A recurring theme in this blog will be what a lucky guy I am. From the family I was born into, to the wife(!) I lucked in to, my kids(!), friends, job, places I’ve lived, you name it. My life has been a pretty charmed thing. If I don’t say it enough, I certainly recognize it.
One of my luckiest days from a fishing perspective was “discovering” the water in this post about 6 or 7 years ago with my friend Jared. Basically we were just looking at maps for remote places to go and found this river. The fact that we could find no information about it anywhere with the exception of one fly shop owner really peaked our interest. So we went there on a total scouting trip the first time. It took us a couple of trips to really figure it out, but it has since become my favorite place anywhere. There are fishermen reading this thinking “if it is so special, why write about it?” Well, you will never see me reference where this actually is, and I only take people I trust completely. And I take a few other measures described below. “But what about the pictures?” some will ask. If you can identify the location from a picture, that means you’ve been there. If you’ve been there, that means you already know how special it is. So I’m not exactly providing new information to you, or anyone else. So with that minor disclaimer out of the way…..
I make a multi day trip somewhere in BC or Alberta every year in the first or second week following labor day. The number of fisherman in September drops dramatically with the corresponding rise in the number of hunters. The fish we target on this trip, Westslope Cutthroat Trout know that winter is coming, and really start feeding hard to store up for winter. So this means lots of willing fish with few fishermen trying for them, making for some fantastic fall fishing. Add to that a very remote and hard to get to river system and you have the makings of a FTOAL(N) (Fishing trip of a lifetime (North)). None of my family from Texas could make it this year, so we had a cast of Albertans, BCers, Newfies, and a couple of American-Canadians, my son and I. There are however, some steps to go through before I allow someone on this trip.
Step 1: Sign binding non-disclosure agreement. Penalties for breaking the agreement are:
a. Forfeiture of all fly fishing equipment, including but not limited to all fly rods, reels, lines, and flies
b. Must also disclose all of your secret fishing spots via social media or fly fishing website
Step 2: After the trip, you must allow yourself to be subjected to this:
So Steve, Clarence, Chris, Mark, Todd, Darrin and Randy: If you are reading this, you were there, trust me. I have photo evidence to prove it. You had the best time of your life on the XX river!
I finish packing my trailer (see previous blog post) and leave the south of Calgary at just after 5 am. 2 stops for gas, 1 stop at Tim Hortons, 1 stop to fill up trailer with water later and 5 hours after leaving homeI meet my friend Steve and his brother Clarence at the start of the road to the camp spot, about 50 KM in on a gravel road, with both of us hauling trailers (Steve with just a gear trailer). This is an active haul log road, so we got to pull over for big log trucks a couple of times, you just hope you don’t come up against them on one of these sections:
There is also always some stress involved in whether you will find a camp spot. As I said, this is an active hunting area, so no guarantee that the place you have in mind will be available, and this time someone was in my favorite spot. Fortunately we found something just downstream big enough for the group and set up camp. (And for some reason never took a picture of the camp, or of the total group. Lots of fish pictures though, as you will see….). About an hour after we arrived, my friend Chris, his brother Mark and buddy Todd show up (late as always). Since I’m already all set up, I start pacing around waiting for them to get their camp set up so we can go fish. They didn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry while my mind is screaming “Hurry the #@$& up!!:” Mark and Todd decide to fish right around camp as Todd had never fly fished before and wanted some camping instruction. So Chris, Steve, Clarence and myself head out for my little slice of paradise.
This river can be pretty finicky sometimes, so you are never quite sure if the fish will be cooperating. Well, the whooping and hollering on our radios (I bought radios so that if anyone got lost or something happened we would have a way to communicate as we were generally fishing in 3 groups. I should have known that in actuality they would become bragging and heckling devices. And probably some mis-direction in fly choices!) let Chis and I know right away that Steve and Clarence found the river to their liking. The fishing was solid for Chris and I as well, but not really spectacular (as it turned out, the section we fished was the only section anyone fished the entire trip that wasn’t very productive. Here are a few of shots from Day 1:
It was nice sniping a fish from Chris for a change as he always snipes fish from me! On the way out, Chris and I are walking in this meadow up towards the road to my truck when I hear “BEAR!!” and I stop dead in my tracks and scan for the bruin. Then I hear “….. necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worry and your strife.” I start walking, don’t look at Chris and say “asshole”. “You stopped dead in your tracks. That was awesome” he said. I wonder why I would think there are bears around…
Back at camp we do what we do every night. Drink beer, cook way too much food, and tell stories. Chris started things off with a bang, literally, when he shoots off a bear banger just to get everyone’s attention. If you’ve never heard one, once you set it off it takes off like a little rocket making a high pitched squeal. Tumbles for 30 or 40 meters then blows up like a gun blast. Remember the radios? They are on sitting on our bench and we immediately here two groups talking to each other asking where the gunshot came from. “I’m not sure, we are looking…” They never found us.
