Fishing Your Local River

Is just what we did last Friday. We hatched the plan over our traditional Thursday night pint, and given that it was the next day everyone pretty much knew their plans.

When you are fishing your local river, if you have one, the best spots to look for fish are on the outside of the river bend. Water is moving faster here and while it promotes erosion, it also digs out a deep trough in which fish have the depth they want to keep cool in, and the shallows if they want to warm up. Fishing on the out curve compared to the in curve is like night and day. On the inside of the curve you may have to cast out 30-50 feet to get to any depth, while on the outside it may drop off as little as a few feet from you. If you do get stuck on the wrong side of the river its best to bring some bait and throw a pickerel rig on. I have seen guys pull fish on them in this situation. I find that really boring and prefer to use a spoon, shad or jig and play the depths. Another great place to fish is near outfalls. More often than not there are deep holes below them and last summer I pulled a great sized Sauger out of the Dawson Hole in Edmonton. There is a depth chart for the Dawson Hole that can be easily searched for.

Now we got this spot which produces like crazy at certain times of the year. The main fish we catch there is Goldeye. Collectively we have also caught a few Northern Pike and Walleye. I scouted it out late last summer and when I brought the rest of the crew down two things happened. I caught four fish, and no one left without catching at least one. Now to me fishing is all about being with your buddies and enjoying the wilderness while bringing in some fish, which truth be told doesn’t always play out that way but oh well. Long story short this spot is money whether the fish are biting or not.

Logan, who tied the knot Saturday, congrats buddy, was the man who caught the 8 dollar fish. Here are a few pics from the night and of course the beauty Goldeye he reeled in.

Side note: Goldeye tend to bite the most during late summer to early fall. They are not a good eating fish unless smoked over an Oak fire.

 

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Mountain Bike Adventure in K-Country

I returned to Kananaskis last weekend to do a spot of biking with some of the guys I grew up with and have biked with for years. Ryan mentioned back in early June he wanted to head out to go biking in the mountains and really spearheaded the idea. Braden and Vic were able to coordinate and make the trip with us.

We planned to camp at the Canyon Campground which is right near the lower lake and use that as a starting point to bike from. Ryan called ahead but was unable to book a site for some reason but given that it was the last weekend of the Calgary Stampede we both figured there wouldn’t be too much of a problem finding a place to put a tent. We rolled into camp about 11:30 pm which apparently is to late. A small British man drove up on a golf cart and was looking us up and down like we were shit disturbers ready to raise Hell and fire and brimstone all weekend, when all we really wanted was to set up the tent cook some hot dogs and sleep in preparation of the two rides we had planned. We ended up snagging one of the two sites left and judging by how it was set up it was perfect of our needs but very poor for the RV crowd, which was about 90% of the people there. While Ryan and I got the camp set up Vic and Braden went to get some wood for a fire, But the local curmudgeon would not sell us any wood, telling the boys that the chopping of wood would cause to much of a disturbance and wood sales stopped at 10pm. Long story short we found some logs in the woods that had been cut long ago and burnt them before turning in.

In the morning we were greeted by a beautiful blue sky and bright sunshine. and when the old man rolled around on his golf cart he was cheery and pleasant showing no inkling of his bitterness of the night before. After a great breakfast minus some forgotten eggs we set out to the information office to find a map and a trail. Part of the reason we picked Canyon was that it was very easy to find trails and there was a half dozen trailheads in our vicinity. I mentioned that when I was at Logan’s Bachelor Party a biker passed through out site and after a quick check of the map we found that the pocaterra trail would be a nice 10 km trail to ride. Pocaterra trail was nice, but mostly uphill. On the government website it said it gains about 1000 feet of altitude but its deceiving because you in the trees for most of it. There are a few short down hills and after regrouping we bombed down one two abreast. At the bottom there was a bit of a swampy section and while Braden and Vic took the left side Ryan and I took the right. the log that was put in on our side was a bit high and the holes on each side were more pronounced so Ryan ended up taking a ride over the bars and when I saw this I grabbed all the front brake I could and ended up doing a endo so high my arms were shaking and I was right at the balance point for what seemed for eternity. Unlike the last time I did this I kept the rubber side down and we continued on.

