December 11th, 2000
Excerpt from Angling in the Shadows of the Rockies,
available though Frank Amato Publications.
We greatly appreciate use permission.
Dry Flies and the St.Mary Cutthroat (Alberta), Part 2
By Jeff Mironuck
As with any trout stream the St. Mary is affected by the different
seasons. Winter fishing requires an angler to be dressed as a
skier combined with all the necessary fishing equipment. Winter is
generally known for quality nymphing. The fish are lethargic and a
slowly drifted nymph will usually produce fair results. Dries and
streamers require a trout to move uncomfortable distances with the
exception of a streamer being passed directly in front of the fish.
Strike-indicators are not allowed on the river in the fly fishing only
sections. I recommend a dry line, greased at the tip so you can
easily see any unfamiliar movements. Wet lines seem to do the trick
when presenting streamers at all times of the year.
Spring begins early June. The water is often murkey and slightly
high, but the fish can still be enticed into striking. Streamer fishing is
by far the most productive with the more brightly colored patterns
finding a place at the end of my line. Nymphs and dries just won't
work well in these messy conditions. Fish tend to hold close to the
bank and feed very little. They are more concerned about protecting
themselves from the onslaught of Mother Nature. Some small fish
are killed off in the runoff, but as the water slows and clears the trout
once again feed actively and start to move around.
Mid July starts my summer on the rivers and is a nice break from the
continual lake fishing scene. About this time the lakes cool down and
the water level in the river reaches that perfect point. Dry fly fishing is
what the St. Mary is famous for. In the summer I can't find anything
more enjoyable than drifting a hopper or an Adam's on the surface and
then watching a large curthroat either sip it under or violently attack it.
Prolific hatches occur throughout the river in summer. Caddis and mayfly
are my favorites but I can't dismiss the stoneflies or even the midges.
Terrestrial fishing is arguably the most visual and exciting type of fly
fishing on the St. Mary. July, August and September offer a good
variety of crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and ants. The St. Mary
runs through a small valley of trees, bush and grass. It's these grassy
banks that breed such immense numbers of terrestrials. Hopper
imitations like Dave's Hopper or Joe's Hopper work very well while
almost any ant imitation will catch fish too. Near the end of August
the water drops, wading becomes easy and the trout are easily brought
to the surface. It's this time that I enjoy the most. A wide variety of
insects are available to the fish into September and as the tourists leave
for home the river is often bare of visitors.
Fall fishing can be deadly. The fish are stocking up for the long winter,
everyone has left the river and the insects are few. Dries, nymph and
streamers all have their days in the fall. I like to change up quite often
as the trout can become very selective. The fish begin their move into
the deeper water zones and they tend to become more concentrated in
the larger pools. I suppose if anything streamers may be slightly more
effective. Zonkers, Muddlers and Woolly Buggers tend to draw out
the big fish. Nymphs also have their place. Flashbacks, stoneflies and
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear nymphs should work assuming you are able to
fish them deep. Warm afternoons can trigger moderate hatches of
caddis and mayflies. It's best to carry all the fly boxes this time of
Overall it is very easy to fish the St. Mary and catch large and wild
trout. This has become somewhat of a rarity over the last few
years in North America. The river has been returned to its natural
state and in some ways it has benefited from the pollution. It is
now hard to find a summer day without experiencing some major
insect hatches. The river opens itself for the many different types
and techniques fly fishing has to offer. The result is still the same,
quality trout and breathtaking scenery.
Cranbrook and Kimberly provide lodging and sport shops for
the fly fishers. Many prime spots on the river are within a 20
minute drive from either location. Overall the river has seen many
changes through its life. A once pure stream was inundated with
pollution and again cared for in only a short time. We will not
know the effects man has had on this stream for quite some time.
As it sits now, we are blessed with natures beauty in its natural
state. Let's hope that we will have the knowledge and will to keep
it this way in the future so that our following generations will be
able to enjoy our fly fishing too.
As my fly drifted that perfect, flawless drift, a nose of a very
large trout rose. I watched the trout sip in my fly and then silently
eased the rod up setting the hook in the top of his mouth. As I
played out my trophy it felt rewarding knowing that my creation of
feathers and fur was enough to fool this seasoned cutthroat. I
unhooked the large male and released him back to the stream. Returning
the favor. ~ Jeff Mironuck
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