We are closely approaching Peak Autumn here in Southern Alberta, with bright blue skies, balmy daytime temperatures and just the slightest dip of the mercury into frost territory a couple of nights this past month. Our leafy deciduous trees (and larch pines) clearly all got the group text and have colour-coordinated their Fall look. It's a special time to traverse the vibrant landscape as we get a few more kicks at the can before winter shows up, whether you are chasing the thirty-incher that broke you off back in July, or if your priorities have shifted to filling the freezer with game meat. All we need is a little more water.
The Bow River and just about every other system around here are low, low, low. On the Bow, the flow rate has bumped up ever so slightly and is running at 55 cms as of Thanksgiving Sunday. This is just barely into the low end of the average range for October after fluctuating between 40-50 cms for the last two weeks, well below average. Luckily we still have water stored in our reservoirs, with Ghost and Glenmore reservoirs holding a whopping 93.83% and 99.27% of their respective capacities. Our water regulators may be showing some prudence by holding water back so that the river can be kept flowing should we see a protracted period of low precipitation like we experienced last winter.
Eager brown trout have begun the annual spawn. Wagging those tails like a Golden Retriever eyeing up the Thanksgiving turkey, they clean even, shallow sections of river bottom called redds on which to fertilize and deposit their eggs. In years past, the Bow was subject to annual seasonal closures intended to give the fish safety while spawning the next generation. Now, the Bow is open year round so it's up to anglers to self-manage and be responsible for identifying and avoiding these redds. While it's not illegal (yet) to fish for trout on redds, it is extremely unethical and will be met with withering scorn (at the least) from other fly anglers.
Fall is the purist's time to shine as the fervour that commands the weekend warriors to the hills and the boat launches slowly dissipates with each falling leaf. Insects become smaller as food sources dwindle. Fish have seen so many artificial flies by this time that they probably know the name of every popular pattern. Clear, low water suggests the use of finer, longer leaders and tippet. Significantly shorter periods of daylight mean early mornings are required to get a full day's fishing in, but cold morning water temperatures dictate that the dry fly fisher must select the imitation just so in order to rise fish that aren't eager to get out of bed until the sun finally warms things up enough to begin more sustained insect activity.
Warm Fall days on the Bow.
On The Bow
- A warm sunny day could still attract a fish to the splash of a downed hopper and they are certainly still out there hopping, however the trout are definitely experiencing pattern fatigue after the grasshopper smorgasbord thrown at them in late summer & early Autumn.
- October caddis are plentiful, and as the last big winged bug of the season, trout will certainly move to them. If not fishing dries, try swinging a large orange soft hackle behind a streamer on a tight line, and hang on tight.
- BWO's will be active morning and evenings, with overcast skies and cool temperatures as their preferred conditions.
- Waterboatmen are a favourite snack of Bow River trout, and as these smooth little alien nuggets can swim fast, fish will move aggressively to them as they cross and rise on the swing. The Waterboater bite is on now.
- Fall is streamer season on the Bow, so grab a 6 or 7 weight rod with a sink tip, some articulated Kelly Galloup bugs and have at ‘er. Don't stop till your arm hurts and then keep going for a bit still, you gotta' spank those banks!
- No fishing to trout on redds! Come on.
Daisies soaking up a sunny foothills Sunday.
Foothills & Mountains
- The Ant is still #1. Don't mess up and forget the ants. The cutties will be so disappointed. Beetles will also do well.
- The October caddis is also present on many of these waters.
- Morning fish may rise only very sporadically. This is the time to use a small, low-riding midge or BWO emerger. Fish it behind something more visible if you need to.
- If fish won't rise in pools then focus on riffles, deflections, and soft pockets in between.
- Bull trout have all concluded their spawn by now, and will be moving downstream hungry and in search of a streamer to chomp.
- Don't forget bear awareness. They are active and packing on the pounds while preparing to hibernate.
- Dry conditions mean the risk of fire is still high so use caution. Ensure campfires are totally extinguished.
Colin C gets a beauty.
Western freestone streams. What more could you want?
Arrick's Parachute Ant, Cinnamon/Red #18
Galloup's Ant Acid, Black/Red #18
Stillborn Midge, Black #18-20
AJ's Fab 4 Beetle, Peacock #12-16
Almost Dun BWO, Olive #16-20
Elk Hair Caddis, Orange #10-12
Galloup's Mini Dungeon, White #4
Peacock Bugger, Black #6-10
Rickard's Seal Bugger, Burnt Orange #6-8
Galloup’s Flatliner, White/Brown, #2-4
BH Simi Seal Leech, Olive #8-12
Water Boatman, #12-14
Anderson's Bird Of Prey, Orange #12
BWO Killer, Olive #18-20
October Swing Caddis, #6
Fastwater Prince, #14-16
They're out here.