A Fresh Start
July is the month fly fishing in Fernie gets off to a fresh start every year. Millions of litres of fresh water flows down the tributaries into the Elk River as the winter snow pack melts under the warmth of the summer sun. Anglers, having suffered a long, cold, grey winter are keen to get out into some fresh air and sunshine in anticipation of some of the very best dry fly trout fishing anywhere on the planet.
There is no better time for beginners to get off to a fresh start in fly fishing, because due to a series of fortuitous circumstances, this is as easy and good as it gets. No more dreaming, this is reality.
So what makes it so good? The wild, pure strain Cutthroat Trout, having endured an ice covered winter followed by a spring spawning season are hungry and looking up for fresh food as the big bugs, Stoneflies and Mayflies, hatch. Even big Bull Trout are known to take dry flies at this time of year. Having not seen an artificial fly for a long time the wily old Trout are not usually as selective as later in the season so they feed aggressively on well presented imitations. The water is higher, faster flowing and not as gin clear as late season which means anglers can get away with heavier leader and tippet which is more forgiving of error, and allows the use of a slightly heavier outfit which is easier for the novice angler.
The experienced angler will normally use a 5wt outfit at this time of year because it casts the bigger bugs better than lighter weight rods. A 6wt outfit is perfect for the novice because the slightly heavier rod is a little easier to cast, especially in the wind with bigger flies, and it is far more versatile for a one rod angler.
Leader and tippet up to 3X (8lb) which is very forgiving, can be used in the faster less clear water. A good tip here, I prefer to use a Steelhead/Atlantic Salmon leader as opposed to the normal trout leader because it's more pronounced taper will turn over and lay down the bigger fly easier, expert or novice angler.
Obviously Stonefly patterns, there are plenty of good imitations available. The size 8 Henry Fork Golden is one of my favourites, look on the river bank rocks for shucks to see what size and type of Stonefly has been hatching. As for Mayflies, big size 10 Brown and Green Drakes can be seen in the air, again there are several good patterns available, I find the old Wulff Green Drake works well. If I can't see anything happening my go to fly is a black Willies Ant in size 8 or 10, especially in off coloured water. I can't explain why, probably the distinctive silhouette, but it definitely works. My favourite Mayfly search pattern is a big Royal Wulff or Patriot size 14 - 10.
Big, easy to float, easy to see flies, forgiving tackle, plenty of beautiful, hungry, aggressive feeding trout, fresh air and warm sunshine, what more could you want?