learn how to fly fish with guide bow river

Discover Fly Fishing Lessons for Beginners in Alberta

By Scott Smith, Lead Fishing Guide 

Welcome to Fly Fishing!

Snake Oil and Magic Beans.

You’ll learn to wave the magic stick over the water and produce fish on every command. You will be flawless in your technique; always make the right fly choice and land every fish you encounter. Your skills will bring fish to your net every time you venture out to your favourite waters.

The truth lies somewhere in the pursuit of perfection, the peace it brings, the need to know what’s around the next corner.  At least that’s why I do it. Your reasons can be entirely something else. Somehow, that makes Fly Fishing a worthy pastime (read obsession) in my opinion.

There are some links included below, so you can explore some of the technical stuff. I can tell you, there is nothing like the real experience of a guided fly fishing excursion!

What Will I Learn on a Guided Trip?

Above all else, Have some fun! This is YOUR Day! Don’t take yourself, or us too seriously. Take lots of pictures.

learn how to tie flies for fly fishing on the Bow River in Alberta.

Fly Fishing Knots and Line

It seems obvious, but often overlooked by new fly fishers. Knots are critical.

Read this great blog post from DriftHook.com about how to tie fly fishing knots.

You’ll need to have a few basic knots in your tool belt. We’ll show you a few basics to tie line together and attach your flies to your line. Yes, you will practice these on your trip.

You can learn about specific knots like the improved clinch knot, blood knot, overhand knot, surgeon’s knot and the albright knot.

Many a fine trout has been lost due to a poorly tied knot. It’s never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories.

There are several knots that have no name, but often have colourful adjectives associated with them. You will become an expert at these with a simple flick of your wrist! The line will be tangled so badly and quickly, you’ll be baffled that what’s before you is actually even real!

I find a sense of humour and a decent set of snippers are critical in these situations.

Learn Fly Casting

You must be able to place a fly well enough to fool your quarry. Yes, we can help you do this!

Your first few casts may appear you are trying to swat the fish away intentionally. However, with some practice and some easy-to-follow instruction, you will begin to present the fly with hypnotic precision! Well, maybe not hypnotic or even precise, but well enough to catch fish. That’s all we need on day one!

Where Are the Fish?

Yes, you are moving the line. It’s obeying and landing mostly where you want it to.  Well done! This is fantastic news and a boost to our confidence! Question, how come you’re not catching anything?

Other than seeing the fish you are casting to; you really need to know how to read the water. That is, you need to know where fish are likely to hold.

Fly casting into the water is an excellent start, but the fish are not actually everywhere in a river.

We will go through this process with you the entire trip and teach you the basics. You will be whispering in big trout in no time!

Bugs, So Many Bugs

Yes, Fly selection is important. Size, Colour, Profile, depth, season etc.

I have heard it or read somewhere that trout have an IQ of about 3.

I am not at all concerned that they fool me consistently. I like to believe I’m matching wits with Mother Nature and not just the small minded, single purposed trout. Yeah, Mother Nature is wise and I’m in sync with her.  Makes me feel better on those slow days.

You’re gonna need plenty of flies! I mean, the rainbow trout will eat one of them, right?

Learn more about which bugs Bow River Trout love and prefer throughout the season on our fly fishing resources page.

We will cover bug identification, selection and how to fish them in very basic terms. This will be enough to get you started on your journey.

fly fishing lessons for beginners

 Join Us this Fly Fishing Season near Calgary, Alberta!

Our goal is to introduce you to a pastime that has become a lifelong pursuit for us. We want you to learn to fish and then leave us and see for yourself what’s around the next corner. Oh, and take your fly rod with you.

Book your spot for one of our guided fly fishing trips including our Beginners Float! Get one-on-one fishing lessons from one of our experienced guides and enjoy access to some of the best fishing spots in Alberta.

learn how to fly fish with guide bow river

Fly Fishing Lessons and More!

We offer a variety of fly fishing packages from half day and evening adventures to full day excursions, private shoreline fishing lessons.

We can even put the flies aside and take you on a Bow River sight seeing adventure, where you can experience the beauty of the Bow Valley and Southern Alberta, for its majestic landscapes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and all of its wildlife.

