Sunday, July 8, 2018

Blue Walleye

Image at left from wikicommons and in the public domain as provided by NOAA.

Nice job on the painting. Thanks for the use.

The blue walleye.

My next adventure trip is by floatplane into the wilds of northern Ontario and the Wabakimi Provincial Park.The water is cold and pristine. The fish are walleye and northern pike.

I eat the walleye.

The proprieties must be observed.

We stay in a cabin with a solar refrigerator which works well enough to make ice. Yes, ice for the evening cocktail. Never skip cocktail hour. It's bad karma.

Everything else is propane or solar. We enjoy hot water showers.

Our activity schedule consists of breakfast, travel by boat, fishing, shore lunch, fishing,  travel by boat, the evening cocktail hour, something on the grill, cards, bed.

This my ninth trip to Wabakimi and I love it more each time.

The water is deep and cold. The lake is  large.

The main lake is seventeen to nineteen miles long depending on counting outlet bay and is about eight miles wide at the broad spot though five miles is a good average guess. The Lower Wabi is ten miles long and seven or eight miles wide with long broad bays extending back off the main body.

The lake complex holds three cabins though one is nearly abandoned now. The outfitter business in Canada is dying as recreation tastes-- and fuel prices -- change with time. We've been the only boat on the lake several trips though we've shared the water with four or five boats once or twice, too.

"No internet?"

There are walleye. About two in fifty are blue walleye. These are a rare specimen regarded purely as myth in some circles. I've held them in my hand. I've eaten them -- though unintentionally.

We harvest on a conservation limit: two fish for consumption per man per day. No party fishing.

Entertainment consists of feeding the eagles.

We haul the guts and carcasses away from our cabin (bears) to a small island guarding our lagoon where we watch the bald eagles swoop-in for an easy meal. The eagles come and usually take the carcass. The gulls squabble over big chunks of guts or over pieces of fish dropped into the water by the eagles' haste.

The crows appear in the end to handle the final cleaning process.

After the first day, two fish in the sixteen-inch range are more than sufficient to feed anglers expending calories sitting in a boat. Portage trips are entirely a different matter though on Wabi, we don't care for portages as the main lakes hold all the action we could want.

When the wind comes up, the big lake rolls with five to six foot waves which provide excitement in a small boat. Last year, we had evenings -- and evenings are long affairs in Ontario with the sun setting finally around 10:00 PM and the light lingering most of an hour more -- where the water was so still the entire surface was a mirror. Not one ripple across fifteen miles of water.

At five o'clock in the afternoon, one is reminded of "the anvil of the sun" section of Lawrence of Arabia. Twenty feet down, the walleye don't mind at all.

The blue walleye we catch seem to have a pigmented coating of slime.

It comes off on the cleaning table and on your fishing shirt. The flesh is normal and the pigment is hard to detect unless it is against something white and then, it is as if you ran a crayon sideways across paper as a block of color.

Certainly sunglasses and careful handling of fish we return to the water causes us to miss many of the blue we catch. Minimal handling in the water while in a net means we probably won't tell if this fish or that is a blue. When we're picking a "lunch fish" for a stringer sometimes we know from our hands though usually, it isn't until cleaning when we can tell.

I look forward to days on the water with my buddy Mike fishing largely in silence -- we know each other's jokes so well we only tell punch lines now -- and scanning the shoreline for bears and moose as we motor about.

We'll fish for pike on the fly in shallow bays in the afternoon.

I don't let pike over 40" in my boat, though.  Nothing like a large angry fish with a mouthful of teeth thrashing amongst your gear. With that slime coat, they frequently end up in the boat on the thrash even when using a lipper tool.

I'm a cradle guy now. Positive fish control.

We'll see if I can convince any pike to do the Canadian tarpon trick this year. Most have no desire to tail-walk though it has happened. We'll see.

"Pay extra."

 Doubles on the turn.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mountain Fishing

At left, snow on some of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado this year is quite dry. A fire on the other side of the continental divide drifted smoke into the Estes Park valley though it made for a fantastic sunset.

We saw a moose at dusk but were unable to get pictures. Typical of moose.  They're uncommonly shy compared to elk, otters, mule deer, or even bighorn sheep.

I did a little introductory instruction while visiting friends.  I outfitted them with the basics but for rod and reel and pointed them to Kirk's Fly Shop  for a few outings on $10/day rental gear before committing to something else.

Dan's an avid hiker who believes he will enjoy the occasional mountain stream or high altitude pocket lake diversion of a few casts.  Janene is a active sort up for anything. Together, they'll have a blast. They took to the instruction right off and were able to master the rod loading with a Belgian cast quite easily by the session's end.

I have cast the Douglas Upstream 380-6 and think it is a fine hiking rod provided the wind is down. That's the deal with the 3 wt: doesn't like much wind. A mid-day outing on a hike needs something with more authority after the ten o'clock blow comes on ...

I used a 4 wt Orvis troutbum and a 3wt Orvis troutbum on a stillwater session at Mary's Lake. The light rods worked well for instruction.

Below, an introductory set of late-summer flies in both a shirt-pocket day box and a back-up storage box just to get them started.

I didn't tie the big rubber-legged stuff. The rest are mine.

And ...

It's a start.  Dawn and dusk ants have always been late-summer flies which work well for me in the park. I like the mid-thorax tie though i understand why others might not.

I tie my ant bodies with floss, varnish the second-to-last wrap, and glue the last wraps in place by wrapping over the wet varnish -- in this case Sally Hansen Hard-as-Nails.

A little piece of 80-grit wet-dry roughs the floss and takes the sheen right off. One or two passes seems to make it "fuzzy" and dull.

I'm about out of the "cinnamon" floss. I'm going to have to look and see if I can find more.

My royal trudes are a little off-center but seem to do fine, anyway.

Apart from instruction, the social schedule allowed for no fishing. I traveled with my wife.

Bear Lake at 9400' prompted a little "carping" for air when we made a brief walk around the water. I'm not ready for serious backcountry at altitude, yet. Three mile trots on the flat lowlands are not sufficient preparation.

I'm going to have to work harder.