The Dream Season
By Jim McLennan
The night air was sharp with the pungent scent of October. I had closed
the fishing season with a Thanksgiving Day float on the Bow, and after
feeding the dog and putting my daughter to bed I watched a
black-and-white rerun of Mission Impossible
and then drew a hot bath to ward off the autumn chill. I eased
my tired bones into the tub, and through closed eyes wistfully
watched another fishing season slip from present to past. As
always it was over before I had fished half the places I intended.
I began to drift off, and after a time the drip of the faucet became the
gurgle of a trout stream that was overlaid by the stirring of a gentle
breeze that became a became a voice . . . .
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to forgo all trivial
activity for the period between April 15 and September 30 and dedicate
yourself wholly to fly-fishing. Some restrictions apply. You must fish
within the boundaries of the province of Alberta, and you must fish
moving water and only moving water."
"Should I choose to accept it? What kind of choice is that?" I heard
myself ask? "But who are you?"
"I am the U.A.F.A., the Ultimate and Absolute Fishing Authority, the one
who assigns important angling tasks to qualified individuals."
"And I'm qualified?"
"Unquestionably. No one else has shown the consistently high commitment
to irresponsibility that this assignment requires."
I immediate began preparations for my demanding project. I was given a sizable
expense account, which was suitably drained obtaining a new drift boat, camping
equipment, much new tackle, lots of maps and a big cooler. Friends in Rocky
Mountain House, Blairmore and Jasper were called, trips were arranged,
April 15 arrived and I was smiling all the way to the bank - the bank of the Bow.
This was going to be great. I tied a Hare's Ear Nymph to a 4X leader, stepped
into the water and began to cast. In no time I caught a big brown, then a big
rainbow. Things were going just the way I'd hoped they would. I wasn't
even catching any whitefish. I always suspected fishing would be better
without the nagging interference of a conscience.
My gloating was interrupted by a pain in my toes. The water is cold this
early in the season, I thought, as I landed another big rainbow. "Boy, the
water is really cold," I said aloud after all feeling had left my feet.
Then I realized that my waders, - those new, expensive waders - were leaking.
My feet were wet, my legs were wet, and now, somehow, even my hair
and face were wet . . . .
Slowly the babble of the river faced to be replaced with the faint sound of
harp music. My vision were blurry for a moment, and when it returned I
was staring at the bathroom ceiling and my neck hurt. I climbed out of the
icy water, grabbed a towel and drained the tub.
Only a dream, I suppose, but the prospect of such a fishing season is an
intriguing fantasy I think about from time to time. And if it were
to happen, what would I do?
Well, on opening day I would arrange to be on the Bow below Calgary. I'd
park at the top of the valley a few miles from town and climb down the hill to
the river. The grass would be tired and bent from the stress of six months
under snow, and I'd be tired and bent from the stress of six months without
fishing. The weather might be bad, but I know the day would be great simply
because of what opening days represent. Crocuses would dot the prairie, and
I'd be eager to get started.
Working upriver, fishing the choppy slots and depressions along the bank,
I might catch some whitefish, a few small rainbows and the occasional
brown trout. My target, though, would be a lovely piece of flat water,
where I have spent the best dry-fly moments of my life. With luck there
would be some cloud cover and the Blue-winged Olives would hatch
heavily in the afternoon. Though Bow fish largely disdain this hatch in
the spring, if I were patient I might find a good one work, and today
one would be enough.
April would be mainly shakedown time, a chance to get the bugs out of
new tackle, to make sure enough flies for tied for the project and to plan
and scheme for the rest of the season. Most fishing trips would be
low-key checks on the condition of various streams punctuated by
lunches in strategic country coffee shops. There would be short bouts
of nymphing in preparation for the prime months to come.
In early May I would pull my hat down a little tighter and head south of
the Crowsnest River west of Pincher Creek. There would still be some
spawning rainbows around, and I'd have to be careful not to disturb
redds in the gravel. Fish would be eager for a carefully presented
Pheasant Tail Nymph, which I'd tell myself they take for a March
Brown mayfly. After a morning of nymphing I'd eat my sandwich
at the picnic table overlooking Lundbreck Falls and watch big rainbows
from the lower river trying to jump the falls.
After lunch I'd find some March Browns hatching sporadically and
maybe a few fish eating. I'd carefully check a favorite run along some
overhanging spruce trees a few miles above Lundbresk. When the sun
began to drop behind Turtle Mountain I'd point the truck into the wide
valley between the Porcupine Hills and the Livingstone range and head
north on Highway 22 for home. Ian Tyson would sing "Springtime in
Alberta" as the Rockies turned rose, and I'd look for deer and elk in
the meadows near the road. A glance at the Oldman river from the
Waldron bridge would remind me of a date we had for later in the
summer. ~ Jim McLennan
Continued next time.
Credits: Excerpt from Trout Streams of Alberta, by Jim McLennan,
Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. We thank them for use permission.
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