It’s hard to believe the fishing season on the majority of the rivers and streams in SW Alberta has been closed for more than a month and that Christmas is only two weeks away. Unlike last year at this time, we haven’t had to deal with much snow, at least not yet.  But rest assured, winter is coming. Although there’s not a lot of snow on the ground at the moment, we’re bound to get our first good snowfall sometime before Santa pays his annual visit. We haven’t had a lot of snow, but we’ve sure been receiving a lot of wind lately. A couple of anglers who had been fishing on the lower Oldman, downstream of the dam, stopped by the shop this afternoon to say they had been blown off the water. I guess the 100 km per hour winds made it tough to stand up, let alone trying to casting into it.

Crowsnest River at Highway 507 Bridge

I went for a drive the other day to check water conditions on the Crowsnest River. Ice is beginning to form along the edges, but there’s still plenty of open water in the stretch between the Highway 507 and East Hillcrest Bridges. If you’re planning to check it out for yourself in the coming months, this section generally has the most ice-free, fishable water.

On another note, our 2012 Fly-Fishing Schools have been scheduled. We’ll be offering a couple of Beginner Schools in May and June. In addition, Jim & Lynda Mclennan will be returning next season to instruct a couple of schools. Gift certificates are available for any of these classes, and make a great “stocking stuffers” for Christmas. Click here for information regarding our Beginner Schools. Click here for info regarding Jim and Lynda’s Schools. Certificates are also available for our guided fly-fishing trips. Call the shop at 403-564-4333 or 1-800-267-1778 for more information.

Jim McLennan of Longview, Alberta is a well known and respected fly-fishing personality in Canada and the U.S., but some of you may not know he’s a talented musician, too. He’s as skilled with a guitar as he is with a fly rod. Jim has been playing guitar since he was a teenager and has recently returned to performing solo. Earlier this year he released his first solo instrumental CD, titled Six-String Gumbo. We’ve been playing it a lot in the shop this summer and think it’s great. However, we’re not the only ones who think this way about Jim’s music. Here’s what a few others have to say.  

“McLennan’s the complete player and one who doesn’t second-guess himself as an artist. Hard to believe that making music of this calibre isn’t what he does on a day-to-day basis for a living, but fans of instrumental acoustic guitar pieces will be thrilled Jim McLennan took time to record this impressive collection.”  – Peter North, host of Dead Ends and Detours and Points North

“Jim McLennan has it all – classic rags to Jerry Reed to the Beatles. He’s a full-fledged guitar picker, at home with blues, folk, jazz, and pop. Some hot pickin’ on this CD!” – Stefan Grossman, American acoustic-guitar guru

If you’re interested in listening to some of Jim’s “hot pickin’,” he’s going to be appearing live at The Tin Roof Grill & Bar in Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass, on Friday November 4th. Special Guest: Lynda McLennan. Seating is limited, so don’t delay. Get your tickets today. We have a few tickets available at the shop (ph: 403.564.4333). They can also be picked up at the Tin Roof, or by calling 403.562.7664.

For more info regarding the McLennan’s and Music, click here

Jim McLennan will be appearing at The Tin Roof on November 4th

For the past couple weeks, we have been receiving numerous calls and emails daily from people seeking information regarding current conditions on the local trout lakes. It seems there’s a lot of anglers chomping at the bit. I’m one of them. It’s been an interesting spring, to say the least. You could probably sum up spring’s arrival in southern Alberta quite nicely this year with one word, “late.” By this time last year, all of the lakes around here were completely ice-free and lots of boats could be seen bobbing about on them. That’s not the case this year, though. The photo below was taken at Lee Lake yesterday morning. It shows about 20-30 feet of open water near the boat launch. I looked back at a blog post I made last year, where I had a similar photo of this lake. The main difference between these pictures is last year’s was taken March 22, a full six weeks earlier than the one I took yesterday. What a difference a year makes! 

May 4, 2011 - Lee Lake finally beginning to open

 Jim McLennan, of Longview, Alberta, stopped by the shop the other day and presented me with a copy of his first solo CD. Titled Six-String Gumbo, the recently released CD  features Jim playing acoustic guitar. Although Jim is perhaps best known in the fly-fishing world, where he is a respected angler, instructor and author, he has also been a serious musician for over forty years. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with Jim a few times over the years and knew he was darn good at it. I knew his guitar pickin was something to hear, too, but until the other day I had never listened to his music. Can you believe that! We’ll, we’ve been playing his CD in the shop for a couple days now and we’re hooked! I’ve become an instant fan of his music. While Jim was in the shop, I mentioned I once played trumpet in the junior high school band. Now that Jim knows I can blow, maybe he’ll feature me on his next CD. I’m a little rusty, but I’m sure with a little practice I’ll be as good as before!

For more information on Jim’s new CD, click here.

