Ok … maybe not “completely” different, but still …
It should be stated for the record that meticulous planning is undertaken for each new Exploring Alberta destination. Particularly those that offer a unique element in our quest for new angling experiences. Heralded for its amazing scenery and the chance for anglers to catch (and of course release) Bull Trout through the ice, the Kananaskis Lakes had been on our radar since we arrived in Calgary. However, the Kananaskis area also came with a dark side. Not for the ill-equipped and mentally soft, anglers often risked venturing out extreme cold, biting winds that gust in every direction and if that were not enough … thigh-deep snow that even polar bears would hate in spite of Global Warming.
Suffice to say, the internet was scoured for any relevant information, bathymetric maps were analyzed and “chatter” was monitored through online forums, local experts and the angler network. A plan was forming … a location picked.
Regular readers will know that there is a myopic (at times) focus on walleye in the household. So it should be no surprise that essential tackle to target Bull Trout in deep water would have to be bolstered! We had a strong feeling that the apex Bull Trout would be quite similar to the top predator Lake Trout in Ontario lakes. So it was fortunate that we had a healthy supply of lipless crank baits, blade baits and spoons that would do the job. We did however lack soft plastics and tube jigs (a must have) so before we could head to the mountains a shopping trip to the Fishin Hole was in order!
Once the shock wore off Terry after he realized that we weren’t there to talk to him about Walleye … he quickly led us to a wide array of weighted tube jig hooks and plastics tubes as we spoke of our imminent trip to Lower Kananaskis Lake. As we explained what we were looking for to target Bull Trout … Terry pointed to a rack of T.C. Moto Tube Jigs. These tube jigs were mind blowing in their design and execution. Perhaps shocked that we had never seen anything like them before we critiqued them and immediately appreciated the gauge of hook ,the material and the quality of construction. It was only then did we realize we had been talking to the creator! Treble trailer hooks had been expertly camouflaged by dense strands of various flashy fibres and in every “sexy” color you could want. These were the Cold Lake Specials with names like The Big Mikey, Kim’s Watermelon and Brian’s Cold Lake Killer. We bought a couple jigs along with some material, hooks and tubes to customize a few of our own. Spoiler Alert ! It can be said now with the utmost confidence … “worth every penny!”
Which brings us to timing …
The conditions in the mountains were looking ideal for the weekend with expected temperatures of only -7 or so with winds around 25km. Essentially the equivalent of the “best it was going to get” in the foreseeable future for fishing and surviving.
A very early wake up had us in the truck and heading west into the mountains with Lower Kananaskis Lake in our sights. As we got closer to our destination we grew apprehensive when we noticed signs that Highway 40 was closed ahead as part of winter operations. As we had hoped our turn off to the lakes was right at the closure and before long we were parking the truck and unloading the gear.
Near the hydroelectric plant outflow we drilled holes and began fishing water depths between 55 to 70′ as the sun started to come up. It wasn’t long before we had marks streak in on our electronics and inspect our various offerings and continue to appear every so often. It wasn’t until the white T.C. Moto tube with blood red flash was lowered down to 35′ that a beautifully healthy Bull Trout absolutely crushed the jig.
As the morning turned to afternoon the “mood” of the fish we marked lessened in aggression as their jig or lure inspection process completely slowed. A smaller bull trout that by comparison, slashed twice at the slow jigging tube finally hooked himself and put up a surprisingly scrappy struggle.
Even though it wasn’t particularly cold, the wind and blowing snow made exploration near impossible and as the afternoon progressed with virtually no signs of life below us we packed up and headed back to the truck. All in all it was a great introduction to Bull Trout fishing on Lower Kananaskis Lake which guaranteed that we would be back again for another chance at a leviathan. Mental note … there is definitely a morning bite so sleeping in is not an option.