Learning to Fly Fish on the Bow River could be your next adventure. If so, we’d love to see you. And as always, if you have any questions about our guide services, feel free to contact us here or on social media.

bow river fly fishing landed trout

Bow River Adventure #64 – The Shoe-less Trout Story

By Scott Smith, Fishing Guide

Great trout fishing days are plenty, but great fishing moments are where stories are born, exaggerated and become “mostly” true the more they are told.

This story is mostly true. 2021 Fall. Fishing on the Bow River with fellow guide Luke Russell.

Take a few minutes and enjoy.

Rainbow Snacks (AKA BWO’s)

I’m on the oars in Luke’s boat, rowing him into fish like a champ. Luke is sticking several nice Bow River Trout and I’m doing the same. We happen upon a very happy, active, feeding fish. We can see him taking BWO’s, sipping in a rhythm that let’s us know he’s happy and in a good place spiritually. I spotted this fish the day before, at around the same time of day, but couldn’t cast to it. I was fishing solo.

We pull over to have a go at this nice-looking Rainbow.

Small problem. The fish is directly above the roots of a downed tree, tucked in near the trunk with the roots giving it roughly 3 feet of protection to it’s left. We can’t stand upstream of the fish on the steep bank without spooking it, or at least this is what our semi professional instincts tell us.

We pull in down stream of the tree roots, park the drift boat out of sight and climb up the ridge to take a better look and assess the situation. After all, this is a feeding fish. Feeding fish are easy to catch, right?

Seriously, problem solving on our day off?

Climbing the ridge, we stay low. I’m not sure it made a difference, but in case anyone was watching, we looked like we knew what we were doing.

bow river fly fishing blog rainbow trout

There he is. A nice looking male, sipping casually and consistently AND we could see the bugs floating right into his yap. We chose to watch him for several minutes and of course, I didn’t think to get any video. Like I said, this story is mostly true.

It’s decided that Luke will cast to the fish. He can’t stand in the river below the fish. He would have to wade too deep and the current deflection from the root ball is too strong, not to mention the noise and thrashing would likely scare our quarry to deeper cover. As mentioned, we are semi professionals.

Well that didn’t work!

The plan is Luke will stand in the front of the boat, I will stand behind the boat and push it out just far enough so Luke can cast upstream of the fish, letting his presentation float into the food line. Textbook plan and easy to execute. We can hardly contain ourselves with anticipation!

I can’t see the fish at all from my vantage point, so I rely on Luke’s guidance for boat placement. Our worthy opponent, sees the fly, refuses the fly and continues to eat the naturals. We can hear it snicker.

We pull the drift boat back out of sight to re-group.

Another trip up the bank. I now have sand and silt in my wading sandals, enough to make me annoyed and uncomfortable. Yes, I am a fair-weather adventurer. This becomes important in a minute.

Once again, staying low, I get to my vantage point. No fish. Gone. Just not there. Damn, we put it down.

Luke joins me to see for himself. I am getting older and, well, you know.  Satisfied, Luke heads back to the boat. Let’s get on with it.

Generous Rainbow gives us a second chance! (Good Karma is real)

I look a little longer. Patience rewarded; our friendly rainbow appears from the main seam. He floats out of sight and back again a couple of times. Soon enough he’s grabbed a table and starts feeding again. This time, he is on nymphs. I can see his mouth opening and the tell-tale sway trout have when they feed on nymphs. (Read more about the types of bugs Bow River trout like on our resources page.)

“Luke he’s back, feeding on nymphs now” Luke is at my side again and with a quick nod, heads back to the boat, grabs his Hopper Dropper rod and gets in position.

Yeah, we’re still gonna try our best NOT to land this fish.

I head back down the bank, stopping in the shallows to clean my sandals. Thinking Luke will wait the 45 seconds for me to rinse out the annoying sand and gravel. Remember, fair-weather adventurer.

The next thing I hear, as I’m sitting on the bank, one sandal in my hand and one half on my foot, “Scott, I got em! Scott, get in the boat! I got em! He’s taking me upstream, around the tree, he’s gonna break off! Scott, Scott!!”  For some reason, this exchange comes out of Luke as a loud, deliberate whisper.

A little surprised and now laughing hysterically at my fishing partner and myself, one shoe off, one half on, I must pull the boat closer to shore so I can get in and help rescue the mission.

In the same loud whisper, now sounding a little more desperate. “Scott, you’re pulling the boat the wrong way, I can’t stretch anymore!”

