The fishing is picking up on the rivers and streams in SW Alberta. Although water levels on some of the rivers south of Crowsnest Pass are a bit high at the moment, they’re clear and fishable. The Castle is still a little on the high side, but some of its smaller tributaries are wadeable/crossable and fishing well. The Crowsnest, upper Oldman, Livingstone River and tribs are in good shape and anglers are having good success on these waters.

The rivers and streams in SW Alberta are shaping up nicely

 Insect activity has increased over the past couple weeks and dry flies are working. Hatches include, golden, yellow and lime Sally stoneflies, caddisflies, pale morning dun and green drake mayflies. Good fishing everyone!

I was able to get out fishing on the Crow yesterday afternoon. Until last week, the river had been high and discoloured, largely due to all the precipitation we’ve been receiving over the past several weeks. All that snow melting in the high country hasn’t been helping, either. The river is still quite high and you probably won’t be able to wade across it for a while yet, but at least the water has cleared to the point where it’s fishable again.

The Crowsnest River remains high but fishable

 When I arrived at the river, I noticed a few adult salmonflies flying about and was hoping that the trout would be on the lookout for these big bugs. We’ve received reports of anglers having some success with large attractor dry flies, so I decided to start with a Stimulator. Over the next hour, I fished some nice water with my dry fly, without success. Not even a look or refusal … nothing at all. Yet, there was more than enough water visibility close to the stream bank, places where you normally expect trout to be holding in these conditions. They just weren’t interested in coming to the top to feed. It was time to change tactics. If the fish wouldn’t rise to the surface to take my dry, I was more than willing to go down to the bottom of the stream with a nymph.

One of the rainbows I caught using a Kaufmann Stonefly nymph

 I switched to a Kaufmann Stonefly Nymph and attached a strike indicator and some split-shot to my leader, then started working a current seam behind a rock deflection jutting out from shore. It didn’t take long, one or two casts,  before I hooked a fish. It got away before I could tell what it was. I moved upstream to the next pool and hooked a couple of fish right off the bat, but they got away, too. Not long after this, I hooked and landed a decent rainbow. I managed to catch one or two more trout after this, before calling it a day. Not a lot of fish came to hand, but it was a great afternoon, nevertheless. I’m sure things will only get better on the river from here on in.

Today is opening day for the trout streams in southwest Alberta. It’s not uncommon for rivers and streams in this area to be flowing high and discoloured on opening day, and this year is no exception. Temperatures have been cooler than usual this spring, which is slowing down the snow-melt. The cooler weather we’ve been experiencing over the past month is probably a good thing. Conditions could have easily been a lot worse had it been warmer, especially with the amount of rain we’ve received over the past several weeks. Warm temperatures, combined with above-average snow-pack and heavy spring rains, are a recipe for disaster. We all remember what happened in 1995. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear this is going to occur this year. Providing we don’t get too much more rain over the next week or two, conditions should begin to improve shortly. Water levels on the Crowsnest River are beginning to drop and it’s clearing up. Visibility was approximately 2 feet this morning.

View from the East Hillcrest Bridge yesterday, looking upstream

 Even though water conditions are not ideal at the moment, there are a few anglers on the river today. They’re catching some fish, too. One fellow stopped by the shop while I was writing today’s blog to rearm his fly box with woven body stonefly nymphs. He had caught a number of nice rainbows this morning using this fly and decided it might be a good idea to to pick up some more while he was in the area. He was in a hurry to get back on the river and didn’t stay long. I can’t say I blamed him. Now if we could only get some sunshine!

It’s taken its time this year, but it looks and feels like spring has finally arrived in Crowsnest Pass. The grass is green once again and some of the wildflowers, like prairie crocus’, are in full bloom. Temperatures remain a little on the cool side, but at least we haven’t had to shovel any snow for a couple of weeks.

Prairie crocus' are in full bloom in SW Alberta

 The spring runoff has started and streams are flowing high and discoloured. Most of the trout lakes in the area are ice-free, providing anglers with the opportunity to whet a line while waiting for the runoff to subside and rivers to open. I spent a couple days fishing Lee Lake last week and had lots of success. It was fun catching fish on Lee, even though they were mostly small ones.

Lee Lake is ice-free and fishing well

 There was concern that some of the lakes around Crowsnest Pass may have experienced winterkill. However, there is no evidence of this occurring, as of yet. I didn’t see any dead fish along shore on Lee and I checked Beauvais Lake yesterday. There was concern that Beauvais may have been hit, but I didn’t see any sign of dead trout here, either. While I was there, I spoke with a couple of boat anglers who had spent the day fishing and had caught quite a few trout, including a few browns. Unfortunately, it appears Summit Lake, located across the border in BC, didn’t fare as well. We have been receiving reports since the weekend of numerous fish laying dead along the shoreline. It may not all be bad news, though, as trout have been seen rising on the lake.

Summer Hours

With the long weekend coming up, we would like to inform everyone that we are returning to our summer hours. We’ll be open each and every day, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, until mid-October. Hope to see you soon!

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.

The weather has improved in Crowsnest Pass, since my last post. Spring arrived officially last week and temperatures are finally beginning to warm up enough to start melting some of the snow and ice in the valley. Hopefully, this melting will occur gradually. Otherwise, we could have some real issues with water levels later this spring.

Yesterday, I dusted off my fishing gear and headed down to the Crow for a few hours. Fishing opportunities (Chinooks) were rare this winter and I wasn’t able to get out on the river for several months. It’s amazing what a week of warm weather can do. Sections of the river that were completely froze last week are open and fishable again. There’s still areas with ice cover, and lots of ice shelves around, but there’s no problem finding open water to fish.

Plenty of open water to fish

 The river was clear and in good shape, and there was no problem wading. The snow was knee deep in some of the treed areas along the river, but I had no difficulty getting down to the water.

The river was clear and wadeable

There were lots of small winter black stoneflies crawling along the snow-covered stream banks. I also saw a few ducks, some Canada geese and a small herd of mule deer. It was great just to be on the river again. The trout I managed to catch were chunky and appeared to have wintered well. Like me, I guess!

Early spring rainbow trout

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.

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