Welcome to Week CXVII 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.
Ah the days of August, the time fish apparently book flights to cooler climates, abandoning south Saskatchewan waters, leaving fisher folk tossing hooks in vain.
This year I had expected the hot weather of August to be less of an issue. The flooding which hit at the end of June raised water levels significantly, and I expected the higher water, infused with the fresh run-off would stay cooler than normal.
While I am not a fisherman who tosses a thermometre into the water to gauge such things, I can say anecdotally, having waded out to my knees in a backwater bay area at Canora Dam on August 4, to save a hook from a submerged branch, which seemed to make my son’s day the way he laughed at his poor father, the water is still quite chilly.
That said the highlight of the Canora Dam visit was my impromptu wade into the water, and of course the hotplate at noon at Raymond’s Café in Canora, which truly is a treat even without the fishing.
And really there is little evidence of the fishing that morning. We arrived just after eight, and fished hard through until 11ish, and neither one of us could confirm so much as a nibble.
Now to not catch at least a rogue pike at Canora Dam is almost unheard of regardless of the date on the calendar, so I was surprised.
One thing I did notice at the dam was the number of clam shells, many of course broken, but in observing a bit more closely found a couple of spots where shells were clustered, open, the clams long dead.
I theorize that the later high water transported the clams and once the water subsided they were simply clams out of water, and that led to their demise.
The discovery had me curious about clams, and I was surprised to learn at www.aquatax.ca there are some 35 species of clam in Saskatchewan. They fall into two categories, those with hells ess than 25 mm. Sphaeriidae (Pea Clams), those with shells greater than 25 mm. In mature specimens very much larger.--Unionidae (Pearly Mussels).
For a bit of extra info, from the website; “the “typical” large clams found along the shorelines of rivers and streams have separate sexes. After mating the eggs and young larvae are brooded in the female until the larvae, called glochidia, are released into the water. The glochidia are external parisites of fish. Each clam species is parasitic on a specific species of fish. After an interval up to 10 weeks, during which time they change into little clams, they fall off their host to begin free living. It is thought the parasitic stage is more of a dispersal mechanism rather than a feeding stage. The larger clams/mussels live for many years before they become sexually mature. The life span can exceed 20 years in some species.”
But, back to August fishing. A day earlier my better half and I had headed to Indian Point on Crooked Lake, another spot that is almost a guaranteed pike or two no matter the date.
The water was high; to the point the spit of sand where one can usually walk well out into the lake and cast from was basically gone.
That said I tossed a lot of shiny hooks into the lake that day, with the highlight being a few nice shots of a herd of cattle in a pasture on the valley wall.
When it gets to the point of mentioning a picture you can generally tell I am trying to avoid telling the world I was skunked. I mean zippo, nothing, nadda, not a single nibble.
So by this point I am not liking August 2014 very much, at least in terms of fishing.
Which brings me to Saturday, Aug. 9.
The plan had called for an early morning trip to the Roblin Bridge on Lake of the Prairies and then hit The Starving Artist Café in Roblin, home to some of the best blueberry pie since grandma.
But at 6 a.m. it is raining.
Now I do not fret fishing through rain, if it hits once I am out on a shore, rod and reel in hand.
To leave home in the rain, well it does not appeal very much. I’m not sure if that makes me less of a fisherman, or merely one of the smarter ones, but in either case I went back to the land of dreams.
By noon my better half is rousting me awake. Yes I sleep late when the opportunity arises. In this case she has seen The Starving Artist Café’s lunch special online, a Chicken Pesto Ranch Flatbread Pizza, and wants to go for lunch.
So being a wise husband, at least on occasion, I climb from the cozy sheets, and off we go.
The lunch is yummy, including the pie. I had been hoping for raisin. No one makes a good raisin pie these days it seems, but it was not a raisin day. The saskatoon though was amazing.
As an aside, I have to say pie is one of those things which shows how culture changes over time. In my boyhood any restaurant worth its salt, as my grandfather might have said, served thick slabs of homemade pie. And an afternoon coffee was not complete without a piece.
Now few restaurants make their own pies. Fewer yet make good pies. And having a piece with afternoon coffee is something seemingly lost to years gone by.