What a winter its been in Southwest Alberta. Many long-time residents of Crowsnest Pass say all the cold weather, along with the copious amounts of snow we’ve been receiving, are reminiscent of the “good old days,” when winters were for real.  All I know is its been crazy cold since Christmas and we’re running out of places to put the excess snow. What we need right about now is a good old-fashioned Chinook to come by and help melt some of it! Goodness knows, my arms, shoulders and back would sure appreciate it. I didn’t think it would be possible to wear out a snow shovel, but I proved it could be done.

View of the shop today from road, looking across the property. Snow from parking lot piled 6-8 feet high.

Chinook winds have been few and far between this winter. In fact, I don’t remember when we had our last one. Oh, we’ve had plenty of wind in Crowsnest Pass over the past several months, but not the warm, Pacific-born westerlys we’re famous (or infamous) for. I know that many of the residents around here, not to mention any of the anglers in southern Alberta currently suffering from cabin fever, are longing for the day when a Chinook Arch will once again appear across the western sky. For they know, once they see the tell-tale sign, by way of a large band of clouds arching over the mountains along the Continental Divide and nearby foothills, that relief is on its way! In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to pick up a new snow shovel.

If you were awake early yesterday morning and looked outside toward the heavens, you probably saw the lunar eclipse. Total lunar eclipses are fairly common and there is one visible somewhere in the world, about every 18 months. However, yesterday’s eclipse was special, because it marked the first time in nearly 400 years that a total lunar eclipse has occurred during the winter solstice. The last one took place in the year 1638. Unlike today, there were no cameras around back then to record the event. I suspect there were thousands of photographers and videographers recording this one, not to mention the countless numbers of curious skygazers. I happened to be one of them, camera in hand.

For a while it looked like it was going to be a non-event in Crowsnest Pass, as wave after wave of clouds passed over Turtle Mountain, obscuring the moon from view. I had chosen a location along the edge of the Frank Slide as my vantage point. Even with the cloud cover, it was bright enough to walk in the woods without a flashlight. Then, just before 1:00 am there was a break in the clouds and a magnificent red moon appeared high above Turtle Mountain. It was awesome!

It will be another 391 years, in the year 2401, before another total lunar eclipse will form over this mountain and Crowsnest Pass on the winter solstice. I’m sure it will be as spectacular as yesterday’s. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tis the season … to send our warmest wishes to our friends. On behalf of The Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop and Guide Service, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone who stopped by the shop this year. We truly appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you again next season. Thanks also to our staff, guides and everyone else who helped out this summer.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 The Crowsnest Angler Winter Hours & 2011 Fly-Fishing Schools 

The shop will be closed December 25 – January 10 for Christmas and New Years. We’ll return to our usual winter hours on January 11 and will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 am  – 6:00 pm. Closed Sunday & Monday until mid-May.

  Our 2011 Fly-fishing Schools have been posted on our web site. Click here for information. Jim and Lynda McLennan will be returning in July to conduct a number of schools, including a new one , “Presenting The Fly.” For more info on the McLennan Crowsnest Pass Schools, click here.

Christmas Gift Ideas

If you’re still searching for a last minute Christmas gift for someone, we may be able to help. Gift certificates are available for guided fly-fishing trips, schools or gear. Also, a reminder that all men’s and women’s waders and wading boots are 30% off while supplies last.

Christmas in the Frank Slide

Southern Alberta is recovering from its first snow storm of the year. In Crowsnest Pass, there’s 18-20 inches of fresh snow covering the valley floor. The sun broke through for a few minutes yesterday morning, as I was taking the photo below. It was the first time in a couple of days where Turtle Mountain and the Frank Slide were visible. It looks like even more snow has fallen at higher elevations. I’m sure this will be good news for the local ski resorts. Not so good if you were hoping to get out fishing on the Crow over the next few days. Temperatures are not expected to climb above -14°C through the weekend. The long range forecast appears brighter, or should I say “warmer,” and it’s suppose to be above freezing by next Friday.

Lots of fresh snow in Crowsnest Pass

 Speaking of Turtle Mountain, the Alberta Geological Survey has been conducting research on this mountain for several years, using hi-tech equipment to monitor its structure and instability. According to their web site, “the first priority of the monitoring system is providing early warning to residents of a possible catastrophic rock avalanche.” That’s comforting to know, particularly if you live in the “splash” zone! 

In addition to some of the monitoring equipment, there are web cams set up on top of the mountain and along the valley floor. If the mountain’s South Peak ever breaks loose, like the experts believe it will at some point in the future, it’s nice to know we’ll be able to watch in real time. If you’re interested in looking at some neat web cam photos, click here. There are also some cool time-lapse movies.

It was inevitable and only a matter of time, before the nice autumn weather we’ve been experiencing in Crowsnest Pass would go south on us. After making it through October and the first half of November, without having to deal with much in the way of wintry weather, everything changed yesterday. Although we did get some snow in September, along with a bunch of rain and cool temperatures, the weather turned for the better and it’s been quite pleasant for the past six weeks. At the very least it made us forget what was to come, sooner or later. Now, it appears winter is on our doorstep. 

