Daylight is in short supply as true winter approaches. Scraping the bottom of the graph as water levels in Southern Alberta remain historically low. Winter fishing tactics are in full swing.
ES1 Angling Advisory in place.
Winter arrives in the foothills of Southern Alberta.
The Bow River is getting to know the bottom of this graph very well.
Ghost Reservoir hanging out around 83% capacity.
Most drift boats in the Calgary area have completed their annual migration to overwintering holes in garages and storage yards, and fair-weather anglers have stashed the waders in favor of the tying bench or the quaint comforting glow of Hockey Night in Canada in 8K UHD on the 72" Sony. Other guys & gals are stalking delicious four-legged critters across frozen foothills, or planning trips to find fins in warmer places around the globe. Hole-watchers across the land are weeping tears of joy while gassing up the two strokes as the ice tightens its grip on lakes. However, the all-season angler on the Bow knows that some of the most rewarding (and least crowded) fishing happens during the dark days of winter.
Low water conditions continue to plague us here in Southern Alberta as the hope for rain has now turned to hope for snow. The Bow in Calgary has been flowing at a scant 30-40 cubic meters per second for some time now. Happily, our reservoirs are in good shape with Ghost at 83% full and Glenmore near capacity. Let's all hope that the flakes spill forth from the heavens in abundance as we move into December.
The low water resulted in some large trout becoming trapped in a side channel of the Bow near the Calgary Zoo this week. Volunteers from the Bow River chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada
saved the day, breaking ice to access the stranded trout and transferring them safely to the main stem of the Bow. Good onya, mates.
Construction along the Bow River continues at a feverish pace. New homes appear practically overnight on every ridge and hill within sight of the water, and the sounds of front end loaders and backhoes now compete for attention with the calls of waterfowl and ospreys in the ear of the observer. The good old days of the Bow are sadly gone as once-farmed fields now grow jobs and suburbs instead of wheat & canola. Luckily, our river is still a phenomenal trout fishery, (as brown trout redd counts seem to confirm) for now.
Fishing on the Bow has been a little slower lately, but don't let that be the reason you spend Saturday watching the entire director's cut edition Lord of The Rings trilogy back to back, again. Get your warm layers on and go give it a crack. Swinging leeches on a spey rod, dredging the river with nymphs, or hunting midge risers on sunny days are all good ways to experience winter fly angling on the Bow. Several other waters remain open throughout the off-season if a change of scenery is required, but don't say I told you they were ice-free. Winter solstice is on December 21st, so it is just three short weeks to wait until the sun starts its return to our little patch of frozen river valley.
Blue skies on the Bow in late November.
Tips For The Bow River
- Get your leech out! Swung leech, drifted leech, stripped leech, fried leech, leech n' beans. Trout will eat them any way they can get them.
- Hey you, it's Trout Spey time again. In fact, it's always TS time 'round these parts. Get your extra long fly poles down to the riverbank and start throwing flies at fish with both of your hands. Spey rods will give you the reach to show flies to trout sitting in mid-river winter lies.
- Adjust your streamer fishing for low water conditions. Take it easy on the lead dumbbell eyes and the S7 tips there, champ. Try fishing lightly weighted and sparsely tied flies. Flip stingers point up when swinging intruders.
- Everybody wants to be the Big Streamer Hero, but sometimes you just gotta slum it and flog the water with a dirty red worm. Worm and a leech rig under an indicator is a winter Bow staple for the single-hander.
- We recommend ditching your grandpappy's wire worm (long shank hooks are easier for fish to spit) and going for a pattern tied on a barbless circle style jig hook, #10-12.
- Fish are still rising to midge dries and emergers on warm days. Large trout have been putting on a show with aggressive airborne takes. A bit of that old Alberta sunshine and air temps around 5C will get the midges popping off.
- Try fishing a flashy jig style tungsten beadhead nymph as the point fly on your tandem bobber rig, but consider a small (#18-20) natural colored fly like a Pheasant Tail or midge pattern as a dropper.
- Cold water temperatures result in lethargic behavior from fish, however they still need to eat. Subsurface nymph takes may be very subtle. Set the hook on everything that looks like a possible take, but do so lightly to keep flies in the zone and continue your drag free drift to the end without needing to recast.
- Presentation is key to fooling fish when water is super low and clear. Make your first cast at each new piece of water really count & mend, mend, mend. Learn the reach mend for maximum efficiency.
- Fish Creek boat launch gate is still locked for some reason so don't show up with a drift boat!
Flies For The Bow
Zebra Nymph, #20
RIO's May It Be (Pheasant Tail), #18
Tung Dart CDC, #16-18
Rowley's Holo Worm, #12
Double Rib Chironomid, #18
Lightning Bug TB, #18
Francis with a classic Bow River rainbow.
Breakfast at the boat launch.
#4 Peacock and olive sculpin.
The new Bow River skyline.
Last little bit of open water until 2024.
What's lurking in the shadows?
Day by day, the riprap grows on the banks of the Bow.
BBB. Baby Bow Brown.
Frank hooked up on his R.L. Winston AIR 2 590 in the late afternoon sun.
Pray for snow!