Anyway after the fine pie, I make sure we stop at the local second hand store. It’s something that is a nice side habit for a fisherman. It’s a great place to find books for an avid reader. I snagged a Stephen Leacock, a Pierre Berton, and two westerns for a total of two bucks. How can you go wrong at that?
We had planned to try the bridge on the way home, but the limited shore area was occupied, so we ended up at the new Togo Bridge.
Now I will confess a secret here, I am not a huge fan of fishing Lake of the Prairies. Shore fishing is generally with a pickerel jig rigged with minnows. It is the most boring way to fish in existence.
Add to the boredom you are hoping for small walleye, since bigger ones go back, and it seems counter to what it is to be a fisherman.
And if you catch a big walleye it puts up the general fight of a chunk of driftwood.
Not exactly my favourite locale.
But my better half likes it, so I rig up and smile.
She gets a nice perch, but it is slow.
I grow bored, and finally stick my rod handle in some rocks and pull ‘Wash Her Guilt Away’ out of my camera bag. The book is a fishing mystery from Michael Wallace, which you will learn more about in a week two. I sit back in my lawn chair and am happily a dozen or so pages into my reading when my reel simply whines and the rod tip dips hard and something is running against a drag I keep fairly tight since I generally want pike.
From the sound of the whine alone I am guessing carp.
I drop the book, grab the rod, and know immediately its big, strong, unhappy, and almost certainly a carp.
Now to prolong the tale a bit, I will say the carp is the most maligned fish in Saskatchewan waters.
It is revered in most Asia and Europe as the ultimate fighting sport fish, yet here I hear many fishermen lament its very existence.
It may indeed raid the eggs of other species, and is not native to our waters, but it grows large, fights like a banshee, and if I was guaranteed a few carp in lieu of all other species, I’d sign the deal in a flash.
This particular carp is not happy he has been fooled and now has a hook in its lip.
I try not to let the excitement of a big fish get the better of me. Many are the fish which have escaped an overly exuberant fisherman who makes a mistake in bringing them to shore.
The mistakes can start with reel set up. Too lose a drag setting and it lets the fish get too much play. Too tight and a hard run can from a big fish can snap the line.
Next keep the rod tip up so the rod is bowed. Let the modern age materials in the rod do their job of keeping the line tight, something even more critical when barbless hooks are used.
Don’t reel into fast. It can add tension to a line already facing the pressure of a big fish. Nice and steady wins out just as in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’.
Pull back steady on the rod to gain some line. Reel in that gained line in a steady fashion, making sure not to drop the rod tip so low as to lose that bow which again is doing its job to tire the fish.
If the fish runs, let him, and simply enjoy the action. It will tire and let you gain that line back.
So, 30-feet from shore it breaks the surface and it looks a tad like a leviathan rising. I suddenly wish the net in the trunk of my car was in the better half’s vehicle, but it isn’t.
There are rocks aplenty on the shore, and I move to a spot where I think I can best get the monster ashore.
I get it close. It is huge.
It turns and runs for open water. The reel drag whines.
The dance is repeated four times before I chance the rod held high, the pressure tight in my left hand, to reach for the carp with my right.
It slips from my grip, but the line holds – I love my Fireline.
I try again. My right foot dips into the drink, and the boot and sock are soaked. I don’t care.
Finally I get myself between the carp and the water, and I know then I have won.
Another fisherman comes over, and admires the catch, likely the ultimate compliment for a fisherman. Collectively we guess between 16 and 18 pounds.
A few pictures are snapped.
The barbless hook slips effortlessly from the carp’s lips.
I give it a kiss, as is apparently the tradition when catching a big carp, and then it is back in the lake and gone.
Three trips of failure and boredom all evaporated in one glorious fight with one glorious carp.
Yes I caught a walleye, 57 centimetres, a nice fish left inconsequential by the carp.
The better half did well, four keeper wallies, and the perch, yet combined dwarfed by the carp.
The sun sets and a full moon rises bright in a clear Saskatchewan sky. We are the last fisherfolk with lines in the water. It is about as idyllic as is gets on an August fishing trip.
It even inspired a hasty little haiku;
Fish eludes the final cast
Moon upon the water
Coyote call on the wind