Our Man In Canada
January 14th, 2002

The Downtown Fly Fisher,
Winnipeg - Part 2
By Bill Charles and Steve Abraham


Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are the most common game fish within the Red River and its tributaries. They are slow growing and do not attain 30 inches in length until they are teenagers. Some channel catfish have been aged at as much as 24 years, and they can grow to more than 30 pounds.

Channel cats, which are most active in the early summer and fall, inhabit mainly the deeper river channels and holes, where they feed on goldeye and juvenile freshwater drum. Larger flies, heavily weighted and fished on a sinking or sink-tip line are necessary to get down to the bottom. I prefer white flies with a bit of flash and the Cat Nip - a variation of the "flesh flies" used in Alaska.

Takes are surprisingly gentle for such mean, nasty critters. But, when hooked big cats move powerfully and deliberately. Frequently, they sulk almost immovable on the bottom, with intermittent savage head-shakes and rolls that will have you holding on with both hands. Consequently, a large percentage of hooked cats never see the net. For adrenaline junkies only!

Long considered trash fish, carp have recently been getting a great deal of well-derserved attention as a target species for the fly fisher. The number of large capr in the Red and Assiniboine rivers is staggering. Fishing for carp is very visual, particularly in May through late June when the congregate to spawn. They are are incredibly strong fighters that can show you your backing on their first run.

Carp can be encountered throughout the season, but the most productive period is in late spring and early summer, when they come together to spawn. Due to the murkiness of the water, it's possible to appraoch quite close to them, and it can be rather unnerving to find yourself wading through huge schools of them rolling in the shallows. In these conditions weighted nymphs are the best bet. They can also be tempted with small minnow imitations such as Steve's BND.

In late June, there is a large nocturnal Hexageniae hatch on both the Red and the Assiniboine. At the same time, clouds of cottonwood seeds are blown into the river. Carp feed on these on the surface, and this is the best time to take them on floating flies, preferably large, white, bushy patterns, which can be used to suggest both flies and seeds.


Walleye and Sauger
Both walleye and their smaller cousins, the sauger, are abundant in the lower reaches of the Red River. While sauger grow to lengths of about 16 inches in the Red River, the walleye are much larger. Every fall, mature walleye enter the Red River from Lake Winnipeg and make their way upstream. Locally know as "greenbacks," the large females can reach 14 pounds. It is generally believed that the walleye are following their primary food, the emerald shiner, and are feeding heavily. Whatever the reason, they are concentrated and in the mood. Yellow and chartreuse minnow imitations are the most productive patterns.

Goldeye & Mooneye

While goldeye are encountered throughout the season, it is late June that they really come into their own as a target species for the fly fisher. At this time, the Red and Assiniboine Rivers host an enormous Hexagenia hatch that brings both goldeye and mooneye to the surface, providing excellent dry fly action. Rather than holding stationary in the river, they travel in large schools, grazing on the emerging mayflies as they go, when they can be caught in significant numbers. The Assiniboine River near Beaudry Park, just west of the city limits, is the place to be when the hatch is one. Incidentally, smoked goldeye is a Winnipeg delicacy. Give it a try - it's delicious.

Fresh water Drum

The freshwater drum, or sheepshead, is the only member of the drum family found in fresh water. They are common in the main stem of the Red River and the lower reaches of the larger tributaries. A special set of muscles that vibrates against the swim bladder produces a loud drumming or croaking sound for which they are named. The exact purpose of this grunting is unclear, but as only mature males exhibit the behavior, biolgists suggest that it is most likely related to spawning.

They are opportunistic feeders and can be taken on a wide range of sub-surface flies. While most drum encountered in the Red and Assiniboine Rivers average about five pounds, they can reach sizes in excess of 15. It is not uncommon for anglers on the Red to encounter a large school that can result in strikes on nearly every cast.

Emerald Shiner

Emerald Shiner Body:   Lead tape trimmed to shape with Pearl Mylar piping.

Wing:   Black bucktail topped with Olive Widow's Web.

Eye:   Prism eye.

Cat Nip Cat Nip

Body:   Cross-cut white rabbit tied on thick.

Back:   Witchcraft scale sheet cut to shape.

Steve's BND Steve's BND

Tail:   Red yarn.

Body:   Flat silver tinsel.

Eyes:   Silver bead chain.

Wing:   White bucktail topped with black bucktail.

Current Issue Canadian Fly Fisher For More Information

The Manitoba Fly Fisher Association's website at www.mffa.mb.ca, is a great source of information, and you can contact the membership with any questions on local conditions. In additions, Get Hooked On Fishing In Winnipeg, a publication available from Manitoba Natural Resources, is an excellent source of information on access to the Red and Assiniboine Rivers within the city limits, the species of fish found at each location. ~ Bill Charles and Steve Abraham

Credits: This article is from the Canadian Fly Fisher magazine. We appreciate use permission!

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