Archive for Author jeffparks

About the Author: jeffparks
Jeff grew up on a small lake near Cambridge Ontario called Puslinch Lake, where his passion for fishing began. He picked up a fly rod early in his life and has been casting flies for over 35 years now. Although he guides all of the rivers here in South Central Ontario his “Homewaters” would definitely be on the Maitland River in Goderich Ontario. Jeff has a no nonsense approach to helping clients learn the art of fly fishing and also guide the seasoned anglers into our many trophy fish that our province has to offer. Making people feel comfortable and relaxed is how Jeff brings out the fly fisherman in all of us.

Fly Fishing Ontario Rivers

Is having a game plan really the best way to begin your fly fishing day? In the world of sports a game plan is always needed. NFL football teams will have certain “go to” plays that they will utilize throughout the game that have been practiced and practiced. Stay with this game plan and keep focused. This discipline is what makes champions. Or is it? The Trick Play that the Philadelphia Eagles used in the second quarter of the Super Bowl this year was far from the norm. The Eagles needed to fool the Patriots. They did this by changing up their game plan. Basically having no game plan at all.

 

 

What has this to do with Fly Fishing? Everything. We are not dealing with humans. Humans are predictable. Many fisherman say that fish are predictable also, but they are not. To have a game plan when you are fly fishing is the worst thing you can have. What worked yesterday may or may not work today. There are many variables that can change the behaviour of our prey.  Cloud cover, water temperature, barometric pressure, fisherman pressure etc. We have to be able to deal with these changes. If your game plan is to cast the bigger streamers all day or fish the size 18 Pheasant tail nymphs which have been working for the last 2 weeks you most likely will meet up with some bad luck.

 

 

When this quote begins to run through you head “come on fish, where are you?” you have lost all control of your day. It doesn’t matter how good you are. We have all said this on the river. This is when I stop and regroup. All the usual flies and methods obviously are not working. The fish have changed. Change with them. Go deeper, go slower, strip faster, fish shallower water or deeper water. Do not get caught up in your game plan. Change it up. Go old school.

Sometimes with Fly Fishing it’s ok to “wing” it. If it can fool the Patriots it can most likely fool Mr. Trout.

Guiding Season 

Top 5 questions that I hear every guiding season on the rivers here in Ontario. 

5. Is the the fishing better when it’s sunny or when it’s cloudy? 

4. When streamer fishing should the fly be stripped fast or slow?

3. Is the fishing better earlier in the morning or later on towards dusk?

2. Which is the best Fly to use?

1. How do I read the water? Where do the fish spend most of their time? Slow pools, faster current, pocket water, the end of a run?

These first 4 questions can all be debated with many different conclusions. But the last question is more scientific. This is the main reason why most Fly Fisherman fail in their search for our swimming trophies. Most anglers are fishing in the wrong spots. 

We have 5 basic sections of a river. 

A Riffle which is the shallow turbulent beginning of a stretch. I see many people wading in this water. This usually has some good hiding areas even though it is quite shallow. Trout will definitely feed in this section. Plus they don’t have as much time to think about your fly. I like to work these Riffles hard. 

The Main Run. This is deeper then the Riffle but has a smooth, constant flow. Trout will definitely be feeding in this column of water. Streamers are very effective here as well as midges, nymphs and dries. Look for the foam line here. The food channel. 

There are the swirling backwards, reverse flow sections called Eddys. Insects usually get trapped in this flow. Get your Fly down in this section to keep it in the hitting zone as long as possible. Most angler’s do not get, and keep the fly in front of the fish long enough in this section. 

The main Pool. Most anglers only attack this section. Of course it will hold many fish but do not always concentrate here. This is a good resting area for fish. This may not be the most active of spots throughout the day. This is good cover plus this is usually where most spooked fish will hide. 

The Tailout. Shallow back end of the pool. Usually quite a few larger rocks and gravel have been pushed here along with other debris. To me this section is the most overlooked portion of the river. Many of our Steelhead and Trophy Smallmouth Bass have been found at these Tailouts. Fish these sections hard. The fish WILL be here and many of them are there to feed. 

Concentrate on all sections of our rivers but don’t forget about the Riffles and the Tailouts. Top and bottom sections. They do produce. There are many other locations of our rivers that provide cover. Pocket water, deep cuts along the banks of the river and woody areas for ambushing. All great holding areas. 

Many of our larger rivers can be very intimidating. These larger rivers all can be dissected into smaller sections. Fish need to eat but they also need to rest. Pick apart the river before you walk in and have a game plan. 

