For a true channel catfish challenge, tackle Canada’s whiskered giants on a fly rod
Channel catfish are most active when the water temperature is around 68°F, which means June in Manitoba, although they’re catchable throughout the season. Typically, the best place to find them is in the deep holes between swifter sections of a river.
During spring, when the water is still high and too fast for wading, finding these holes can be tricky, but it can be done. As spring progresses into summer, however, the water levels drop, exposing some of these holes and presenting a prime opportunity to catch cats.
Many anglers are surprised by the way I present my fly, but believe me, it produces catfish. I simply quarter my cast upstream and do nothing. I repeat: do nothing. Numerous times, I’ve taken friends fishing for cats and they start mending or stripping the fly as soon as it lands in the river. If you do that, however, you will not catch channel cats—period.
Despite all the years I’ve been fly fishing for cats, I’ve yet to figure out why the fish prefer the fly this way, but they do. They usually hit halfway through the drift or right at the end, just as the fly is being pulled toward the surface by the current.
When a channel cat takes your fly, it can sometimes feel as if your rod has been hit by a 2×4. Other times, the fish will eat the fly so gently that all you’ll see is the line hesitate. So during the drift, if your line hesitates for even a fraction of a second, set the hook. Then hang on.