While the Canadian prairie provinces have been as scorchingly hot as the rest of the continent this summer, it has taken a long time for many of the vast region's rivers to drop down to anything approaching normal levels.
That is partially a function of the massive areas they drain, the Red River, for example, collects water from as far away as the Rocky Mountains but it is also a reflection of how much rain fell across the heartland earlier this spring. It has taken a long time for it all to flow through and out the system.
Fortunately, the good news is that the channel cat fishing on the mighty Red River, while different this summer, has never been better.
Buddy Donovan Pearase runs Black Water Cats www.blackwatercats.com just north of Winnipeg, Manitoba and he has been slaying the big felines of late.
"The water level in the Red has finally come down," Donovan says, "but it still has a long way to go before it is at normal summer levels. In fact, I suspect it won't get there this summer. But it is definitely fishable and we're whacking numbers of big cats every day.
"The neat thing about the higher and faster water is that every cat you hook right now feels like a veritable giant. Channel cats are extremely powerful fish to begin with and they are masters of using the current to their advantage. So with the conditions we have right now, every fish is a memorable battle."
Indeed, Donovan stresses that this year, more than ever, anglers need to outfit themselves with the proper tackle.
"One thing that is really helping us drag these brutes to the boat," Donovan says, "is quality equipment. I have been outfitting my guests with a variety of Quantum rods and reels this year and I can honestly say I am blown away by their performance. Two rods, in particular, are outstanding and the cool thing is they are both bass rods. The Quantum Tour edition 7' 9" "swim special" and the Tour KVD 7' 10" heavy action have become my favourite channel cat rods. They have the perfect blend of backbone and soft flexible tips to keep the fish buttoned in the heavy current.
"I was sceptical at first," Donovan said, "about the Tour KVD glass rod, as it is feels so light and seems to be fragile, but let me tell you there is nothing soft about these sticks. I've beaten the daylights out them, literally dragging in some of my biggest cats this year. I've paired them up with Quantum Cabo CLW 20 saltwater baitcasting reels that have the power and durability you need to get the fish in.
"I used that specific outfit to catch a particularly massive cat recently, one of the thickest, strongest cats I have seen in a long time. Surprisingly, the fish only measured a shade over 35 inches long, but it put up one of the best fights I have ever experienced. I had to stand on the bow of the boat and heave with all my might to get it into the net. I wonder if KVD gets largies that big?"
If you're looking to catch more and bigger channel cats than you've ever caught in your life, check out Donovan's website at www.blackwatercats.com. You can also phone him at (204) 990-2171 or flip him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Todd Longley is another river rat buddy who spends his days putting folks on monster Manitoba channel cats and he agrees that the Red River is getting better and better every day.
Todd tells me he is getting his best fish in 23 feet of water where the bottom is littered with rip-rap. And like Donovan, Todd says the current is considerably faster this year, necessitating two 4-ounce sinkers fastened to his catfish rigs.
"I'm getting all my big cats on frogs and day old shrimp, using cut up rubber bands to hold the baits onto the hooks. I took out some of the Winnipeg Goldeye baseball players the other day and they just slammed the big channel cats. By the way, the docks are finally in at the Selkirk Park, so everything is slowly returning to normal after the spring floods."
Todd's pretty much booked for the balance of the season, but he may still have a few open dates. Check out his website at www.citycats.ca/camps.html or call him at (204) 955-2744.