From a Calgary Fly-Fishing perspective the relationship between The Bow River and The City is extremely unique.The “famous” stretch of the Bow River referred to as The “lower” Bow River is where the action is.Depending on who you talk to this section starts at Fish Creek Provincial Park while Calgary Fly-Fishers may contend that it starts just above the Calf Robe Bridge where the first Sewage Treatment Plant pumps affluent into the river.What makes this part of the river so prolific is the nutrient load that is pumped into the river via Calgary’s Sewage treatment plants which aids in the obscene growth rate Bow River Trout are famous for.This where The Bow River begins to leave the urban sprawl of Calgary behind as menders through farm and ranch land, heading east to join the Oldman River where together they form The South Saskatchewan River eventually flowing into Hudson’s Bay.
Bow River Fly-Fishing Guide Gavin Stookes with a Lower Bow River Brown Trout and a very happy client
The 50 mile Lower Bow River setting is picture perfect for what Fly-Fishers from around the World seek,Serenity,wildlife,and large wild Trout.Guides and DIY Anglers for the most part stick to the lower Bow because the trout population seems to be more equally balanced between sometimes moody browns and easier to catch rainbows.Although anecdotal most anglers would agree the further up The Bow River you fish Brown Trout tend to dominate making for some slow days if the bite is not on.There is also the aesthetics of Fly-fishing through a city of million people,but when it’s on The Fly-fishing for large Brown Trout can be lights out.
“lower” Bow River peaceful setting.
Until recently the “City Stretch” above The Glenmore Trail Bridge was for the most part untouched from Drift Boat Anglers,however due to some forward thinking City Planners The Harvey Passage was created allowing floaters to bypass the Western Irrigation Dam at the same time Bow River User Groups petitioned the City to start opening up more access for launching boats.The result has been beneficial to both Anglers and Trout.
Bow River Brown Trout caught during a Green Drake hatch at the Glenmore Trail Bridge
This has given Drift Boat Anglers another two full day floating options starting in N.W. Calgary and taking out at the Calgary Zoo,or floating from the Zoo and taking out at Glenmore Trail.Floaters can also continue going all the way to Fish Creek Provincial Park.The benefit for the Trout is that more spawning habitat has been opened up via the passage around the Irrigation Dam and although there was a fish ladder for the trout to navigate the Dam,it was often clogged with debris making it difficult for pre spawning Bow River Brown Trout to navigate, thats now changed with the passage.
Bow River Guide Angela Rankin launching at a City Stretch Commando Boat Ramp
This has been a long overdue game changer for The Calgary Fly-Fishing Scene.Although fishing can be tough it has taken some pressure off the more popular lower Bow River and given Anglers an alternative if Bow River tributaries are pumping dirty water namely The Elbow River as a good portion of this float is above it.
Planes,Trains,Automobiles and Fly-Fishing
Bow River Rainbow Trout and The Calgary downtown core
When I first moved to Calgary I always fished in the City as it was easy to access,close to home and with the time restraints I was dealing with I could easily fish for a few hours and call it good.My usual beat was below The Ogden Railway Yard down to the Calf Robe Bridge.I would start off fishing streamers swinging them “down and across” while wading and if a hatch materialized I would switch to Dry Flies.
Good Friend and Mentor Rick Harding working an Inner City Bow River side channel
These Fly-Fishing “quickies” helped develop my current love affair with this part of the river.As my guiding career progressed this area became my proving grounds on new files or tactics I was experimenting with.Now on my days off I’m quick to rekindle this relationship and float it.This stretch can be noisy and sometimes the Tubers can be a little distracting however The Bow River has a different character compared to further down river.It’s more “bouncy” due to the gradient, there are lots of rip rap banks, gravel bars and Islands with side Channels making for some very interesting and “fishy” water.There are also fewer Drift Boats and Jet Boats are not allowed.
Fishing Buddy Angie Rankin pulls one of a Inner City Bow River Rip Rap Bank
Given the nature of the River it’s not conducive to Nymph rides,It’s a Streamer or foam Dry Fly game, with Streamer fishing being the most effective.The fish population is not as dense as The lower Bow River consisting of mostly Brown Trout with a few Rainbows thrown in,when its on you can get into plenty of 14-16 inch Browns with some tanks thrown in.When its off, its off.
Coffee Minnows and other big Streamer Patterns get it done
Myself and my Calgary Fly-Fishing Guide Friends love it.On days off its our go-to as we can be on it early in the AM then off in the early afternoon allowing us to get it together for Bow River Guide Trips the the next day.There is also something to be said about catching trout as you float thru the downtown core of a City of over 1 million people! A very unique experience and a testament to the water quality of the Bow River.
