Winter fishing in salt water is starting to pick up. Reports in from Pedder Bay on Vancouver Island with winter feeder springs has started. If you have a taste for spring salmon and want to make a day of it, you can get there by ferry from the mainland and rent from the marina. Lot less expensive than getting your boat out of winterization and hauling it all the way there. Boats are heading out from Vancouver Harbor into English Bay chasing winter feeder springs and that season should pick up for the next two to three months. Most are using green flashers with long leaders and spoons looking like three or four inch herring.
As far as the local rivers go, the last of the northern coho were thought to be in but today some relatively bright fish were hooked, sorry no pictures as they also unhooked themselves and no wild chase through the water with hands outstretched could scoop them back onto the shore.
The elk are heading into the valley floors to their overwintering forage spots and the goats were congregating on the south slopes to enjoy the short hours of bright sunshine as that golden orb is heading to its lowest spot on the horizon.....the official start of winter is about 8 days away and any nice sunny day helps them conserve energy for many of the cold days yet to come. If you have a spotting scope or a nice pair of binoculars, it is worth scanning the rocky outcrops for these creatures which are quite placid up on their secure cliffs......makes you wonder how they don't fall off though.
Today, the bull trout, one coho and one nice rainbow were very co-operative as water levels are still dropping and clearing. A good number of the fish were in the 20 to 24 inch range. The first two fish were in the sub 20 size but then this 24 inch beauty was quickly followed by another one of the same size.
To my surprise one fish hit the fly and immediately breached to the surface so the original thought was that I was into a rainbow which are relatively few compared to bull trout. Line pulled out and the reel sang but after a spirited battle the fish finally came to shore. It wasn't a bull or a rainbow but a seriously bright coho! Unfortunately it spit the hook and took off between my legs, so no photos. Was a pretty good tilt though!
Mother Nature is a wonderful sculptor and with the rising and falling water there are always new shapes and formations to see if you only take the time to look and enjoy.
Today the distribution of fish were all the way from one that was about the same size as the fly it was trying to swallow to this stunning 27 inch bull that was back into it's finest winter chrome outfit.
One of the things you don't want to find is the trash that other people leave behind. Somewhere upstream a logging and/or road building operation was careless and this five gallon pail of gear lubricant came floating down and lodged in the rocks of one of the most productive bull trout holes. So, if you bring it in, pack it out and if you find it, do a little extra and take out trash and keep our waters as pristine as possible.
As it turned out, the end of the day was just as fine as the start. The fish were still biting as we made our last casts and I somewhat reluctantly unhooked a nice 20 inch fish. Like last call at the pub, this was last call at the river but it is always good to pull out as you watch your last fish of the day swim back out into the current. Able to grow larger and live to battle another day......Tight Lines.
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The thing about south western British Columbia, is that if you can't get out on the water in winter there are other sites to see and do near the water. Yesterday and today we had some of those typical winter days when the fog rolls in and the Christmas lights come on. The only thing to do is get out and enjoy the scenery.
The freighters and the sea ducks, bob and swim in the cool light of the setting sun.
With cooling air, the fog rolls in along the Fraser River lowlands and the evening sun begins to burn it's last light of the day. The river scenes become magical. Some where under that mirror surface, giant sturgeon still lurk.
Then the dark comes on and so do the Christmas lights. It may be cold outside but the hearts are warming up!
Have a great week, hope we all get back on the water real soon! Tight lines.
Bulls Beat Coho
When most rivers are starting to wind down from the salmon and cutthroat season and the November rains pound the south coast it can be dismal for fisherman who sit at their living room windows looking out at the cold wet dank dreariness of it all. This however, is the season when some rivers hit their stride for the winter trout fisheries. The 20 days and nights of rain that pounded the south coast is slowly giving way to the more normal cold rains that come and go but leave the mountain tops frosted with snow. That frosting of snow and low temperatures and sometimes frigid outflow winds that roar out of the central plateau down the coastal fiords is just what we are looking for.
The warm temperatures and Hawaii Pineapple Express warm fronts have been pushed back by the advancing cold fronts and the glaciers have stopped melting and are now frozen. The bulk of the moisture that falls is coming as snow in the high elevations and less slides down the hills as surface water so the streams start to clear and recede. Likewise the Squamish and the upper Pitt begin to recede and clear and this is how the winter trout fishing starts.
Now is the time for eagles to gather and battle each other over the remaining salmon carcasses that float in the shallows and back eddies......and, now is the time before the Steelhead when the big bull, rainbow and cutthroat trout are feasting on the last of the salmon eggs that are still drifting from the spawning late run coho and the odd chum that is still around. These trout are feasting on a diminishing supply of eggs but they are beginning to look for shards of salmon flesh that has gone pasty pink or white and also for any wayward minnow that should haplessly swim above them.