 I’d say we’ve had 3 – 4 inches of snow since Monday evening and the temperatures have dropped condiderably since the weekend.  It was -12°C this morning. That’s downright nasty, when compared to the +12°C we basked in a few days ago. There are two words that begin with the letter ”W” that a lot of folks around here don’t like to say out loud. Wind is one … winter, the other.  Ah well, c’est la vie.

It appears it’s going to be a while before warm temperatures return to the area. Hopefully, we’ll get a Chinoook before month’s end. We all know what that will bring with it, though … the other ”W” word!  

Crowsnest River

Snow falling on the Crow

I headed over to Lee Lake yesterday to check whether or not it was still ice-free. There was already a bit of slush forming along its edges, and I suspect there’s ice on the lake today.
Lee Lake ready to freeze

Lee Lake ready to freeze

Livingstone Range Threatened
On another note, I received an email the other day from a friend who is a member of the Livingstone Landowners Group,  informing me of a video that’s been uploaded to YouTube. The Landowners Group was formed 5 or 6 years ago by concerned residents in the Porcupine Hills area of southern Alberta in response to rapidly increasing industrial pressure in the area. The latest threat to the area is a proposed open pit mine along the flanks of the Livingstone Range. This video looks at the potential impact of the proposed magnetite mine. The mine could have an impact on the fishery in the area, as there are several small tributaries along the Livingstone Range that flow into the Crowsnest River. The video is approximately 13 minutes and is certainly worth a look. Click here to watch the video.

Autumn is nearly here, can you believe it? Where did the summer go? Did we even have one this year? It was a strange summer, weather-wise, not only in Crowsnest Pass, but everywhere. I’m guessing this has been one of the wettest, coolest summers on record in southern Alberta. I can’t remember one like it. We’ve sure had to deal with a lot of rain over the past couple of months, that’s for sure. Heck, we even had 2-3 inches of snow here last night.

When August didn’t provide much in the way of warmth, I was hoping September would have been a repeat of last September, when we enjoyed record amounts of sunshine and heat. Well, it hasn’t happened, at least not yet. I know there’s still a couple weeks remaining this month, and then there’s October to look forward to. I guess there’s still time for an Indian Summer. Let’s hope it happens!

The colors of autumn are beginning to appear along the rivers and streams

The colors of autumn are beginning to appear along our rivers and streams

Despite the weather, the fishing has been quite productive most days. Autumn is in the air, though, and the days are becoming shorter … nights are cooler, too. Often, the best fishing is during mid-afternoon, once water temperatures have warmed up.

Earlier this week, I was able to spend a day fishing with friends, Rolf and Shirley Ann, of Vauxhall, AB. We had a good time and I look forward to fishing with them again. Next time, though, we’ll make sure we don’t have to be back early for “wings night” at Pure Country Restaurant. But then again, the wings are so good here, it would be difficult to pass up. I guess we’ll have to go fishing any other day, but Wednesday!

Autumn fishing

Rolf preparing to net Shirley Ann's trout


The fishing is holding up quite well on the Crow these days and anglers are continuing to have good success on the river. Although it’s easy to catch lots of small to medium size trout, the big ones are becoming a bit more difficult to fool. I guess that’s normal for this time of year. Some people would say we’re into the Dog Days of Summer. The days are warmer now and water levels are lower than they were a few weeks ago. Trout have seen a lot more of our flies by now, too. In order to have success catching larger fish, you’ll need to be more cautious when wading and casting. Fly presentation is also important. Sloppy casts will usually result in spooking trout. Evenings can provide some of the best dry-fly opportunities for bigger fish. The last hour of daylight can be the best time to be out on the water.

Try using small dries and nymphs at this time of the year

Try using small dries and nymphs at this time of the year

 Unlike a month ago, where big dries and nymphs accounted for many of the larger trout being caught on the Crowsnest River, chances are you’ll now have to use small dry flies and nymphs if you’re hoping to catch a big one.

 While fishing the Crow the other day, I noticed lots of ripe berries on the Saskatoon bushes growing along the river. I was forced to stop fishing a couple of times to sample them. It probably won’t be too long, before some of our local wildlife (i.e. Mr. Bear and family) discover them, too. Remember, it’s a good idea to stay alert and always keep your eyes open when fishing during berry season. Have fun out there!

P.S. There’s still some openings in this weekend’s (Aug 14 & 15) fly-fishing schools, with Jim & Lynda McLennan. These schools are listed below. For more info, click here.

Lynda McLennan Schools

August 14 – Introductory Fly-Fishing (men & women) 

August 15 - The Next Step (men & women) 


Jim McLennan Schools

August 14 – Fly-Fishing Intensive (FULL)

August 15 – Late Summer/Low Water

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