Thursday August 21, 2014

Interests for slow fishing days


Welcome to Week CV of ‘Fishing Parkland Shorelines’. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I’ll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don’t have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

So last week I started discussing how a fisherman evolves over time, arriving at the sort of ‘zen-spot’ where the experience of just being out near the water is enough.

I’ll admit I’m not quite there yet. I want to catch fish. But I am closer than I once was.

I am finding that there is great pleasure in watching a flock of pelicans gliding by only a few feet off the water’s surface, more so on a day you’re not fighting hungry pike. On those days you can relax and take in the spectacle of the big bird’s best.

Now a birdwatcher I will never fully be. It is not quite my cup of tea, although I appreciate the effort of ‘collecting’ sightings. I understand the passion one can have to add the next species of bird to the log book.

I wouldn’t go that far, but last summer on an excursion to Townsend Lake with friends for the weekend I came very close to buying a reasonably priced set of binoculars with the idea of being better able to watch birds while fishing.

That purchase is likely still to come one day and with it, maybe a small notebook in the old tackle box where a person might jot down a bird sighting just for the fun of it.

For those inclined to want to look at birds a bit more closely I’ll recommend a couple of websites.

The first is for the local group the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association (

From the group’s website “YFBTA is a not-for-profit charitable organization which works to promote awareness of the importance of wildlife and spaces for wildlife.  YFBTA promotes conservation, preservation, awareness and tourism.”

It is a local organization which has been promoting birding for more than a decade.

“In February of 2003 at Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, Ken Kessler, Coordinator of The Provincial Birding Trail spoke to 16 people representing various communities along the Yellowhead Highway (Carleton Trail, Langenburg, Esterhazy, Churchbridge, Saltcoats, Yorkton, Good Spirit Park).  At that time the Provincial Tourism Branch was encouraging Saskatchewan communities, who had active birding groups, to coalesce in an effort to foster increased tourism in the province,” details the group’s site. “The people gathered, decided that there would be enough interest to warrant a second meeting April 10, 2003.  At this meeting a decision to form a regional Birding Trail Organization was taken.  

“At the April 10, 2003 meeting the Langenburg office of the Regional Economic Development Authority threw its support behind the concept of a Regional Birding Trail Association.  A committee was formed and charged with formulating plans for such an organization.   June 5, 2003 marked the inception of the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association.   

“Since that time the YFBTA has continued to meet on a monthly basis.  This East Central Saskatchewan organization boasts members from surrounding many centres as well as from Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the United Kingdom, and continues to grow.

“YFBTA works to promote awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting spaces for wildlife to exist, and to promote tourism to these areas to increase support of the preservation of native species and their natural habitat.”

A second group to become familiar with would be Nature Saskatchewan (

“Nature Saskatchewan has been dedicated to the conservation of Saskatchewan’s natural environment since 1949. It promotes appreciation and understanding of our natural world through conservation, education and research. Nature Saskatchewan speaks for the protection and preservation of natural eco-systems and their biodiversity through research and viable conservation practices and connects nature and culture through outreach programs and services. The organization believes that nature is not a place to visit, but home, and strives to leave a legacy of our natural heritage for future generations. With over 1000 members Nature Saskatchewan provides programs and services that provide knowledge and experiences for those who have a love for nature,” again from their website.

It is Nature Saskatchewan which produces the excellent, Saskatchewan-focused Blue Jay magazine.

“Blue Jay, our renowned journal of conservation and nature, celebrates over sixty years of continuous publication. In Blue Jay you will read about backyard observations, careful and detailed observations of natural events, as well as the results of scientific research. Blue Jay also features poetry and artwork,” states their site.

“Blue Jay is a longstanding naturalist publication that allows both scientists and amateurs, to share their research findings and observations of the natural history of Saskatchewan and the Prairie Provinces. Published continuously by since 1942, Blue Jay has gained prestige with a national and international reputation and is distributed to university libraries and schools alike. Blue Jay will continue its long tradition of excellence in publishing the very best natural history articles.”

Last week I also mentioned butterflies. They are, after all, some of the most beautiful critters in nature, and there is an active hobby dedicated to them. An individual who collects butterflies is called a Lepidopterist. The term is also used to refer to those who study butterflies and moths for scientific purposes. The word is derived from the taxonomic order to which moths and butterflies belong i.e. Lepidoptera.

The term also covers many novice collectors.

In terms of collecting, although in this age I might just opt for a good camera for photos, there are a number of sites including;

“Butterflies have fascinated people for centuries! Some of the oldest butterfly collections in museums today have specimens from the 1700s - including species that are now extinct. (A note of caution:  many species of butterflies have plentiful populations, but make sure you don’t collect too many of the same species or kill rare ones without considering first.) To start your own collection of these beautiful Lepidoptera you’ll need some basic collecting equipment. A sturdy butterfly net is essential, and a spreading board, insect pins, and a display case are helpful tools for making a quality collection,” details the website.

As for identifying butterflies and moths there are plenty of online resources to help.

