Entries tagged with “crowsnest pass fly-fishing”.

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!

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.

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

The weather in Crowsnest Pass has been very nice over the past several weeks. Who can complain when temperatures reach the mid-teens in November? If you remember last year, winter arrived with a vengence in early October and by Thanksgiving everyone had already put their fishing gear away. By this time last November, there was lots of snow on the ground and everything was froze solid. That was not to be this year, though. It’s been warm enough the past few afternoons you could have been outside in short sleeves. Okay, I stand corrected … It was almost warm enough to be outdoors dressed like this. Also, there’s been very little wind the past two days. That’s a switch! 

Early morning on the Crowsnest River

Early morning on the Crowsnest River

Although the season has closed on most of the rivers and streams in the area, there are opportunities available and places that remain open to fishing year-round. These include portions of the Crowsnest River and the lower Oldman, downstream of the Oldman Dam. It appears there’s still a bit of time to get out before weather conditions return to normal for this time of year. This could happen as early as Monday.

A Castle River cutthroat, caught during last week of the season

A Castle River cutthroat, caught during last week of season

Most anglers have at least one or two stories about the “one that got away.”  These tales usually involve a trout of monstrous proportions that managed to slip the hook, just as you were about to bring it to hand. In most cases, it’s the size of the fish we remember most, when conveying the story to fellow anglers. For some reason, though, we never tell stories of any of the average or regular size trout we’ve lost while out on the water. It’s probably just as well, because these ones are a “dime a dozen,” and chances are not many people would be interested in listening, anyway.

Hunter Neal

Really ... it was this big!

 I’ve experienced more than my share of LDRs (long distance releases) over the years. I’ve had lots of SDRs (short distance releases), too! Actually, there’s a lot of ways to lose fish and I don’t mind saying I’m pretty good at all of them.

Sometimes, something memorable happens while you’re in the process of  losing a fish. That’s what happened the other day while I was fishing with Hunter and Gary. I was with Hunter when he hooked a rainbow trout of about 16 or 17 inches. Certainly not a monster fish, but still decent nevertheless. The trout surfaced within a foot of the stream bank and inhaled a Stimulator dry fly. We didn’t see the fish until it came up to eat the fly, but it was holding in one of those places where you just knew there had to be a fish. It was one of those classic takes where the trout rose in a slow, deliberate manner. Hunter’s timing was perfect and he set the hook as soon as the trout turned downward. Immediately, the fish bolted into the swift current and then rocketed into the air … not once, but twice. Each time, it cleared the water by at least a couple of feet. The trout seemed to travel through the air in slow motion, before landing with a splash on the water’s surface. It was exciting to watch all of this, as it unfolded in front of our eyes. We cheered loudly each time the fish became airborne! Then, just as Hunter started to gain control of the fish and was reeling in the last bit of fly line, it darted under some submerged roots in the middle of the river. You probably know what happened next; it became snagged and got away.

Hunter Neal

Hunter, with one that didn't get away

I could sense that Hunter felt a bit disapointed, but if he was it was only for a moment. Before he had even tied a new fly to his leader, he started talking about how cool it was to see the fish come to the surface and take his dry fly and then watch as it shot clear out of the water. At the end of the day, Hunter mentioned he was more than happy with the number of trout he caught that day,  but it was the one he lost that he’d remember most. I’ll remember this particular fish for a long time, too!

On Saturday evening, Hunter and I climbed part-way up Turtle Mountain to photograph the Thunder In the Valley fireworks display in Blairmore. We reached our vantage point a couple of hours before the show was set to begin and had plenty of time to organize our camera gear. The mosquitoes were relentless, but disapeared just about the time the fireworks started to light up the evening sky. Here’s a shot I took from the slopes of Turtle Mountain.

