Over the past several years, there have been numerous sightings of river otters along the Crowsnest River. A lot of these reports have come from anglers, who have been encountering them while fishing. Earlier this year, I went out looking for some otters that had just been spotted along the river, east of the shop. Naturally, they were gone by the time I arrived. Today was a different story, though. This time they were waiting for me.

Otter, checking me out

Mama or papa otter, along with a young one, checking me out

When I first saw the otters, they were sunning themselves on a large boulder along the water’s edge, about 75 yards away. Actually, they saw me first and by the time I realized what they were (at first, I thought they were mergansers), they were already sliding into the water. It appeared to be a family, numbering four or five in total. I was amazed at how effortless they were able to swim.  “Graceful” and “powerful” is how I would describe their swimming ability.  They seemed curious, yet wary of my presence. Once in the water, one of them barked at the others and then they all paddled upstream in my direction. They swam within thirty yards of me, close enough for a good view, but not quite close enough for a good photo. Too bad I didn’t have my long lens. Once their curiosity was satisfied, they turned around and headed back downstream. I quickly walked to the corner, hoping to catch another glimpse, but they were nowhere to be seen. Pretty neat encounter, I’d say. The fishing was pretty good afterward, but seeing the otters was the highlight of the day!

I suspect otters were common along the Crowsnest River at one time and there’s probably plenty of reasons why they haven’t been seen in these parts for many years. I’ve heard there’s some people, including a few anglers, who are not particularly happy they’re back. This is probably because they feel otters are a threat to the fishery. I disagree and believe there’s room for fish and otters to co-exist. But then again, these are likely the same people who don’t like grizzly bears, wolves or bull trout.

In the past, I’ve had requests to provide info on how I rigged my pontoon boat with a second anchor release system. A rear anchor can be helpful when fishing lakes, but having a second one located at the front of your pontoon boat can be of additional help.

Pontoon boat double-anchor system

A double-anchor system at work

Most pontoon boats come with a rear anchor system. They work great, but in order to hold your boat in a fixed position, especially if the wind is constantly changing direction, you need an anchor in front, too.  It can be frustrating trying to fish if your boat is being blown back and forth or around in circles. Here’s how to make and attach a front anchor system to your pontoon boat. You may need to make some modifications to the design, depending on how your boat is configured. 

Material List

  • PVC electrical conduit pipe/tubing, cut to appropriate length (available at hardware store). Use the flared end to insert/attach a small pulley.
  • 7/8-inch nylon, plastic or metal pulley (available at hardware or marine supply store)
  • rope cleat (available at marine supply store)
  • 2 or 3 heavy-duty nylon cable ties to secure PVC pipe to boat frame. Quick release nylon straps can also work.
  • anchor and 20-30 feet of rope
Front anchor system components

Front anchor system components

As you can see in the above photo, the foot peg supports the front of the PVC pipe. Nylon cable ties are used to attach the pipe to the frame. A hole was drilled on top of the flared end to allow the anchor rope to be passed through. It’s hidden from view, but in order to have the pulley fit inside the pipe, I had to cut a bit of an opening at the bottom of the flared end. Holes were drilled in the sides of the flared end to allow a bolt to be inserted through the pipe/pulley.

Now if it’s windy when I’m fishing, I just lower the rear and front anchors and remain comfortably in place. Double-anchoring, while facing into the wind, is an effective way to fish with strike indicators. When doing this, I’ll cast my fly and indicator onto the water so they drift toward me with the wave action.

The finished product

The finished product

The runoff has begun on the rivers and streams in southwest Alberta, including the Crowsnest River. Water levels have been rising gradually for a week or so, as warm temperatures are beginning to melt the snow at higher elevations. After checking the Alberta Environment web site, it appears the snow storm that passed through southern Alberta earlier this month helped a little, in terms of increasing our mountain snowpack. However, with the exception of a few places where snow accumulations may be slightly above average, most areas are currently sitting at below average measurements for this time of year. Providing we don’t receive excessive amounts of rain over the next several weeks, the runoff could finish early this year. Maybe everything will be fishable by June 16th, when the season opens on all the trout streams in this part of the province.