“This step can come after you’ve brought the specimen home, but often it’s helpful to identify it right away, so you can remember where you found it. A field guide like the Butterflies & Moths Golden Guide can help you identify many common species, or you can try an Audubon guide with color photos of 600 species. Using a guide, find out what type of plant the caterpillar of that species eats, then check any of those plants in the area for tiny butterfly eggs on the underside of the leaves. (And come back later to see the caterpillars!) If you decide to identify your captures when you get home, make a note of where you found each one and what plant or flower it was feeding on,” explained the above site.

“The first step of the identification process is to determine whether your capture is a butterfly or a moth, the two groups of Lepidoptera. Sometimes they are very difficult to tell apart, but in general moths have plump, furry bodies, are more dull in color, are active at night, and have wings spread flat when resting. Butterflies, on the other hand, usually have smoother bodies, brighter colors, are active during the day, and fold their wings up over their backs when they land. Another important difference is their antennae - butterflies have slender antennae that form a club shape at the end. Moths tend to have feathery antennae and very few species have clubbed antennae.”

For more localized help, check out

On the UofR site Ronald R. Hooper writes, “butterflies and moths belong to the order of insects called “Lepidoptera,” which means “scale-wings.” They are named thus because their wings are covered with coloured scales that are arranged in rows, like shingles on a roof. The arrangement of these scales produces many beautiful patterns in the various species. Lepidopoterous larvae are called caterpillars; they undergo complete metamorphosis and later pass through a pupa stage, from which they emerge as adult butterflies or moths. Butterflies are diurnal (day-fliers); some moths are also diurnal, although most are nocturnal. Most butterflies are very colourful, and so are many of the moths. The most noticeable difference between butterflies and moths is that butterflies have enlargements, known as clubs, on the ends of their antennae.

“So far, 160 species of butterflies have been found in Saskatchewan. The skippers have stout bodies and curled antennal clubs. Eight species of the Swallowtail family have been recorded in Saskatchewan; these usually have a false eye-spot at the outer corner of each hind wing, and also a tail which acts as a false antenna—both being a means of protection that diverts the attention of their enemies away from more vulnerable areas. Saskatchewan’s largest butterfly is the Monarch, orange with black veins, and with a wing expanse of up to 10 centimetres. It reaches Saskatchewan as a migrant in late June, and produces a brood on milkweed, which emerges in August and goes South to Mexico for the winter. Early in the spring the Monarchs move northward and produce a brood that then continues on to Canada.

“There are nearly 1,500 species of moths known to occur in Saskatchewan, and a few additional species are discovered annually. These moths are divided into two groups: the Macrolepidoptera contain the biggest specimens, the Black Witch Moth, that strays here from the southern United States being the largest species; the Microlepidoptera, on the other hand, comprise many tiny species as well as some marginally larger ones—the only big moths in this group being the Ghost Moths.”

When fishing I also find myself mesmerized by dragonflies. There is something alien, yet beautiful about them and I can watch them diving through the air after a meal time after time.

The website is a good resource for dragonfly lovers.

Gordon Hutching writes on the Uof R sites, “Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata, derived from the Greek meaning “toothed-jaw.” Odonata as a taxonomic order of class Insecta, is divided into two suborders: damselflies (Zygoptera) and dragonflies (Anisoptera). Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related but show some physical differences. Damselflies are much smaller in body size and are more delicately structured; Dragonflies are larger, swift-flying insects with voracious appetites. Another distinguishing feature is the difference in which the two groups position their wings when at rest. Adult Dragonflies are among Saskatchewan’s most beautiful insects. Since they fly only during daylight times, the sun accentuates the colours of their bodies and their beautifully patterned wings when they hover or fly. Saskatchewan has a variety of aquatic environments ranging from alkaline lakes, sloughs and rivers, to acidic boreal bogs, fens and ponds. While large in extent, the range of wetlands in Saskatchewan is relatively low in diversity; therefore the species diversity of Dragonflies is also low: the province has sixty-eight species of Odonata—twenty-two species of Damselflies and forty-six species of Dragonflies—as compared to approximately 650 species for the rest of North America. However, in this large area of wetlands, Saskatchewan’s low diversity is countered by the sheer volume of dragonflies on the wing.

“Dragonflies are strong fliers because the flight muscles are directly attached to four individual net-veined wings. This individual wing attachment is found in only a few groups of insects. Dragonflies have mastered the use of their muscled wings and they are able to hover, fly backwards and go from a full-stop position to rapid speeds almost instantly. Dragonflies have had a very long time to evolve such specialized flying techniques, considering that their fossil records go back over 300 million years to the Carboniferous Period.

“Dragonflies are very beneficial to humans as they feed upon mosquitoes, black flies, and other blood-sucking insects usually found at fresh water sites; but these “dragons of the airways” are not discriminatory in their taste and are known to feed on other beneficial insects, including each other. While watching birds and chasing butterflies and moths will never replace the fight of a big northern pike, or even a small, chubby perch, knowing a bit about other creatures we encounter as we fish, and taking a little time to observe them more closely can make the overall experience of being out in nature that much more enjoyable.



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