Happy new year! As we enter the new year and set intentions to fish more than ever in 2020, winter continues to punish us viciously, forcing us to stick to the vise most days, not the mighty Bow. Although the frigid temperatures can sometimes make fishing hardly enjoyable, the cold can also provide us with new fishing opportunities; ice shelves. Chucking flies from a stable, well-formed ice shelf can allow us to cast to waters that were previously impossible to reach with a single-hand rod. All of the sudden, the ‘riverbank’ has been transported (in the form of accumulating ice) away from the true bank, and is now hopefully hanging over a nice feeding lane. Gaining this advantageous position for casting to trout in these prime feeding lies can greatly improve success in winter fishing. In a spot with appropriate water speed and depth, we can ideally start drifting our flies right beside the shelf and work our way outward from there. Ice shelves not only allow us to place our flies in more fishy water, they also give us access to this water without having to wade knee deep in extremely cold temperatures.
Wading in the river in winter can absolutely be a limitation to the amount of time we are willing to spend fishing on any given day. It’s important to remember that we aren’t just losing heat through convection, but also conduction. The cold water that constantly flows around our legs is robbing us of heat much faster than the wind ever could. Layering is essential on these cold days.
Fishing off of ice shelves doesn’t come without it’s risks, however. It can be extremely dangerous and if a section of ice were to break off, the outcome could be fatal. It is essential that you have an understanding of: how thick the ice you are standing on is, how anchored that section is, and the depth of the water beneath the ice. In all fly-fishing, it’s never a good idea to get too excited about getting your flies in the water before assessing your surroundings. This is much more important in the winter—not for the usual purpose (potentially spooking fish) but for your own safety. Breaking through an ice shelf and getting soaked in icy cold water on a brisk winter day sounds awful, but having you waders fill with that bone-chilling water and drowning sounds like a truly dreadful way to go. Sometimes we can get a little too aggressive in our pursuit of that trophy brown, but remember, the river demands our respect. Refusing to accept it's power can result in tragedy. However, with a level of preparedness, understanding, and a tight enough wading belt, we can minimize our risk and enjoy plenty of fishing throughout the winter months.
As you might guess, bug activity on the Bow hasn’t changed a ton over the last couple months. Still, our go-to winter patterns can prove to be effective, as long as conditions allow us to fish:
STREAMERS: Olive Wooly Buggers, Black and White Sculpzillas, Other leech patterns
NYMPHS: Brillon's mean machines, Tungsten slim Jims, San Juan Worms, Zebra Midges
DRIES: Bucky's midge clusters, Polywing spinners, Griffith's gnats
Our Calgary fishing reports are brought to you straight from our office, the rivers and streams of Central and Southern Alberta, to give you the latest information regarding hatches, patterns, and tactics. Each report will touch on the main rivers and streams in Alberta that we call our home waters. These include but are not exclusive to the Bow River, Highwood River, Oldman River, Crowsnest River and the Red Deer River Drainage. We pride ourselves in providing you with trusted local insights across all of our fishing reports! As always, email or call the shop for current information at 403 282-8868.