If you’d like to fish somewhere/anywhere while waiting for the runoff to subside, you may want to head over to one of the local trout lakes. The fishing has been quite productive at Lee, Beauvais and Beaver Mines lakes. Summit Lake, located just across the border in BC, has also been providing good fishing as of late. Remember, though, you’ll need a BC license to fish here.

Crowsnest River Salmonfly Hatch

I checked the lower Crowsnest River this morning for signs of salmonflies and found a couple of empty shucks on the abutments of the “Iron Bridge,” just downstream of Hwy. 3. It looks like these big bugs are beginning to hatch on the river, and right on cue, too. It’s not unusual for the emergence of these stoneflies to coincide with the spring runoff. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if the river cleared up a bit, before these insects have finished hatching?   


The spring runoff has started on southern Alberta's rivers and streams

The spring runoff has started on southern Alberta's rivers and streams

We’ve changed to our summer hours and are open 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, each and every day. We’re really excited about the coming season and look forward to seeing all of you again.
Help Wanted in Fly Shop
We’re looking for summer staff in the shop (June – September/October). Duties will include retail sales, issuing angling licenses, stocking shelves, store clean-up, providing local fishing info/advice to customers … etc. Resumes can be sent via email to Vic Bergman (info@crowsnestangler.com) or dropped off at the shop. They can also be mailed to: The Crowsnest Angler – Box 400, Bellevue, Alberta T0K 0C0. If you’re friendly, enjoy meeting people, and you like fishing and talking to others about it, and would like to work in a fly shop for the summer, we’d love to hear from you. Applicants must have fly-fishing experience/knowledge. Only successful applicants will be contacted for an interview.
2010 Licenses
 A reminder that Alberta and British Columbia angling licenses are available at our shop. If it’s more convenient for you, it’s possible to purchase your licenses online.  For Alberta Wildlife Identification Numbers (W.I.N.) and angling licenses, click here
BC licenses are available by clicking here. If you’d like to pick up your BC license at our shop, and you had one last year, remember to bring it with you. In order to issue this year’s license, we need your “Angler Number.” You can also record the number on a slip of paper. If it’s an Alberta license you require, bring your W.I.N. card to the shop. Until next time!

Many of you know Nathan Bond, a former employee of our shop and fly-fishing guide extraordinaire. Some of you also know that Nathan is a talented musician, a pianist (classical), at that. In recent years, Nathan has also developed a passion for rock climbing and has even invited me to join him on an “easy climb” up, or an “easy repel” down the face of Goat (Bluff) Mountain, right here in Crowsnest Pass. However, he has yet to convince me that “I’m not too old” to do this sort of thing! I wasn’t too surprised then when about a year ago he came by the shop to say he was planning a trip to South America to climb Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. At 6,962 metres (22,841 feet), Aconcagua is commonly known as the “Roof of the Americas.” Conquering even the highest mountain in our “neck-of-the-woods” would pale in comparison.

Nathan set off on his epic adventure in January. He stopped in Santiago, Chile to visit friends, first, before continuing on to Argentina to prepare for the climb. I’m not sure of all the details, but after two attempts Nathan and his party reached the summit of Mount Aconcagua on February 10th!

Nathan, at the Summit of Mount Aconcugua
Nathan, at the Summit of Mount Aconcagua. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.

Upon completion of his expedition, Nathan returned to Chile, where he was looking forward to spending more time with friends and being able to participate in another one of his interests … surfing. He travelled to the beaches of Pichilemu, an area considered to have some of the world’s best waves.  It was here on February 27th that Nathan experienced firsthand the devastating earthquake ( 8.8 magnitude) that rocked Chile. The earthquake triggered a tsunami, causing Nathan and numerous others to flee to higher ground and safety. While Nathan was unscathed, it took some time before he was able to make contact with his family in Crowsnest Pass to let them know of his well-being. 

Structure damaged in earthquake. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.
Structure damaged in earthquake. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.