When we reached the end where it meets with a trail called whisky jack trail and lookout trail which heads up to the fire lookout. We chose to go up and we went up, and up and up, and up. It was like a non stop climb that made me want to give up. For most of the ride I was with Ryan and Braden was with victor. Our pairing was mostly due to the fact that they were riding light hard tails while Ryan and I were rocking more down hill style bikes. At some points it was frustrating because of the switchbacks. The way it seemed to work was that as soon as the guy in front of you is around one you feel like you were on your own. When we met up with Vic and Braden again Ryan and I were almost positive they had been waiting for at least a half hour, but they only made it up about 10 minutes before us. In the end this is what we were met with when we reached the lookout at 6800 feet.

After signing the guest book, taking in some the view and having a water and snack break we set off on the single track pictured in the end of the video. This quickly turned into more of a fire road and was super fast and rocky enough to make you really hold on.  Braden got a pinch flat on the way down a very rocky section and after a quick pit stop we descended the remaining 200 meters to the Boulton Creek crossing. While crossing we talked to some hikers who informed us about the Hydroline trail and after another short but steep climb we reached the power lines and bombed the trail in between the power poles.

All in all the ride that was supposed to be the morning turned into a full day. In all we probably rode close to 25 kms with all the switchbacks and trails put together. Victor described it as a real “big boy ride” and he was “definitely not expecting that big of a climb”.

Those who don’t mind a lot of climbing but love steep down hills, amazing views and varied terrain should consider this one. I brought three liters of water for the trip and had maybe a pint left when we left the lookout so don’t skimp on it. I felt dehydrated with even that amount when we got back to camp, so drink water before, during and after the ride. With any ride in the mountains make sure you carry tubes, Braden had a blow out probably 8 kms from camp and pushing a bike back would really suck given the terrain. The trail to the lookout should definitely be avoided if it has been raining or if it is muddy. Some of the trails are simply to steep and pitched to ride them safely under wet conditions.

See you out there.

 

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Grand Cache Day Two

Day two started with waking up in a wet tent. It had rained most of the night and there was a bum seam near the door that had let some water in. Unfortunately it had pooled under Logan and Ben’s sleeping mats. Fortunately I was on the high ground. Breakfasts usually start with bacon hash browns and eggs around our site, this morning was no different except we had more bacon and it was thick and maple style. Logan picked this up from Costco and they were packaged in 2 pound packs. This was the ultimate camping bacon and will be a main stay for eternity. Given that it was Mike’s bachelor party he was also enjoying some barley sandwiches.

The main thing we had planned for today was white water rafting. Logan had organized the whole thing with a company called Wild Blue Yonder in town and we had planned to run down the Sheep creek. Sheep creek has class 4 rapids and it is recommended you have done a class 3 before doing this raft trip. You also must be 18 to do this trip. Rafting rates are roughly $85-$100 CND depending on what river, the length and difficulty of trip and how many people you’re bringing with you. Larger groups naturally get a discount as we did with our group of 13. June is the best time to go and being mid July water levels had dropped on Sheep creek so we were forced to run the Sulphur River to the Smokey River rafting trip. This trip took a little under 2 hours. We were on the Sulphur River for about 12 kms before being spit out onto the Smokey for the remaining 4 kms of the trip.

The most shocking thing was the scenery. We literally drove 5 minutes into the bush from a residential neighborhood and were at the starting point. After getting off the bus we walked down half a dozen switchbacks to the canyon floor where the boats were already in the water and after a short safety briefing we were off and running. White water was fairly constant throughout and super fun. On the lower part of the river things got more wild, rocky and narrow and we were treated to the sight of 400 foot sheer canyon walls. I was sweating from being at the front of the boat and my glasses kept getting fogged up so I only caught a glimpse of this but it was awesome none the less.

Where the Sulphur meets the Smokey was equally cool. This rock formation is called the Sulphur gates. This is the part of the river that gets very wide and flat. Your speed slows down but it goes by fairly quick on account that the guides pass out water cannons for each boat and a massive water fight goes down. When we beached our rafts just down stream from the highway 40 bridge they provide hot chocolate, iced tea and cookies! Unfortunately there are no pictures of us rafting. There was an opportunity to purchase waterproof disposable cameras but no one did.

