There comes a time in an angler’s life when he suddenly realises that size is’nt everything. This usually comes when you have taken what you feel is an impressive list of trophy trout. These may list into double figure weights. It could be with Browns the size of a small dog, with teeth to match. Or even a stocked rainbow so large that it bottoms out your pocket weigh balance. You suddenly realise that in the scale of world events your achievements don‘t really alter anything, and moreover nobody really cares how long your trophy list is. The realisation arrives that is the quality of the fishing that counts, not the size of the fish. If you fish landlocked stillwaters for easy-catch trout then that initial high of instant success soon fades. So where do you go to charge those ambition batteries? What type of flyfishing will really satisfy your new personal achievement level? The answer might lie in a few days fishing in what is probably the most impressive scenery in the trout world. Trout fishing so refined it has earned the title “Blue Ribbon”. To reach this Eldorado you need to grab a plane and head for the eastern Rocky Mountains of Canada’s Alberta region.
If ever there was a water that coverts the title “Blue Ribbon” it is the Bow river. The city that cuts it in two is Calgary, home to big business and a summertime centre for the famed Calgary stampede and rodeos. Once just a plains cowtown it has now mushroomed into a city of skyscrapers, immense shopping malls, and glistening offices catering to the high tech software and telecommunications market. The regions history began around 10,000 years before the first fur traders arrived, with the dominant Blackfoot Indian tribe choosing the confluence of the Bow and Elbow River and a campsite base. With prairie wild horses to help them hunt the Buffalo herds, they fought with great success every other tribe …until the arrival of the white man. In 1877 a treaty calmed the troubled waters, and today you can check into any number of top city hotels with a view of the racing Bow River, literally walking from your room or office to cast a fly under the panoramic backdrop of city skyscrapers. The Bow is Calgary’s big river, starting its 623km journey as a small mountain stream high in the Rockies of Banff National Park. It picks up flow and volume as it flows East through Banff, Canmore and heart of Calgary, slowly twisting into the prairies of South-East Alberts. It travels through many diverse geographic zones and eco-regions, yielding an amazing range of land, plants, wildlife and birds. The power of the river is provisionally tamed by three main dam rivers. The Seebe, Ghost and Bearspan are all situated before it reaches Calgary. From the city downstream is the area where it has achieved world acclaim, eventually joining the Oldman in South-East Alberta before carrying over the plains to empty into Hudson Bay.
In Calgary city it is boosted by the flow from the Elbow River which flows down from Elbow Lake. Located high in the Rocky Mountains of Kanaskis country it runs through the tiny town of Brag Creek, and into the Glenmore reservoir in South-West Calgary. It runs from the Glenmore dam, winding through Stanley Park and those famous stampede grounds to join the Bow, and together they join to form the coveted “Blue Ribbon” trout fishing title. With so many flights routing into the business centre of Calgary many city slickers and film stars will drop in to the area for some top quality flyfishing. I interviewed the city’s main flyshop owner, Trevor Hanson, to get the absolute lowdown on the place. His shop is in the Grain Exchange building, right in the heartbeat of town, overlooked by the 500-foot high Calgary Tower.
PULLEN-“I find it hard to believe that I am in a bustling city and just a few blocks from here is some great flyfishing. Do you get much trade from much trade from well known people travelling through Calgary?”
HANSON-“Certainly. I’ve been in the guide and outfitting business for thirty years, and have taken out a lot of businessmen who come to Calgary just to slot in some flyfishing with their corporate work. Also the stars have been through here. George Bush. Tom Selleck. Harrison Ford. Tom Cruise. The beauty of this place is that the fishery is self-sustaining wild trout water. While you can fish from the bank the use of a drift boat enables you to cover more fish, and the Bow has an estimated 3000 fish per kilometre that you drift over. I can draw on up to 7 top guides, all with sixteen to eighteen foot mahogany Dory style drift boats. The stability of such a craft enables a client to get quiet, accurate presentations of his fly into all the best spots”.
PULLEN-“The number of wild fish present obviously indicates enough in the food chain to sustain natural spawning. What sort of a fly would a visiting angler look to use?”.
HANSON_”We have both Rainbows and Browns in the river and they both feast well on our incredible hatches of naturals. The Bow is almost a year round river, with the only snowmelt period being from approximately 15th June to 15th July. Therefore the fish have a long period throughout the year to feed and maintain body fat. They can reach an average of 16” to 20”, with 22” plus fish being possible during any part of the day. Remember we support catch and release, and that helps stock as well. Depending on the time of the year we offer top notch dry fly, with outstanding hatches, with Caddis, Blue winged Olive and Pale Morning Dun our most popular patterns. The mid season Hopper fishing offers some explosive surface fishing as the speed of the river makes the trout hit the fly hard. If they pause too long it has drifted past them and another trout has taken it. If the hatch is subdued we go to nymphs like the Prince, Beadhead Hare’s Ear, and standard Pheasant tail. We are not averse to using streamers if the conditions of the day dictate their use”.
