Thursday, 24 April 2008

Where did Nova Scotia’s Smallmouth Bass Come From?

When I was small, fishing meant a couple of things.

The first was well, anything you could catch from the town wharf. Pollack were number one, then Tommy Cod and every now and then a Mackerel.

We would also by times catch Kyak (Alewife), Eels, Sculpin and Flounder, all from the wharf or the nearby abutments of the town bridge.

A local man would fish the tides for Striped Bass but he was the only one I knew of who fished for them.

The second opportunity was fresh water fishing. That meant Brook Trout but we kids were just as happy to catch Yellow Perch, Eels and Bullheads. Smelt and Kyak were dipped, and Shad were jigged, in season.

I was oblivious to Atlantic Salmon although there was a legend of someone hooking one on a Red Devel Lure while fishing for Pollock off the Town Wharf.

Now a’ days, well, things have changed. I have not fished with a “Red and White”, the local name for the Red Devel spoon, or sunk a hook draped in Night Crawlers in years.

Now I fish with a fly rod for anything I can put a cast in front of and spend a lot of time chasing fish I had barely even heard of as a kid.

For example, I am positive there were no Smallmouth Bass around when I was a kid. Where the heck did they come from or was I just growing up in a place where no one fished them?

No kidding let me know if you have an answer to this.

By the way, I was driving back from Amherst last night and had the fist bug mess of the season on my windshield. My brother Warren looks for Nanking Cherry blossoms to tell him the trout are willing. Me, I get the fly rod out when the first bugs start hitting the windshield.

Planning to finally get away this weekend, let me know if anyone within reach is looking to get out too.

Here are a few pictures of one of my favourite Salmon streams passed on my travels this past week.

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Saturday, 19 April 2008


Here is a picture of the only successful fly-fishing I have seen this year. I am not sure if my daughter knew how fascinated I am with carnivorous plants when she brought this savage little beauty home.

Truth is I am always a little slow to get going in the spring. It is a busy time at work and just cold and messy enough not to be too inspiring to me.

I watch the lake from window and when I see the first free risers, I leap into action too.

It was not always this way. I like to think that with age comes wisdom and pass it off as older and wiser rather than older, colder and lazier.

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The Myth of the Long Cast

 We all do it, especially if the fishing is slow.
We stop fishing and start casting. I mean really driving it out there. We still keep up the pretense. We watch the drift with eagle-like intensity and carefully retrieve with just the right action but as soon as we have enough line-in-hand for a good double haul, zoom!
We wing it out there, sending another long cast looping through the air, just because we can.

It is fun. It is usually the exact wrong thing to do but we all still do it, especially if someone is watching.

The fact that any fly-fisherman worth his salt who witnesses the exhibition invariably mutters under his breath, “What’s that idiot up to?” does not seem to inhibit us in the least.

 I have often been on both sides of that scenario at different times on the same day.

Casting is a pleasure. Even when you begin to understand the mechanics of the thing, it still seems a little miraculous.

Here is my experience with the practicality of the long cast.

Most of the trout I have brought to hand were within twenty-five or thirty feet of me, many much closer. Most of the salmon were within thirty or forty feet of me.

Fishing is about many things but catching is all about line control.

Here is the thing, keep in contact with your fly so that a movement of your rod tip to tighten on a fish does not have to first pick up coils of slack line. That is it. There is no great mystery or secret.

I heard that bit of wisdom from an old guide in my early years of trying to learn to fish. I have spent the past twenty or so trying to get it right.

As you become more skilled with your fly gear your circle of effectiveness will expand from five to ten to twenty yards and more. Most of the trout you catch will still be within twenty-five or thirty feet but you will also be able to reach out and pick off the odd fish foolish enough to show himself within range. Those moments are exceptional and can sure make your day.

Salmon fishing often requires long casts under difficult conditions. Some of the most memorable and spectacular salmon I have connected with were the result of extraordinarily long casts. A long accurate cast is often the difference between, “Fish on” and fishless.

Having written that though, there are many places where I have watched salmon anglers work through a pool I know well, casting long elegant lines a mile past where the salmon were laying.
I have done the same thing and will doubtless do it again. It is hard to resist even when you know better.

A big Nova Scotia salmon taken in the Fall

I should note here that the biggest salmon I have ever caught was a rod length from me when I saw him and and he took with just my leader and about four inches of fly line poking out of the tip. I was wading across the River Phillip and saw him roll on the edge of the fast current above me.

In thinking this ramble over, here is the gist of the opinion I am offering:

The ability to cast a long line will sometimes give you an advantage.
The ability to control your line so that you keep positive contact with your fly will always give you the advantage.

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Spring limps into Prince Edward Island

Her are some scenes from yesterday in PEI. I guess Spring is really going to come this year. You can still see a lot of sea-ice off the coast. Some of it looked like small icebergs. The fellow fishing in the picture got one but I was too far away to get a picture.

