The Bow is a shallow wide river which is why it's a great dry fly river. It can be quite windy so I would advise a nine foot six weight rod. Even a seven weight rod might prove useful. This was the third fish in five drifts. Overhead, skeins of geese along with small flights of duck were moving south for the winter. This was fly fishing as good as it gets anywhere in the world.
A hooded merganser scuttled away as the Mackenzie type drift boat floated downstream. Dead pines washed away by the spring floods were piled up and wedged into grotesque shapes like a petrified forest. Green pines lay at various angles over the water like an octopus's tentacles ready to catch any badly cast fly. The Bow river in September flows between snow capped mountains. In places the river narrows to barely a boat's width. Ravens squawked in the pines. The odd osprey passed overhead. What a delightful place to visit. That's the Alberta Bow River.
It all started during a conversation with Becky Adley and Kate Burgess of Travel Alberta. When Kate said "Would you like to take your take your program At The Waters Edge to Alberta, Canada and record a program about the fly fishing available?" Naturally my answer was "yes!" Its interesting to note that in the Province of Alberta, there are big tracts of wilderness where human beings still play second fiddle to the wildlife. The five national and sixty six provincial parks contain a healthy population of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, bears, wolves, bison and woodland caribou. Alberta, is a mixture of prairie, boreal forest and mountains. It contains some three hundred bird species, ninety mammals, fifty species of fish big and small with one thousand seven hundred flowering plants. It certainly sounds good. Why not take a look at the Travel Alberta Web site, www.travelalberta.com - There is also a free Alberta information pack available by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A few days later Becky called to say "We have got you and your colleague John booked on a flight with Canadian Affair, a charter company that specialises in flights from both Gatwick and Manchester to Calgary". The itinerary Becky sent me a week or so later, was certainly an interesting one. It included a visit to the Bow river, Jasper National park, Edmonton and northern Alberta where we would fish some lakes for lake trout and pike. Our accommodation would be a log cabin with just bears, Indians and perhaps a couple of good looking squaws as company. We could at least dream.
Arriving in Calgary, I was feeling rather tired after the long flight from the UK but thankfully wheelchair assistance was available. My multiple sclerosis really does cause me problems when flying. We then collected a hire car, with John doing the driving and after navigating our way out of town we had pleasant drive to the town of Canmore, about an hour from Calgary airport.
THE TOWN OF CANMOR
What a delightful place the Town of Canmore is! Set in the Bow Valley amid the rugged majesty of the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies, yet astride a major transportation corridor, Canmore is a community with a vision based on the conviction that environmental sensitivity and economic sustainability can be reconciled. Following its founding in 1883, Canmore served both as a railway division point and mining town. When the last coal mine closed in 1979, it was clear the community's economic viability would turn to rely on the developing tourism industry. In 1965, the Town of Canmore was formally incorporated with an elected mayor and council. Today, Canmore is the administrative centre for government services in the Bow Corridor and has a present population of 9900 and growing! No way could you imagine this was a coal mining town, it's such a beautiful place. We certainly enjoyed this delightful ex mining town and fishing the world famous Bow river, one of the worlds great fly fishing venues.
The Bow River - Featuring some 50 odd miles of excellent fly-fishing water which starts in the Banff area. It resembles a giant size chalk stream with faster water and lush vegetation with a tremendous head of aquatic life which allows the Bow river trout to grow big, with the opportunity to catch large wild browns of perhaps eight pounds and, of course, big rainbow trout. Heavy caddis and mayfly hatches allow for spectacular dry fly-fishing. Fishing can take place from drift boats but wading is the norm. One thing you will see on the river are the delightful beavers.
July is an excellent month for the green drake hatch according to Jamaica born John Samms of The Green Drake fly shop in Canmore. What a delightful friendly and knowledgeable guy John is. He certainly knows the river and its fishing. If it's a guide you want, then choose John. E-mail email@example.com
Another good time to visit is September. It's also the hopper season, so grasshoppers and caddis patterns are the usual fare. A San Juan Worm can often be a productive pattern along with Black and Brown Woolly buggers. Fishing streamers after dusk can often produce some big fish. Your guide will probably have all the flies you need. But its always nice to have some patterns in your fly box. I would certainly have had some size 14-16 Elk Hair Caddis, size 12-18 Parachute Adams, Parachute Hopper, size 16-18 Pheasant Tail nymphs and Stimulators 10's to 14's. But as stated the guide should have it all.
Jasper National Park.
Not to be missed is the drive through the Jasper National Park to the town of Jasper. My view was the very same one that struck awe in the railway workers, miners, explorers and Swiss guides who criss-crossed these valleys in the late 1800s. Today, you can follow their footsteps or blaze a new trail because they have left lots of the park alone; only the Town of Jasper has changed and it will be enjoyed by any fly fishers family as it's for all the family to enjoy. It's where I met Krista Roger of Jasper Tourism and commerce. What a kind, knowledgeable, efficient and helpful lady she was.
Jasper gets its name from two small trading posts. One of these posts was under the charge of Japer Haws, a Northwest Trading Company clerk. In 1817 he gave his name to this post, which first become "Jasper's House" and finally "Jasper House". This name was also given to the community around the post and eventually to the National Park.
Many people told me Jasper National Park is how national parks were meant to be, before traffic jams and tour buses took over. It's situated three and a half hours west of Edmonton or three hours north of Banff. You won't end up wondering what it must have been like 100 years ago because, apart from the tarmac road and the other tourists, it's still exactly like it was.
Revered as the largest tract of wilderness in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park has earned its reputation by claiming the most extensive back country trail system in any Canadian park. Plus it's less developed. An absolute haven for wildlife. Elk, moose, mountain goats, woodland caribou, lynx, cougars, bears, coyotes and some 248 species of birds have been recorded in Jasper, at various times of the year.
After a day and night in Jasper we had an interesting four hour drive up to Edmonton passing numerous oil wells on the way. Edmonton is a bustling city of hotels, skyscrapers, night clubs and a huge shopping mall. The latter I was told, is the worlds biggest, where you can take a submarine trip and see dolphins. After a good nights sleep and breakfast we spent the next day with Wayne Miller of Birds and Backcountry, this included seeing several big bison from a distance of just a few feet and dinner cooked to perfection in the wilderness back country.
Next week Part 2 - Fly Fishing for Pike in The North Country