Fireworks light up the night skies over Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass

Fireworks light up the night sky over Blairmore, Crowsnest Pass

It’s hard to believe we’re already into the middle of July. With all the rain and cool weather we’ve been receiving lately, it seems like summer has yet to begin. The good news, though, is that the sun is shining again in Crowsnest Pass and it looks like the nice weather is going to stick around for a while. The Crowsnest River is in great shape and the trout are being very cooperative, particularly with dry flies.

Dry-fly fishing on the Crowsnest River

Dry-fly fishing on the Crowsnest River

 All of the rivers and streams in southwest Alberta have cleared up nicely since last weekend’s rain. There’s lots of insects hatching on the river these days, including golden, yellow and lime Sally stoneflies. Stimulator dry flies have been working as well as anything, when trying to imitate these bugs. Green drake and pmd mayflies are also hatching in good numbers and are drawing trout to the surface. If you’re planning on fishing in the evening, be sure to include a few caddis and rusty spinner imitations in your fly box.

A happy Crowsnest River angler

A happy Crowsnest River angler

 Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend the day with Hunter Neal, a fly angler/professional photographer visiting from Connecticut. Hunter was in Crowsnest Pass for a couple of days two years ago and was so impressed with our beautiful scenery and fishing he decided to return. This time, he’s here for a month. We had planned to shoot photos in the morning and fish in the afternoon, but got carried away snapping pictures and ran out of time for anything else. Maybe we’ll try fishing next week. This time, we’ll probably have to leave our camera gear at home. Otherwise, I’m sure it will be a repeat of yesterday.

Thanks Hunter, it was great to be able to spend the day with a real “pro.” Thanks also for all the great photo tips!

Hunter Neal at work

Hunter Neal at work

It appears spring has arrived in Crowsnest Pass … again. After last week’s extreme weather, I was beginning to wonder if all those warm days we experienced last month were but a dream. We should be cutting grass this time of year, not shovelling ten inches of snow. Well, most of the snow that fell last week has already melted, at least the stuff along the valley floor. There’s still lots of it in the mountains, though.  The long-range forecast looks pretty good, even for the Victoria Day weekend, coming up in a couple weeks. The Crowsnest River was quite clear as of this morning, but I suspect this will change once it starts to warm up again. We are approaching the time of year where the runoff usually occurs, after all.

All of the trout lakes in the area are fishing well – something to keep in mind once the runoff begins on our local rivers. But who knows, if we don’t receive too much rain over the next month or so, the river might remain fishable throughout the runoff period.

 My brother-in-law, Paul, and I fished Beauvais Lake twice in the past week, in hopes of catching some brown trout. We managed to land a few browns, but nothing over 16 inches. Lots and lots of rainbows, too, but mainly small ones. We won’t talk about the number of suckers that inhaled our chironimid and streamer patterns. The weather was iffy both times, but we still had a lot of fun together. We’ll try for some browns again next year, when Paul returns for his annual visit.

Fishing on Beauvais Lake

Fishing on Beauvais Lake

Here’s a quick reminder to anyone interested in registering for any of our Fly-fishing Schools. We have room for a couple more people to register in the May 22 Beginner Fly-Fishing School. Equipment can be supplied, if required. We’re also conducting another Beginner School on June 12th. Call or email for more info. Info is also available in the “Events” page on our web site (www.crowsnestangler.com). In addition, Jim and Lynda McLennan will be conducting a number of fly-fishing schools here this summer. For a complete list of their schools, click here.
We are 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 about it, and would like to work in a fly shop for the summer, we’d love to hear from you. Only successful applicants will be contacted for an interview.

We’re all familiar with the old proverb, “When March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.” Well, the opposite is also true, and if the spring-like weather we’ve been experiencing so far this month is any indication of what’s to come, I won’t be putting my snow shovel away just yet. Southern Alberta has been basking in warm temperatures for several weeks. Actually, it’s been more than a month since Crowsnest Pass has received any significant amount of snow or any of the cold temperatures we normally have to endure (or expect) at this time of year. It’s been kind of nice to be getting positive, double-digit daytime temperatures in late February and early March, but you know we’re going to pay for this - sooner or later. I’m guessing were going to be “paying the piper” before month’s end!

