Conservation key for fly fishing club

Matt
Matt Gardner
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Northern Waters Flyfishers president Kendall Kerr ties off a fly following the group’s annual general meeting last week. The club meets on the second Thursday of every month from September to June in the basement of the Prince Albert Daily Herald building.

To the layman, fishing might appear to be an activity that revolves solely around taking from nature’s bounty.

But for members of the Northern Waters Flyfishers (NWFF), the reality is quite different.

A local club dedicating to fly fishing, the group’s passion for their sport has encouraged members to become conscientious stewards of the environment.

“On conservation, a lot of us, we practise catch and release,” new club president Kendall Kerr said. “We will put back the fish that we catch so it’s there for the next day.”

Conservation is just one of the regular topics discussed by the Northern Waters Flyfishers, who held their annual general meeting last Thursday.

Aside from electing Kerr president and going over finances, the meeting served to reinforce the club’s mission of serving as a forum for the exchange of fly fishing techniques and ideas, the preservation of fish habitats and the promotion of fisheries research and conservation.

Kerr described the essence of fly fishing as imitating the food source of the fish one is trying to catch.

“You’ll quite often see fly fishers catching a lot more fish than … regular fishing, because what we’re doing is we’re observing the food source as to what the fish are feeding on and then we’re trying to imitate that,” Kerr said.

Where the weight of the lure is paramount in regular fishing, fly fishing is chiefly concerned with the weight of the line that takes the hook out.

The fly itself is very light, consisting of a hook onto which the fisher will tie on different materials -- feathers, fur, wool, plastic, mylar -- depending on what one is trying to imitate.

The range of species fly fishers can catch, Kerr noted, is quite broad.

“If it swims, you can catch it on a fly,” he said.

“We do have guys that will go after jack, bass, perch … We do enjoy the trout because they’re unique.”

Unlike many other species of fish, trout cannot survive when there is insufficient oxygen in the water.

As a result, any fly fisher who seeks to catch trout has an interest in minimizing water pollution.

“If you’ve got trout in water, you’ve got healthy water, where … pike or jackfish … can live in water where the oxygen level’s a lot lower,” Kerr said.

Besides educating members on proper catch-and-release techniques, the Northern Waters Flyfishers also dabble in conservation projects such as garbage pickup.

If you’ve got trout in water, you’ve got healthy water. Kendall Kerr

Education in general is a major focus of the NWFF, which was first established as a non-profit organization in Prince Albert approximately 10 years ago.

At its monthly meetings between September and June, which take place on the second Thursday of each month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the basement of the Prince Albert Daily Herald building, the group regularly hosts speakers who discuss new developments and tips for fly fishing.

Often the speakers are members of the NWFF’s sister organizations in Saskatoon and Regina. Kerr pointed to one Saskatoon member who talked about “fingerprinting” brown trout by identifying them through body markings in order to avoid repeatedly catching the same fish.

“We’ve had a biology student come in and talk to us about his projects that he’s been doing down in the Cypress Hills … We’ve had a guide come in from northern Saskatchewan from one of the fly fishing camps to talk about fishing for jack, pike fishing, and the flies that he’s done,” Kerr said.

NWFF members also discuss prime locations for fly fishing both inside and outside Saskatchewan.

Some of the more popular spots for rainbow trout include Pear Lake and Steep Creek. Meanwhile, Prince Albert National Park is a frequent destination for fly fishers aiming to catch walleye and pike.

As a source of knowledge on fly fishing, the Prince Albert club boasts the largest resource library of topical books and DVDs in the province.

For fly fishers suffering from the winter blues, the NWFF has some upcoming activities planned.

In addition to the 30 estimated club members, the public is also invited to attend three indoor fly casting sessions this winter at the Alfred Jenkins Field House, with the first taking place on Friday, Jan. 24 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Asked to name the most appealing aspect of fly fishing from his perspective, Kerr noted, “It’s just relaxing -- and if I can catch fish, it’s a bonus.”

Additional information is available on the group’s website at www.nwff.ca.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Alfred Jenkins Field House

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Regina, Northern Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Pear Lake Steep Creek Prince Albert National Park

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