PULLEN-“If an angler just turns up for a one day trip what sort of tackle would you advise?”
HANSON-“We don’t like to go too heavy, even though through the city the Bow is a fairly large river. Something in the 9 foot length, with a 6 weight category should do it. You need a floating line, weight forward, with a 9 foot leader tapered to 41lbs or less. As to reel I advise the Hardy GLH NO 6, which is smooth and loaded with 201b Dacron backing in case we hit a large fish. I have taken wild trout to thirty I inches and they can certainly empty a reel fairly rapidly with the pace of river behind them. Of course if anyone turns up on a guided trip they don’t need to bring anything. All my guides are fully equipped with the latest in tackle. You just step aboard and go!”
While Calgary’s Bow is the centrepiece for prime river fishing you only have to drive a few miles to pick up on more “Blue Ribbon” trout fishing in Alberta’s waters. The Red Deer and Oldman rivers have “tailrace” waters, which are released. The pace of this initial current surge creates spring creek conditions with cooler water temperatures and higher oxygen levels. These are two favourables to have in your corner during the hot days of summer. The prairies of Alberta are the spawning grounds for electrical storms and tornadoes, caused as the cool air of the Rockies flows down to meet the hot grasslands of the prairie. Evening insect hatches on the Red Deer with the Brown trout, with fish over twenty inches, including a reputed 31 incher. Browns are occasionally planted in the river to boost the stocks of wild fish. The Oldman River receives a larger stocking, but the fish are generally smaller.
While the plains of Alberta offer good sport, a drive about two hours northwest of Calgary puts you into Banff National Park where stocking is an all important facet of water management. Plantings of Rainbow, Cutthroat, Arctic, Grayling, Brooks and Browns are placed in a number of pristine lake environments. There are a series of brood stations at Alison creek near Coleman, and the main Sam Livingstone fish hatchery in Calgary. These boost natural stocks in some 300 trout waters throughout Alberta, and replenish many lakes that sustain a high winterkill from excessively low winter temperatures. In lakes capable of overwintering the average stock size is 5/10cms, but for waters with a potential for winter wipeout the size is boosted to 15/20cms. Such wilderness fisheries are also best accessed by guides, although a few lakes on the Banff/Jasper tourist route offer bank fishing. The alpine style streams offer first class fyfishing for Cutthroat, and the lakes can produce consistently in early in early morning or evening during the summer and autumn months. Far better to employ the services of a guide who will be familiar with the hatches on each water, and boost your chances of success considerably. With such a wealth of flyfishing available in pristine surroundings, it is’nt difficult to see why Alberta has earned the covert title of “Blue Ribbon” trout fishing.
If you arrive in Calgary and need access points on the Bow River try the following.
1)-BOWNESS PARK – access to park is west of 85 street, on 48th avenue. NW.
2)-EDWORTHY PARK– North side access of Bowness Rd, at Shaganappi Trail.NW.
3)-Edworthy Park. Southside and park access at the end of Spruce Drive, west of 45st.S.W.
4)-PRINCE’S ISLAND/EAU CLAIRE-downtown, at the north end of 2 St, or 4st.S.W.
5)-CALGARY ZOO/St.GEORGE’s ISLAND-Zoo parking lot. St.
George’s Rd and 12st S.E.
For the Elbow river access in Calgary city try-
1)-WEASEL HEAD- The Elbow enters Calgary’s Glenmore reservoir.
Park at the end of 37st and 66 avenue. S.W. 2)-SANDY BEACH-below Glenmore Dam, end of 50 avenue SW. East of Crowchild
3)-STANLEY PARK-Inner City Park. Access north of 42nd avenue SW at 40st S.W., or last. SW.
Guide trips/Tackle-Hanson’s Outfitters. Trevor Hanson. The Grain Exchange building.813 First St.SW.Calgary.Alberta.T2P 1N3.
Tel- (403) 269-9371. Fax (403) 279-9432. Web. www.hanson’s-Outfitters.com.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK- Mountain Rivers and lakes-try-
Tightlines adventures. Darren Wright. Monod Sports.129 Banff Avenue.
Tel (403) 762-4554.Or 1-800-644-8888.Web.www.tightlinesadventures.com
BULL TROUT-251bs 13ozs. LAKE TROUT-52and a half lbs.
BROOK TROUT-12lbs14ozs. RAINBOW TROUT-20lbs 4ozs (wild fish).
BROWN TROUT-17lbs 9ozs. CUTTHROAT TROUT-9lbs 9ozs
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All Rights Reserved.