Saturday, 22 October 2016

Something to write home about (part 2)

The second nights sleep wasn't filled with trout breaches and epic battles like the previous night and I woke up multiple times in a nightmarish sweat. Day three was a write off as far as fishing was concerned and with an insurance claim filed and the vehicle retrieved the only thing left to do was secure a way home. After explaining our predicament to a good friend back home and making him an offer he couldn't refuse, we had a ride lined up for late in the afternoon on what was to be our fourth and last day on the trip. The sense of relief my wife and I both felt was indescribable to say the least. After a hike through town for some food, the rest of the day was spent in the motel room recovering from the previous days events and trying to get over the shock. Sleep didn't come easy that night and definitely wasn't pleasant, but within 24 hours we were to be home in our own bed.

The next morning was as windy as the previous three, the sky grey and air cool. We still had eight or 9 hours to go before getting picked up and there was no way I could sit in the motel lobby knowing that just over a mile away were trophy trout swimming about. My wife on the other hand was in no mood to sit on shore and quite content to stay behind with her laptop. I packed up a rod, some basic tackle, a few drinks and snacks, layered up in some winter clothes, grabbed a net, kissed my wife and headed off on foot towards the lake, determined as I had ever been to catch a trophy trout.

The following four and a half hours of fishing were nothing short of legendary. A true fisherman's tale unfolded that no one would believe if I told them. I shared the lake with two pairs of herons and a few pairs of ducks but besides that there wasn't a soul around, except those lurking beneath the water. Just me, my fishing rod, some trusted tackle and a net. After catching and releasing two 15 inch rainbows within ten minutes of arriving, I had a feeling I was in for a treat, and boy was I ever! Had the stars had aligned? Was the water temperature just right? Was a shift in the weather on it's way?

Whatever the case, I ended up catching and releasing well over a dozen trout, with five rainbow trout to shore over 20 inches in length. The biggest of those measured a whopping 27 inches and the fight will be forever burned in my memory. The battle went on for a few minutes with multiple breaches throughout as it twisted and thrashed all the way to the net. Ice cold to the touch, after a measurement and a few pictures in the net, it released with vigor back to the weed line. Countless other rainbow trout under 20 inches were caught and released over the session, with more missed takes and lost fish than anyone would believe.

It was one of the hardest bites to walk away from that I have ever experienced, but our ride was near and I had a mile to walk back to the motel. The air was sweeter and the walk almost effortless as I made my way back, thankful to be alive and beyond content with the few hours of steady action and the handful of trophy rainbow trout caught and released.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Something to write home about (part 1)

It was time for my wife and I to finally get away for our annual autumn trout excursion. With family thanksgiving obligations out of the way, we headed northwest an hour before the sun was to rise. We were off to the Duck Mountains and Parklands region of Manitoba for four days of fishing and relaxing and we couldn't wait to get up there. After the beautiful prairie sunrise was behind us, there were plenty of sights along the drive as we watched thousands of geese heading south overhead and dozens of hawks perched on hydro poles or bare trees. The highlight of the wildlife sightings was a young bull moose by the road. We kept our distance, but took more than a few pictures. The traffic was reasonable for a holiday weekend and we arrived at our destination shortly before lunch, ready to fish.

Our plan was to meet up with a friend and do some shore fishing from multiple lakes for the many different species of stocked trout this part of the province offers. Over the 30 minutes of fishing before he arrived, my wife managed to catch and release two rainbow trout under 20 inches in length. The occasional trout would breach in the area we were fishing, so when Justin showed up we agreed to give it an hours fish. With minimal activity over the next 60 minutes and only so many hours of daylight left, we decided to push on to our next destination in pursuit of tiger trout.

Within an hour of fishing the lake my wife and I each hooked into and lost a tiger trout. Both equally acrobatic and wily, they ran for cover and weeds, jumped and thrashed and both managed to get free. Hers clearly dwarfed mine in comparison and appeared to be over two feet in length when it breached the surface. "You gotta lose a couple," was Justin's response to my frustration and I quickly tried to adopt that attitude and got right back to fishing. Justin managed to bring one to shore on the fly and it was a true treat to see a tiger trout again. Knowing we had a few days up that way and had plans to put more time in on the lake in the days ahead, we decided to head off while still having enough daylight to check out a few more lakes.

Trying two more lakes with minimal success (Justin landed a brown trout), we ended up at a lake known for big trout of a few different species. With 45 minutes before dark and the wind in our favour, it was prime time and someone was bound to hook up with a fish. That someone ended up being me. The fish smashed my spoon on the second cast, pulling line with relative ease. My knees were week and excitement was peaking as I worked the fish towards the shore, when we saw it was a pike. Out of all the fish in the lake and the multiple species of trout, a pike had to be the one to hit, I could not believe it.

With darkness on it's way, we took a glance over the weather forecast and a plan was formulated for the following days fishing. As the sun dipped below the horizon, my wife and I headed off to our motel to warm up, eat and get some rest. Sleep came with relative ease, as trout of all different species filled my dreams and expectations were high for the days to come.