Good luck this upcoming season! 

Ontario’s Leading Guiding Company for Fly Fishing Education

Wow. That’s a bold statement. If any of you know me, I am not a person who stands on the top of a rock and beats his chest with bravado. But I guess it’s time to monkey up.

I have never been as excited and confident about our Fly Fishing School as I am now. The Trout opener is only days away and the trout flies are rapidly in production for our upcoming students. Each day I get “the” question. “Do you think we will catch a fish?” I politely nod and say “well that is up to the trout”. It’s called fishing. Not catching.

What I do love to hear however is “Why did the fish finally decide to bite?” This usually happens nearing the end of our Learn to Fly Fish Day. When ever I hear this question it is time to sit on the side of the bank and explain why we had some hookups. Quite simply, the fish did not suddenly turn on. Or for some magical reason the guide found that “lucky” fly. I explain that it has everything to do with the student”s ability. Sure there is luck in fly fishing but just a little. Most times if there is a hookup (especially for trout) it is due to skill. If we are streamer fishing then the student moved that fly fast enough to entice the trout. Or if we are nymphing or dry fly fishing usually the student has grasped the concept of mending the line or other casting or fishing skills.

The trout did not decide to finally get hungry. It is the skill of the new fly fisherman that has brought these fish to the fly. The smiles on each of my students is always the expression that brings me back to the river anticipating another fun filled Learn to Fly Fish Day.

Good luck out there. We have the whole season ahead of us!

Fly fishing season in Ontario is soon!

Tie some of these flies and hang on.

Take a look at your fly boxes. A real hard look. Be honest with yourself. How many of those flies buried deep among a hundred other flies actually worked last year. If you’re like me there are only a handful of them that truly performed.

Steelhead Flies

To open up a fly box and see the whole container filled with different patterns and colours is an awesome sight. Trout, Steelhead, Smallmouth Bass and Musky containers just don’t look professional enough unless they are busting at the seams. Right? But realistically, we probably only use 25 -30% of what lies deep in our fishing packs or vests.
Fly Fishing Lodges. enjoy your fly fishing day and come back and relax at Calmwaters Cottage.

Musky fly

This season try and go skinny. Skinny meaning less flies in your packs and more emphasis on your technique and presentation. While working resident trout take 5 – 7 patterns each with a few different colour combinations. Same with Steelhead or Smallmouth Bass (even less) or Musky. Working the river and getting the fly in front of the fish is more important then changing patterns every 5 minutes to finding that lucky fly. Most good fly fisherman have a few “go to” patterns that they constantly use and fish with confidence.

It is this confidence that gives you the focus to drift that fly towards the fish. Travel light, and fish smart.

Ontario Fly Fishing Education for Kids


Let’s face it we all want our children to grow up having the same interests as ourselves. Fly Fishing is no exception. Yet, the more we as parents push our kids to enjoy our hobbies the more they seem to turn away. My daughter at the young age of 8 took an interest in following her dad along the river banks and I couldn’t have been happier. Yet, keeping her focused along the way at that young age was a challenge. She was not unlike any other child. If the fishing was slow, the fidgeting began. Luckily, I  found the solution to continue our day on the water. Timing and of course, crayfish. 

Many customers ask at what age can they start teaching their youth. Of course it depends on the child but 8 years old seems to be a good age. Start them in the summer months where the water is warm and the crayfish are plentiful. Why crayfish? Smallmouth Bass love them. And if I may add,  if crayfish hunting was an Olympic sport then I would have won the gold medal hands down. When I’m teaching a young child we start our fly fishing lesson learning the cast. Kids can grasp this much quicker then adults. 40 minutes is all that is usually needed on dry land. Once we move to the river I find we have about 25 minutes before the fidgeting begins. Once this starts, we put the fly rod away and begin our search turning over rocks for smallmouth’s favourite food source. Usually 30 minutes of laughter and squealing will enable us to have the young ones back with the fly rod in their hands.

Picking through the fly box for a crayfish pattern that is similar to the one that attached itself to a finger is as fun as trying to catch these quick crustaceans. Yet when a nice smallmouth bass hits this hand picked pattern all boredom has left the river. Yes, the fly fishing lesson will be over shortly but the day will be remembered for a long time. Both by the youthful student and of course by Mom or Dad.