When we got back to camp we made Burgers played Beersbee and starting getting into the libations. Dave and Josh had not come rafting and had elected to make a game for around the campfire and drink their faces off. Beersbee matches were sloppy and somehow we had 3 man teams. Brad and I continued our winning ways and “Diamonds are Forever” with the addition of Dave Waddell, finished Ben, Brant and Dan off with two can hits and no points against.

Fresh off the win I headed down to the lake with a few others and soon our whole crew was down on the shore enjoying multiple beers and the evening sun. They water was boiling as they say like it had the night before and the trout were feeding off the top all over the lake. I waded out about 30 feet and ended up in about four feet of water. I was using a Mosquito fly which didn’t really seem to appeal but I had one solid hit when I casted near some deadfall. I wasn’t able to bring the fish in though. Chris and Kalen were having more luck and each managed to pull a few small trout in on their spinning gear. Shaun who had also waded out went back to shore and Ben took over and managed to get a few good casts before snagging high in a tree. Mike was having about the same luck and was snagged in a tree about fifteen feet away but roughly the same distance up. After losing our flies we headed up and learned we had received a noise complaint from someone across the lake. Go figure, you pay a ton of money to rent and entire campsite and you get a complaint from the other side of the lake. We must have been doing something right.

The sun went down, we ate more, drank a lot more and if you’ve been following any of the other camping related articles I’ve written you know what happened next. Except there was a few pukers, including me.

 

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Grand Cache Day One

This past weekend I had the good luck to head out to Grand Cache for yet another bachelor party. This one, which happened to be Mike’s, is the last of the summer and we decided to celebrate in much the same way we did for Logan’s. I have wanted to go to Grand Cache for some time now, and had heard only good things. I booked the Friday off, so the original plan was to leave Thursday right after work, set up camp somewhere in between Edmonton and Grand Cache and fish all Friday. Ben suggested that we just leave Friday at around seven in the morning. In thinking about this, we came to the conclusion that this would be the most favorable course of action. This way we would arrive at the campsite at roughly the same time as we would if we had camped somewhere. The benefit was that we didn’t have to set up and take down a campsite before we got to the place we would be for the rest of the weekend.

For those doing this trip you should budget roughly 4.5 – 5 hours with pee, gas and food stops. Campgrounds can be booked in advance and are plentiful; there are 3 loops in Pierre Grays Provincial Park with around 20 sites at each. There is also open camping along the road with some fairly decent looking sites. From what I saw these won’t have latrines so be prepared for that. Being a group, and a rowdy one at that we booked the entire first loop in the Provincial Park. Sites were nice, wood was provided and the best outhouses I have ever used were the icing on the cake. Our campsite was located on the top of a hill. Behind each site was a path that offered a short but steep walk down to the upper lake. This lake is called MacDonald Lake but we will visit that in the day two post.

After arriving and doing a set up of the tarps, dinning, cooking and tents we gathered our fishing tackle and drove down the highway toward town. I was charged with finding a suitable place to fish so I took some time in between Hinton and our campground to search through Barry Mitchell’s fishing guide while cross referencing it with the Alberta Fishing Regulations. We ended up parking the truck near and open campsite right off the highway on the Muskeg River. It looked like it had some good pools and cover for fish to hide in and after donning our waders we set off walking upstream, tossing lines as we went. Mike and I were both looking to land our first fish on our fly rods so this was extra exciting. I wasn’t having much luck but Mike managed to hook one. However, in the initial panic and excitement it quickly got off and told its friends what to look for.

Logan and Ben were having better luck. Logan managed to strip in a nice 8 inch Rainbow and Ben who was on spinning gear also pulled in a Rainbow of the same size. We walked further up stream and worked a wider section that meandered to make some nice sized pools. Nothing was really rising, but there seemed to be an abrupt change at around 5:30. I switched to a Light Cahill pattern I had tied myself as a change of pace and on my first cast I had a potential suitor strike. The only thing was it was on my strike indicator! No sooner had I began to reel it in to take it off Logan hollered over giving us the same info while showing off the nice Rainbow he just hooked!

