Getting back to the opening theme of this thread ...
My season on the Bow was a mixed bag. Not as many fish-to-net as in past years, but most of them were large (18-24") and healthy. Very few small fish.
This reflects a change in my approach over the past few years. I used to be a die-hard dry fly fisher. Even if there was no active surface feeding, I would toss attractor patterns while scanning the water for surface action. The result was that I would catch quite a few 6-12 inch rainbows while skating a caddis emerger, often getting surprise hook-ups while retrieving my line, "accidentally" catching dumb juvenile trout while intent on setting up for my next cast.
A few years ago my approach started to evolve, after having some heart-thumping success with streamers. That, and a perception that finding pods of surface sipping snouts is becoming more and more uncommon on the Bow - at least during the daylight hours (and my bat phobia keeps me off the water after sunset). So now my go-to technique involves wet-wade streamer swinging, while always keeping a weather eye open for rising fish. This also means that I don't often rig up with full sinking rigs, so I can switch to dry flies without too much hassle. Not the most effective approach for getting streamers down where the fish are holding, but not completely without merit. At least when you are swinging streamers near the surface, you get to see some big swirling refusals that would go unnoticed with a sinking rig.
All that being said, I still think my empirical observations support the conclusion that the Bow still has plenty of large trout (more rainbows than browns in my notional creel, but that might be due to my floating rig approach), but the 6-12 inch cohort seems to have suffered a noticeable decline. Overall, even though my fish/day rate has dropped, by biomass my success rate has improved (one twenty inch fish probably has the equivalent mass of a dozen or more juveniles). I guess having fewer, but larger, fish might result in good biomass figures, but is that healthy/sustainable?
Is this perceived change in age/size distribution borne out by the electro-shocking surveys? If so, what is the cause?
I don't think angler pressure would do this. Probably the opposite.
Did the flood change the feeding habits of mature trout? Lots of banged up little fish making for easy hunting in the summer of 2013, training a generation of eager piscivores?
Did the flood reduce the quality and quantity of rearing habitat? I used to have a favourite beat near Home Rd that got swept away and replaced by riprap in 2013/14. I've spent some time poking around the NW this fall, and it seems to me that in addition to the riprap wasteland that continues to expand along the left bank of the river, there isn't a lot of natural vegetation in those parts of the riverbed that haven't been flood-proofed. The shallows in the NW are just a large expanse of rock snot. Not much cover for juvenile trout, and it doesn't look like ideal bug habitat. Last fall I saw redds being tended in water that was quite deep and fast-flowing (as compared to redds down below Police): is this an attempt by spawning fish to stay clear of the rock snot? is it a successful spawning strategy?
A couple of one-liners to cover the high- and lowlights of my season:
- The Bow is changing, and I've had to adopt different techniques to keep up. Still not going to be tossing bobbers anytime soon, though.
- The Oldman system is on the verge of angler-pressure crisis. One day on the Livingston was enough for me: fishers at every access point (on a weekday!), battle-scarred trout the new norm. And there's a summer job for someone who wants to provide valet parking at the Gap.
- The Elk is facing similar angler pressure issues ... and don't get me started on how BC has hijacked a federal (it's in our Constitution!) resource and made it virtually impossible for most Canadians to fish the Michel and Wigwam.
- The mountain tribs of the Bow remain relatively overlooked, but a successful day of fishing usually involves a couple km of bushwhacking and wading to find the honey holes.
- I now have to walk further to find the solitude that I'm looking for with my wet-wades, but the day I say I don't enjoy a 30 minute hike to find prime fishing water, it'll be time to hang up my gear and spend weekends watching Bob Izumi catch bass with crank bait.