We hope everyone is having a great Holiday Season! The fishing has been a little challenging with cold weather and we expect this to continue with more cold weather coming this weekend, but the silver lining is we think it will warm up for Boxing Week and there could be some excellent conditions to get out if you have the time off.
We only have a couple articles this week but they are good ones. Eric has a steelhead fly tying article to share with everyone and Taylor goes over some key water level numbers for the Chilliwack River so you can plan your steelhead season. Matt also tunes in with a big video report where he shares some updates on prawning, some cool new products that just hit the sale floor as well as some fun industry events worth checking out. To watch the video report, Click below:
The other big news this week is that we have announced our 2023 Fish Course Schedule and there are some new courses! See details below and if you want to sign up make sure to get on it soon as many of the courses sell out fast!
Last, but not least, we are heading into the last week of holiday shopping before the big day! We’re open late Wed/Thurs/Fri next week in case you need to pop by after work to get a gift for someone (or yourself!). Check out our full Christmas Hours below!
If you’re driving don’t forget there are spots directly in front of the store for you to park for a quick visit to the shop.
On to the report!
INDUSTRY EVENTS AND UPDATES
2023 COURSE LISTING – Learn How with Pacific Angler
Find our full course listing here!
Pacific Angler Boxing Week Sale – Mark your calendars!
Our boxing week sale is back and better than ever– mark your calendars for our biggest sale of the year! December 26 – December 31, 2022!
Steelhead Society of BC’s Online Auction – Closes December 22!
The Steelhead Society of BC’s online fundraising auction is back! There are some excellent prizes to be won including custom tied flies and from some of your favourite Pacific Angler Team members. You can support the great work of the SSBC, pick up some excellent items for your next fishing trip or find that perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list. Check out all of the online auction items here! You won’t regret it! Bidding closes on December 22 so don’t delay.
FRESHWATER FISHING REPORTS
Chilliwack/Vedder River Fishing Report + Water Level Check
It’s mid-December, and the first few reports of steelhead are starting to come from the C/V system. The water is currently running low, clear and cold, but a few winter steelhead are obviously trickling in regardless of the conditions. Fishing is certainly not fast and furious, but there’s still a chance that you could find a fish if you put in some time and miles.
Due to the floods of November 2021, the readings on the river level graph don’t represent what they used to. For example, before the floods, anything below 1.6m was considered low, and anything above 2.1m was usually blown out. These days, anything below 2.0m is low, and anything above 2.5m is blown. This change in water levels is due to gravel scouring during the flood- gravel washed out from under the hydrometric sensors, so the sensors now operate in deeper water than they did before. This caused some confusion for me last December- I had no idea why the river refused to drop below 1.8m for the longest time, so I just assumed it was running high for a long time… and the constantly dirty water reinforced this assumption. Turns out, it wasn’t- the graph had just changed.
We predict that at around 2.3m we can expect ideal level for classic steelhead green conditions but we will have to wait and see as it has been some time since we have seen enough rain to get us to this level.
Of course, the river is currently quite low and clear, so smaller presentations won’t be a bad idea. Beads, gooey bobs, smaller rubber worms, yarn ties, blades, jigs and bait will all produce fish if they’re around. Snow is the only precipitation in the forecast over the next week, so conditions are unlikely to change until things warm up a bit. Speaking of warm, the water is anything but warm, and likely to get colder in the coming week. Steelhead are cold-blooded, so low temperatures can make them a bit lethargic. As a result, they’ll be less aggressive than they would be if the water was a bit warmer- they won’t move as far to bite stuff, they won’t bite as hard, and they’ll be slightly less likely to bite in general.
Be aware that this is still quite early in the season, so there won’t be large numbers of fish in the system just yet. There will be some fish trickling in for sure, but larger numbers of fish typically start showing up sometime in January. Covering as much water as possible is key if you’re trying to track down an early steelhead, and a bit of luck doesn’t hurt either… you’re basically trying to find a needle in a frozen haystack right now. A few fish have been caught and posted on social media, so expect an elevated number of anglers on the water over the next week- everyone has been itching to get out there, and pictures of dead fish are a surefire way to get steelheaders excited and out on the water.
