When I go ice fishing I don’t have the luxury of having all the electronics and all the gear that can possibly be purchased for ice fishing, so I have learned how to adapt in a few ways. One way is to use the reel on my ice fishing rods as depth finder. Water depth is often an important piece of information when fishing and without a depth finder or a flasher, it can be hard to guess based on the amount of line you let loose from your spool. But there is an easy way, simply use the amount of line spooled per turn of your crank handle to measure.
Finding out how much line your reel cranks in is easy. I use 20 feet as the reference point. To do this, I first get my measuring tape and layout 20 feet on my deck.
Un-spool your line back to the 20 foot mark, then crank it back to the lure, counting the number of turns. Divide 20 feet by the number of turns and you will know how many feet per turn of the crank handle. Next time you are out fishing, drop your lure to the bottom, crank it up and do the math.
and 1.9 feet per turn. So I just go by 2 feet per turn for both. I don’t often fish at depths beyond 20 feet so it’s a pretty quick and easy way to check the depth.
We have just put together a new chart which will allow you to estimate the weight of your fish, Walleye or Pike, based on how long it is. Looking for a 5 pound Walleye? You need about 24 inches. How about a 10 pounder Pike? Need to stretch out that ruler to 33 inches.
Fly #7 in the Series
So far we have tied a series of streamer style flys, imitating aquatic life that resides below the surface, and a number of dry fly patterns, fished on the surface. They all have the potential to catch numerous species of fish in Canada. Today’s fly, the Egg fly, is the 7th and the last in our series. I didn’t actually see myself using this fly this year so I put it last on the list and then I cheated. I also wasn’t planning on cheating but while at the dollar store looking for some gag gift items, I saw bright colored Neon Poms and it became clear, time to cheat.
Tying the Egg Fly
The actual pattern recipe calls for using Egg Yarn, tie it on and trim into the shape of a ball. That’s it, but I took one more step on the easy path, buying pre-made puff balls. At first I tried the larger size puff balls but they were just too big and too cumbersome so I switched to the smaller size.
The article in Outdoor Canada showed yellow balls. I used both yellow and pinkish red color.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5. If you follow the actual instructions and use egg yard, the difficulty level will go up to 1.1.
- dry fly hooks, #8 to #12. I used a #12 to make two of the neon pom balls fit comfortably on the shaft of the hook
- Neon Pom balls from the DollarStore
- color matching thread, I used white thread on the yellow balls and red thread on the red balls.
After you pinch off all the hook barbs, place the hook in the vice. Starting just behind the eye, build up wraps of thread larger than the diameter of the eye. This will help keep the puff ball from sliding forward and off the hook.Now remove the hook from the vice and slide on two of the colored puff balls side by side. Pass the tying thread around one puff ball and add approximately 10 wraps between the balls.
Pass the thread to the middle again, add a couple wraps, pass to the eye of the hook and wind on 2 or three additional wraps then whip finish the thread. i then add head cement to both the head thread wraps as well as those behind the second ball. I use more cement than on a normal fly to get some adhesion between the thread and the puff ball to further prevent slipping.
In the flybox, now you can you can see a full compliment of the 7 Flies That Catch Fish in Canada. Some are a bit tattered, having been in the battle, and some have yet to see action, or have yet to fool a fish.
Walleye are usually at the top of any Saskatchewan anglers list of favorite fish to catch. The techniques and gear used to catch walleye can be a full aisle at any tackle shop. From my own experience of fishing Saskatchewan waters for Walleye over the past 30 years, you really only need 3 lures. These three lures have consistently produced walleye in good numbers and in good size:
- perch colored Walley Diver
- Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds
- Bright green, yellow, or white jig head
That’s a pretty short list, but long on fishing stories. I have bought and trialed a number of of the “next best thing” for catching walleye and have yet to be convinced that anything works as well as the above. The reason Len Thompson sells thousands of the 5 of Diamonds spoon is that it has continued to catch fish for a hundred years, consistently, both Pike and Walleye.
