The Downtown Fly Fisher
Calgary, Part 3
By Bruce Masterman
Main Attractions: The Elbow
Calgary's Elbow River is like a smaller version of the Bow. It's
physically smaller, and the trout also tend not to be as big. But
it shouldn't be overlooked, especially on those overcast days or
magically summer evening when big brown trout wander out of their
secret lairs and shed some of their natural wariness in pursuit of
this great opportunity. The same techniques that work on Bow River
browns also apply to their Elbow counterparts.
Below the Glenmore Reservoir, water levels in the Elbow fluctuate
depending on how much water is being drawn from the reservoir. Flows
downstream can be rather inconsistent. But when you hit it on the
right days, the Elbow River can be pure dynamite. As noted, however,
the browns are being increasingly forced to share their space with
northern pike, which likely have migrated from the Glenmore Reservoir.
A friend once told me about the time he was fighting a 14-inch brown
- no slouch, really - in the Elbow close to downtown, when suddenly
a 30-inch pike came out of nowhere and attacked it. The pike
grabbed the trout sideways and started swimming away. But my friend
held fast, and so did his leader. After a tug-of-war of about two
minutes, the pike released the trout and swam away. The trout was
landed and released. The next time my friend fished the Elbow, he
went armed with a stouter fly rod and assortment of big pike flies.
If you can bring only one rod and reel outfit on your trout-fishing
trip, make it a six-weight, with the reel equipped with spools of
floating and sink-tip lines. Otherwise, if space isn't a problem,
it's a good idea to pack two or three rods ranging from three to
seven-weight. On the Bow River, where the current is strong and
trout big-shouldered - and weed growth heavy late in the season -
many fly fishers rig a six or seven-weight for streams and nymphs,
and a four or five weight for delicate dry fly presentations.
Leader length varies, from four to six feet for chucking streamers
and nymphs, to nine to 15 feet when casting Size 22 Tricorythodes
mayfly imitation to a 24-inch trout. Three to five weight rods are
perfect for many smaller streams, lakes and beaver ponds in the
nearby foothills and mountains, where you can expect to find
west-slope cutthroats, Eastern brook trout, rainbows and bull trout.
Although chest waders with good felt soles are recommended for the
Bow River, fly fishers can easily fish smaller waters outside town
with hip waders or, on a warm summer day, wading boots and shorts.
Glenmore Reservoir, Carburn Park Ponds and subdivision trout lakes
in Calgary can be fished from shore, a belly boat, conoe or
oar-equipped car topper.
Guides and Access
For first-time anglers, or if you only have a day or two to fish,
it's a good idea to hire an experienced guide. The Bow has
spawned a growing guiding industry in recent years. Most of the
more reputable guides or companies can be contacted through local
fly shops. Fly shops also are good sources of information
regarding current hatches, successful patterns and where to go,
at least generally speaking. Public access for walk-and-wade
anglers downstream of Calgary is limited. Maps showing access
points are available at most fly shops.
Walking-and-wading, or floating in a driftboat are both effective
approaches on the Bow. You'll cover more water when drifting, but
a wading angler can cover the water more thoroughly. All motorized
boats are prohibited within Calgary city limits. Several local
fly fishers regularly use jet boats downstream of Calgary, much to
the chagrin of other anglers who prefer a quieter, wakeless
experience. Jetboats also disturb wildlife along the river. On
a good day, even within Calgary city limits, you can expect to see
mule and white-tailed deer, beaver, ducks, and geese, bald eagles,
and American white pelicans.
An impressive 330-kilometre network of paved urban pathways used
for cycling walking and in-line skating connects the Elbow and
Bow rivers in Calgary. The pathway system includes dozens of
public parks and green spaces, providing free and easy access
to a great deal of incredible trout water within the city.
~ Bruce Masterman
Credits: This article is from the
Canadian Fly Fisher magazine. We appreciate use permission!
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