When fly fishermen dream of large trout sipping small dry flies, they
no doubt envision Montana. Great fishing, to be sure. But, by travelling
north of Montana to Alberta, Canada, fly fishermen can experience two streams
that rival any in the world. The Bow River, downstream of the city of Calgary,
has been referred to as the "best trout stream in North America" by several
outdoor writers and is visited annually by the likes of Gary Borger, Doug
Swisher, and other well-known fly fishermen. Why to these anglers like the
Bow River? The reasons are easy enough to find: little or no crowds; big wild
trout; fish that will take a dry fly tied to 4X tippet.
The Bow River originates in the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary and flows
right through the city. As it flows east from Calgary the Bow has been described
as a large spring creek. Below the city is where trout grow to 20 inches in only
three or four years. The river is host to a healthy native population of wild
rainbow and brown trout. No stocking has been done in the Bow since the early
1950's. All the fish are naturally spawned in the river system.
Fishing on the Bow begins in early May using nymphs and streamers, but
prolific hatches of March Browns and caddis being appearing in the later part
of the month. Snowmelt usually occurs during the first two weeks of June, and
the river is rendered unfishable because of high water. After the water settles
down, fishing improves. Hatches of Pale Morning Duns and caddis sometimes blanket
the water. As the warm summer months of July and August approach, the Pale Morning
Duns and caddis are joined by Tricos and grasshoppers. As summer gives way to
autumn, Blue-Winged Olives, caddis, and Tricos provide the dry fly action.
The fall is a favourite time to experience this river, as the fish
are busy putting on the winter fat and feed continually. Very good to excellent dry
fly fishing can be experienced well into October. Nymphing or streamer fishing is
also very good in the fall, as these fish become very agressive preparing for the long,
cold winter. Weather in Alberta this time of year is very unpredictable and anglers
should be prepared for anything...light rain or even snow. But Blue-Wing Olives love
the bad weather. Also the crowds have disappeared, and you just may have the whole
river to yourself.
In the low light days of autumn, it is not unusual to find large trout in the 20-inch
or larger class feeding in less than a foot of water. These "thin water" fish are
aggressive and readily take anything presented on the surface. It is here on the Bow
that you will have a legitimate chance of hooking a 20-inch fish on a size 20 dry fly.
Public access is very limited on the Bow, and all land bordering the river is
privately owned. West Winds has made arrangements with local farmers, where we are
allowed access to their land to launch our boats. These private accesses give us more
flexibility for out guided trips.
The Crowsnest River, in the southwest corner of Alberta, is best described as the
new kid on the block. Fly fishermen are now recognizing this small freestone as a real
blue-ribbon stream. The "Crow" is home to a good native population of rainbow, brown,
cutthroat, with the odd brookie and Bull Trout. The fish are smaller than the Bow (with
the exception of the Bull Trout), but the surroundings of the Rocky Mountains more than
compensate for the lack of size. The average fish will be 15 inches, although larger
fish are taken daily.
The Crowsnest is a small freestone stream with spring creek characteristics - lots of
riffle water for the nymph fisherman and plenty of flat water for the dry fly angler.
The Crowsnest is home to all the major mayflies and caddis, but the Giant Stonefly is the
most sought after hatch for the spring fisherman. The large October caddis provide the fall
fisherman some great dry fly fishing. Nymph fishermen are very successful on the Crowsnest.
West Winds has an exclusive bed and breakfast arrangement with a local rancher, who's
home backs onto the river. The ranch is very private and relaxing, guests are encouraged
to "make themselves at home" with free run of the property.
Calgary is a large city, with all the amenities of any large American city. It has an
international airport that is serviced by all the major airlines. Flights into and out of
Calgary are numerous, and will either go directly or easily connect to any major city in
West Winds will also provide a shore lunch of your choosing. All necessary flies, leaders,
tippets and such are available at our flyshop.