Day two began with a similar plan of attack. The weather wasn't to favourable, but with enough layers of clothes we would be fine. A few rainbows were landed in the morning before we headed off to try other lakes with my wife getting a 23.5 inch rainbow trout as the biggest. This area of the province has so many different lakes within relatively close proximity to each other with some having more shore access than others and we were willing to put the time in where and when we could to learn and experiment while trying to land trout of a few different species.
We met up with Justin again and with some driving and hiking, we covered a few lakes and spots, with not much to show for ourselves as far as trophy trout landed. Again I was able to land another pike of all things that had my heart racing as hard as the fight the night before ... until it showed itself. If those pike were trout of any species and similar in length, I would have been ecstatic. Soon after the weather quickly took a turn for the worse and as the temperature hung around zero, some snow had moved in from the north. Before we knew it, the surrounding area was covered in a few inches and it was time to make the long trek back to the vehicles through the forest before the weather got any worse.

We agreed I would get my wife back to the motel and then Justin and I would spend the remainder of the day fishing the local trout lake in town. It's known for big rainbows and browns and a little snow wasn't going to keep me from trying to land a few trophy bows, or was it...
With wet snow still coming down and road conditions deteriorating, we left the lake ten minutes ahead of Justin, it wasn't long after that when our vacation led us somewhere we had not planned. I will spare the details of the accident and just say that we are lucky to be alive and relatively unharmed! Vehicles are replaceable, lives are not. Lucky for us Justin wasn't too far behind and was able to get us and our fishing gear back to our motel safely. With the fishing plans for the next few days now out of the picture, we were just glad to be alive and somewhere safe. Now we had to figure out retrieving the vehicle and finding a way back home, 450 kms away.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Nothing to Write Home About

With an unseasonably warm beginning to October we found ourselves with boat in tow on the way to the Whitemud River to see what it could offer us for an autumn day on the water. It had been entirely too long since I had wet a line last and I was eager for a day out on the boat. The early morning drive to the river was filled with fishing banter and game plans as it usually is, even flirting with the thought of changing our destination at the last minute. That all came to an abrupt halt when the bearings gave out on one side of the trailer and we found ourselves on the side of Canada's busiest highway with a problem on our hands.

After backing up to the nearest country road where we could safely work on the trailer, it was soon obvious that the spare bearings in the boat were the wrong ones (UGH!!!). Our expectations of making it to the boat launch for day break were shattered and we were soon off to the nearest auto parts shop, leaving Frodo behind with the boat and trailer. We got there just as it was opening and were able to get the correct bearings and were back to the boat, trailer and a chilled Frodo within 50 minutes.

Sparing you the details of changing bearings on a boat trailer, I will say that when all was said and done we had the boat on the water at our planned destination around 11 AM. With fish breaching all around us and seemingly endless marks and clouds of bait on the sonar screen we were pumped to finally be fishing. Slowly drifting the channel edge with the wind and current, we were on our way to the mouth of the river while pounding bottom with a jig and minnow. I got bit off by a pike within the first 5 minutes and we all missed a few bites as we drifted on. After a few hundred feet were covered, some boulders and rocks were marked and we proceeded to miss more bites. It was time to tie to shore and thoroughly work the area over.

The first few fish of the day ended up being common carp, pale as I have ever seen them and scrappier than ever. We were fishing with minnows and looking for drum or walleye, even bullheads or channel cats but it appeared that when the bait was as thick as it was in some parts of this river even the large carp will get in on the action. A harrier hawk was actively hunting above the reeds and shoreline while flocks of canada geese could be heard in all directions and were constantly flying by. Muskrats patrolled the shorelines almost everywhere you looked and the sun was warm enough to provide a sunburn. The bite overall wasn't hot and heavy and our goal was to get to the mouth of the river and work our way back as needed in search of other species so we went to fire up the motor and move on, except the motor wouldn't start.

We tried what we could to get the motor running, but nothing would work and with the wind picking up and current going in the same direction, we were now limited in our tactics and mobility. No longer able to fish how and where we wanted, we had to stick within a relatively close area to the boat launch so as to not get blown or swept out into Lake Manitoba. All we had for power now was the trolling motor and two oars if needed. This was not how we had envisioned the day and our game plan was now completely out the window. We jigged and we rigged, missed more bites than anyone would care to admit and often heard passing boats chat of their lack of success. We trolled some crank baits on our way back to the boat launch while missing a few more bites and began another controlled drift to jig some more.

The last fish of the day was another carp and the biggest to the boat at 31 inches. We were again tied to shore and after getting hooked it came towards the boat with relative ease but once it saw us and the net, the real fight began. It went off on a run peeling at least a foot of line every second making it's way clear across the river almost effortlessly. I slowly heaved and retrieved the fish towards the boat being mindful of my set up, only to have the scenario repeat itself three more times. After a grueling battle the pristine specimen was in the net and into the boat, it was not shy of the camera and cooperated for a handful of pictures before its release.

A few unexpected problems, minimal success, severely restricted and nothing to write home about. Yet here it is, a day everyone experiences once in a while, the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly, along with a few obstacles faced on a day out fishing. It could have been better but it could have been worse and there will always be a next time, at least I hope.