If I had to add a forth, it would be a bottom bouncing rig with a trailing spinner, either yellow or bright green/yellow combination. But give me a rod and only what i can tie onto it and you will find me with one of the three. They are all versatile enough to cast or troll and the jig head is the clear winner in any jigging situation.
While this is only a sample of one, look at the next two pictures below. Here’s the story. Fishing at Dead Lake (a fly in camp), Larry cast out his Walley Diver and hooked a nice walleye which pulled deep and got the line snagged. In attempting to free the line, it broke. Larry tied on another lure, a Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds. Casting from the same spot and catching both Pike and Walleye, an hour later, Larry catches the same fish, and gets his Walley Diver back!
The pictures above were all walleye caught the same day, using one of the 3 lures listed. The top photo was a Walley Diver. Second photo was a yellow jig head and white plastic worm. Third and forth was both the Walleye Diver and 5 of Diamonds. My best walleye of the trip (below) was bright green jig head and white plastic worm.
At the very beginning of summer, literally, I did a fly-in trip to Dead Lake in northern Saskatchewan. The float plane dropped us off at the dock about 10 PM on the evening of June 20th. I had never been to this lake before so when in doubt I brought whatever gear I thought i carry. The other 4 member of the fishing party had been here before so i knew from their stories that there were definitely fish to be caught. The evening was a true northern Saskatchewan experience. We started a campfire and decided to “sip” some rum and whiskey until it got dark. Between refills, I walked down to the dock and tossed an old time favorite spoon into the water, the Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds. 6 pike later and I knew I had my morning plan. I eased off the rum mixture knowing I was going to have an early start. Also, knowing how far north we were, staying up until it got dark doesn’t really happen, as you can see from the midnight picture below.
So about 2 AM I went for a nap while others promised to take up the slack on the rum for me. It was a quick but necessary few hours of sleep. When the sun was up a bright, and the lake was like glass that next morning, it was time to pull out the fly rod and test some of the patterns I had tied the past spring, tied in anticipation of morning just like this.
So out came the 8 weight fly rod and the box of streamers. I pushed out one of the 6 aluminum fishing boats and paddled out about 100 feet from shore. The previous evening I had hooked 3 or 4 pike in the same spot from the dock and now I was in position to cast back to that spot, from the other side of it. The Clouser Minnow was the first fly of choice. i had tied some variations including some with longer streamers with pike in mind. It was about cast #5 or #6 when I saw a wake headed towards my fly followed by an aggressive splash. Pike on the fly! This became my morning routine for the rest of the trip.
Throughout the mornings I continued to switch out flies, alternating between Clouser Minnows, Bucktails (aka Mickey Finns), and Wooley Buggers. While all three of these fly patterns did catch pike, the Clouser Minnow was the clear winner. In fact the red and white Clouser Minnow, shown below, was by far the best fly of the trip. The bucktails were the #2 fly and the both the pure black Wooley Bugger and read headed Wooley Bugger intended to look like an egg sucking leach caught a few fish.
I often like to experiment when fishing, after catching a few fish on one fly, I will change to another to see if it will produce fish as well as the other. But, this trip, I had time switching away from the red and white Clouser Minnow. When you are catching a pike on a fly rod with great regularity, why swap your fly? What I did experiment somewhat with was the color of the fly. Other combinations included a blue and white, a green and white, and the second best colour combination green, red and white.
The great fun of fishing for pike in shallow water with a fly is that often you can see the streak of the fish as it accelerates towards and attacks your fly. These aggressive fish always give you a head-shaking fight when hooked as they try to dislodge the fly.
What I did not get the thrill of catching on a fly rod was a net filling pike like the one below. This one, and many other 36″ and larger pike were caught with spinning gear on jig heads, spoons and walley divers. i did pull in a 30+ inch pike on a fly rod, on a solo morning float just out in front of the cabins but nothing to compare to the 15 pounders that were also caught on the trip.
