June 29, 2014

Birthday Lifers!

Some people like to throw a big party for their birthdays. Personally, I like to spend at least a large part of my birthday in solitude. I often like to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. There is no better way to reflect than to spend some time on the water and enjoy the outdoors.

Today, I have a goal in mind. I had been trying to catch the very common but still elusive Longnose Dace. Even in streams where they can be found, they often only occur sparsely, often outnumbered by other minnow species. In this stream, I would have to sort through many Creek Chubs.

Using #22 dry fly hooks, 2lb tippet and a small flake of nightcrawler, I started to sort through all the Creek Chubs.

After a dozen Creek Chubs and a Blacknose Dace, I tangled my hook and line on a branch and snapped off. It took a little time to retie, and as I readied my gear again, I glanced at the pool downstream. It certainly looked interesting. Baited with a fresh chunk of crawler, I stealthy crept over to the pool and saw a long but thin minnow darting just under the surface. The head appeared pointier than the Creek Chub. I gingerly lowered the bait about 6" from this little minnow and it swam over and engulfed the bait.

It's a bit hard to see a wriggling little fish. Regardless of Creek Chubs or other minnows, I try to be careful landing them and made sure to check every one of them. To my delight, I saw a larger mouth and a very pointed head. Yes! It is a Redside Dace!

Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus) - Species #392!

It is quite surprising to find Redside Dace in this little urban stream, since this species requires very good water quality and ample riparian zone. There are many small but deep pools and much of the creek was well shaded. The water felt cold and ran clear. I hope this stream could maintain its "pristine" state for years to come.

Looking more carefully, I started to be able to distinguish Redside Dace vs. other minnows. There were a few juvenile Redside Dace sitting in faster water at the head of the pool, snapping up morsels drifting by. My #22 was too big for these juveniles. It was good to see the small school of them.

Still searching for my Longnose Dace target, I decided to explore an upper stretch of a steelhead stream. Part of my curiosity was to find new pools for steelheading, and the other part was to search for a Longnose Dace. Last year, I saw a Longnose Dace while steelheading. By the time I readied my tanago rod, the little fish had swam away and I wasn't able to locate it again. Since they exist in this stream, I wanted to explore new areas that may hold more of them.

It was already 1pm when I arrived. The sun was high and it was perfect for spotting fish. There were many small "dace" in the head of the riffle. The way these juveniles were feeding, they appeared to be Longnose Dace. However, even my tanago hook was too small to catch them. I did see a couple of larger dace flirting in and out of the water water. I switched out the tanago hook for the #22 dry fly hook. Since the current was quite swift, I added on a larger splitshot. Placing my bait strategically in a sandy spot behind the eddy of a larger rock, the bait was able to sit on bottom without twirling. Soon, a couple of the larger dace came out of the fast riffle to inspect the bait. I could feel little bites on the rod tip. When I saw the splitshot move, I lifted the rod and hooked one! The fish didn't have the red stripe of a male Blacknose Dace or the black stripe of the female Blacknose Dace. Instead, it had more of a mottled pattern with some scattered spots. Even from far away, I knew what I had caught...the Longnose Dace!

Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae) - Species #393!

I tried to catch the other dace that was in the head of the riffle, but it didn't come out of the fast water again. Looking downstream, I could see a very brilliant spawning male Blacknose Dace. I just had to catch it.

Looking still further downstream, there was a small deep run. Placing my bait on bottom just outside of the fast water, I felt some furious taps and caught another Longnose Dace! This fish appeared to have sustained an attack by a larger fish, a crayfish or maybe even a bird. It had lost a lot of scales on its tail.

Another try...and another Longnose Dace! I think I finally have them figured out!

Richard and I had arranged to fish at his marina in the afternoon. We need to find some bait for bass fishing. On the way back toward the car, I started to flip some rocks to look for some crayfish. Found them!

After catching a few crayfish, I saw a little darter under a rock. This little darter bit 4 times...and it had the #22 hook well in its mouth all 4 times, but I can't for the life of me keep the fish hooked! It looked a somewhat like an Iowa Darter. It would have been a lifer! :( Well...at least I know where to find them next time.

Such a beautiful stream. Perfect place to celebrate my birthday.

I arrived at Richard's boat by 4pm. He had bought some minnows. With worms, minnows and crayfish, we're sure to catch some bass, right?

Before we started bass fishing, I tried to catch Three-spined Stickleback again. We had the not-so-brilliant to use bloodworms as bait since chironomid is a such a common item on the diet of many small fish. But even the very thin wire of the tanago hook was extremely difficult to hook a bloodworm. The little stickleback didn't like the bloodworms though...even when I expended so much effort to put that bait on the hook. One stickleback was very aggressive and willing to bite. In fact, it had bit my hook 3 times but I just couldn't set the tanago hook. Urgh!

Well, as it turned out, the bass didn't get the memo of their free feast. All we could muster up were a few perch. This one was about 9" and it was the first fish...and also the biggest fish.

Bass fishing was a dud. We tried all three live bait, and even tried some lures at dusk. We saw one little 7" bass and a 12" pike...both refusing our very lively minnow.

We were going to try the marina mouth a bit, but an approaching thunderstorm chased us off the water. We got back just in time to unload and put the cover on Richard's boat.

We finished the evening eating at the clubhouse and Richard treated me to some fish and chips. Thanks Richard!

It was a perfect way to spend my birthday :) Hopefully next year I can spend my birthday with my grandma in Hawaii :)


  1. Great blog and an amazing array of fish! I am an aquatic biologist at Credit Valley Conservation. I would love to know the location of the Redside Dace capture. Email me at jclayton at creditvalleyca.ca

    Jon Clayton
    (905) 670-1615 x502