Temperatures in the Pass have climbed to +12°  Celsius (55° F) some days. As a result, most of the ice has disappeared from the Crowsnest River. Normally at this time of year, the majority of ice-free water is located between the East Hillcrest and Highway 507 bridges. The river downstream of Hwy. 507, through to Lundbreck Falls, and toward it’s confluence with the Oldman Dam Reservoir, is usually locked in ice until late March or early April. Not this year, though, and it’s possible to fish the entire section of river between the East Hillcrest Bridge and the reservoir. If you’re planning to wait a few weeks before heading out, keep in mind the section between Lundbreck Falls and Highway 3 closes at the end of March. If you’re unsure of what’s open and what’s not, be sure to read the regs before you go.

"Horseshoe Bend" on lower Crowsnest River

"Horseshoe Bend" on the lower Crowsnest River (March 8/10)

I managed to get out fishing for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. The temperature was around 10° Celsius and winds were light. The river was crystal-clear, low and easy to wade. There’s still some ice shelves along the river, but they did not pose any problems, at least in the section I fished. Prior to hitting the water, I drove down below Lundbreck to check water conditions.

Update: Crowsnest Pass received about an inch of snow overnight. A precurser of what’s in store? Perhaps, but the “short-range” forecast is calling for clear, sunny skies tomorrow, and temperatures of 10° C by Friday.

Lundbreck Falls

Only a bit of ice remains clinging to Lundbreck Falls


The river was crystal-clear, low and easy to wade

The river was crystal-clear, low and easy to wade

Crowsnest River rainbow trout

I landed four rainbows in a couple hours, using bead-head nymphs (Pheasant-tail and Prince), and Wire San Juan Worms



On Tuesday I had the opportunity to go on a mountain bike trip to the headwaters of the Castle River. I was joined by my friends, Rolf and Peter. We left Crowsnest Pass at 8:00 am and were unloading our bikes at the trail-head about an hour later. Within minutes, we were peddling along the bumpy, pot-hole filled logging road, heading south toward Waterton Lakes National Park. It didn’t take long, the first five minutes of the trip to be exact, for me to realize I was not in top “bike shape.” By the end of our 35 km trip, every muscle and bone in my body ached. My backside was the most vocal, though. I must look into getting a bike seat with more padding.

Portions of the old logging road were in rough shape, with large bowling ball size rocks strewn over the ground. Other sections contained deep washouts and ravines, reminders of the 1995 flood. Then, there were the steep hills. There were no short-cuts around them and it was much easier to push the bikes up or down them, than peddle. Other sections of the road were much like they were prior to the flood, and easy to ride. I particularly enjoyed the downhill sections … that is until we returned later in the day, where they became uphill sections. At long last, we arrived at our destination, approximately three or four kilometres from the northern boundary of Waterton Park. The scenery was spectacular!

Rolf and Peter, gearing up to fish

Rolf and Peter, gearing up to fish

 Although it was more of a mountain bike torture trip we were on, we had also included our fly-fishing gear. In the event there was a decent place close by, and we had time, we planned to fish a bit before heading back. As it turned out we’d have about an hour, so we thought we’d make the best of it. We were glad we did. Here’s a few photos of the day.

Mountain Bike Trip

Within minutes, Peter was into a nice cutthroat trout


Mountain Bike Trip

Peter, with a beautiful 15-inch cutthroat trout. A decent fish for this section of river.


Rolf cast to a likely-looking spot. The headwater of the Castle River are more creek-like in size and appearance than they are a river.

Rolf casts to a likely-looking spot. The headwaters of the Castle River are more creek-like in size and appearance than they are a river.


Mountain bike trip

One of the cutthroats I managed to catch. Photos by Peter Amundsen.


Mountain bike trip

Preparing for the ride home. Myself, Peter and Rolf (left to right).