Anyone who knows Nathan won’t be too surprised to learn that he chose to remain in Chile following the earthquake and volunteered with the Save The Wave’s Coalition Chilean Earthquake Relief Effort. That’s Nathan for you, always ready and willing to help … no matter what! For several weeks he worked with crews delivering water purification filters to residents of some of the surrounding communities. Congratulations Nathan on reaching the summit of Mount Aconcagua, and kudos to you for helping with relief efforts in Chile! That must have been some vacation!

For more information on the Save the Wave’s Coalition Earthquake Relief Effort that Nathan was involved with, check out the link in the above text. Residents of Medicine Hat, Alberta may want to watch for a special “Chilean Earthquake Fundraising Event” on April 10th. The fundraiser is being organized by Nathan’s sister, Simone.

Nathan left Chile several days ago and is now in Brazil, awaiting his trip home to Crowsnest Pass. Below are a few more photos from Chile, courtesy of Nathan’s parents, followed by a report on ice-out conditions on several of our local trout lakes. Spring appears to be inching forward!

More earthquake damage. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.
More earthquake damage. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.


Roadside obstacle. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.
Roadside obstacle. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.


Delivering water purification filters. Photo courtesy Bryan & Rhonda Bond.

Delivering water purification filters. Photo courtesy Bryan & Rhonda Bond.


Tsunami aftermath. Photo courtesy Bryan & Rhonda Bond.

Tsunami aftermath. Photo courtesy of Bryan & Rhonda Bond.

 Ice-out  Report for Southern Alberta’s Trout Lakes

I went for a drive yesterday to check on a couple of the areas trout lakes. Some friends reported late last week that Lee Lake was beginning to open, and I thought I’d head over there to see how things had progressed over the weekend. There was about 30 feet of open water along shore near the boat launch and a bit more in the “Narrows.” Providing we don’t get a stretch of cold weather, Lee Lake might be completely ice-free within a week or so. Throw in a day or two of strong winds, though, and it might only take a few days to open up.

Lee Lake beginning to open. March 22/10.

Lee Lake beginning to open. March 22/10.

 I checked Beauvais Lake, too, but the ice here is only beginning to soften along shore. Lee is usually the first trout lake to become ice-free in southwest Alberta, followed by Dipping Vat, Beauvais, Payne (Mami), Police Outpost and Beaver Mines.

Beauvais Lake remains frozen. March 22/10.

Beauvais Lake remains frozen. March 22/10.

It’s hard to believe Christmas is but a week away. And a week later we’ll be into another New Year – 2010.

2009 was a strange year in southwest Alberta and Crowsnest Pass, in terms of the fishing and weather conditions we experienced. First of all, a lot of the rivers and streams didn’t receive their normal runoff. We had decent snowpack last winter, but the heavy rains that normally fall here in May and June simply didn’t materialize. The lack of spring rains, combined with unseasonably cool weather, resulted in a gradual runoff. This made for some great early season fishing on the Crowsnest River and other places, but we paid the price in late July and early August, when the heavy rains finally arrived. Water levels rose to runoff proportions on some waters, including the Oldman and Livingstone rivers. Conditions seemed to change from one day to the next, and from one stream to another. One day, it could be the Oldman that was blown out, the next day it might be the Castle or Crowsnest that was effected by torrential downpours. These rains often occurred after nightfall. Temperatures remained cooler than normal most of the summer.

During several evenings around this time, there were some amazing displays of  “dry lightning,” with bright bolts of light flashing overhead continuously for hours at a time. Night turned as bright as day with each flash, and the loud thunder booms reverberated throughout the Crowsnest River Valley. It was awesome! Some of the warmest weather of the year came in September, of all times. Temperatures were like that of July and August, approaching 30° Celsius some days. Some of the best fishing also occurred in September. Perhaps the fish thought that summer had finally arrived?  Then came October, a month of freezing cold temperatures and snow, lots of it. The temperature change came so quickly that most of the leaves on trees froze and turned gray before they had the chance to provide the beautiful autumn colors so many of us enjoy. Here’s hoping to a normal 2010 season! 

