Saturday, May 15, 2010

Early Morning Wonders

The Rockies were stunning at first light with pinkish hues from the sun being reflected off of their eastern slopes still covered in snow from a winter that was but a distant memory. I was enjoying the drive as I made my way west towards the Rockies in this early morning light. I had been looking forward to this day all week, as I planned on fishing for Arctic Grayling in a tiny back-country lake in Kananaskis Country that I had not set eyes on in more than a year. Fishing for Arctic Grayling in southern Alberta is a unique experience, as Grayling are not normally found this far south. A 100 years ago, Arctic Grayling were found as far south as the Canada-US border and even farther south in the Rockies. Introduction of foreign species like Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and others, wiped them out in just a few years. Now they are only found in small lakes and rivers in the far north. Alaska, Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut are the only places you will find big populations of them. In 1985, Alberta Environment first stocked Arctic Grayling in selected bodies of water in the Kananaskis area. They found that the fish were very popular with anglers. Normally anglers would have to travel hundreds of miles north in order to find a naturally occurring population of this species. Bear Pond and Big Iron lake located in Kananaskis Country were stocked with Arctic Grayling in 1985, and these two tiny back-country lakes located to the west of Chain Lakes, have proven to be popular destinations for fishermen wishing to try catching these beautiful fish.

Not in any great hurry as I had left home earlier than I had planned on, due to the fact that I had tossed and turned most of the night for whatever the reason. Possibly it was from watching 4 hours of streaming video on my computer of the triumphant return of the Australian teenager Jessica Watson from her solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation of the world.
After 210 days at sea, It was a spectacle like you cannot imagine when she sailed the final few miles to the finish line at Sydney Heads, with thousands of well wishers in boats surrounding her sailboat "Ella's Pink Lady." With the seas running at about 6 meters, it was amazing to watch the video being shot from a helicopter of this amazing young sailor working the winches that control the sails on her sailboat as it pitched and rolled through the swells the last few miles to the finish line.
Arriving at the trailhead, I parked my truck and once I had my pack on I hit the trail that leads up to the lake. By the time I had hiked a kilometer I had to make a stop and take my fleece jacket off, as the morning was a stunner on this most beautiful of mornnings in Kananaskis Country. Arriving at the lake, I took my day-pack off and set up my fly-rod. In short order, I was making my first cast. I had been concerned as to what I would find when I arrived at the lake, as there a chance that I would find that the Grayling would be spawning. This proved to be correct as I could see Grayling spawning in the shallows around the edges of the lake. Arctic Grayling don't feed for weeks before and after they spawn. Mid to late June is when they stop thinking about spawning and start to feed. After that, they have ravaging appetites. Well, it did not matter as I was just happy to be out in the Rockies on such a beautiful morning. After fishing for several hours, I managed to entice several Grayling into taking a bead-head Prince-Nymph, and with that I considered the day a success. I finally decided that I should quite annoying the Grayling who were fascinating to watch as they spawned over gravel beds near the shoreline. When a female Grayling would enter a males territory, the male Grayling would court her with displays of his dorsal fin. Then he would position himself beside the female and curve his extended dorsal fin over her. The pair then would release eggs and milt while vibrating, with that vibration stirring up the gravel to produce a slight depression for the fertilized eggs.
After enjoying a pot of tea that I had brewed while I observed the goings on around me, I found myself dozing off, and I finally decided that it was time to head back down to my truck before I fell asleep. This morning had proven to be most enjoyable while out in Kananaskis Country, and I did not plan on waiting a year until returning to this high-country lake to fish for the Arctic Grayling swimming in these waters.

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