I have some more pike on the fly action planned for late August on a different lake. The Clouser Minnow is definitely going to be the featured fly.
On July 9th and 10th, it’s Free Fishing Weekend in Saskatchewan. if you are a Saskatchewan resident, you can fish in most of the lakes, ponds, and rivers without a license. The exception is within National Parks in the province. So if you haven’t been out fishing yet this year and haven’t bought your license yet, you get to put off the expense and go fishing anyway and the danger rangers will just smile and wave.
Wondering where to go fishing and what you might catch when you go there? Then check out the Favorite Places section on our website.
All other normal fishing regulations apply, such as catch limits and size restrictions. You can read all about them in the handy Angler’s Guide from your handy provincial government.
Saskatchewan’s Free Fishing Weekend comes at the end of National Fishing Week in Canada.
Fly #6 in the Series
The X-Caddis. Is it better than the traditional and classic Elk Hair Caddis? Now that I have tied a few of both, we are soon to find out. I will say this, the X-Caddis is a few degrees of difficulty easier than the traditional fly pattern. Less materials and easier to finish.
Tying the X-Caddis
This fly was left to one of the last to tie in the series as most dry flies are summer time flies, as is no exception with the caddis. As June turns into July, success with the caddis fly is prime time.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5. The Fly Tying Bible rates the Elk Hair Caddis as a 3 out of 5 for tying difficulty. With a couple fewer materials, this version of the caddis is pretty easy to tie. Probably the trickiest part is tying off after you fasten in the elk hair for the wing. You need to leave a fairly large loop of thread to get over the butt end of the elk hair the protrudes forward over the hook eye.
- wet fly hooks, from #8 to #12
- black or brown thread
- hare’s fur dubbing, brown or grey
- elk hair
Place the hook in the vise and wind on the thread beginning at the eye and winding in tight turns until opposite the hook point. I prefer caddis flies in size 8 to 12, although some guides recommend down to a size 14 hook.
Catch in some Antron, Z-lon or similar yarn for the tail. I didn’t have any so i substituted a somewhat darker small bunch of the elk hair. I actually like using this darker hair material for this purpose. If you let the hair twist around the shank as you catch it in, the butt ends will dangle forward like legs.
Once you reach the eye, pull off any extra dubbing and wind the thread back to the point opposite the hook point, in widely spaced turns, and then forward again, widely spaced, to hold the dubbing in place. Otherwise the first good fight with a trout will pull off all your dubbing.
Cut off a stack of elk hair and pinch together. Catch in tightly slightly behind the hook eye, allowing the butt end of the hair fibres to protrude forward just past the hook eye. Wrap the thread tightly 5 0r 6 times, and then tie off, using large loops to fit over the elk hair butt ends. Add some glue and you are finished.
For those who like the traditional caddis pattern, you can easily add the hackle component. After catching in the tail fibres, use a couple more loops of thread and catch in a hackle feather. Then add your dubbing to the thread and wind on the dubbing body forward. Follow the dubbing with winding the hackle forward.
I tied 2 of these X-Caddis flies (the 2 on the left) on a #8 dry fly hook and the other 4 on a #12 hook. The #8 flies look a little large, but trout start slurping up hoppers in August, you can often get them to bite at a big caddis as well.
The Fly Box
We are nearly complete with our 6 of our 7 flies for Canada tied.
Actually, it’s 7 out of the 8. I’ve added the Super Jumbo Mosquito fly to the box, lower right side. If you are fishing still water for trout, especially in the evening / sunset, you will love this fly. So with the dry fly X-Caddis added to the box, we are pretty well set for most fishing situations. Just the Egg Fly left, which is primarily a pattern for streams and rivers.
I start to look forward to the opening day of fishing the day that ice gets in the way of casting my fly rod. I would much rather fish open water than hardwater so the ice fishing season does not hold that much allure to me. I enjoy ice fishing, pulling wriggling fish through a 10″ hole in 4 foot thick ice, but not as much as casting to a rising trout or feeling the quick jerk of a walleye off the side of the boat.
