Fishing For Sun On A Cloudy Day

With winter rushing towards us, Darrell and I are spending much of our free time trying to catch up on chores around the farm. Gathering more firewood, filling the loft with straw, putting up more lights, moving things around…there is never an end to the list. But between the craziness, we try our best to hit the water and do some fishing.

A couple of weekends ago, we headed to a local lake to find some pike and bass. The day was windy and cold, except for those wonderful moments when the sun broke through the clouds. Arriving at the boat launch we were greeted with our favourite sight – a nearly empty parking lot. Only one other person seemed to think it was a good day for fishing, and when we passed him on our way up the river, he said the fish had not been biting.

sun

Not so bad when the sun was shining.

cloudy

But awfully cold when it wasn’t.

This particular lake is a hard one for us to read. Though we’ve fished it a fair bit in the past two years, once the vegetation starts dying off, we have a hard time finding pike and bass. If we were able to get out more often, we might put a better pattern together, but as it stands, we generally head for the last place we found them and work from there. Both of us were most excited about catching pike, so we started looking for schools of bait. That wasn’t too hard; bait was everywhere!

Once we found bait, we started looking for bait near vegetation and drop-offs. We floated into the right area and scared some pike, but even after giving them some time to relax, they didn’t want to come back and bite.

Going from one bay to the next, we checked out all the favourite spots. We watched the fish finder for signs of suspended fish, or that tell tale blip of a pike that just swam away.

The day got colder as the sun spent more time obscured by the clouds. I zipped my winter jacket up all the way and pulled on my gloves. I desperately needed to catch a fish to get the adrenaline going and warm up. Darrell decided to abandon the search for big fish and took us to a little back bay that is rarely frequented by other anglers, but is usually swarming with sunfish.

Setting us up by a beaver dam, Darrell used a small tungsten jighead to catch some small perch. My curly-tailed grub was too big for those perch, but I wasn’t taking my gloves off to tie something smaller on, especially since we weren’t yet to the money spot. The money spot is a little bit further back in the bay. It’s a deeper hole surrounded by fallen trees and it holds buckets of sunfish. They didn’t disappoint.

fishing

Love these guys!

fishing

Big enough to lip (and fiesty enough to be hard to hold)!

I dropped my jig down so it came to rest a few feet off bottom. Then I waited. It was wasn’t long before I felt the tap-tap-tap of sunfish playing with the lure. When the tapping stopped and my line moved, I slowly raised my rod, felt the weight, and reeled in a beautiful, scrappy little sunfish. There’s no point in a quick, hard hook set with these guys – they have the hook or they don’t. The adrenaline kicked in and I forgot to be cold as I reeled in fish after fish. Each fish put up a great fight, with a couple making me think I must have hooked something bigger.

Each time the bite slowed, Darrell would drive us back up to the top of school, which lit up the fish finder, and we would drift back down with the wind, catching fish every cast. It was perfect.

Clouds filled the sky, but those sunfish warmed us up and made the day shine. We grinned like fools on our way back to the ramp, thankful for a fun afternoon on the water, and the much needed break from the farm.

Chilly Tree Planting To Help The Brookies

Have I mentioned before that brook trout are my favourite fish? I mean, I love them all, but if I had to choose one single species of fish to interact with for the rest of my days, it would be the beautiful Salvelinus fontinalis. So when I got the chance to help at a Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) tree planting that would improve brook trout habitat along the Credit River, I couldn’t pass it up.

A couple of Saturdays ago, October 22nd to be exact, Darrell and I woke up to snow on the ground and quickly added an extra layer of clothing. It was downright chilly when we climbed into the car and headed for the Upper Credit Conservation Area in Alton, just outside of Orangeville.

The tree planting was a joint effort between CVC and the Greg Clark Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada. The Greg Clark Chapter has organized a great restoration initiative called Bring Back The Brookies (BBB), aimed at restoring and improving the habitat along the Upper Credit River to once again make it suitable for brook trout. BBB has many great workdays and ways for people to get involved, so be sure to check out their Facebook page for more info.

Those of us early risers there for the setup had the fun of placing out trees in appropriate areas for planting, and trying to avoid getting wet feet. A resident beaver has a dam right at the planting site and the water was encroaching on the paths along the river.

Placing trees and shrubs out for planting involves more thought than some might realize. For this particular event, the goal was to quickly provide shade and bank stability for the river. For that reason, the birch and poplars – quick growing trees tolerant of the wet conditions – were placed closest to the river. Native shrubs that will provide habitat and food for wildlife were placed in ways to create an understory. Other trees were placed strategically, careful to avoid shading them out with the mature trees, and leaving enough space around them to allow them to grow properly. The tree I most closely associate with brookie streams – Eastern White-cedar – was present in abundance for the planting.

Safety talk and demonstration.

Safety talk and demonstration.

tree planting

Volunteers hard at work.

The final product.

The final product.

The lovely Credit.

The lovely Credit.

After getting the trees placed out, it was time for the rest of the volunteers to arrive, and after a quick safety talk and demonstration from CVC’s Lindsey Jennings, shovels hit the ground.

