Halloween has come and gone. Winter is now upon us. Mountain fishing season has passed and now the mighty Bow River transitions to a more serene part of its cycle. Many of us will occupy the coming months with a glass of scotch, tying vise and the comfort of our homes. Perhaps this time will be spent planning an upcoming saltwater destination or a trip to the southern hemisphere to experience a never-ending summer.
Maybe, just maybe though, it's time to gear up for winter fishing and keep the streak going right here on our home waters. We are blessed in Calgary to have easy access to open water year round. Warm flows from our city's water treatment plant keep the fish and fishing moving well past the city limits. Chinooks will bring warm temperatures on a regular basis to keep that pesky ice from our rod guides, and most of us can recall a couple T-Shirt days on the water during our sometimes unseasonably warm winter months.
There is no need to quit fishing now if you dont want to, and the real trick to enjoying it is having the right cold weather gear. Keep in mind that most of us consider 5 degrees or warmer go-time in the winter, so don't feel like you need to bundle up for an arctic expedition. Simms Fjord pants, or Ultra-wool under layers go a long way to making your day comfortable. Layer up with a Simms cold weather shirt, exstream bi-comp hoody, and a G3 Tactical jacket for example and you're set. Consider winter a great time to start two handed spey fishing. You can cover large amounts of the river without immersing yourself deeply in cold water, and can easily dredge streamers through wintering lies far from shore. Your physical effort is minimized too so you don't get exhausted fishing in colder temps.
Where are the fish this time of year? November will see trout moving to slower water and deeper runs but its not quite time to target only large deep holes. Fish will not want to struggle against fast flows as their metabolism slows but they will still be found in water a few feet deep or less so look for the usual structure you'd target. Water flowing over gravel bars with deep shelves right behind them, inside seams as usual and walking speed flows over knee deep boulder gardens. Change up your presentations and look for streamer runs that will present your flies at a slower pace than what might be effective in summer. Nymphing is effective as usual and remember to get those flies to the bottom quickly. This is a great time to try out jig style nymphs if you havent already; they get down fast and hang up less. Try streamers that mimic sculpins and big slow moving meals. Think movement and action to get a trout's attention but with a slow overall swing to make it easy to chase down. Don't assume dry fly season is over either, on warm days we have seen plenty of fish rising to midges. They will hatch all winter long, and many anglers live for this season on the dry. Delicate presentations, with long leaders and small flies in the size 20s are the name of the game. This is a challenging and fun time of year for surface enthusiasts.
As we have stated before, big brown trout are still on spawning redds, and we personally feel it is inappropriate to target them this time of year. Most importantly we must avoid walking through or disturbing the redds by kicking up silt upstream of them well into spring. So, even when the fish move away, the areas they spawned in remain critical habitat. If we don't pay attention we won't see large brown trout in the years to come.
STREAMERS: Strolli's headbanger sculpin, Galloup's mini dungeons, Wiese's love bunnies.
NYMPHS: Brillon's mean machines, Tungsten slim Jims, Keller's peach fuzz, Bead head black beauty.
DRIES: Bucky's midge clusters, Polywing spinners, Griffith's gnats.