This is the time for large streamer flies that look white like rotting salmon flesh or like small trout and bait fish. The bulls, rainbows and cutties are voracious meat eaters and now that they are fattened up with salmon roe they are still aware that the cold waters and limited daylight will not be providing supplies of emerging invertebrates and insects for a long time. Those eggs and larvae are hidden in the gravel, woody debris and leaves of the fall season. There will be no salmon fry from now till April. So what-ever food there will be will be large chunks of rotting meat or fingerling to 6 inch young fish, hoping to escape the gaze of the predator trout.
It is the time when I love to tie big streamer flies onto a heavy fast sink-tip fly line and then let the games begin! Today, I saw some of the pools holding the remnants of salmon with four to six bull trout cruising in constant circles around them, waiting for wayward eggs. The coho are focused on the spawn and the trout were hard to knock off the eggs but a slowly drifted egg pattern might still work. I tossed several egg patterns but in pools these do not drift fast enough so I resorted to various streamers. Both the coho and the bulls chased the patterns almost to the shore but would turn at the last minute.
So, plan B was to head to the mainstem where salmon were mostly absent and look for runs where hungrier bulls, rainbows and cutties were hanging in the sidestreams adjacent to the faster current. The first stretch of nice water paid off with a 24 inch doe bull trout anchoring the streamer. I say anchoring because that is the usual feeling when a very large bull hits. They like to bear down and just hold in place and it feels like you have snagged up. The line just held and slowly the rod began to pulse as the bull trout figures out that the fish it just inhaled is trying to go somewhere and the battle is on!
The big bull's battle seemed to clear the run so bull trout #s 2,3,4 and 5 came from another run. Most of the fish were in knee deep water with a slower but steady current adjacent to a fast run. Just the kind of place a large minnow or small bait fish would take refuge. While the bulls may strike on the swing arc, they will most often rise up slightly and hammer a fly that is dragged in short pulses directly upstream.
The smaller bulls will usually hit hard and since they don't have the mass and will tend to do an ambush run but it is surprising how small a fish will feel like an anchored snag until you really wake it up with a few pulls.
By the time fish # 5 tried to run off with the fly it was clear that this was going to be a pretty good day as several fish were pushing in the 18 to 20 inch range and were now well past their fall spawn, well fed and chrome again.
Bull Trout 5 and 6 were real porkers and I could not tell if it was a belly full of salmon eggs or more likely they had inhaled a large minnow or two.
Trout 5 and 6 were at the head of the next pool and hit the streamer with gusto which made me think they were much bigger than they actually were. But they posed nicely for some great photos.
And then there was Bull Trout 7. This fish was a class of its own. Again, I pitched a long cast into the pool dragging the streamer from the slow moving water towards the fast when the line just stopped dead. I pulled several times, to one side and then the other to free the line from the snag, almost cursing because I really didn't want to wade out to that spot to free the hook and possibly disturb the remainder of the pool.
Then the rod began to slowly pulse and I realized it was not a log but a monster fish which I could barely control. I had a 9 weight rod as originally I was hoping for the large coho but they had not gone after my offerings and when the rod doubled over and I could not turn the fish, I was beginning to wonder just what had I tied into? I saw a large silver flash which immediately brought the thought of a rogue early Steelhead. The Squamish does not usually see the Ironheads till late march and mostly in April so I began to suspect I was into one of the biggest bulls I had ever tied into in the Squamish. The rod kept bending and pulsing and the reel kept peeling out line so I did all I could to try and turn the fish from going into the fast water.
It was a tug of war to get the fish into the slow back eddy and eventually onto the shore where the tape said it was 27 inches long and looked to be 8 to 10 pounds. I thought this would be a great way to end the day, but there was still some of the run left to fish.
Still somewhat huffing and puffing I waded back into the run and tossed the streamer so it would cut across new water and sure enough the rod anchored again and while I was still wondering "Log or Fish" it turned into a fish and the battle was on again. Back to shore, break out the camera, man this was turning into a good day!
Bull trouts 9, 10 and 11 came out of the back end of the pool just before the tail-out and though they were smaller, they hit the streamer fly with such gusto that they put a fair bend into the rod and a real spirited fight.
So the flies on the menu were varied but the large streamer flies did the best by far. And just a note, the eyes on my rod froze up as did my toes......at this time of year you might be the only one on that stretch of the river, but when the wind picks up and the water is almost liquid ice......dress for the occasion, take some food and a thermos full of hot tea or soup and you might just have yourself a great day!
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My name is Peter Krahn and I want to welcome you to Fraser Legends Fishing Blog. We look forward to keeping up with all our friends as we pursue good times and tight lines!
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