Fly Fishing on The Bow
Ten minutes before our take-out at Policeman’s Flats, in one of the weirdest five minutes of fishing I’ve ever experienced, the sky unleashed its fury and our luck suddenly changed. During the chaotic hailstorm we, miraculously, bagged our only brown trout of the day. And, when it was all said and done, my respect for severe Alberta thunderstorms – and one of our province’s most revered trout streams – reached new heights.
A favourite among Alberta’s tight-knit fly-fishing community, the Bow River regularly gives up rainbow and brown trout worth writing home about. Thanks to our professional guide and a drift boat rental with Country Pleasures, I was oozing with confidence and fully expecting to bag a school of trophy-size trout.
Joining me on this “epic” one-trout day was my father-in-law, Gordon, who had last picked up a fly-rod when Jimmy Carter was president. As for me, I was probably looking at the Ronald Reagan days. But, as seasoned veterans will tell you, even the rookies can score big on the Bow.
Shortly after our put-in under the Glenmore overpass, I turned to our capable guide, Jason Eggleton, who has bagged hundreds of days guiding float trips down the Bow, and sheepishly asked, “so how many fish did you catch on your best day on the river?”
“People measure their best days differently,” he said with a wry grin. “But, if you’re strictly after quantity, sixty or seventy, I guess. I’ve had days where it’s virtually non-stop action. The Bow can be that good.” Of course, there were reasons – well, let’s just say “legitimate excuses” – for our meager take.
In spring, during run-off or spring storms, the water levels on the Bow can change quickly. And this fluctuation, as well the poor visibility that accompanies rapidly changing water, can be a major hindrance to fly-fishing.
Mike Gifford, owner of Country Pleasures says “Think of it this way, when your living space is drastically being altered, are you really going to be thinking about food? It’s probably the last thing on your mind. For good fishing we need stable conditions.”
For most competent anglers drifting down the Bow – especially during the peak summer months when the water is clear and stable – trying to find excuses is seldom necessary. The Bow, which is the only premier trout stream in North America to flow through a major city, gets bigger and slower as it moves east. And, for most of the summer, it serves up stable conditions that are ideal for driftboat fly-fishing. Unfortunately, to put it mildly, we just hit the river on a challenging day.
Shortly after lunch, the clouds gathered and our cool, blustery day made a turn for the worse. By the time we reached Hwy 22x – a legendary hot spot – a steady rain was falling. And still no luck with the fishing. Jason was dismayed.
Just past 22x, the wind started whipping violently through the trees and hail started hammering down on us. Everything went white and chaotic. We were caught. I could hardly see my fatherin- law, Gordon, at the front of the boat. But above the pelting madness I heard him yell. “Hey, I’ve got something!”
Jason quickly put down anchor as Gordon battled one of the meanest, maddest, most miniscule brown trout that’s ever been snagged on the Bow. But, unlike me, at least he got one.
Story and Photo by: Andrew Penner