One weekend in March
Have you ever fished in a blizzard?
By Clive Schaupmeyer
All fishing trips are winners. First, there is the anticipation.
This is enhanced when plans are detailed and prolonged.
If you are like me, you'll not have some of the flies you think
you'll need and you'll power tie to fill these perceived voids.
This too adds to the anticipation. The actual fishing experience
itself is, of course, key to the trip. And if you are lucky the trip
will heightened because you spent a couple of days on the water
with old friends or new. Unless the gods are against you, trout
will be caught and you won't break a new rod. It all adds up to
a fun time and good memories. It's quite okay.
My wife, Willie, and I experienced a memorable fishing trip the
last weekend in March. It had a bit of everything: complicated
plans made weeks in advance; meeting new friends; pretty rainbows,
if not lots of them; great accommodations in new cabin we rented;
confirmation that the Crow Midge is a great fly; and, Oh yes, sun,
cloud, wind and moments of raging snow. We were hit with a
short-lived blizzard while on the river one afternoon.
The first three weeks of March out on Great Plains of southern
Alberta were incredibly warm and sunny. Most days were up to
15 to 21 & deg C (60 to 70 & deg F) and the snows of December
and early January left prematurely. I had been down to the
Crowsnest River two times in February and we did well.
So the long-planned, 3-day weekend on the Crow near the
end of March was destined to be a glorious time. I was to fish
under bright, warm sun; and Willie would sew and quilt in the brand-new
cabin we had rented in Blairmore, in the Crowsnest Pass.
Rainbows would be gorging on the active midges and would
attack my killer Crow Midge flies. Heaven. And I was to meet
a friend I met on the Internet.
Bert Lagimodiere from The Pas, Manitoba had e-mailed me
earlier in January about pike flies. Through subsequent e-letters
we discovered that he was coming to Alberta the same week
Willie and I were going to the Crowsnest Pass. After a few
more e-letters, and agreeing about meeting times and places,
plans were set.
Willie and I arrived late in the morning of the first day, having
driven into strong head winds for 3 hours. There were a few
virga clouds along the mountains. A few snow flakes hit the
windshield on the way in. Oh. Oh.
We checked into our cabin at Goat Mountain Get-Away resort.
The new cabin was roomy and decorated in earthy colors befitting
the cabin's name: the Eagle's Nest. It had a gas fireplace, kitchen,
and lots of linoleum for wet-wadered anglers. Willie set up her
quilting station and I attached a new line on my 6-weight rig.
Outside the wind fairly howled. I was there to fish and fish I
would–wind, snow or rain be damned. I had arranged to meet
Bert at the river, and meet him I would. It was show time.
When I arrived at the Deer Run, Bert was nowhere in sight,
so I headed to the river and stayed about 90 minutes and
landed three rainbows and three whitefish. A Black Mink
was my main fly with a Crow Midge dropped below it. I
thought the run was spooked and decided to leave, as I was
no longer warm. (Did I say the weather forecasters got this
one very wrong?) Back up at the parking spot, Bert and Jarrett
Page, from Calgary, had just arrived and were ready to fish.
Not wanting to appear as a jamtart I agreed to go back down
with them for a while.
Have you ever fished in a blizzard? Well, until my second
river tour that afternoon, neither had I. Sure we have all
fished in snow, but not in horizontal snow so heavy it
reduced visibility to about 150 metres and plastered wet
snow to our wadres, coats, hands and faces. Fortunately
the heavy snow only lasted 30 minutes or so, and after that
the sun sometimes shone. But by late afternoon the temperature
was well below freezing and lines guides required constant
Bert, Jarrett and I agreed to meet the next morning. The sun
shone most of the time we were on the water (between 10
AM and 2 PM), but it was still below freezing and windy.
Again guides froze most of the time. Fish were caught, but
clearly the water temperature had dropped several degrees since
earlier in the week, a condition that often results in trout lockjaw.