It’s not always about the technical part of fly fishing that is the most important. It’s also about the experience above and below the rivers that gives us happiness. My daughter still to this day will hunt for crayfish on our many Ontario rivers. Her passion for the art of fly fishing and her love of the river has made her a perfect choice to be our newest fly fishing guide for Calmwaters Fly Fishing. She also would be a Gold Medal contender to the “Crayfish Hunting” event.Alyx Parks

Fly Fishing Packs

I’ve spoken before regarding fly fishing packs verses fly fishing vests. Both have their own practical features and benefits. Yet for the past 6 years I have moved to a shoulder sling pack and have not looked back. I have been using the Orvis Guide Sling pack and have found this particular piece to be extremely functional and durable. I would recommend this pack in a heartbeat. However, it is time for a new purchase and I’m looking at the three other major players for packs. Simms, Fishpond and Patagonia.

I’m looking for Waterproof materials, accessory loops, storage areas, dividers and of course durability. I do try not to overload my pack but that is much easier said then done. But when I need a certain fly or tool it needs to be easily accessible while I’m waist deep in the rapids on our Ontario Rivers.

There are so many packs and options to choose from that I decided to speak to Rob Cesta who is the owner of The Drift Outfitters and Fly Shop located at 199 Queen St. E. Toronto, Ontario. Rob’s fly shop is packed with everything to accommodate a novice, intermediate or expert fly fisherman. Rob has all the newest and greatest packs the industry has to offer. Here are a few options available that have the Drift Outfitters Fly Shop’s seal of approval:

 

Fishpond Delta Sling
Fishpond Thunderhead Sling (waterproof)
Simms Waypoints Sling Small

Waist Packs:
Simms Dry Creek Z Hip Pack (waterproof)
Fishpond Nimbus Guide Pack (kitchen sink)
Patagonia Stealth Hip Pack (all around use)
Fishpond Flint Hills Lumbar Pack (minimalist)

Backpack:
Simms Dry Creek Z Packpack (Waterproof)
Simms G4 Pro Packpack

Chest Pack:
Simms Waypoints Dual Chest Pack
Fishpond San Juan Vertical Chest Pack

Every option works well yet I do find the Waist Packs run to low while wading in our Ontario Rivers. There are definitely moments when wading waist deep or more is needed. Chest Packs also are efficient but it would be better to have a smaller pack as they can get in the way. Love the Backpacks but it is an option to bring along for the driftboat or set along the side of the bank while working a run. Again the winner for me is the Sling Pack option. They ride comfortably on your back and stay out of your way while casting. It is a simple quick move to spin the Sling Pack into position when looking for a fly or tippet switch. Pack runs higher so stays out of the water much better. I also use a pack exclusively for Saltwater fun. Either waist deep in the ocean or walking the flats the shoulders can handle the weight easily with the Sling.

The fly fishing pack is an important part of your day for wading on our beautiful Ontario Rivers. Hop down to the Drift Outfitters Fly Shop in Toronto and see which option is best for you.

www.driftoutfitters.com

(647) 347-7370

Ontario Steelhead Education

Every year I learn something new about our Fall Ontario Steelhead. This season was no exception. Normally by November our rivers fill up with autumn rains and the Steelhead move in. This 11th month of the year is typically the start of Steelhead guiding season for Calmwaters Fly Fishing. This year as we know was tough – the rains did not happen.
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 Walking along painfully long, low, extra skinny stretches of river one would certainly shake their head and move on. I’ve said it many times “there is no way a Steelhead could navigate through this lack of water.” Yet these chrome bullets proved me wrong again.
We did receive a few bumps of water and the fish came in. Anglers had success on the stretches closer to the lakes. Some fish, mountains of people. Yet even before the bumps of rain our Steelhead made their journey through inches of water much farther upstream. We began finding them in the deeper pockets miles above the Great Lakes. Their determination and will to survive is incredibly strong. This is not new news but when you wander the rivers in these drought conditions you can’t help but shake your head in disbelief at the incredible power of Mother Nature.  img_20161123_175243_resized
Always keep moving and walking when Fly Fishing for Ontario Steelhead. If your determination and will to catch these fish is as strong as their will to survive, you will hook up.

Steelhead Fly Fishing 

Normally this time of year on our Ontario rivers we are happily walking or drifting our main systems with our two handed Spey Rods. Heavy rains bring on big water which in turn brings silver Steelhead. That’s the usual weather pattern. We tie big flies full of colour and bling to entice these chrome beauties. Normally swinging these flies with a Spey rod is by far our best bet to attack our larger rivers enabling us to cover the heavy flow.  img_20161123_175243_resized
Not this year. This drought that we are experiencing has our Ontario Rivers down to a trickle. These low flows are making it very difficult to actually get any kind of a swing on the normal runs that we target. However this doesn’t mean that we should stay home and pout. Dig out your single handed fly rods and dust them off.  Work with a slow sinking line and head to the softer water. A slow retrieve will get those Spey flies moving which in turn may ignite a strike. The water isn’t high enough to swing but if you work the fly yourself you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
img_20161124_102800_resized  Regroup and grab your single handed 7 or 8 weight. There’s fly fishing fun to be had out there!