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Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Result of the Sackville Rivers Fly Tying Contest

This just in from The Flies and Lies group.
The results of the Sackville Rivers Fly Tying Contest

"Hi Folks,
I'm happy to announce that George Ferguson was the winner of the Danvise Rotary Vise and a $100.00 Gift Certificate for Fishing Fever Fly Shop in our Flies & Lies Fly Tying Contest. We now have an official SR (Sackville Rivers) Special salmon fly. Congratulations George and I will be trying the fly this year.

A picture of George's fly is attached and the recipe is:

Hook: George recommends size 8 or 10 salmon hook
Tag: Flat silver
Butt: Green & red UNI-Stretch
Body: Green Krystal Flash
Throat: Orange Krystal Flash & yellow hen
Wing: Moose hair
Head: black

One of our entrants was 7 year old Hannah Wallworth who was unable to attend the meeting last evening. Hannah will attend our April 30th meeting of Flies & Lies to be awarded her prizes for the Children's entry.

Thanks to those who participated and to you who have attended and supported Flies & Lies over the last 14 years.


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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Job Posting: Researcher (Natural and Social Sciences)

Here is something that came in my mail today:

From: St. Mary's River Association
To: St. Mary's River
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 11:34 AM
Subject: Job positing

We are currently looking to fill a term position of researcher. A detailed job description is attached. Please pass on to anyone you know who may be interested.

St. Mary’s River Association
PO Box 179
Sherbrooke NS B0J 3C0
(902) 522-2099

Job Title: Researcher (Natural and Social Sciences)

The researcher will:

· Compile and review historic and contemporary information on natural conditions (terrestrial, aquatic, chemical, biological) within the St. Mary’s River watershed.
· Identify data gaps within the existing body of information
· Prepare report documenting these conditions
· Engage with the local public, industry and special interest groups within the watershed through personal meetings, workshops and open houses.
· Conduct a mail-out survey to determine contemporary concerns and issues of residents of the watershed.
· Prepare materials (posters, etc.) for meetings, open houses, etc.

The successful candidate will:

· Have a broad background in natural and social sciences and so able to interpret a wide range of materials.
· Be able to work independently, with little direct supervision
· Be an effective communicator in writing and public speaking
· Be able to meet deadlines

Period of Work: June 1 - August 31, 2008; with possibility of extension into autumn

Location: Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia

If interested please submit resume (hardcopy only; no electronic material) by April 24 to:

Dr. Sean Mitchell
Executive Director
St. Mary’s River Association
Box 179, Sherbrooke, NS
B0J 3C0
ph.(902) 522-2099
fax (902) 522-2241

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More Odd and Interesting Fish Pictures

I just got back from being away. I traveled to Yarmouth via the Annapolis Valley and returned via the South Shore route. It was interesting to see how much snow there still is. Not everywhere though, some of the spots around Yarmouth and in the Valley looked positively spring-like. Most of the brooks were open and running well. The water is normally high for this time of year. Many of the lakes were open but another only a few miles away would still be ice covered. I guess it has to do with their orientation towards the sun. I will get on Google Maps and see if I can figure out the pattern. It might be interesting.

I also had the chance to listen to my brother Neil’s new CD on the way back.
You can check it out at this link.

When I got home, I checked my email to find these pictures from Baraz at Fish Finder.

He says;

“The giant fish in the man's arms is actually a European pike caught somewhere across the big pond...they just do not get that big around here! That picture has actually ended up in some newspapers here claiming it was caught here or there...different story every time!”

Sounds like my baby moose pictures doesn’t it? People are sure funny.

“The pike eats pike shot........well, if you look at the size of the lure, it sure looks like the smaller fish is only about 12 or 15 inches long.........the larger one would probably be between 2 and 3 feet.....4 feet at most!! The original claim is that that pike is over 6 foot long or something outrageous like that!”

Neat stuff! If you have any odd or unusual fish pictures or stories, send them along. I’ll share them with the gang.

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Correction to Rainbow Trout Saga

Well as usual, I got some stuff wrong in the story below. I had the bays and beaches mixed up. The folks are trying to keep fish farms out of Port Mouton Bay. The farm that was destroyed was a few miles down the coast in Liverpool Bay. So the Beach where the fish washed up was also a few miles down the coast at Beach Meadows. Sorry about that. Thanks to Warren for pointing out my bad geography.


Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Rainbow Trout, An Invasive Species for Nova Scotia?

When I was buying my fishing license this week I ran into Larry Short. He told me that two Rainbow Trout were caught in the Sackville River on opening day.

Why is this significant?

Well, they are not a native spices here. Back in November, a hurricane crashed into Nova Scotia.

There was an amazing amount of rain, screaming winds and waves of over 12 meters, that is about 40 feet, were reported in the ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Hurricane Noel destroyed an aquaculture facility in the waters of Liverpool Bay. They lost about $1,000,000.00 in equipment and stock. The stock in this case was big Rainbow Trout that escaped.

Between Liverpool where this happened and the Sackville River are several salmon streams. I call them salmon streams but all of our Nova Scotia rivers have been severely damaged by acid rain and other human activities. The naturally breeding salmon stocks are extinct in many and endangered in all.