Winter Hours & 2010 Fly-Fishing Schools 

The shop will be closed December 23 – January 11 for Christmas/New Years. On January 12th, we’ll return to our usual winter hours and will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 am  – 6:00 pm. Closed Sunday & Monday until mid-May.

  Our 2010 Fly-fishing School line-up will be posted on our web site early in the New Year. Jim and Lynda McLennan will be returning once again to conduct a number of schools, including a new one ,”Sub Surface Fly-Fishing.” For more info on the McLennan Crowsnest Pass Schools, click here.

In closing, I would like to thank all of our customers and clients for their patronage this year and wish everyone a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas to everyone from The Crowsnest Angler!

Merry Christmas to everyone from The Crowsnest Angler!


Crowsnest Pass received some rain again last night – a  half-inch, to be precise. For the past two weeks or so, we’ve really been getting some strange weather around here. It seems every couple of days we’re getting hit by intense thunderstorms. The storms have been occurring mainly at night. Some of the accompanying lighting displays have been incredible, rivaling those of last month’s “Thunder in the Valley Fireworks Display” in Blairmore.

 The thunderstorm activity has been taking place throughout southwest Alberta, not only in the Pass. One night it’s Crowsnest Pass that gets it, the next it’s the Oldman or the Castle Drainage’s turn. Areas further to the south, near Waterton Park, have also been getting large downpours. The strangest thing, though, is that while one river receives copious amounts of rain, enough to blow it out for a day or two, another stream a mile or two away, doesn’t receive any – or at least not enough to adversely effect water conditions. This makes it difficult to know where to fish one day to the next.  About all one can do is go for a drive in the morning. If your stream of choice is flowing high and discoloured, simply head over to the next stream or drainage. Chances are you’ll find something that’s clear and fishable. There’s good news in the forecast … rain to end by the weekend. Sunny skies, and more good fishing, lie ahead!

Countless numbers of people are drawn to Crowsnest Pass each summer to fish our local rivers, streams and lakes. Our mountain community has become a world class destination, attracting anglers from near and far. Along with the great fly-fishing that’s available, there’s plenty of other things to see and do here. If you’re planning a fishing trip to the “Pass” this year, do yourself a favor and take in some of the local sights and activities. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s my “Top Ten List of Things to See & Do in Crowsnest Pass – When You’re Not Fishing.” They’re in no particular order and I only listed them as they came to mind. There’s a lot more to see and do in the Pass than what’s on this list, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.

  •  Frank Slide Interpretive Centre   Located at the site of Canada’s Deadliest Rockslide, the newly-renovated Interpretive Center contains new exhibits and interactive displays. The rockslide occurred at 4:10 am on April 29, 1903, when in the pre-dawn hours, 82 million tonnes of limestone broke from the summit of Turtle Mountain and crashed into the valley below. The slide obliterated a portion of the sleeping town of Frank, claiming approximately 70 lives. Among the displays at the Centre, you’ll find replicas of the townsite’s buildings, as they appeared on the fateful morning when the mountain moved. If you’ve toured the Interpretive Centre before, but have not been back since the renos were completed, you owe it to yourself to pay a return visit. If you’ve never been to the Centre, it’s a “must-see.” For more info, visit their web site by clicking here.
Frank Slide Interpretive Centre

The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, with Turtle Mountain in the background

  • Bellevue Underground Mine Tour  Put on a coal miner’s helmet and lamp, and take a guided underground tour of the Bellevue Mine. The coal mine opened in 1903 and operated until the early 1960s. Numerous coal-mining artifacts are on display at the site. Knowledgeable interpreters are also on hand to explain what it was like to be a miner and the intricacies of the “room-and-pillar” method of coal mining. This is the only underground mine tour in Alberta. To reach the mine, look for their sign next to the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe on Main Street, Bellevue. Speaking of ice cream, be sure to stop at the Old Dairy for a cool, refreshing treat, once you’ve toured the mine. For more info on the underground mine tour, click here
A group exiting the underground mine

