The plan was to go to Lake Louise for the opening day of skiing and the beginning of winter… But what began as a promising beginning to what is hopefully a winter full of powder and good times has quickly taken backseat to a fall season of fly-fishing that has truly been nothing short of remarkable.
November is typically the time I muddle away my time, watching ski videos in anticipation for winter, and reminisce about trout from the past season. It is the shoulder period, whereby I idle unproductively in between the seasons of my two greatest passions. Yes, it is true that the Bow river in Calgary is an all seasons river that can be fished throughout the entire season with some success (we will talk about that later in this post), however, fishing in cold winter weather with frozen guides and freezing hands while catching very few fish has never been too enticing for me. Not if I could be in the mountains skiing. But this year isnt like other years. After a beginning of October that had most of anglers prepared for an early finish, the weather in southern Alberta stabilized and gave us fantastic trout fishing in all waters until the very end of October and the closing of our high country rivers. Most of us were still in a trout hungry craze, motivated by the colored up cutthroat and bull trout of the high country, and the magnificence of fishing in the fall. Myself, as with many anglers I’m sure, was certainly not ready to stop fishing.
Luckily, the Bow River is still open. And mother nature had an extra special surprise for all those who didn’t pack away their fly gear on October 31st.
An entire week of incredibly unseasonably warm weather, up to 20 degrees most of the week. Call it global warming, call it La Nina or El Nino or some other weather phenomena; call it what you will. I call it a beautiful gift from the trout gods and an amazing opportunity to catch world class rainbows in November. As I know the passionate community of fishermen and fisher ladies in Alberta took full advantage of. So on thursday, finally with a day off work, school, and other responsibilities, instead of heading to the mountains and being reunited with skiing, we headed down to the Bow River and got to enjoy a beautiful day of fishing in November. What an absolute treat.
Too be honest, it was too windy at this point in the chinook and it was tough fishing. But it was warm and sunny, and we were all just ecstatic to be out there and enjoying the river. We hooked several fish, but were only able to bring one fish to the net; a big feisty rainbow in which this river is known for, one that gave me a great fight. For someone who had shifted his focus to skiing, I couldn’t have asked for more than that; a beautiful moment that will stay with me for a while. We saw some drift boats hooked into some nice fish. But casting was difficult and pretty soon fishing gave way to reminiscing and good conversation, sharing laughs amongst friends, and truly enjoying what the river had to offer.
Shifting to Winter
Unfortunately for anglers, whether we like it or not, winter will eventually arrive. This inevitable reality will cause many to put their rods away for good, and while this is understandable, for those not willing to do that, there is still fishing to be had in the Bow. Keep your eyes open for chinooks or stretches of mild weather. If the temp is around 0 or higher, consider heading out with your toque and defying old man winter. If you plan on braving the cold and keeping your lines bent all winter, we have a few tips for you!
First off, dress warm. A recommendation I have is to buy one of those hand warmers that football players wear and put hand warmers in them. You can wear it around your waste and warm your hands up in an instant if they get wet or you handle a fish. Nothing will ruin your day faster than cold hands.
Smaller is better. Typically this time of year, the best set up you can have is a San Juan (red) worm with a tiny (sz. 16-18) bead head nymph attached abour 12″-16″ behind. That or small streamers retrieved slowly. Fish them underneath an indicator and be very patient. It may take you all day, but if you fish a ffset-up like this it is only a matter of time.
Fish deep and slow. It may take you drifting a fly right beside the fishes face to induce a take. Work the water very slowly and methodically, focusing on slower, deeper runs where the fish will be wintered. Consider using split-shot to get your nymphs down as deep as possible. Takes will often be very subtle so be prepared to set the hook even on the slightest of disturbances.
Bring coffee or hot chocolate and be prepared to go home empty handed. This is just the reality of fishing in the winter. There is a high likelihood of being skunked. But that is alright, because the River always has something to offer, even if it isn’t trout.
So, I guess this is it… Well, not really.
We are so grateful to our readers, our instagram followers and community, and anyone who has taken up the call of the Bushwhackers. We started Bushwhackers mostly to share our stories with those who share our passions. We did not really know what shape or form it might take on as we progressed, but we knew we wanted to apply our passions in a way that could help others. Some unfortunate circumstances meant that much of our time was taken up, and many of the ideas and adventures we wanted to have were unable to happen. But the first year trial was a tons of fun and we are planning bigger and better things for next year.
We will be tying tons of flies this winter, and will be creating novelty goods and fly fishing apparel. Fly wallets, necklaces, fishing hats, and much more. So heading into next year, we will have you covered for the essential gear and flies you will need for Alberta and British Columbia’s rivers. Stay tuned on instagram and facebook for updates on this.
We will continue to have fishing content posted on instagram and facebook throughout the winter. Because we all like to reminisce. Keep checking back for more short stories and photography. And if you have your own stories that you would like to share with the world, please reach out to us!
Oh yea… We also really like skiing. You too? Bushwhackers Skiing coming soon.
Coming soon we will be adding a section to our website dedicated to skiing and backcountry skiing in the Alberta Rockies and BC. Our blog will shift over to a mostly Ski oriented blog, and we will also give you all the resources to enjoy the best of skiing in the Rocky Mountains. We think a Bushwhackers mentality can apply to skiing as well, and we at Bushwhackers are STOKED to get this winter rolling. Community is at the core of skiing as well, and we want to help bring skiers together. So subscribe to the blog or bookmark us if you want to dream about skiing when your not skiing, and if earning your turns is what you are all about.
Thank you everyone for the amazing summer of fishing. To everyone who we shared days on the river with, to the people who got us excited when we weren’t fishing, we are glad to be part of a passionate and vibrant community of anglers. Till next time, tight lines!
All Photography by Kevin Rossi