Now completely in stiches, one of the oars gets stuck in the sand! “Scott, Scott, we’re gonna lose him!”

It’s not lost on me, landing the fish is in jeopardy and the narrative has now changed from “I got him,” to “WE’RE gonna lose him.”  I would say the same thing to Luke if the roles were reversed. I’m sure I have on several occasions. That’s just how it works.

The Shoe-less Trout gets Netted

Somehow, this fish stays on, Luke plays him masterfully and we get the boat and fish clear of the tree. A few feet down river the fish is in the net. Luke probably mentioned something about damn fine boat skills, but I’m kind of humble.

We pause for a picture, mostly because we are both still laughing hysterically and quite honestly can’t believe this is a landed trout.

We hope your adventures are many, your tangles are few and your stories get bigger and bolder the more you tell them.

Check out our 2022 fly fishing packages to book your spot early. Feel free to get in touch if a Bow River Fly Fishing Adventure looks like a good day out!

scott. kevin, luke fly fishing guide calgary blog june 2021

Fly Fishing on the Bow River – It’s All About Perspective

Perspective by fly fishing guides Scott, Kevin and Luke in calgary, Alberta

Perspective

by Luke Russell, Fly Fishing Guide

I truly enjoy taking clients out on the Bow River. For clients, often times their main goal is to catch a fish and have a good time. That’s a great objective but I see an opportunity for so much more. I like to think of the Bow River as a space to catch my breath and gain a new perspective.

It’s astonishing to look up and see an eagle soaring in the clear blue sky or watch a deer quench its thirst on the riverbank. Close your eyes and hear the crashing of the waves on the rocks. Catch a glimpse of a mink that’s come out from the rocks. Run your fingers through the water. Mistakenly think a moose resting is a tree stump. Smell the sweet aroma distinctive to the Bow River.  Feel a drop of water from a potential rainstorm and you have to pull over to hang out in the trees while you wait for it to pass. People often forget that we’re in the Bow valley surrounded by other animals as well.

When I go fishing, I like to take a few moments to just breathe and take in my surroundings. These moments make me forget about everything going on in the world, all my problems or worries seem to disappear. I feel a sense of being at home, a sense of belonging…a level of carefree that can’t be found anywhere else. That’s why I go fly fishing a lot…because it takes my stress away. If a client happens to lose a fish and feels disappointed, I like to remind them that it’s not only about the fishing…it’s about so much more.

So just remember when you’re on your fly fishing trip with Scott, Kevin or myself, to take a look around you and take it all in because you’re in a pretty special place and don’t forget to breathe.

bow river floats calgary alberta 2021

Bow River Floats – Rediscovering an Appreciation of Simpler Things

By Kevin Hawes, Fly Fishing Guide

From the Rowers Box

Like everyone, I found 2020 to be a year like no other year. The Pandemic affected absolutely everyone, and mostly in negative ways. And, like everyone, I eagerly and impatiently wait for lifted restrictions and a return to a near normal life; if that will exist.

Throughout this upheaval, I have been trying to find some small positives, improvements, little upshots, lessons learned, etc. I surprised myself with the number of these things I could identify in my life.

As we all know, most people experienced severe restrictions in their activities and travels. We’ve been forced to spend more time indoors, tasked with finding new ways to entertain, distract, and motivate ourselves. This,  I believe, has led to an appreciation of the smaller things, and things we took for granted.

Rediscovering the Bow River

Smaller things like being outside for hours or even a whole day, doing something close to home, rather than screen time and the four walls of our homes. Taking for granted that we have the Bow River running right through our city, rather than staring at the fence in our yard or the building across the street.

What I noticed is that more people want to try something new or different yet affordable, close, and safe. So, I noticed that more people want to try fishing; and of course, fly fishing.

But fishing does not appeal to everyone.

Bow River Activities near Calgary

So, I was surprised that there are lots of people who just want to see the Bow River and all the beauty and splendor it offers. I did several trips last year where people just wanted to have a “bow river float”, not even try fishing, not even talk about fishing.

This was surprising to me.

What was even more surprising, was how much I enjoyed those trips too!

I was not bored, I was not tired, I just enjoyed the day with my people. And I learned to re-appreciate some smaller things, and things that I may have been taking for granted…an important lesson learned; positively. Also, as an experienced guide, I’m able to provide a safe experience for the whole family, allowing everyone to truly relax and enjoy the time on the water.