Designing Simple Intruder Flies
Steelhead are known to hit almost anything. Why spend so much time dressing flies for them? I think it’s a confidence thing. Does our favorite colour combination make all the difference, or is it the confidence it brings on a cold winter day. With some consideration to the design, one can tie flies and be confident they will perform. So, to start out this is about what I think makes a good swung fly. I break this down into the key design elements I consider when tying. I also have two patterns to share and some details on what makes them successful.
Let’s jump in to the Design Elements:
Silhouette or Profile: The shape your fly takes during the swing.
For the most part I am looking for an elongated teardrop shape. This can be small; it can be large but it has to have the shape. This shape is the universal small swimming prey item shape. Select and incorporate the right materials that keep this shape and provide volume without bulk and weight.
Movement: The part that makes the fly come to life.
– The wispy fibers of Marabou and Rhea
– Wiggly rubber legs
– Swimming rabbit strips and fur
All these impart a life like quality and makes it believable underwater. If it swims like a stick the fish think it’s a stick.
Flash: How the light catches my fly in the water.
I say flash because I want to pay specific attention to how the light catches my fly in the water. This is usually achieved with all the flashy fun synthetics out there. I think it plays directly to predator type reactions in fish. Don’t forget some feathers can naturally add flash. There are some times when you want more flash, and sometimes you want less but that’s another topic
I am not going to stress too much on weight because I think this is influenced more by where you fish. I commonly tie with dumbbell eyes cones and beads, most often in the medium or small sizes. I prefer to fish a lightly weighted fly and let my sink tips do the heavy dredging.
Probably the most subjective part of the fly. I will talk about colour from a fly design point. Below are a few of the colour considerations I make when I tie.
- Contrasting colour: Makes for bold flies that show well in stained water.
- Complimented colors: Some combos go together like a PBnJ … think black & blue
- Blending or gradient colors: Give the fly a bit of life like glow effect.
- Hot spots: I usually include them on my intruders. Specifically, so they’re visible from the back. I think of the fritz bumps I tie in as a bright taillight.
- Barred Patterns: I think the barring enhances the movement of the materials.
- UV: Yes
The simplified version of this fly is tied as such:
- Shank, Intruder wire, stinger hook, cone head
- 3 turns UV Frits at back as a bump.
- 3-5 turns of a strung polar chenille up the shank.
- Dubbing loop made with fair flies’ craft fur and UV dub
- 2 strands of long flash down each side
- 2-4 wraps of marabou at the collar.
Slightly more fancy single stage:
- Shank, Intruder wire, stinger hook, medium dumbbell eyes.
- 3 turns UV Frits at back as a bump
- Loop 1: UV dub, Polar Flash, Predator Wrap
- Loop 2: UV dub, fair flies’ craft fur
- 2 long strands of flash
- 2-4 wraps of marabou at the collar.
- Hackle tip pair
Why these flies work:
Using a lot of synthetic materials helps shed water. This keeps the flies light when casting. The fair flies’ synthetic hair has wonderful movement in the water. The lighter colors have a nice transparency when wet that looks great over the glowing UV fritz hot spot. The hair also provides ample volume to prop up the last few turns of marabou to maintain shape under the swing. Lastly, was the idea that these could be tied easily and quickly, reducing the heartbreak after a breakup.
Nerd out time:
Once you know the basics these patterns can be tweaked to your liking. For more movement and body I use less flash and add rabbit hair in a dubbing loop. For more flash I like to add predator wrap, bait fish emulators, angel hairs… all that stuff. My favorite combinations usually have dubbing, fair flies’ hair, and polar flash. You can also add rubber legs if that’s your thing. You can also opt for the “dirty ho” treatment and throw in a rabbit strip as a tail. Just know that the more you add the more you have to dig out of the water every cast.
I avoided Ostrich and Rhea when I was learning because it was difficult to work with… that changed once I got my hands on a set of material clips. Good material clips will allow you to build much neater dubbing loops and more complex flies.
I hope these tips help someone encounter a few more fish on the swing. I love talking flies so I am always keen to answer questions at the shop. You can also sign up for my intruder class in February!