A group of people and their Interpreter exiting the underground mine

  • Crowsnest Museum   Located in the old Coleman Elementary School, this museum is chock full of artifacts, of which more than 25,000 are on display at any given time. If you’re interested in the Crowsnest Pass, its people and its rich history, this it the place for you! For more info, visit their web site by clicking here.
Crowsnest Museum

The Crowsnest Museum in downtown Coleman

  •  Hiking and Mountain Biking  There’s no shortage of places to hike or bike in Crowsnest Pass, that’s for sure. Hikes vary in level of difficulty, so you’ll want to check on these beforehand. Popular hiking and mountain scrambling destinations include, Turtle & Crowsnest Mountain, Window Mountain Lake, the old ghost town of Lille and the Miner’s Path in Coleman. Be sure to bring your camera! If you prefer to peddle, there’s miles upon miles of backcountry trails and roads in the area, suited to mountain biking. For books, maps and info on hiking in Crowsnest Pass and surrounding area, visit Crockets Trading Company, located across the street from our fly shop.
Hiking up Turtle Mountain

Hiking up Turtle Mountain

  • Hillcrest Cemetery  On June 19, 1914, an explosion at the Hillcrest Mine claimed the lives of 189 coal miners – the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. Most of the victims were buried in two mass graves at this cemetery. There’s a monument and interpretive panels present, honouring those who died in this tragedy.
Hillcrest Cemetery

Hillcrest Cemetery Monument

  •   Rum Runner Days & the 15th Annual Thunder In The Valley® Fireworks Display  This year’s event will take place July 16-19, with the “ever amazing,” Thunder In The Valley® Fireworks on Saturday, July 18. That’s this weekend, folks! The fireworks start at 11:00 pm., and the best place to view them is downtown Blairmore. If you have the opportunity to attend, you will be impressed – guaranteed! Organized by the Blairmore Fire Department, it’s the town’s highlight event of the summer. Other Rum Runner Days activities include a pancake breakfast, parade, co-ed slo-pitch tournament, golf tournament, Show & Shine, midway rides for the kids and various family events. For more info on the Thunder In The Valley® Fireworks Display, visit their web site by clicking here. For info on Rum Runner Days, click here.  
  • Crowsnest Heritage Route  This self-guided driving tour takes you through the five towns that make up the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass (Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore and Coleman). A free brochure, available at numerous locations throughout the Pass, including our fly shop, contains detailed maps of each town. Locations of heritage sites and buildings, along with interesting historical descriptions, are included in the brochure. Directional signage along Hwy. 3 and within each community will help you to locate sites. For more info on Crowsnest Pass Heritage, click here.     
  • Crowsnest Pass Art Gallery & Gift Shop  Located along Hwy. 3 in the town of Frank, the CNP Art Gallery features new exhibits monthly. Current and upcoming exhibits include, “This Is Who I Am”(July 4 – Sept. 7), a juried show featuring the work of local artists; “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire” -  photography exhibit by Elaine Steinke (Sept 12 – Oct. 12); Sigh – paintings by Karen Tamminga Paton (Oct. 16 – Nov. 18).  The Art Gallery is operated by the Crowsnest Pass Allied Arts Association. The Association also offers various workshops throughout the year. For more info, click here
The local Art Gallery offers monthly exhibits

The local Art Gallery offers monthly exhibits. Admission is free.

  • Crowsnest Pass Golf & Country Club  I’m not a golfer, but I know there’s a lot of fly-anglers who like to play a round or two when they’re not fishing. Click here for more info on where to golf in Crowsnest Pass.
Crowsnest Pass Golf & Country Club

Crowsnest Pass Golf & Country Club

  • A Visit to The Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop  I may as well throw in a free plug for the shop … after all, you’ll need to find out “where the trout are biting,” once you’ve checked out all the places and activities listed above. For those of you who don’t know where we’re located, you’ll find us along Hwy. 3 in Bellevue, Crowsnest Pass, immediately west of the small campground. Hope to see you this summer!
Our shop is located along Hwy. 3 in Bellevue, Crowsnest Pass

Our shop is located along Hwy. 3 in Bellevue, Crowsnest Pass

As many of you know, we’re once again offering a number of fly-fishing schools this summer, conducted by Jim and Lynda McLennan. These schools are an excellent opportunity to learn from two of the finest and most knowledgeable instructors anywhere!