After switching spots a few times we walked back to the truck and started fishing downstream from the bridge and things really picked up. Mike landed his first Rainbow on a fly! The look on his face was so priceless. I was getting kind of discouraged as he pulled in a few more! Most of us had switched over to an Elk Hair Caddis and I was using the first one I had tied myself, so it was a bit haggard. Logan had the good fortune of hooking one shortly after Mike got his second. When he got it close enough he notice it wasn’t a Rainbow but our provincial fish the Bull Trout. Now this may sound geeky but it was a real treat to see this fish. I switched my fly to a smaller Elk Hair Caddis that Logan bought, and on my first cast I had one on the line and stripped it in for the win! We fished to roughly 7:30 and after some celebratory beers headed back to camp to Eat drink and be merry until the other guys arrived. It started to rain but managed to break up by the time the rest of the guys arrived. Things got pretty rowdy that night, and in the morning we woke with hangovers and discovered that my tent had leaked!

Here are a few pics from the night and of course my first fish.

 

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Pigeon Lake Bachelor party

This weekend was the second weekend in a row where I went to an Edmonton area lake instead of the further reaches of the province. All in all I think it strikes a very good balance between being off the grid and in the mix of things.

The great thing was that I didn’t have to drive hours on end to get to or from the cabin where we were staying. Another plus was that I was able to toss a line in on Saturday night with some of the boys!

The original plan was to head out in the morning and golf the black bull, which is a course on the south shore of Pigeon Lake, and from what I heard it’s a really tough course. I’m not a golfer at all, never liked it and probably never will. I’m not totally against it but I passed on this chance because the lingering rib injury from my last biking excursion has returned and I’m still healing up a bit. So I did some running around in the morning before meeting the guys at around 5:30 at the lake.

Ryan Asselstine, who I curl with Thursday nights in the winter was hosting and provided his cabin and boat for the weekend. There were about a dozen of us out there but only half of us stayed over. We headed out on the water at around six and did a bit of skiing and wakeboarding for awhile until we got a call from mike back on shore so we went and picked him up and threw him into the drink for a ski of his own.

After a short while, clouds rolled in and hunger spoke up so we headed into shore met up with the rest of the guests and began to barbeque and get Russ, the groom, totally shithoused. We introduced his in-laws to Beersbee and after winning the inaugural match (and later a doubles match) I enjoyed some cold beers, juicy burgers, watching Russ Puke-and-Rally like a champ, and Ryan do a shoe after an amazing spill that also resulted in him losing his beersbee match.

We headed down to the beach and stoked up a fire, and seeing that the sun was setting I decided to take my fishing pole down to the dock and try my luck. Mike joined me and I jokingly asked him how much he wanted to bet I would pull in a Walleye on my first cast. I only said this because last time I fished Pigeon; I had such luck on my first and second cast.

Little did I know this would come true and I pulled in a very respectable sized fish about 12 feet from the dock. My only wish was that the fishing could have been that good all night. I managed to pull in an even bigger Walleye about an hour later and Logan and Mike each pulled in one of their own. Mikes Walleye rivaled the size of my second fish, but being pigeon we had to throw them all back. Pigeon Lake has a 0 limit of Walleye and you need a special draw license to harvest them. I believe this can be obtained quite easily at your local fishing store.

The rest of the night wound down with a cigar, a roaring campfire and empty beer cans. I started drinking some concoction Ryan mixed up with several different kinds of booze. It tasted delicious but gave me a terrible hang over. There is nothing a bit of fishing can’t cure, but Logan was the only one who managed to pull anything in the following morning, which turned out to be a nice sized Pike.

After cleaning the cabin up and packing the cars we hit the open road and headed home. Pigeon Lake was a nice short drive away but this coming weekend is going to more than make up for it. Plus we have a special guest joining us…

P.S. Sorry there aren’t any photos from the weekend, my camera is in on warranty work and I won’t have it for another week or so. Here is a photo from the last time I smashed Walleye at Pigeon.

 

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