Our Man In Canada
December 9th, 2002

W e d n e s d a y

By Dave Jensen , Alberta, Canada

The Crowsnest Pass gets it all winter. Calgary gets it fairly often. Edmonton dreams of it. Red Deer teases us often but when it delivers, it's something to enjoy.

Yes, the chinook winds of winter are upon us. When the Crowsnest and Calgary get warm weather, they endure winds 40 to 80+ km/h. That's no fun. Our town doesn't get those sky rocketing temperatures as often and we don't get the winds. Coincidence lays somewhere therein.

So when this past week's forecast called for a dramatic warming, my eyes twinkled. My wife Amelia frowned at me, but so? "You really don't mind me going fishing today, do you sweetie?" I rubbed it in as she walked through the door at lunch. It was already +13C (55F), full sun and no wind. She has a full time job these days. Naturally, she was very encouraging of me to go fishing...probably as much as any of you with real jobs might be even.

Hey, I had made her lunch. I was a perfectly considerate, gentleman of a husband. Ok, ok, so I made her eat it in record time so I could dum...er...drop her off - yes at work - on my way to the river.

"Have a great afternoon, love," she wished me as she hopped out at her office. I smiled not too sheepishly, knowing there was no way I could return that kind gesture. Not where she was headed anyway.

I suited up outside a good friend's office. I knew he wasn't in but I had to take the chance he might be. If so he might get a glimpse of my backside as I clip the hedge top before sliding into the river. It was worth a shot.

My giddiness ebbed as I found my way to the river. Hadn't been here for a spell. -26C a couple weeks ago had the ice thinking it had an early victory this year. Ice flows had clogged the river for a week or so but this warm spell took care of that. I knew I wouldn't be staying at this location for long. I made a couple hundred yard hoof of it anyway, not casting but watching. The shadows held onto their small ice patches like a 5 year old with a tootsie roll, and on each patch I was given indication I was the first to pass this bank this winter. Though I would not be at the run long, I was treated to a special series of photos by a few geese. It's something we see everyday, however, when the day serves notice it wishes to please you, you take special notice.

As the geese lifted, I followed suit. Across town I drove to a riffle I was sure to find what I was looking for. Whitefish.

Whitefish? Yes.

You would have to know the river to know my expectations. And that is exactly what my expectations were. Whitefish. Yes. Whitefish. A day such as today on a river such as this, gone are aspirations of big trout. Yes, replacing those in my mind's eye of expectation were whitefish. There's a riffle in town that will produce them one after another and that's what I hoped for. The day warmed to +16C (61F). Seasonal is -2C (29F). This is good.

I never nymph fish this river for trout. I'll give 99 to 1 odds on whitefish when nymphing. The hundredth will be a trout. But there I was, in full sun, no wind, short sleeved t, and no trace of winter...nymphing. Yes, whitefish. What great expectations!

We all know the day. We've all had them. Special, right? This was. The line flowed effortlessly today. Long, open casts to the seam line. I do mean "the" seam line. Water's low. Things are obvious. It took me some time but I finally found my 2 weight bent with a whitefish. What a beautiful sight. Odd, all summer I snub these fish, targeting rising trout, yet here I am attempting to get a photo of a whitefish. Yes. A whitefish. The digital camera stalls as it always does as the shutter releases. I look at the view screen, standing in knee deep water, wearing a short-sleeve tee in the sun, no wind, and am pleased that I have a good photo of a whitefish with a pleasantly surprising current line and reflection. That was all I needed to get me through the winter.

Like any good whitefish run, there was a carpet waiting to be vacuumed. Simply put the nozzle on the floor and watch for the action. And that was what happened.

What joy in simple expectations!

The contemplations hit me. They always do. Today I was contented in all my ponderings. I lost most of my hook ups. I was bobber watching. I could have sat on the bank and watched my own drifts for as much as it would have impacted my day. I did manage to land 7 whitefish in 45 minutes. I could have had more, but this day belonged to something other than that. And the whitefish I saw told me so. What joy simple expectations bring.

And that all changed on one cast. Damned be the beast on my line now. I had been working the far side of 'the' seam line for a spell. On this cast, for some reason, my bead head was taken and run with. Up once... and again. The fish broke water twice and ran. Back to my truck it took me. That was quite a distance. I knew what this was and it wasn't a joyful thing. Yes, I was happy at the 22" trout but...it didn't feel right. I stood in the warm sun, arms bared to the breathless afternoon, hands wrist deep in the water cradling my release. I didn't take her photo. It didn't feel right. The moment didn't feel right. I was happy to have landed this trout, but it didn't sit well. I found myself sitting on a stump for only 5 seconds when I made a realization. My day was over. My expectations had changed. Suddenly I found myself having to make a decision. Continue casting effortlessly on a perfect day with visions of trout in the back of my head...or go home and see the photo of that whitefish on the big screen. Relish the day on my simple expectations or risk the contentment of it all by trying to make something happen that has no right in occurring. Better a pleasant 45 minutes than 4 hours ending in frustration at the "what if?"

I poured a tall orange juice as I looked out my home office window 10 minutes later.

Funny how the summer's quarry almost ruined my winter day's foray. I shall have to remind myself next summer how a 22" trout can ruin my day.

It was a great Wednesday. A great whitefish Wednesday. Weather's supposed to hold through tomorrow. But whitefish Thursday?

Naaah! ~ Dave Jensen

About Dave:

Dave Jensen is a guide in Alberta, Canada, specializing in wilderness guided fly fishing adventures. Trophy brown trout fly fishing, wilderness cutthroat and bull trout fly fishing, remote helicopter fly fishing for golden trout, "trophy" wilderness cutthroat trout fly fishing, alpine lakes helicopter fly fishing. Taking you where others don't go. You can reach him at: www.flyfishalberta.com by email at: info@flyfishalberta.com or by phone: 403-346-1698.

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