Fishing Report - Early Fall

How Low Can You Go?

TOD restrictions stayed away for the remainder of peak season but it's not all sunshine & rainbows ahead for trout in ES1. It's a race to the bottom of the graph as water levels do the limbo. Anglers are burning daylight as the dry fly season gets long in the tooth.

ES1 Angling Advisory in place. 

 The chunkiest gal this side of the Great Divide.
Summer has burned down to the embers here in Southern Alberta. For better or worse, TOD restrictions were dropped early and afternoon fishing has been back on the menu. The land is parched and streams that were running skinny have become anorexic. Occasional storms drop precious H2O but blow out the Bow River with silt and weeds. Construction in preparation for logging in K-Country has anglers worried. Despite it all, fishing has been consistently good across the board.

 Itch to fish? Rub a little Salvelinus on it

We all know the score on water in our corner of the globe, there's not much of it. Massive thunderstorms just got us through the hottest stretches of summer. The Bow River is flowing at around 50cms out of Ghost Lake reservoir and through Calgary at a weak 40cms. Ghost is at 84% capacity, a crucial stockpile in case of a continued drought through fall. 

Fairly full, that's great news. 

Dark Clouds ahead in K-Country

If you're a fly angler, you've likely heard by now of the plans by Spray Lakes Sawmills to log a large section of forest in Kananaskis Country adjacent to Highway 40 and the upper reaches of the Highwood River. An access road has already been cut and a bridge across the river is nearly completed, leaving damage to the riverbank and dangerous piles of tinder-dry debris. Heavy machinery has crossed the creek multiple times, causing disturbance and sending silt downstream that was noticeable on submerged rocks. Unfortunately this construction work has coincided with the annual Bull trout spawn. Paired with high temperatures and low water levels, impeded access to the upper reaches of their spawning grounds has almost certainly impacted the ability of fish to spawn.

Spray Lakes Sawmills has secured no federal permits before undertaking this work in critical habitiat of our provincial fish. Low blow.

The object of much scorn, the permit-less bridge across the Highwood River.

Heavy machinery on the new access road near the watercourse. 

Silt in the river was noticeable downstream of construction.

East end of the nearly completed bridge.
Access road leading deeper into the planned logging area.

Tips For The Bow River

  • Fish are now on Waterboatmen. Try hanging one behind a streamer and swinging it. 
  • Get to the hopper. There's hoppers hopping on grassy banks and trout wanna eat them. Run the hopper dropper rig to increase your chances but ditch the dropper when fishing off the weed beds because there's little current and lots of salad to catch.
  • Don't go too light on tackle. Fish hoppers on a fast 5 or 6 weight with a 2X leader and no lighter than 3X for a dropper.
  • Weeds have been prevalent in the river so consider fishing a single fly to minimize the amount of hooked debris.
  • Consider skipping the drinks on the boat as there are periodic Checkstops at the top of Mackinnon's Flats.
  • The old reliable leech is still working wonders on the Bow.
  • Waterboatmen are present on the Bow and will become a top food source for trout as we transition to Fall. Try fishing one on the swing. 
  • October caddis are present on the Bow, look for very large pale orange bugs.
  • When a big storm bumps water levels weeds tear off the bottom and make sub-surface fishing a nightmare. It's probably easier to just focus on dries during these conditions.
  • Don't forget about nighttime mouse fishing while the weather is still warm. Grab a 6 weight with a 1X leader and head out when the sun goes down. Try casting near logs and wooden structure, stripping and popping, and skating mice flies across current. Hang on as the takes are sudden, extremely vicious, and a little scary as the calm of the night is shattered. Watch out for crackheads! 

Tips For Other Waters

  • Ant - The #1 Champ. There are guys out there with nothing but a rusty old cigarette tin full of ant patterns and a far away look in their eyes that are having mystical experiences on secret creeks you'll never know nothin' about. Get some ants. 
  • Hoppers and beetles. In general it's a safe bet to size down the hoppers a little bit in the mountains.
  • Anglers have noted an unusually large number of baby bulls on certain streams this year, a good sign for populations. They will often rise to a dry. Be gentle with these little guys so they can grow to be monsters. 
  • Cutties often like to sleep in and get out of bed for dry flies once the water warms up. Lately, warmer water temps mean you can roll up at 8 AM and they're ready to crush your dry.  
  • Spring fed creeks have remained in decent shape throughout the heat of summer and weeds are down from their peak growth. 
  • Bulls have moved up to spawn. They are often lethargic at this time, and on the popular waters they have seen so many flies by now that they are kind of just over it and sick of your crap. Don't waste your day passing streamers in front of a big bull that's never going to eat it. If you want bulls, fish very early in the morning or target oxygenated waters like plunge pools or deeper riffles.
  • If you see poachers keeping fish or using bait, by all means call them out hard (stay safe out there) but also gather evidence including license plate numbers and report them as soon as possible. There have been multiple reports in the shop of poaching activity on mountain streams lately. 
  • To report suspected poaching, call the toll-free Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.
  • Stay with the bear spray on your belt and keep dogs close at hand as several bear encounters have been reported in the last week by customers in the shop.

Flies For The Bow


Water Boatman, Peacock, #12-16

Prince Nymph Jig TB #12-16

Jig Wonky Worm, Red, #10

Caddis Larva Bead, Green, #12-16

Rowley's Tin Man Boatman #12-14

 Dumb, brave, and pretty. K-Country Spruce grouse.

I bet a filthy animal like you would nymph this, wouldn't you! 

    Cutthroat Hotel - rooms by the hour, unlimited complimentary dry fly eats.

A soaking approaching. "It's 30 degrees & sunny, why would I need a rain jacket?"

Saying goodbye to a saucy little dumpling. 

Aw, shucks.

Field of streams.

 There's a couple howgs swimming around in there.

Peach spots, icy white with the yellow belly, on the tarnished bronze.

"No, you can't have any beetles until you finish your ants." 

Catching some bankside rays on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 Angry cutbow sees Colin's ant: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” 

Stillwater Sundays.
Mr. Brown, fishing a dry fly on a Western freestone stream. 


Sunrise on the Bow.

Fall colors are slowly showing up..

Cam sends a size 20 into a shady corner with a Winston PURE 376

Elliott panning for gold on skinny water in the back 40.

A September afternoon in the Foothills. 

Get it while you can, & pray for rain!

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