I'm Ben Hervey-Murray and I reckon I've got the best job in the world for the next month. I'm traveling around Canada, a country blessed with some of the most stunning scenery you could imagine, with the aim of fishing for all sorts of interesting species using coarse and fly tactics and reporting back about my adventures for www.gofishing.co.uk/anglingtimes...
Canada fishing blog, Tuesday July 6th:
I'm just back from British Columbia - Canada's most Westerly province - and whilst the fishing could have been better, the scenery was amazing and more than made up.
With Canada Day proving to be a popular holiday for a camping trip, we ended up at the second choice of campsite beside Beaver Lake - a huge water high up in mountains surrounded by forests and rock outcrops.
The lake didn't appear to have many inhabitants apart from a stock of the ubiquitous rainbow trout and, after some enquiries, the general consensus was that a Willow Leaf rig was the best way to get into some fish.
The Willow Leaf rig is best described as a collection of Pat Butcher's earrings spread along a few feet of thick mono tipped with a small perch spinner, known as a wedding band because of its sparkly beads.
The idea is that the fish are drawn up from the deep clear lake by this display of trolled fishing bling and eventually take the end lure with the hook first.
It looks ridiculous - the most unlikely aid to luring a wild fish you could invent - but the fisherman heading out on the lake all had this set-up, so, whilst in Rome...
Four hours of relentless trolling at every combination of depth, speed and location later and facing a cold, mountain wind, I wasn't so convinced the Willow Leaf rig was such a great idea. It was time to aim our small aluminium boat for home.
I was utterly dejected at this point and felt thoroughly beaten by the Beaver Lake trout. Fishing in Canada looks easy but it definitely isn't without local knowledge and experience. The lakes are vast and fish location is incredibly hard but persistence and patience are often the best way to overcome these challenges.
As I pondered my glorious failure the right hand rod gave a quick tap. Weed, surely. But no, it went again. I struck and after a nervous fight, a rainbow trout of extremely modest proportions graced us with its presence - the Willow Leaf rig actually worked. I cannot remember ever being so happy to land one fish!
The 10-hour cross-country drive back to Calgary the next day felt like it took half the time and I saw my fist wild black bear, but that little trout was the piece of wildlife I felt most satisfied at ticking off my list.
Tomorrow I'm heading to Lake Minnewanka for a day's fishing for huge lake trout. They've had fish up to 30lbs already this season (with an all-time best of 45lbs) and for a wild trout that is an absolute beast - I can't wait.
Tuesday 6th July
Calgary, Alberta - Canada
Canada fishing blog, June 29th:
I'm fresh back from two days of fishing in Edmonton with Keith Rae - Canada's answer to John Wilson - and my first experience of just how explosive the sport can be in this amazing country. We fished two stunning lakes and on each occasion my bait or lure was barely in the water for a minute on my first cast before it was nobbled.
You'll have to wait until next Tuesday to read the full story in Angling Times but I can safely say that it'd take a solid week's fishing in the UK to even get close to the numbers of toothy critters we landed in just two daytime sessions. The icing on the cake was seeing some amazing Alberta wildlife up close and in their natural habitat - altogether an unforgettable experience.
Fishing with Keith has also given me some ideas for zander fishing back in the UK that I'm sure will up my catch rate - if it does then I'll be sure to share a few of the new tricks I've learnt. One of things I love about fishing in different countries is learning from someone who has a difference perspective on catching what are usually basically the same species of fish we get back at home, and this trip has been especially productive from that point of view.
This week I'm continuing my hunt for a big Bow River brownie (the water has been too high and coloured since my arrival for a proper crack at the wild trout) and then I'm heading to British Columbia in the West of Canada for five days of fishing and camping by the Okanagan Lake, a beast of a pond that's over 130-kilometres long and up to 230-meters deep.
You'd think that a water that big would contain some real monsters. Well, apparently it does. The Ogopogo has been sighted many times in the past 140-years and it's said to be 40 to 50-foot long 'sea monster' - I wonder if he or she likes popped-up deadbaits...
Tuesday 29th June
Calgary, Alberta - Canada
Canada fishing blog, June 23rd:
After my costly expedition to Bass Pro and a day to get myself organised and catch up on sleep, I headed out of Calgary to Banff - a pristine mountain resort surrounded by some spectacular lakes and stretches of the Bow River - for my first proper fishing session in Canada.
The scenery as we drove the hour or so out of Calgary graduated from the flat plain-land of large native Indian reservations dotted with the odd casino or family home, to granite-faced mountains capped with snow and footed by alpine forests, often with a tempting lake glistening at the foot of the slopes.
If the fishing is anything like the scenery, I thought, then today was going to be a lot of fun.
The first destination was Gap Lake, a crystal-clear spring-fed water containing some fearsome lake trout, as well as the usual rainbows and other varieties. It appeared through the dense forest as we rounded a corner, looking not dissimilar to a Scottish tarn, and there wasn't a soul in sight as we began the short trek around to a likely looking spot where the lake feeds into the Bow.