This opening season I had special plans. My buddy, “Klubber”, from Lethbridge Alberta had come to town and we had plans to fish the two opening days followed by attending The Who concert in town on the second night. The Who were fantastic by the way. Hard to imagine getting excited for some senior citizens on stage with microphones and guitars. But classic rock it was! We had the satellite radio hooked up in the boat and we were blasting the stereo all day long as well.
Back to the fishing. Our plans were to fly fish Lake Blackstrap, tossing big streamers for Pike and Walleye and jig for Perch. When Klubber’s travel plans changed, I found myself opening day morning at the local trout pond, fly rod in hand. Klubber would be in early afternoon and then we would assault the lake. It was a great morning for tossing small nymphs to surprisingly rising rainbow trout.
It was also the Official start to my 7 Flies That Catch Fish in Canada. When I arrived at the pond, I still had one of my own Super Jumbo Mosquito patterns tied on, which is the eighth fly of the seven flies (I know the math doesn’t work). There were a few rises already happening at 5:30 am so rather than changes flies, I gave the mosquito a try, knowing it’s more of a summer pattern. It did generate some interest, a few strikes, a few long distance releases, but no fish landed. So i switched to what should work better, a Hare’s Ear Nymph, fresh off the tying table. Soon after, a good hook up and a decent rainbow trout, for the trout pond (see above). a light south breeze and warming temperatures made for an easy Thursday morning. I managed to catch 4 more fish that morning and got the pre-season anticipation under control. Now I was looking forward to the afternoon, fly fishing for some hungry pike in a shallow bay.
Klubber showed up early afternoon and brought the wind with him from Lethbridge. Fly fishing was going to be tough. Getting from the boat launch to the spot we wanted was going to be tougher. We ended up deciding to pull up short of the intended spot and instead trolled and dropped anchor near a spot where I had caught plenty of Walleye last summer. We each hooked on to a small walleye while trolling so we decided to drop anchor.
We managed to land about 8 walleye, Klubber with the better hand that day, catching 5 of them, plus one small pike. We used a variety of lures, small spoons, jig heads, and a spinners. Seemed what was most successful was anything we tipped with the “Secret Magic Bait”, something discovered somewhat by accident. The one problem we had, in fairly windy conditions, was the anchor could not hod us in one spot. We kept drifting away from “The Spot”. every time we got in ‘The Spot”, we were catching fish. Bot without much for weed growth yet, the anchor was just dragging on the muddy bottom. We solved that problem on the second day (below).
We started the second day in the same way I started day one, casting flies to the rainbows at the trout pond. The wind was picking up from the west and it was few degrees cooler than yesterday. Fishing was slow, a couple for Klubber and one for me. We were going to give it another 5 minutes when the frequency of rises increased and after both tying on a Hare’s Ear Nymph, a double header. We each caught another 5 or so small rainbow trout over the next hour when we decided it was time for some coffee and breakfast, and to hook up for the lake. Coffee, toast, eggs, and a flat tire later and we were off to the lake for day two.
The wind was a little better direction today, but still too much to fly fish, two guys standing next to each other on a wobbly boat throwing big streamers with the wind seemed like a bad recipe. We tried trolling and jigging an area a bit further up the lake from where we had caught all the fish the day before. Nothing. Not a bite. Go back to Plan A. So we headed for The Spot. Again we had problems with the anchor dragging through the mud. We had a few bites. Lost some bait. We knew we wanted to be in The Spot. So we got inventive. If we couldn’t anchor to the lake bed, we will anchor to the shore.
We hooked the anchor in the branches of a tree on the water’s edge, let out the anchor rope, attached a couple of ski ropes, and let the boat drift out to The Spot. Some adjustments in how much rope and Fish On! It didn’t take long to hook the first walleye of the day. We had to take a picture of our anchoring technique as well the first fish it produced.