I love attending any tree planting, but those associated with a river and with restoration work always bring out anglers and are even more fun for me. Whether it’s having a chat about how the fishing has been, hearing stories of the big ones, or listening to talk about future restoration plans, it always reminds me of how glad I am to have found fishing, and how many awesome people are brought together by a love of fish.

Photo courtesy of the Greg Clark Chapter - Trout Unlimited Canada.

Photo courtesy of the Greg Clark Chapter – Trout Unlimited Canada.

With 40 or so volunteers, the 200 trees and shrubs went into the ground in record time. The ground was easy digging, which always helps, but the enthusiasm of the volunteers really makes the difference. Though the temperature didn’t warm up much during the morning, everyone looked plenty warm as they headed back to the CVC truck to unload shovels and take a group picture. Tree plantings have a special way of bringing groups of people together, and most people hung around to chat after the work was done.

As we took a final walk through to make sure no trees had been missed and no tools had been left behind, I once again felt thankful to have spent so much time along the Credit in my life. The smell of the cedars, the babble of the water as we neared the beaver dam, the quiet interrupted only by our own talking, and the thought of maybe one day seeing brook trout spawning in these upper reaches of the river. All are pretty great reasons to get up on a chilly Saturday morning and go plant some trees.

OWA 2016 Angler – New Angler Fishing Day A Great Success

Getting new anglers excited about fishing is one of my favourite things, and there’s no better way to do that than at the Ontario Women Anglers (OWA) Angler – New Angler Fishing Day. This year’s event was held July 9th at Ken Whillans Resource Management Area in Caledon. Held in partnership with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), this event aims to bring women anglers of all experience levels together, to share knowledge, experience, passion, and many laughs.

new angler

A great group of women at the 2016 OWA Angler – New Angler Event.

Despite rain the night before, the morning was perfect and sunny when I arrived at the park. After picking up some worms, the rest of the volunteers arrived and we started setting up our registration table and the fishing gear. OWA provides all the gear for this day – rods, reels, terminal tackle, and the bait – so anglers need only to show up.

As participants began signing in, I had the chance to ask them about their fishing experience. Some were experienced anglers, others had tried fishing before, and some had never held a fishing rod. Fortunately, several OWA members (Chris, Anneliese, Leslie, Patti, and Chris – yes, there were two Chris’) attended the event as volunteer instructors, and were ready to help everyone with their questions and show them some new skills.

The participants broke into groups with the instructors and went looking for a spot around the pond to fish. There are two ponds at Ken Whillans – largely known as the bass pond or the trout pond, so there were plenty of areas to cast a line. Trails and boardwalks surround the ponds, with fishing piers and picnic tables set up at several locations for easy access to the water. The ponds are a beautiful place to spend the day, bordered by naturalized areas and abundant wildlife, and many families were there taking advantage of the summer weather.

While I stayed back at the tables waiting for a few more participants to arrive, I could hear shrieks coming from across the pond – someone had a nibble! The excitement and surprise of that first nibble never gets old. Laughter started carrying across the water and the groups I could see appeared to be having a great time.

After doing some knot-tying demonstrations and setting the last group of anglers up with their rods, I went for a walk with the camera to see how things were going. Smiles, laughter, and fish stories greeted me wherever I went. The sunfish were biting, entertaining people as always, those wonderful little scrappers. Some groups were really focused on bass, but when a sunfish was caught, everyone would get excited. Nothing will hook a new angler quite like a sunny. I watched as the instructors helped with casting and gave tips for reeling in bait. I listened to questions being asked and answered.It was wonderful.

july9_2 july9_3 july9_4 new angler july9_6 july9_7

The end of the morning came all too quick. Groups started making their way back to the tables, laughing, chatting, comparing numbers of fish caught. So many people commented on how awesome their instructor was. Raffle tickets were available, with the first prize being the 50/50 draw. The proceeds from the 50/50 went to the Kelly Shires Breast Cancer Foundation. After that, those with raffle tickets were in to win some awesome prizes from our sponsors.

It was incredible to hear the enthusiasm and desire to go fishing again. Many participants said they would try to make the OWA Fishing 101 for Women seminar coming up in Orangeville on August 6th. I hope they do make it out!

Thanks to the awesome instructors who spent their morning sharing this great pastime with others. And big thanks to Leslie-Anne Dungog for being my co-conspirator in organizing this event. She’s the detail person who makes sure we actually have everything we need the morning of the event! Thanks also goes out to Credit Valley Conservation for partnering with the Ontario Women Anglers on this event.

I hope to see everyone at Island Lake in Orangeville this coming weekend (August 6, 2016). For more information, and to register, check out the website.

For more pictures from the Angler – New Angler event, check out Ontario Women Anglers on Facebook.

fishing 101

Fishing, Farming, and Finding Time – Summer 2016

Blogging…wait…do I do that anymore? It sure doesn’t feel like it! I actually had to look up my last post to see how long it had been since I sat down down and typed out a blog post – April 28th. And now it’s August 1st. That’s quite a gap. It’s not like I’ve had nothing to say, or no fishing adventures to write about, it’s just that I have no extra hours in most of my days and there are other things that have taken priority.

