Our Man In Canada
March 20th, 2000
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The Blue-Ribbon Grand - Part 3

By Scott E. Smith

Like any catch-and-release fishery, once the fish reach larger sizes they have likely been caught or hooked before, and for sure have seen their share of feathered hooks. This brings other challenges into play if you are after larger fish. Light tippets, small flies and quick reflexes are in order. Size 12 to 18 nymphs are standard on 4X tippets, while dry flies are generally fished on twelve-to-twenty-foot leaders tapering to 5X or 6X. While nymphing the river I no doubt missed ten fish to every one I hooked. The takes are subtle - especially from the larger fish. I learned volumes on nymphing techniques by watching John Valk work the water. He uses his own style of nymph fishing and hooks far more fish than anyone I've fished with. Using an indicator of Biostrike, John fishes small nymphs on a short length of leader below the indicator. His use of added shot is very conservative, even in the faster runs. This is because of how he continually mends and manipulates his line to reduce drag. He uses long rods and carries them in a high position throughout the drift. The key to his hooking success is his inherent ability to keep the line in continual control - keeping a tight line without speeding up the drift - and pulling the trigger on the slightest hesitation or movement of the indicator. One might assume that many of these movements are weeds or bottom, but in closely watching John fish, I soon noticed that he was fishing considerably less line below his indicator than the total depth of the run. He was still fishing near bottom, but not on bottom. There is a marked difference between the two. If you are fishing too much added weight or too much leader below the indicator, you will be continuously hung up on weeds and rocks, and ultimately spend most of your time rigging instead of fishing.

The most common rod weight used on the Grand is a 4-weight/nine-footer. Lighter rods will certainly handle the small flies and light tippets required here, but the large size of the Grand's brown trout dictates a good quality four-weight. I used a Sage 3 light-line, 4-weight nine-foot rod and found it just right for the fish, and the moderated casting distances required. If you are going to fish streamers, however, a six-weight would be a better choice.

During my trip to the Grand, John took me to the same favourite haunts that his partner Barney Jones took Jim and Kelly Watt for the production of their video on the Grand river. John made a point of showing me exactly where he hooked and landed a whopping twenty-seven-inch, eight-pound brown in the trestle-area in Section 2. John adds that this fish has been caught both before and after that successful outing. A twenty-five-inch brown was hooked and lost by Kelly Watt during the making of their Grand River video in this same pool. Numerous fish in this size class - and bigger - are in the river. The largest fish landed, to John's knowledge, was a twelve-pound football taken from just below Shand Dam (upstream from Section 1 of the no-kill). This behemoth had been hooked numerous times, but always snapped off after a brief tussle. The size and proportions of this fish were likely attributed to the area in which the fish took up residency; continuously grazing on baitfish and insects that came churning through the turbines at the dam.

Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide

As for numbers of fish, no recent electro-fishing has been done, so accurate counts on the population are not available. From my own experience I can tell you that there are plenty. Warren Yerex of GRCA estimates that there are approximately 3000 brown trut per mile throughout the special regulations stretch. This is a raw estimate based on mathematics; 220,000 fish stocked in the last ten years with a 60% mortality rate. Whatever the actual number is, there are quite obviously abundant populations in certain portions of this tailwater stretch.~ Scott E. Smith

Next time Hatches and Flies!

From: Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide.We thank Frank Amato Publications, Inc. for re-print permission!

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