Shortly after releasing that walleye, there was a sense of excitement from the front of the boat. Klubber had a pretty good rod bend going. My first through was, of course, he hooked a rock. Then I saw the jerk, jerk of the rod tip and knew it was a fish. I also knew it was a good fish, a net-worthy fish. We landed the fish. A few quick pictures, and Klubber declared it the best Walleye of his life.
One of the last walleye we caught was a feisty little fish. I had a bite, missed, pulled up my jig to find most of the minnow gone. While I was reaching for the minnow tub, I dangled my jig just below the surface, 2 feet from the boat and this little walleye hammered it.
We had to shut down the fishing late afternoon, to give us time to get back to town, shower, eat and off to The Who. Classic Walleye fishing plus Classic Rock n’ Roll!
As I write, this I of course am pondering when I will next get to go fish. Today. Question answered.
Fly #5 in the Series
This fly is classic nymph imitation. It can fool a trout into taking it just subsurface in low light or let the fly sink and use it as a bottom runner. First time I fished a fly similar to this, we called it the Trout Pond Slayer. It was little more than a ball of brown hare’s fur, tossed into the pond to imitate the food the pond attendants fed the fish, small pellets. Imitate what they feed on and catch fish.
Tying the Hare’s Ear Nymph
This is a very straight forward fly to tie, with the exception of properly selecting enough wing material for the wing casing (in one of the variants I tied). I had trouble finding the right materials, at least the webby hen or partridge hackle used for the collar. I tried substituting a few materials with limited success. Finally I moved on to tying this fly as a Hare’s Ear Nymph, complete with wing casing.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5. According to the Fly Tying Bible this is a 3 out 5 for tying difficulty. Once you figure out how much feather materials to use of the wing casing, and how to keep it on top of the body, the rest of the fly is really easy. However, in most of the nymphs I tie, I leave out the tinsel.
- wet fly hooks, from #8 to #14
- black or brown thread
- lead wire
- hare’s fur dubbing, brown or grey
- grey feather fibres
- hare’s fur or substitute
Place the hook in the vice. Starting just behind the eye, build up wraps of thread approximately 1/4 down the shank, catching in the tag end of lead wire. Wind on 4 or 5 wraps of lead wire. The lead wire help make the fly head heavy and creates a bobbing action as you strip in line. Cover with tying thread and continue the tying thread to the hook bend. Catch in some hare’s hair at the hook bend or some other soft animal hair.
Wind on the hare’s fur dubbing by rolling it continuously around the thread then wrap it on, using each successive wrap to hold the loose fur in place. Add a couple of overwaps if needed to hold the body fur in place.
As I mentioned, I was not able to get any proper collar material so I experimented with other materials. In the pic below, I tried some of the soft feather material from the base of duck wing feathers. In the water, it might pulse a bit as the fly is pulled. I also used elk hair, which was difficult to hold in place and then attach. If that version of the fly catches more fish, I will certainly have an update. This summer. In this case, I attached the fibres and then built up a head with tying thread.
In this next example, I wound the dubbing forward about 2/3 of the way to the eye, then caught in grey feather fibres with the tag end forward. Then dub on some more hare’s fur and build up a thicker body over the tag end.
Then pull the feather fibres forward and secure with the tying thread, then build a head and tie off, finishing with head glue.
This is a very versatile pattern that seems to work because it just looks buggy. Keep away from the urge to make this too flashy or sophisticated and keep it a little messy.
The Fly Box
The bottom of the box now has several fly versions, the dry fly Bivisible and the very adaptable Hare’s Ear Flymph / Nymph.
With Wooley Buggers, Brown and White Bucktails (Mickey Finn), and Clouser Minnows. These are all considered sub-surface patterns, fished as wet flies. They are also fairly large fly patterns. They are used to go down to where the fish are, feeding in the water column or the at bottom.
The selection is now getting to where we can fish most conditions for many species of fish in Western Canada. Just as an aside, the opening day of fishing season in Canada is now passed and I will be adding articles on Fishing Flys for Canada with some results.