Our Man In Canada
May 6th, 2002

The Downtown Fly Fisher
Calgary Skyline

By Bruce Masterman

The thriving Alberta city of Calgary has many claims to worldwide fame - from being Canada's oil and gas capital, to the spectacular Rocky Mountains, to the annual hoedown known as the Calgary Stampede.

Really Downtown

To most fly fishers, however, Calgary means only one thing: the Bow River. Every year, the river draws thousands of anglers eager to sample her legendary brown and rainbow trout of 20-plus inches. Some of the river's best year-round fly fishing can be found in the shadow of towering concrete and glass offices right in the heart of downtown. Office workers commonly take their gear to work and fish for an hour at lunchtime, or hang around after work to fish the evening hatch.

However, the Bow is not the only fly fishing game in town. Far from it. Its lesser-known cousin, the Elbow River, also provides good action for brown trout, mountain whitefish and - the recent years - a growing population of northern pike. For the still water aficionado, Calgary offers the Glenmore Reservoir in the city's southwest. Fed by the Elbow River, the reservoir supplies much of the cities water supply. It's an under-rated, good bet for fly fishing seeking chunky brown and rainbow trout. Every year, trout of several pounds are landed, some inadvertently caught by pike anglers casting big spoons, but many by fly fishers specifically targeting them. In southwest Calgary, fly fishers frequent the ponds in the city-run Carburn Park, where rainbows stocked years ago are still available dispite pressure from illegally stocked yellow perch. Calgary's booming growth, which has contributed to a population exceeding 800,000, has also created a boon for many fly fishers right in their own backyards. Ten residential subdivisions feature man-made lakes stocked with rainbow trout that grow to several pounds. Unfortunately, access to these lakes is restricted to subdivision residents and their lucky guests.

Close to Downtown

Visiting fly fishers who have time to explore waters an hour or two from Calgary have a wide selection from which to choose. There's the Bow River, of course, from Baniff National Park downstream to Calgary, and from Calgary downstream to Carseland. But there's also the upper Elbow River and its tributaries, including Quirk Creek and Canyon Creek, where fly fishers can hook into brookies, cutthroats, rainbows and bull trout. The Elbow watershed also features numerious trout ponds including Forget-Me-Not Pond, McLean Pond, and Allen Bill Pond. Anglers not averse to paying to fish should check out Chief Hector Lake, on the Stony Reserve near Morley, which produces rainbows up to several pounds in seasons when they don't winterkill.

The Bow River has many excellent fly-fishing tributaries, including Jumpingpound Creek, the Sheep River, and Highwood River. Rainbows are the most common species, with brookies, bull trout and some cutthroats found toward the headwaters. The Sheep's tributaries, including Ware and Threepoint creeks, are promising destinations, as are Sullivan, Trap and Catarack creeks off the Highwood River. For fly fishing small water in spectacular terrain, there little creeks can't be beat.

Current Issue Canadian Fly Fisher

Kananaskis Country, a provincially managed recreation area about one hour west of Calgary has fine fishing in stocked high-mountain lakes and beaver ponds, stocked with cutts, rainbows and brookies. Hiking in to some of these places can be a challenge for anglers not accustomed to high elevations, but it's generally well worth the effort. Top hike-in lakes include Elbow, Picklejar, Fortress and Rawson. Four small lakes (Bear Pond, Big Iron Lake, Quarry Lake and Wege Pond) have been stocked with Arctic grayling, which are feisty and fun to catch on a fly. If you prefer larger lakes, try Barrier (browns), Spray (lakers), Upper Kananaskis (bulls and cutthroats).

Northest of Calgary, brown trout rule in many great streams and rivers, including the Little Red Deer River, Dogpound Creek, Prairie Creek and the North Raven River, a temperamental piece of water also known as Stauffer Creek. The North Ram River, in the mountains of west-central Alberta, boasts some of the best fly fishing for west-slope cutthroats available in this province, or anywhere for that matter.

Continued Next Time!

Credits: This article is from the Canadian Fly Fisher magazine. We appreciate use permission!

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