Winter, or Whatever This Is
Warning! The following fishing report contains graphic images that may be frightening to children & limp-wristed city slickers.
Ice doing its damnedest to cover Alberta’s Bow River.
So far, it's the winter that wasn't, here in Southern Alberta. By now we've all noticed the snow MIA, dudes wearing beach slides with basketball shorts to the grocery store, and the general lack of any cold. All at a time when we should be going Hunger Games over the last bag of sidewalk salt at Canadian Tire while shivering under layers of fleece & down.
Fogged-up glasses, faucet noses, yellow snow; all those traditional Calgary winter side effects that are starting to feel a bit nostalgic are missing. At least you can still easily disappear a half-litre of lotion into your desiccated jerky hands just like the good old days, and static electricity is free. Winter weather in Canada is supposed to miserably bad, not miserably nice.
Dressed to impress in pink chrome for the NYE ball on the Bow.
On The Bow River
- Midge time. Hatches are often and sustained through the warm hours of the day. Fish are keyed in.
- Thin profile and sparse patterns, whether nymph, dry, or streamer. Trout can see your fly just fine in the low water and subdued patterns will be enough entice them. Focus on quality presentations.
- Flashy sparkle minnow types are still great to trail a plain looking fish-catcher behind, although most strikes will be on the trailer.
- You may show up to the river and encounter slushy conditions that make fishing tricky if not impossible. Before giving up on the day, remember that if temps are warming, slush will often disperse to fishable levels as the day progresses. Go for a walk and try to wait it out, but if it's not clearing by 2-3 PM, you may be out of luck.
- Ice is slowly accumulating in thin sheets on the banks but should be about 5' thick in some places, and is usually frozen over in the city by now. Use extreme caution walking on ice sheets next to running water as stability changes often. Alberta Environment & Parks recommends staying off ice thinner than 10cm/4" when on foot.
- Dry fly action is definitely happening. Fish are rising reliably on warmer days, sometimes posting up at a lie and hitting pushups like during strong summer hatches. Fish have even been observed rising through slush to get delicious midge snacks.
- A 6-weight is often your best daily driver through winter months on the Bow if you're fishing a single hander. However, a 5 will give you the ability to switch up to a small dry fly setup and retain enough sensitivity to fish it properly if they start rising consistently.
- Scan the banks during strong midge hatches to determine the size of washed up shucks (they look like rice krispies). Try fishing chironomid nymph patterns #12-14 in addition to the very small stuff.
- Try fishing these larger chironomids #10-14 in red variations as a thin winter bloodworm imitation.
- Low water conditions make it challenging to weight your nymph rig correctly as very shallow runs transition into very slow moving buckets. Try a #8-12 jig nymph or leech as your first fly on a 7.5-9' 2X leader, then an unweighted nymph on 2-4' of 3X fluorocarbon as your terminal tackle off the eye of the jig.
- Jig nymphs will reduce snagging bottom in very low conditions. Master the micro-loop knot for maximum movement of your flies.
- Invest in a NZ strike indicator system using sheep's wool and ditch the foam bobber. It's easier to cast, more sensitive and does a better job of detecting dainty winter takes. Pair it with Fly Agra to keep it up all day, mate!
- Poachers are a continuing problem on the Bow, which has a zero catch limit year round. Call it in if you see someone keeping or transporting fish with as much information you can reasonably supply & get your sweet snitch money!
- Alberta Report A Poacher Line: 1800-642-3800
- Be mindful of your fish handling. Use a net with a rubber bag, try to land fish quickly, minimize handling time & exposure to cold air, and consider picking up a hook release tool to make getting your fly back real easy for everyone's benefit.
- The two-hand angler will have a nice time fishing a S3 tip on floating or intermediate heads as standard operating procedure, with a S6 or S7 in the bag to drop flies into deep buckets if need be. A single beadhead or unweighted leech is often all you need.
Flies For The Bow
Coffey's Conehead Sparkle Minnow, Brownie, #4
RIO's Hangin' With My Chromies, Red, #12-14
Die with a smile in the Bow Valley.
Straight up balmy out there. Balmy!
Very old bones see the light of day once again on the banks of the Bow.
A poacher left his calling card every 50 feet or so on his way down the run.Must be the season of the midge.
♪ Makin' my way, downtown... ♫
Time your cast, then mend your way through the slushbergs to claim your prize!
"I had a rough childhood. We had to crawl out of primordial ooze across the exoskeletons of our brothers & sisters who came before us. Many perished."
All smiles as 2023 comes to a close on the Bow.