One thing I've enjoyed about the country so far is the Canadian hospitality and their eagerness to help so, with this in mind, I broached the subject of the local wildlife as we walked: "What do I do if I see a bear?"
"Do you have your knife with you?" came the reply.
"Yes" I answered, securing it to my belt as I wondered what use an eight-inch filleting knife might be against several hundred pounds of angry, marauding bear. "But I don't think this will make the slightest bit of difference to the bear"
"You can always climb a tree...then you know what type it is"
"Really, how so?"
"Well, if it climbs up after you and then eats you, its a black bear. But if it pushes the tree over and eats you, it's a grizzly..." Like I said, they're a helpful bunch.
I didn't see any bears, but I did have the unique experience of fishing beside an osprey's nest as the mother hunted and fed her two fledgling chicks. Sadly - for me, anyway - the huge osprey had considerably more success than her English rival and when the rain started to come down, we decided to move to another lake further up the valley.
Within a minute of walking around the new lake - a smaller, shallower and less foreboding water - shoals of feeding fish became visible in several areas - jackpot. Upon asking what flies were doing the business, a kind gentleman called James gave me two weighted nymphs (imitations of the small insect larvae many freshwater fish dine upon) and, within a few casts, a hard-fighting rainbow trout came to the shoreline - my first fish in Canada.
Several more followed and, whilst it's pretty easy fishing if you know how, the amazing backdrop of Alberta's Rockies and the generosity of a fellow fisherman to a complete stranger reminded me that there's more to our sport than just the fish, much more. What a fantastic start to my trip.
Since then, I've managed a few hours more fly fishing on the Bow after wild brown trout but the river is high and murky - terrible trout conditions. However, I did come across another reminder that the riverside wildlife in Canada makes our menageries of otters, mink and cormorants look pretty tame in comparison.
As I write this, I'm in Edmonton, Northern Alberta, preparing for a two-day expedition across the Canadian wilderness in search of big pike and walleye - a close relative of the zander. You'll be able to read the full story about how I got on in Angling Times in a couple of weeks but, in the meantime, I'll be updating this diary every few days with my adventures.
By the way, my Canadian fishing licence cost almost fifty pounds for a year's sport, just in the state of Alberta. Even when you consider the hundreds of lakes and rivers in this area, don't you think it makes our country-wide EA Rod Licence look like an absolute bargain?
It's funny how being so far away makes you appreciate such things.
Wednesday 23rd June
Edmonton, Alberta - Canada
Canada fishing blog, June 21st:
During those long, fishless hours us piscatorial hunters sometimes have to endure, it's hard not to let the imagination explore that once-in-a-lifetime adventure in search of new, jumbo-sized species in exotic locations. It certainly helps me while away the hours between the action.
And after many long days of waiting for a big pike or zander on some desolate Fenland drains last winter, the germ of just such an idea began to take shape - I was aware of Canada's reputation as one of the world's best destinations for a traveling fisherman, and I wanted to go.
The lure of huge pike, walleye (a close relative of the zander), muskie (think pike but more aggressive and bigger), burbot (a freshwater cousin of the cod), wild trout of every variety you could imagine, including some monster ferox sub-species, and stunning scenery was too much for me to resist.
So, after many months of planning, I'm finally here in Calgary, Alberta to spend a month chasing as many different species as possible in some fantastic locations. And whilst I'm in Canada, I'll be keeping a regular diary for Angling Times online and writing features about some of the more memorable sessions, of which I hope there will be many.
My rods made it through the 21-hour journey intact - the airline Canadian Affair have a refreshing attitude to baggage allowances for fisherman - and this afternoon I'm off to buy my license and visit the holy grail of fishing shops - Bass Pro.
If you could imagine an out-of-town supermarket dedicated to our glorious sport, then you'd be on the right track. Just factor in that everything here is jumbo-sized and you'd be getting closer - it's a huge department store of fishing shops with whole sections devoted to particular lures, techniques or fish that, just on their own, would make the average British tackle shop look like a telephone box. I fear for my credit card.
But the tackle I've bought - Shimano Baitrunner reels, pike rods, lure tackle, fly rods and reels and my muskie-buster, the appropriately-named Fladen Maxximus rod - will, I hope, deal with a majority of the fish I'm going to encounter, plus I managed to bring a lot of terminal tackle and bits and pieces that cover almost every form of freshwater angling.
Over the next few days I'm going to be fishing for some of the wild trout species found on the Bow River - a stunning piece of wide, meandering water that cuts through Calgary and is ranked as one of the top ten of North American trout rivers - and I'll also be going after some pike and walleye in Edmonton, about three-hours drive North of Calgary (by the way, the pike here grow to over 50lbs...).
I'll be updating this diary regularly, so check back to see if I've got my monster walleye or 20-inch wild brownie yet!
Until then, I hope everyone had a fantastic start to the river season. I managed a few pike but the chub and carp on my local River Cam were strangely absent. Lets hope Canada is kinder to me.
Monday 21st June 2010
Calgary, Alberta - Canada