deep.  Some of my “go-to” patterns are shown in the accompanying photos.

IMG_1369Occasionally, if there are sunfish around, I will use a #12 or #14 nymph.  Both crappie and sunfish will hit a small nymph but I really believe that crappie prefer something a little bit larger.

Wait a second… Didn’t the title of this article say something about top water?  Don’t worry, it’s coming…

As dusk moves in, put away the streamers and tie on a panfish-sized popper or gurgler.  Short, rhythmic strips – and the resulting surface commotion – draw the fish in.

My favorite outfit for presenting poppers and gurglers was inspired by a Sage Bluegill.  A Sage Bluegill is probably a bit heavy for most of the panfish in my area so I’ve taken a crisp action 4 weight that is 7 ½  feet long and matched it up with a 6 weight line and a light reel.  The resulting combo loads great with a short line; it is amazing at hitting little pockets in rip-rap or any other target.  Plus, an 11 inch crappie puts a good bend in it!

IMG_0639A boat or a float tube are great for working fall hot spots but walking along the rip-rap face of a dam is also effective.  Actually, as dusk turns to night – but the fishing is still lit up – walking on shore with a minimum of equipment is perhaps preferable to being in a boat or a tube.

Crappie are a great way to say good-bye to the dog days of summer and say hello to fall!

Caribou Antler

I’ll Trade You This Lund for That ClackaCraft

(And a Canadian beer for one pike Deceiver and three grayling dries…)

My dad was an adventurer – not the adrenaline junkie type – but the type who yearned to see what was around the next bend of the river.  I think that might be a pretty common characteristic of fly fishermen.  Although Dad preferred his casting rod to a fly rod, he certainly had a bad case of “next bend” syndrome  – a condition that forces you out of your car and into your boat and even out of your boat onto your feet.

I don’t think it got worse as he got he got older, just more obvious.   When he maybe should have been out with the local mall-walking group, he was trekking through all kinds of wilderness, fishing rod in hand.

He didn’t care much if he caught a fish; he was mostly interested in seeing a new piece of the planet.  The beauty of it was that I could talk him into going to all kinds of places.  (Peer pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

Caribou AntlerOne August, we flew into Munroe Lake Lodge, just a bit south of the tree line in northern Manitoba.  It was August and the pike were out of the shallow back bays and into the deeper cabbage beds.  If we found some cabbage, we found pike –  solid fish from 6 to 8 pounds. With enough bigger ones to ones to keep the anticipation levels high.

However, lakes at that latitude are not incredibly fertile.  Being unguided, we roamed all over Munroe Lake’s 12 mile length to find cabbage beds.   We saw a lot of beautiful things– sand eskers, shed caribou antlers, stunted black spruce, and cabbage beds, too!  The cabbage bed residents loved to slam our offerings.  But not always…  As pike are prone to do, they would often merely follow.  And then watch, and maybe even grin, as we figure-eighted and frothed the water.

Surprisingly, the most effective flies were on the smaller side.  Bunny leeches, tan Whistlers, and white Deceivers from 4 to 5 inches long were deadly.  An intermediate line seemed to get just the right amount of depth.

As a change of pace, we fished for grayling at the mouths of inlet streams.  None were bigger than 10 inches but they were great fun on dry flies and a 3 weight.

One evening, the lodge owner mentioned that trophy grayling could be found down the outlet at the far end of the lake.  “Just float down through the riffles until you get to the first good pool,” he said.  He had me convinced as soon as he mentioned trophy grayling.  And it didn’t take much to get my Dad on board.  (Remember what I said earlier about peer pressure.)

The next morning, after a long boat ride down the lake, we eased our 16 foot Lund and 20 horsepower motor into the current of Munroe Lake’s riffled outlet. That particular boat and motor combo is typical issue at northern lodges.  A lot of people use boats like that for chasing walleye in Minnesota.  They are not exactly drift boats.

Push!After about ten feet, the prop dug in.  So up went the motor.  After ten more feet, the boat’s hull was stuck on the bottom.  So out we jumped.

We had on chest waders and it was kind of fun – hanging on to the gunwhales, half-walking and half-riding the boat down the river.  We went about 100 yards and then I looked at my Dad, who was 71 years old at the time, and said, “We’re gonna have to DRAG the boat on the way back.  Are you sure we should do this?”

He muttered something about him riding and me dragging and off we went.  We probably covered a half mile of river before we found the spot the lodge owner was talking about.  It was a beautiful deep glide with large boulders on the bottom.  We fished it hard but only managed one sixteen inch grayling.

Our exit from the outlet didn’t involve the same exhilaration as our arrival.  It was hard, exhausting work.  Instead of riding on the gunwhale, I grabbed it and pulled.  Dad was at the back of the boat and, despite his earlier threats, pushing like crazy.

It took us over an hour to get back up the outlet and onto the lake.  We were panting and sweating and beat.  Our excursion had netted us only fish.  Was it worth it?

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Totally!!!