Our Man In Canada
September 17th, 2001

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, schedules planned.

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.

Trout Streams of Alberta

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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