Remember, it’s only a fish.

Yesterday’s incredible downpour has got my Steelhead senses tingling. We are still a bit away but it won’t be long before the silver bullets will be making their trek up our Ontario Rivers. Learning to fly fish for these migratory trout is indeed a thrilling quest. Different set ups for nymphing rods are needed. Quite a complex array of fly lines for swinging methods. But one thing remains the same, they are just fish and we must not put ourselves in a dangerous situation just for a hook up.
img_20160826_1002135 years ago I headed out to my favourite Steelhead River by myself. Water was high but perfect. Hiking for about a half hour I found myself at a perfect run with no one in site other then a few mallards, geese and 2 curious deer. I began my routine and worked the run 3 times with no hookups. I decided that crossing the river was needed as I was sure that I would have better luck. As I approached the far bank I had one last deeper portion of the river to cross. My mind was focused on the Steelhead and feeling omnipotent, I pushed through the deep area. This is where my right foot got lodged between 2 rocks and I became stuck.
Laughing at first, I worked my foot back and forth thinking I would just pull it out and trudge on. No such luck. The rapids were strong and were thrashing against my waist. I realized then that I was in trouble. My foot was not coming out and if I toppled backwards from the force of the river I would be done. This was the first time I ever thought to myself that this could be the end. I said out loud “it’s only a fish Jeff. What have you done”. Obviously I’m writing this story so I was able to bend down and loosen my boot while almost falling over numerous times. This took a long, agonizing 15 minutes. I wiggled out from the two rocks, turned back and sat on the bank of the river to reflect. This was the day that had changed my life and how I fish and guide for Steelhead.
I say 2 – 3 times every Steelhead guide day. “It’s only a fish. Do not put yourself in peril. Move on to a safer spot or river run. Again, it’s only a fish”.
Stay safe while pursuing these Ontario Steelhead. Water will be high. Never underestimate the power of the river.

Life of a Fly Fishing Guide.

Vail, Colorado – Beautiful. Cold. Those misty mountain mornings on the Eagle River – The epitome of bliss. This is where it all started.

As goosebumps ran down my arms and legs, I knew I was in the right spot. Just minutes away from the ski runs that my wife, Kellie, was floating down, I had hired a flyfishing guide to show me his home river – to help me understand what those waters truly held. Fly fishing has always come naturally to me, though I knew deep down that there was (and always is) much more for me to learn about this silent sport. To me, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You can never truly predict what the creatures of the water will decide. That day, I was looking for some fiery river knowledge, like the type of flies I should use or a tip here and there on my cast. I wanted a great day, with a great mentor, chasing down silvery rainbows and buttery browns. Eagle River, Colorado
The most important lesson of the day – more important than anything I’ve ever learned about the sport – Was how not to be a Guide. My River Guru was overly tired, cranky, and held an ego that darkened the waters. Tiger Woods, Clint Eastwood – these were the people he spoke mostly of, and how he graciously led them through the rivers. We used one fly all day. Just one. The “Lucky Eagle”. This bad boy was nicknamed after the Governor of Colorado, just a month prior. As you might have guessed, my eyes were in constant rock and roll. I was told to cast the fly “over there” and wait for the ‘big one’. Folks – I couldn’t wait for my day to end. I politely shook his hand and bid him farewell at the end of our day.
FB_IMG_1470744536270In that moment, just as I was leaving the man who I had such high hopes for, dreaming of laughs and tight loops, I decided to become a Fly Guide. A Guide needs to be real. He/She needs to be honest. Understanding. Thoughtful. Caring. The fish don’t care about what celebrities were in their home. They don’t care about how good you are. A Fly Guide…guides through the rivers. They guide through tough situations. They guide through beautiful landscapes. They will allow you to connect with the ebb and flow of life through a rivers many surrounding eyes. The main ingredient here is patience, and the knowledge that we’re all just visitors in these waters. A Guide will see you as you are, and treat you with the respect and attention you deserve. That the rivers and its inhabitants deserve.
Guiding is not just about the Fish. It’s about sharing knowledge, moments and epiphanies.
Cast into the waters, and you might just pull out something bigger and more profound than the fish you were expecting.
Jeff
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