The number one priority these days? The farm. Oh, our crazy little funny farm. We started with four laying hens. Now we have almost 70 birds on the farm. Some are laying hens, a few are roosters, some are young birds that we hatched out this year (we had three hatch just two days ago), a few are meat birds that will provide us food for the coming months, and then there are my two pet turkeys. Those two were completely unexpected but I have a blast with them every day.

chickens

The latest baby chicks.

turkeys

My pet turkeys.

Aside from the chickens and turkeys, the old horses are hanging in there. The flies are driving them crazy this year, but I seem to have managed the paddocks slightly better this year and they still have some grass to eat.

Then there are the gardens. So many gardens, producing so much food, and requiring so much of our time. With this dry year some of the crops have been slow to mature, or just never got going. Some were attacked by pests we couldn’t keep on top of. Then others, like the tomatoes and peas, went crazy. We already have much of the produce we can’t eat blanched and in the freezer, and we’ll be canning like there’s no tomorrow when the rest of the tomatoes ripen. Our goal is to produce as much of our own food as possible, and for it to last us long into the year. The fresh food has been amazing in the homemade sauces and meat pies Darrell has been making lately.

garden

A harvest from last week.

Because of all of this, there have been many farm projects to complete, hours of research, and countless days when we eat dinner long after dark, only to fall into bed, absolutely exhausted.

I’m going to start a blog for the farm soon, I hope, since it takes up so much of our time and efforts, and produces some entertaining stories.

But fishing…that’s the main focus of this blog, and while we haven’t gotten out as much as we would like, we’re still getting out one or two days a week and having fun.

The brook trout fishing in the spring was SPECTACULAR. It was so good that I want to save that for another post when I can find all the pictures. We caught our personal bests, had so much fun, and did it all within walking distance of home.

Much of our fishing has involved visiting local lakes and ponds for bass (and anything else that may want to bite). Having a canoe has made it a lot easier to visit some smaller bodies of water and not be stuck on shore. I never knew I would love canoeing so much, but our Holy Cow Canoe has been fantastic, even on windy days.

Grey County has no shortage of great places to go fishing – Bell’s Lake, Holstein Pond, Flesherton Pond, Wilder Lake, Robson Lake, Irish Lake, etc. The town ponds are my favourite places to go for a quick fish. We have caught some beautiful largemouth bass out of them this year, many on my favourite lures and techniques – frogs, chatterbaits, and wacky-rigged senkos. The ponds tend to be quiet, with nice scenery, and an easy place to go for a paddle.

On bass opener, there was a feeling of euphoria as we launched the canoe for the first time and headed out on an amazing sunny morning. Darrell even caught the first bass before we actually got into the canoe. We were both so happy to be fishing, and to have so many more opportunities thanks to bass being open. Of course, I have trouble with finding my ‘boat legs’ at the beginning of each season, and the canoe was no different. I shrieked a couple of times when Darrell would move around too much and make the canoe wobble. I shouldn’t have worried, the canoe is plenty stable. I was surprised with how quick this canoe could get going, and if I wanted to fish a different location, it seemed only to take a few strokes before we were there. The bass were biting the frog that day, giving me that awesome adrenaline rush of a thrilling topwater bite. I love it when bass agree to bite my favourite Scum Frog!

Some days on the water have been a real grind. Last weekend we managed to get out for a few hours and had to resort to catching pumpkinseeds. I make that sound like a bad thing, but it wasn’t – those little guys give me some of the best days on the water. One after another they would grab my jig and start swimming away. When they realized they were hooked, they started dogging it and put up a great fight. I’d get them into the boat, marvel at their colours, pop the hook out, and watch them swim away. We drifted over the school several times, catching a fish on almost every cast. I said the famous “One last cast” line several times that night.

canoeing

Notice where the paddle is in relation to my head…LOL

bass grey  county holy cow canoe fishing fishing

The canoe enabled us to fish a new lake we have driven by almost weekly, often saying we wished we could fish it. It’s a smaller lake, surrounded by cottages, but the angling traffic never seems to be intense. We spent hours looking for any sign of a bass, paddling all over the lake, checking out weed beds, and recovering snagged lures. When Darrell finally got a bite, his rod bent over and he reeled in a nice…rock bass. Worked for us. We switched up and started casting for rockies.

It’s been a fun season so far. We’ve caught lots of nice bass, experienced some new water, and managed to fit fishing into the schedule of the farm. Hopefully we’ll get out on the water a bit more in the next while, and we’re both thinking it would be nice to go to some bigger water, where the fish get just a little bigger.

So there you go, an actual blog post! Maybe I’ll be able to find some more time for it these days. Maybe not. I miss writing and sharing our adventures, and I miss chatting with other anglers and outdoorsy people. But, I’m loving life and can’t complain. I just hope we can fish a little more and share it with the wonderful people who care to read these posts 🙂