Two years ago to the day, I met Colleen Rose Campbell when I was in Grande Prairie for the Canadian Fly Fishing Championships. I’ve never been the same since!
Since that time, we’ve talked about getting Colleen into her first fish. We haven’t had a ton of opportunity to go fly fishing together, but today, we thought we’d head up to Carson Pegasus Provincial Park, just north of Whitecourt, Alberta and see if we could get ourselves into some rainbow trout. We had orginally planned to go up in the afternoon and rent a canoe. However, when we arrived, we were advised that canoe rentals needed to be returned at this time of the year before 5PM.
So that wasn’t worth it, and we decided we’d try fly fishing from off the docks and shoreline. We learned that McLeod Lake had been stocked today – depending on the reports, with 45,000 or over 100,000 rainbow trout fingerlings. And those small fish were quite active just off the boat docks, jumping and likely enjoying all this, to them, brand new open water.
I tied on Viva Zonkers to both my line and Colleen’s. I was disappointed we weren’t able to get out further on the lake with a canoe, but thought we might as well make the best of it and see what we could do.
Well, those brand new stocked fish sure liked the Viva Zonker, but couldn’t quite get their mouth around it. I had a ton of hits to the fly – almost every cast, and could see at times, several small rainbow trout following the fly and trying to grab it as I retrieved.
I figured that we had a very good chance to get Colleen into her very first fish – but we’d have to use something smaller and skinnier than the Zonker. So I tied on this Chironomid pattern and showed Colleen how to fish it. I then continued having fun with the small newly stocked rainbows that wanted to eat a leech.
A few minutes later, I looked over at Colleen’s rod and noticed that there seemed to be some bending of the tip section – not a huge amount.. but something. “Hey Darlin’… do you have a fish on there?” I asked.
“Do I?!?” Colleen responded. She retrieved her line a little more.
“I do!! I do!!” she exclaimed with glee and excitement. “I do have a fish on, Ian!”
It was likely the very first time that little 5″ rainbow had ever been hooked, and it fought valiantly but couldn’t resist Colleen’s determination to catch her first fish! And I was pretty excited as well, despite the small size, we both were very excited – that Colleen had finally caught a fish! On a fly rod as well.
The photo above was taken quickly and the fish released back into the lake. Then a wee celebratory toast from the famous flask (Colleen didn’t even grimace this time, sipping Black Bush).
The action slowed down after that, so we decided to try some nymphs, but nothing. Then, I put the Malteser to work. This ugly and very poorly tied fly seems to catch fish everywhere for me. And sure enough, Colleen caught her second fish! About the same size as the first one.
The joy in Colleen’s eyes and smile – it was like a kid catching their first and second fish on the same day. I’m pretty sure my smile was pretty big too!
Shortly after, I thought we mght have some fun with a dry fly. The small rainbows seemed to be taking midges off the surface – would they jump for anything? I tied on a size 20 Caddis just to see, and we had a blast watching the fish jumping and trying to take the fly. Some of them even managed to get hooked, and I brought probably four or five to hand while quite a few more entertained us with their acrobatics and frenzy for trying to eat dry flies.
I had pretty much resigned myself to thinking that all we were going to get today at Carson Pegasus were these small newly stocked fish. However, I thought we should try some of the water off another dock just to see. I’m glad we did!
I tied a Viva Zonker back on to the leader, and at first, felt the little tugs of small fish trying to consume it. It was still fun and entertaining.
And then…. “Whoa! Colleen!! This is NOT one of those small fish!” as I felt a vicious strike to the fly. My rod bent over and I was a little more than surprised to see a good size rainbow trying to dive down to the depths of the lake before coming back up and jumping trying to shake the hook.
After several minutes, and some panicky moments when the rainbow headed for the underside of the dock, I finally landed the approximately 3 pound ‘bow with some very beautiful colourings in it.
The one thing I’ve noticed about rainbow trout from Northern Alberta lakes is their “football” shape. They seem to have huge girths for their length. This fish was 17 inches long and had a girth of 10 1/4 inches.
All in all, even though there was the initial disappointment about the canoe rental, Colleen and I had an awesome “2 year anniversary” celebration.
Happy Anniversary, Colleen – and thank you for a great day!! I am so glad you caught your first… and second .. fish with me!