Calgary Fishing Guide Mike Turnbull with a Bow River Brown Trout
When the stars align and various Mayflies and/or Caddis hatch you can also find yourself throwing Dry Flies to rising Trout or fishing foam Hopper or Stonefly Patterns from the Boat when thats going on.For Visitors to Calgary that may not have the time for a Guided Float Trip on the Lower Bow River, this stretch is worth considering as the travel time to the river is a lot quicker than driving out of the Calgary City Limits.
The Omaha Kid and a Hopper eating City Brown Trout
Some of our Bow River Fly-Fishing Clients have now tacked on an extra day just to get a taste of the City Stretch.Their fingers are crossed on every cast hoping for the chase and an eat from a trophy Bow River Brown Trout.
Calgary Downtown Brown Trout
For More Information or to Book a Guided Bow River Fly-Fishing Trip or information on Calgary Fly-Fishing Contact Us ! We love to help you out and Our Bow River Fly-Fishing Guides are always “UP” for Floating the Bow River in Calgary Alberta.
Leeches are an important food source for all things “fishy” subsequently most Fly-Fishers have a go to pattern that they use.Mine has always been a very basic Mohair Leech as it’s simple to tie and fishes well.Fishing Leech Patterns on both Rivers and Lakes can be done in any number of ways and all methods are effective.You can hang underneath a Strike Indicator and Nymph them, trail a leach pattern behind a larger streamer and strip them back or fish a couple leeches in different of combinations and see which works.A popular method on Alberta’s Bow River is to tie a “light” Leech pattern and drop it off the bend of a Foam Stonefly or Hopper Pattern.Leach Patterns are versatile,effective, and impressionistic,meaning your quarry might be eating them for a number of reasons on top of looking like leeches.
My fishing Clients from Arizona always raved about the Semi Seal Leech and we would fish them with excellent results.For whatever reason I did not completely embrace this pattern even after moving to Arizona.The Mohair Pattern seemed to work fine so I just never bothered tying The Simin Seal Leech until this year. John Rohmer’s Simi Seal Leech is even easier which makes it faster to tie.It’s also just as effective as my old “go to” !Best of all it requires one Material which is Simi Seal Dubbing,throw a Bead on it and you are set.It is just as effective as more elaborate patterns and with the variety of colors you can cover the whole gauntlet of what you can use it for.Normally we are tying it in sizes #8-#10 on a Mustad 9672 nymph hook. Colors I like are Black,Brown,Tan and white.These colors cover the gauntlet on which fly can represent which are Leeches,Baitfish,Crayfish,Damsel,Dragon and Stone fly nymphs.Checkout JohnRohmer’s Video below have fun tying.Click Here for Materials.
Saint Mary River B.C. CutBow that ate a Gold and Silver Kreelex
Looking for a flashy streamer that’s easy to tie,gets to the bottom of things and catches the crap out of a variety of Gamefish ? Look know further than the Kreelex Streame !Even though it has been popular in the East for sometime,The Kreelex gained popularity in the West 10 years ago and it has become a “go to” Streamer for a lot of Fly-Fishing Guides because of it’s all around simplicity and effectiveness.I tie the Kreelex Streamer in sizes #4 and #6 which seems to work well for Trout and Bass The color combo’s are up to you but for starters go with Gold and Silver,Olive and Silver and Blue and Silver.Copper and Gold can also be a big hit.
5 wt with floating line and a Gold and Silver Kreelex -Crownest River Alberta
On Large Rivers I fish it on a Sink Tip but fishing the Kreelex on a Floating line can also be deadly, the weighted Eyes get it down in a hurry and can be very effective on Small to Medium sized Rivers. Below is how I tie The Kreelex Streamer,some people tie Their’s different via the over and under wings are the same length as the tail.That’s personal preference.Tie up a variety in different,sizes,colors and styles and see what works for you.
Crowsnest River Cutbow that ate a Kreelex Streamer
The Kreelex Fly is a flashy Clouser Minnow variant.Approach tying the Kreelex the same way.Because of the Dumbbell Eyes tied on top of the hook shank,The Kreelex Streamer rides or swims up side down, the darker material are always tied on the bottom of the fly.Contact me if you have any questions.
Tying Instructions & Materials
Hook TMC 5253 #4 -#6
Thread UTC 140 White or Black depending on fly color combo.
Dumbbell eyes Medium – Large
Tail and Wing Montana Fly-Company Kreelex Fish Flash Material *see picture below this is very important because other materials do not move the same in the water*.
Use this and nothing else !