One memorable story from the night was about attack turkeys. Seems that Todd works at a golf course and there was a wild turkey on the course near a t-box. Todd is taking pictures and the turkey is walking at him “aggressively.” Well, the turkey does whatever a turkey charge is and Todd runs off. I say to him: “A couple of years ago, my wife pulled a muscle while bowling. I told her that she could never tell anyone she hurt herself bowling as she would be held up for ridicule. I would say the same thing holds for turkey attacks. Now, turkeys could be the meanest birds in existence. But you can’t tell anyone that you were attacked by one, they will just laugh at you.” And we did. We asked him if the waddle flares up, or if they fanned out their feathers in a menacing manner. Said you could bring a turkey sandwich with you and just shake it at the next one who charged claiming “I got your momma right here bitch!” Or get a turkey banger we advized. They go “gooble gooble gooble when you shoot them. Horrufying. We did warn each other about turkey scat on the radios the next few days however. Jyst to be safe. We may produce a documentary entitled “Turkeys, The Honey Badgers of the Poultry World”. Apparently turkey don’t take no shit of anybody.
Here is a video When Turkeys Attack
And a story: I can’t make this shit up
We stayed up to about midnight drinking beer, telling stories, and looking at stars and the milky way. Or I stayed up to about midnight. Others made it longer.
I had to wake up a bit early to drive out to send a text (no coverage in the back country!) to the folks coming that evening and the next day about the change in camp location. The round trip takes an hour and a half or so. I did get honked at when I passed some tool that wouldn’t let me go by on the gravel road. Seriously people, pick up the damn pace. Gravel ain’t that hard. And if you are slow, let people pass. Don’t make someone follow you for 50 Km just because you can. Same type of people that slow down loading their cars at costco when they know you are waiting for the parking spot. Asshats in other words.
Anyway, got that off my chest.
I get back and we pack up and go for day 2. Chris, Mark and Todd go to the same area that Steve and Clarence cleaned up on the day before and Steve, Clarence and I went to one of my favorite areas. Todd catches both his first fish on a fly rod and his first dry fly fish when he pulls to pigs out of some deadfall. Steve, Clarence and I end up fishing apart. Now, I truly enjoy fishing with friends. But I gotta say that getting a day on your own on water you love if a pretty special thing. The fish totally cooperated as well. I’m hearing chatter from both groups about how great it is and they are hearing me saying variations of “best day ever.” I’m not sure how many I caught, but I do know that I’ve never had a day with that many big cutts previous to that. It was glorious. I find it almost impossible to take pictures when I’m fishing solo, so I don’t have anything from day 2.
Nothing much happened in camp that night. More beer. More food. I did run over one of the fire pits we were not using when I was hooking up my truck to the trailer to charge my batteries (solar doesn’t work that great when you never see the sun, which we didn’t after day 1). Chris was guiding me in as I ran it over. I rolled down the window and said “no one could have warned me?” “You mean like yelling and waving my arms?” “That would have helped” I replied. “Yeah, we were all doing that.” I had nothing to say to that. Just after that, my buddy Randy and son Ben arrived. And Randy ran over the same fire pit. He’s a dumbass, how could you miss a firepit?
More beer, food, stories, and some star watching (it did clear up a bit that night, last time that happened).
Day 3 and Day 4 were pretty much the same. We changed locations each day so could tell stories about catching the same fish, cutzilla (Chris’s name for the big fish he caught just to mess with me-though I think I caught him too!), the fish with the big scar, the fish between the trees, etc., etc. My son does what he usually does. Miss a bunch of fish early due to over aggressive hooksets. Then he figures it out and puts on a clinic. Chris, Mark, Todd (catches a bunch on dry flies!), Steve and Clarence have great days (they didn’t fish day 4). I miss a whole bunch of fish and get grumpy. Randy catches his first fish ever in flowing water. It is amazing to me that any self respecting fish would bite a hook being presented by a guy wearing this:
Walmart(are you kidding me?!?) waders and his rain jacket. Randy, you live in Alberta. You like to hike. You like to fish. Get a damn jacket buddy!! A proper jacket. It will cost more than $5. And I can’t wait to wade the Bow with you in those installed boots. It will be slapstick comedy my friend.
Now that I’ve teased Randy, let me pump him back up. On his first day on the river he probably caught more fish than anyone fishing nymphs. Before any of you fishing purists get your panties all wound up, this was his first day ever on a river. Cut him some slack. It was really awesome to watch the excitement. On the next day, we got him to try the dry fly more (he did try on day 3, just not successfully), and around mid afternoon it started to click and he ended up with several fish on the dry, including some beasts. My favorite part of the entire trip was when he told me “I watched the fish come all the way up off the bottom to eat my fly. That was the coolest thing ever. Now I understand why you come out here!”
I have a much better day on day 4 landing a bunch of big fish from the same place I fished day 2. My friend Darrin fished with us he showed up on day 3 about 11 PM, long after I had went to bed! )I never made it past 10 PM after day 1! I am getting old ya know.) It was his first trip to this river, and judging by the fish he caught I’m pretty sure he will be back.
At about 5 PM on Sunday, we called it a trip. Drove home in a rainstorm, got to Calgary at around midnight. My son stayed up for almost the entire drive, a first. He is growing up really fine! (A quick shout out to my son: thanks for all the help Ben. I really appreciate you making sure you stay involved in helping setup camp, clean, and bring such a great attitude. I truly enjoyed the time with you). Took Monday off to clean everything up. Already dreaming of the next trip, maybe before the season ends in October!
Chris, Mark, Todd, Steve, Clarence, Darrin, Randy, and Ben-thanks guys. No way I could have had more fun! Now for some fish porn, and a bunch of movies!!
A youtube video of Randy trying for his first dry fly fish (he caught one here just after this)
And some movies:
Catching in the trees
Ben lands a nice fish
Rick lands “Cutzilla?”
Ben casting to a bunch of rising fish
Ben working a run