Our Man In Canada
May 8th, 2000

Part 2
The Downtown Fly Fisher: Edmonton
Variety is the Spice - of Fly Fishing On the Prairie

Text by Roman Scharabun
Photos by Duane S. Radford

Trout Ponds

If you lean more towards trout, there is no shortage of opportunities here either. Numerous artificial lakes (pothole lakes) and natural ones have been stocked, usually with rainbow trout. Some of these are located within the city itself, with others only a 30 - 45 minute drive from the city center. Although some of these require restocking due to winter kill, a good number of them hold resident trout up to 18". Some of these lakes are best fished from a float tube or pontoon boat. Many, however, can be fished directly from shore. A 9' 4-wt rod is a good all around choice with a 5X leader, but be prepared to go to 6x if the fish become very selective.

Insect life is extremely abundant in these waters. You are just as likely to find dragonfly, damselfly or backswimmer nymphs as you are Baetis, Callibaetis and Tricos. Generally, the heaviest mayfly hatches occur in the early morning and late in the evening. The evening hatch is normally quite dependable unless weather conditions have been miserable during the day. That is when the afternoon may provide the best fishing.

The trout in these lakes tend to cruise. Remember to resist the temptation to cast directly to the rise, and to lead the fish to the left or right by a good 5-6 feet, letting the pattern sit quietly. This is by far the best technique for inducing a take. A subtle twitch of the fly prior to the fish getting there can make all the difference. During non-hatch periods, nymphs and chronomid patterns are the norm. Any of the popular patterns will work, but checking in at one of the local shops before heading out may get you some local knowledge that can often make the difference between a so-so day and a memorable one. Prime areas to nymph are the edges of drop-offs and along weed beds.

It is a good idea to find out if the lake you're planning on fishing has "developed" a yellow perch population! One of the unsolved mysteries of our time is how these perch got into closed bodies of water. Their presence can be very frustrating, since they'll hit anything that hits the water. Often they'll beat the trout to the take and you end up landing a perch that is usually about the length of your hand. Great if you're trying to get a youngster hooked on fly fishing, but not exactly a quality experience for the experienced fly fisher.

If you're prepared to travel outside the boundaries of the city, there are a number of excellent lakes from which to choose. Some of the local favorites include Hasse Lake (just west of the city), Morinville Reservoir at Cardiff (just north of the city) and Beaumont Pond (just south of the city). Although popular they still provide ample room for anglers to spread out and have more than enough room to enjoy their fishing. Hasse Lake is actually best fished from a boat. Visitors should check the regulations on motor use and speed.

Arctic Grayling & Bull Trout

The Little Smokey River near the town of Fox Creek, only a little more than an hour's drive north of the city, offers excellent fishing for Arctic Grayling. Fish in the 16"-18" range are common and they come easily to the fly - assuming you are using the correct pattern. Popular patterns include the Griffith's Gnat, Black Gnat and Brown Bivisible. Grayling have the odd habit of rising from quite a depth when compared to trout, so make sure you let your fly sit on the water's surface for a longer than normal period of time when fishing a deep hole. This gives the fish the chance to rise through 10 - 15' of water to intercept your fly. Once they're hooked, however, you need to be very cautious, for while landing a good-sized grayling is not a particularly difficult task, it's the bull trout that you have to look out for. These aggressive predators will sometimes chase smaller hooked grayling and grab them. Dealing with a 20" plus bull trout on a 5X tippet can be quite a handful. If you feel the need to target bull trout, then probe the depths with something like a weighted Wooly Bugger or a hopper pattern with some split shot at the head of the fly. Oh, and don't forget to cut your leader back to at least 3X. I failed to remember this on one trip and tried to land a huge bull on a 5X tippet. The bull won the battle in very short order.

As a destination spot, Edmonton definitely has a lot to offer the visitor, and although the city may boast only two seasons (the ice fishing season and the fly fishing season), the fly fishing can be outstanding. And when your casting arm begins to ache, there are all the delights of a large cosmopolitan city to sample. ~ Roman Scharabun

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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