Tie in dumbbell eyes using figure 8 method, glue and wrap thread to back of the hook shank before the bend
Tie in Tail and fold the material that is facing the front of the hook back over so it also forms the tail and tie off.
Trim tail so its the length of the Hook shank or 3/4 of the length wrap thread forward so it is in front of the eyes.
tie in wing using the same technique as on the tail then fold over and tie off behind the eyes Clouser Minnow style.The wrap thread forward of the eyes.
Trim the under wing (The fly rides upside down ) so its 1/2/ -3/4 the length of the tail.
Turn hook over and tie in the Over wing in the same manner as the Under wing and tail.Pull the forward portion back over the rear portion and tie down.Cut the over wing so it is the same length as the under wing which should be 1/2 -3/4 the length of the tail.
Build head via thread wraps ,whip finish and cement with your favorite UV Cement or Resin.
Let’s face it this Corona Virus has placed the World on “pause” until further notice.Fishing Trips requiring flying are being postponed or canceled severely impacting the Fy-Fishing Industry especially Destination Guides, Oufitters and Lodges as no one wants to risk travel and you cant blame them.I had high hopes of traveling north to Ontario to help a friend out with his Guide Service focusing on Great Lakes Steelhead,that would be a kick I thought but now the U.S. -Canada Border is closed.
So much for that great idea.A case of “Cabin Fever” has also set in and I am thinking I may have to continue to lay low and perhaps squash my guide season in Montana and Alberta which would result in me staying right here in Patagonia Arizona which for all intensive purposes is not the Fly-Fishing Capitol of the World.If that scenario becomes reality Ill miss my northern fishing season however the main thing is stay healthy and limit contact with People.
Urban Brown Trout
Hopefully this situation that we are in sorts itself out sooner than later, but in the mean time I plan on fishing local.Checking out different Bass Lakes and perhaps some Small Arizona Trout Streams,places I have never been before but wanted to go.I’m sure a lot of you are having the same thoughts and want to make the best of a crappy situation.
Great Lakes Steelhead from a river thats 3 hours of Detroit and 2 hours from Toronto
If you live in the east or Midwest perhaps its time you checked out that Smallmouth Bass River you have heard about but never fished,or that little creek that via the rumor network you heard holds Brook Trout the further up you go.East Coasters have a myriad of Salt Water opportunities and if you live close to the Great Lakes their Tribs offer shots at some decent migratory rainbow and brown trout plus various Salmon Species.Farm Ponds stocked with Bass or Panfish can be a hoot ,sure its not Rocky Mountain Trout fishing but all this could be close to your home.Speaking of which, if you live in the West generally you don’t have to go far to find a Trout Stream,maybe this is the year you get into fly-fishing Alpine Lakes or getting off the Tailwaters and fishing back country streams for Cuttys.
Small Stream Brook Trout
Of course all of the above might require some tackle and Fly purchases and rather than order everything online give your friendly neighborhood Fly-Shop a call,Im sure they would love to hear from you and need the business.A suggestion to limit your contact with fly-shop staff would be to order your flies, leaders and hopefully that new rod and reel over the phone and have everything ready to roll for pick up or maybe delivery.
Panfish can be a riot on light tackle
The people that are really going to hurt while this pandemic carries on are Guides.If you enjoy fishing with a local guide why not give him or her a call and see how they are doing ? Question them on what they have been doing to prevent the spread of this virus, most I’m sure have been laying low tying flies or fishing solo.If you are comfortable with their precautions and they are with yours perhaps book a trip.A few Caveats to add would be you would take your own vehicle and follow the guide, if you are floating have your rig shuttled also.I would suggest providing your own lunch and drinks, finally consider tying your own flies on your tippet.This would give you a chance to get out with a Pro,help a fellow Human out while at the same time ensuring social distance is maintained.
Buddy Dan with a nice Arizona LMB
At the end of the day we will all get through this.Of course taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of and catching the Corona Virus is on everyone’s mind.However you still need to go fishing and I’m hoping these suggestions help.Stay Healthy and Safe Amigos !
As far as the trout hierarchy goes nothing beats Brown Trout.Cutties are cute,Rainbows fill a void and I would rather take a disobedient Labrador Puppy for a walk than catch a Bull Trout.Opinionated ? You bet.Targeting Big Brown Trout is a lot of fun, wether its a big floatable river or a tiny creek they are a blast.Enjoy the pics from this ongoing seasonI’m sure there will be more.
Good Friend Lindsey Channel hooked up on a streamer eating Missouri River Brown Trout
D.B.O. Guide Gavin Stookes with a Bow River Brown Trout