Our Man In Canada
October 5th, 1998
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Waiting for John and the Olives
By Clive Schaupmeyer

After a 14-month interruption John, my fishing partner, and I finally fished together in late September. A long wait, and when we finally hit the river we had to wait for the blue-winged olives to hatch.

Let me explain. John and I are fishing partners and have fished together for several years. Until two years ago we fished side by side about 30 days each season. John, who is in his early seventies, is 19 years my senior. By the end of 1996 he appeared to be slowing down and he tired easily. In the spring of 1997 he had a triple bypass operation which went well. But other unrelated difficulties continued to prevent John and I from river fishing together. We fished two days in 1997, and were unable to fish this year until the last week of September. It had been 14 months since our last river outing.

All the time we were not getting out together, I would call him once in a while and occasionally drop in for coffee and offer fishing reports. John would sometimes drive to local ponds with friends. We often chatted about river fishing, but we could not get a trip together. Then in mid-September we were chatting, one thing led to another, and by week's end we were on a two-day trip to Alberta's Crowsnest River.

The first day was sunny at the start, but by 2 PM clouds rolled in and a few blue-winged olives came off. There were a few randomly rising rainbows and we both caught trout on BWO dries. But the olives were sparse and soon thinned. The trout then turned to a #32 lime green midges–at least they were the only visible food item on the surface and the rainbows were clearly surface feeding because they were nosing up. We left the water early knowing the next day would be cloudy and most likely raining. Blue-winged olive weather. By 2 PM the next day we would be in the middle of a cosmic hatch and divine fly-fishing.

It was raining when we arose on day two, and the rain was still falling when we hit the water at 10:00 AM. We arrived 2 or 3 hours before the BWOs would come off. We generally hung out, cast small nymphs, and caught a few mountain whitefish and rainbows. One o'clock came. No olives. At 2 o'clock some midges surfaced and I landed one nice rainbow on a #20 black midge dry fly. But still no olives.

John Cluny

The weather was perfect, so where were those little BWO insect critters the trout so dearly love? Theories raged through our olive-deprived minds–or depraved minds. Our best theory was that the cool rain and falling air temperature had chilled the river and put the olives into a funk. Had we measured the water temperature the day before and again on the second day we might have answered the question. But I don't carry a thermometer because if the water's too cold for the fish and bugs, there's nothing I can do about it anyway. But a thermometer can lead to understanding and might have helped us figure the problem out. I may have to buy one.

By around 3 PM, I was starting to think of a deluxe burger because we had missed lunch. The olives were already two hours late. What were we doing? Maybe it was plain old stubbornness. Maybe it was our collective experience. We had seen olives come off late before and my chilled feet reminded me that the cold-water theory might be true. The olives could start hatching at any moment, so we hunkered down under our Helly Hansen rain coats and waited the bugs out in the constant drizzle and rain. They had to hatch, if for no other reason than it was the only thing that could happen on John's maiden river trip of 1998. You know, sort of a fairy tale ending to a special outing.

John Cluny
Eureka! The olives appeared on deck sometime after 3:30 PM and the rainbows were on them from the start. But these are educated rainbow trout and they were fussy about fly body color and fly size. These trout have also learned to hold in tricky multi-current water where getting a decent drift is tough. But we persisted, and we both caught rainbows on olive dries. It was just fine.

Fourteen months is a long time to be away from rivers. It was a long wait that couldn't have turned out better even if we had control over these matters. Which of course we don't. I hope John won't mind me equating him to some bugs, but waiting for the olives was also worth the delay. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer

Our Man In Canada Archives

Bio on Our Man In Canada

Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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