The Sackville Rivers Association has been working for years to rehabilitate these urban waters and re-establish a breeding population of Atlantic salmon in them. With some success, I might add. Nevertheless, it is a fragile victory.

These two Rainbow Trout could disrupt the whole program if they were carrying a pen-born disease. It could be a disaster if they are the harbingers of breeding pairs pioneering local waters.

I asked Larry if these fish were not triploid as much fish farm stock is.

Triploid fish are sterile because of a genetic manipulation. They have three sets of chromosomes instead of two (diploid) which is normal.

The advantage to fish farmers of using triploid fish in aquaculture is their rapid growth and weight gain. The disadvantage is their susceptibility to deformities and disease. It also means that escapees cannot reproduce and become an invasive species.

Larry told me that the problem is that even though triploid fish are being raised, not all of them are in fact sterilized. As in anything, there is a margin of error.

What does it all really mean?

Well, in talking to my fishing friends not all of them are unhappy about the fish escaping and entering our rivers. About half of the guys are looking forward to catching them if they can.

They point to Cape Breton, which has Rainbows and Steelhead in the rivers now, apparently from aquaculture escapees getting into the Bras D’Or Lake over the last twenty years or so. I have gone fishing for Steelhead there myself. (I did not get any so went salmon fishing instead).

Others fear the big picture. A new invasive species that just might be the straw that breaks the Salmon’s back.

The Rainbows are out of the cage now so only time will tell. It is too late for our opinions on the subject to have an effect but I would still be interested in hearing what you think.

Image of fish after storm on Beach Meadows Beach from the Queens County Times

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Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Well-trodden Path

The amazing thing about the well-trodden path is that no matter how many times one follows it there is always something new to discover.

At the cottage this summer, I was reminiscing with my brother about a recent fishing trip. We had traveled to Gander, Newfoundland and then flown by float plane from there to a lodge on Banting Lake.

Banting Lake is named in tribute to Sir Frederick Banting. It was there in 1941 that he perished in a plane crash. He is known as the Nobel Prize winning discoverer of Insulin.

As remarkable as this discovery was, Frederick Banting went on to do something even more remarkable still. He did not seek to profit from this life saving discovery. Instead of applying for a patent, he transferred his rights to the University of Toronto. The price? One dollar. This act of selfless nobility is what made it possible for the millions suffering from diabetes to have affordable access to his health restoring serum.

Back from my digression. I was talking about the well-trodden path. The guides at Banting Lake Lodge were perfect specimens of the amazingly capable and resourceful men life in Newfoundland demands.

While trudging along a barely discernible path, an act of gritty endurance on my part but what my guide described as,
”a quick skip up the river”
I pointed out to him a dense patch of Round Leaf Sundew.
The Round Leaf Sundew is a tiny plant that grows in the nutrient starved barrens throughout the Maritimes.

It only grows 3 or 4 centimeters tall and has several round leaves of a soft green colour, each covered with many bright red hairs.

Every hair is tipped with the tiniest drop of sweet, sticky liquid.
An insect unfortunate enough to try for a sip of this deadly nectar finds itself trapped and slowly digested by the enzyme rich liquid as the hairs slowly enwrap its body.

My guide stopped to look at the miniature plantation. He pretended interest in deference to my need to take a breather.

When I pointed out the remains of a small insect wrapped in the hairs of one leaf, his interest was suddenly real. Captured by a plant that eats bugs.

Even though he knew the woods and waters of this country as well as or better than most, he was seeing something new and enjoying it as much as I was to be learning the broader strokes of the landscape unfolding before me.

And that is the amazing thing about the well-trodden path.

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Double Pike

I don't know if this is a hoax or not. What do you think?
A friend sent this with a comment about fishing downstream from a nuclear power plant.
Hoax or not?

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Thursday, 3 April 2008

Signs and Signals for the Fly-fisherman

One of the pleasures of the journey to becoming a fly angler is gradually growing awareness and curiosity about the natural world that accompanies it.

It makes sense that this happens. In the search for trout, you are often actually searching for what the trout might be feeding on. Connections between seemingly unconnected things start to become obvious - just not always easily understood.

Here is an example.

One of my favorite places to dry fly fish is in Kejimkujik Park. It is a stretch of the Mersey River called the Eel Weir after a Mi’kmaw artifact – a line of stones placed to form a “v” shaped fence with an opening at the centre. Alders were cut and placed along this fence to force the eels or other fish to swim through the opening and into a trap.
It is a lovely stretch of water dumping out of George Lake, flowing deep and cold.

The time to go is when the Indian Pears also known as Serviceberry first start to bloom. Local fly-fishermen wait for that signal. It tells them that the trout have started to drop down from the deep waters of the lake and into the river.

A signal I wait for is the sound of the first Spring Peeper. It tells me that the smelt have started to run. When the smelt are running is the time when a fly angler has a fair chance to connect with a land-locked salmon at the mouths of brooks along the Shubenacadie system.

Sometimes you know or can figure out why these signs and signals work, other times not so much. I like it better when I do not know why. It just seems more mystical that way.

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