A Shootout at the Bow River Saloon!
The 2016 fishing season started for me today with a bang, a BIG bang. Chris and his father Dan were my first clients of the year. The weather here in Calgary was rainy and the forecast for today called for more of the same. Sometimes when it rains too hard, it can stain up the water to the point of being unfishable. I went down to the Bow River last night to check on the water conditions and all looked well. I messaged Chris via Facebook and gave him the green light go for today’s trip. We launched today at Policeman’s Flats at 7:00 Am. The wind was calm and it had not started raining yet, which made for ideal fishing conditions. With the water stained up just the right amount, I had great vibes we were going to be in for a stellar day out there.
Today I opted to use baits that rattle as the water was not perfectly clear. I made that decision based on what I saw last night while checking the water conditions of the river. I went with the Live Target Minnow and the Rapala BX Jointed minnow series baits. Both brands of lures have rattling capabilities and some very realistic swimming movements, making them ideal baits to use in these types of conditions. It never took long for the first trout to take hold of the Live Target Lure, after just thirty minutes into our float; Dan had hooked and landed a monster rainbow that taped out at twenty three inches. Chris’s first fish took a little longer to hook but it was another complete tank of a rainbow. The rainbows are now done their spawn in the Highwood River, which is their major spawning tributary for resident Bow River rainbow trout. The rainbows have now made their way out of the Highwood River system and have now come back into the Bow River and are ready to chow down and fatten up to replace all that energy and weight they lost during mating.
We found many trout in their classic habitats today. I centred our casting to the undercut banks and choppy, turbulent oxygenated runs. We hooked and landed seven fish while drifting in the boat. The river was quiet today in terms of boat traffic, so we had lots of time to make pit stops without getting caught up in a slew of boats. I told Chris we were going to dock off in one of my all-time favorite runs in the river. I have landed some amazing fish in this spot year after year. I had a strong hunch that the fish would be back in this section of river now, and boy was I ever spot on! We never hooked any fish while we drifted through, but that never stopped me from what my gut was telling me, (Get out and fish the bank).
I glided the boat to the shore and helped both Chris and his father out of the boat. The raft was wet from rain and it can get a little slick when wet. I decided we should walk up the river to the run at the top of the chute. I grabbed my pliers and my rod, which was also rigged up with a Live Target Lure for finding the fish for Chris and his father. When I guide, I don’t fish, but every now and again I make a few casts to help my clients with retrieve speed and presentation of the lures. We marched up the bank on a mission, a big fish mission! I saw a fish rise in front of a tree that was downed and hanging off the bank and in the river. A perfect obstruction for fish to hide near, or under! Chris tried several casts below the tree as I looked on and coached his retrieve. I asked him if he minded if I go above the downed tree and make a few exploratory casts, he nodded yes and I immediately probed the area with my lure. The first came up empty but cast number two I was rewarded with a nice 16-17 inch rainbow that completely slammed my lure on the down swing. I moved off the bank and let Chris move up into my location, I wanted him to take as many fish as possible from this run. It was not long and another slab rainbow was on board his BX Minnow, and taking line going on several rod pumping runs. Chris’s face lit up like the shy on the 4th of July. The fish finally tired out and I netted him. Check the size of this monster out below.
Two quick pictures and I revived the fish bankside. He darted back out towards where Chris had hooked him and we exchanged slimy high fives in celebration of this epic battle Chris won. We kept moving up the river pecking our way as we went up, and landing fish after fish after fish. It was as if someone had flipped a switch and turned on the feeding frenzy button. Between Chris and I, we caught and released fifteen fish in this stretch of river in under an hour. I am sure that forty five minutes is a block of time Chris will never forget. Chris calls me “The trout Doctor” and boy did we ever operate in that time frame, surgically picking every inch of that hole apart, and landing every fish along the hundred and fifty yard chunk of river bank.
Chris and I joked along the walk back to the boat and he said something that rang true to my heart, he said if he had a choice of places to live, it would be right in this place and time along the river. We all know “home is where the heart is” and I feel his heart was in it to win it today. It was a perfect way to start out the year for me, and with the perfect pair of people. More memories to follow as we journey along the ebb and flow of the mighty Bow River!