Jim instructing on the Crowsnest River

Jim McLennan instructing on the Crowsnest River

 Although some of our schools have been filled, there’s a few openings remaining in others. See the list below for details. If you’re interested in registering in any of these, give us a call at: 800-267-1778.  The cost of these schools is listed below (GST not included).

Whatever your skill level, there’s a McLennan Fly-Fishing School designed specifically for you. For more information on the Crowsnest Angler schools, and others being offered, please visit the McLennan Fly Fishing web site by clicking here.

Lynda McLennan discussing equipment

Lynda McLennan discussing equipment

Jim McLennan Schools (Availability as of July 9th)

Fly-Fishing Intensive ($200.00) –  July 11 School (FULL)

Fly-Fishing Intensive ($200.00) –  August 2 School (space available)

Listening To The River ($150.00) – July 12 School (FULL)

Listening To The River ($150.00) – August 1 School (space available)


Lynda McLennan Schools (Availability as of July 4th)

Women’s Beginner Fly-Fishing ($150.00) – July 11 School (FULL)

The Next Step For Women ($150.00) – July 12 School (FULL)

Beginner Fly-Fishing (Co-Ed/Mixed) ($150.00) – August 1 School (space available)

The Next Step (Co-Ed/Mixed) ($150.00) – August 2 School (space available)

 McLennan School

Congratulations to outdoor writer/photographer, Duane Radford, of Edmonton, AB., for winning 3rd place in The Outdoor Writers of Canada Communications Award Photography Category!

 The photograph was highlighted in one of Duane’s articles, “Getting the MOST from your Digital Camera Images,” published in the 2008 Yellowhead It! Directory. It’s a photo of Myles Radford (Duane’s son) and I, on the lower Oldman River several years ago. I remember the day well; it was early September and we had the river pretty much to ourselves. The fishing was good and we had a great time together. See Duane’s picture below!

Myles and I on the lower Oldman River. Photo copyright Duane Radford.

Myles and I on the lower Oldman River. Photo copyright Duane Radford.

Here’s a couple more pictures taken the same day.

Myles netting one of Duane's trout.

Myles lending a helping hand by netting a trout for dad


Duane, with a great Oldman River trout!

Duane, with a great Oldman River trout!

Did you know the 2009 Alberta and British Columbia fishing licenses are available for purchase online? The availability of licenses via the Internet can be a real time-saver. What’s great about this, too, is these licenses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

British Columbia implemented online licensing last year and it’s now possible to purchase your Basic and Classified Waters licenses by visiting the BC government web site. We are a vendor for BC licenses and you can continue to purchase them at our shop, as usual. However, keep in mind we only have one computer terminal available to issue BC licenses and appreciate your patience when obtaining the Basic and Classified Waters licenses. To avoid potential line-ups and/or waiting time, anglers may want to consider purchasing licenses online, in advance.

Your BC license will have an angler number printed at the top of the page. You will need to use this number to purchase Classified Waters licenses. You will also need this number when purchasing next year’s Basic license. It’s a good idea to record your angler number on a separate piece of paper for future reference.

 You can purchase BC licenses by clicking here. 

To purchase Alberta Wildlife Identification Numbers (W.I.N.) and angling licenses, click here.



 For those of you who like to check our Crowsnest Angler Fishing Report on our web site, today’s posting will be the last one for about a week or so. I’m heading out on a fly-in, fly-fishing trip to Northern Alberta and won’t be around to update the report or answer email until June 8th. In the meantime, our staff will be monitoring stream conditions daily. Please call the shop for info. I’ll be posting a full report of my trip, along with photos, when I return. Have a great week, everyone!

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