Introducing Our Guided Bow River Floats

So, for the 2021 Fly Fishing season, we’ve introduced the “Bow River Delight” that offers the option of a half day or full day float on the Bow River near Calgary, Alberta.

Here’s some highlights from our new “Bow River Delight” float package:

This float trip is for people who want an intimate, yet relaxing outdoor experience. A fun, low energy way to get up close and personal with the beauty and splendour of the Bow River.

This is a fantastic way to do and see something different. City views, prairie views, an abundance of feathered and furred wildlife, as well as endless blue skies and fresh air are some of the things you can expect to see while the soothing sound of the guides oars dip in and out of the gently flowing water.

A Unique Guided Float Trip for the Whole Family

Designed for couples, friends and families, our float trips offer comfort and enjoyment as a top priority. Rather than sharing a wet raft with a dozen or so other people, you will enjoy your guided trip on the Bow River from a modern, comfortable and stable drift boat.

Our boat(s) can seat 1-4 passengers comfortably; you will not have to share your experience with others. Perfect for couples, friends, family, corporate clients, or other small groups (multiple boats/guides available to suit your group size).

Enough Talk – Let’s Float!

I’m looking forward to sharing time with you this season, whether we are fly fishing or just floating, we can share an appreciation of these simple pleasures that can only be found on the waters and riverbanks of the Bow River.

 

fly fishing 2021

Bow River Fly Fishing Company Launches into Spring 2021

by Scott Smith, Lead Guide

The 2021 Bow River fly fishing guiding season is upon us. We are very excited for relaxing drifts, tight lines and plenty of excitement hooking our world class trout!

It was a pleasure to have so many local Calgary area, new and experienced fly fishers in our drift boats last season. I know 2021 will introduce many more to the sport of fly fishing.

bow river fly fishing guides

The Adventure Begins

Kevin, Luke and I are well into this year’s adventures. Spring has already been pretty good, with several floats and days on the water under our belts already. The old Hyde Drift Boat has been getting a workout and I just can’t seem to part with her, while Luke and Kevin have both invested in new rides.

As far as I’m concerned, they are not real river boats until we bounce them off a few rocks and scrape up the bottom…..Now that’s drift boat fishing!

I enjoy fishing with these two guys on the Bow whenever we get the chance. Always a lot of laughs and we learn from each other. We also show no mercy. I can tell you when one of us hooks up, it’s like all three of us caught that wild trout.

If you happen to lose a fish though, you’re on your own and it’s always your own bloody fault. As we say in the boat, “Fish Better”. We should all have those kinds of fishing buddies.

bow river fly fishing trips calgary

Guiding on the Bow River

We often get asked why we guide this fly fishing destination. The first thing you need to know is we love to fish. We’re obsessed with this sport! Secondly, we particularly love the Bow River.

Every time we dip the oars in the water, it’s a different experience. Sometimes you’re a hero on this river and sometimes it’s like you’ve never fished it before.

We love sharing the Bow River and Fly fishing, with anyone that shows an interest. We know many great fishing spots that offer some of the best fishing near Calgary.

We also have great relationships with our local fly shops and local fly makers, which will further enrich your excursions on the Bow. Having the right gear and the right guide can make all the difference in the world!

If you start talking fishing with one of us, you’re going to be in for a long conversation that could include such words as caddis, ferrule, fingerling, floatant, monofilament, nymphing and tippet. You will probably have to somehow, politely excuse yourself. Sorry in advance.

While experiencing the beauty of the Bow River and its surrounding Rocky Mountain landscapes and riparian wildlife firsthand is ideal, you can get introduced on our “About the Bow River” page.

Before You Book Your Guided Fly Fishing Trips

If you’re thinking of planning a trip, you should know a few things before you book with us:

  1. We don’t take ourselves very seriously. This is about having fun and relaxing.
  2. You can learn to make a simple fly cast in 10 minutes. Good enough to hook a fish.
  3. We lose track of time while we’re out there. Sometimes you need to nudge us to get you off the water.

If you’re interested in learning this sport, fishing with an experienced guide is a great place to start. We would love to have you in our Boats and show you the Bow River we get to enjoy.

Check out our Fly Fishing Trips & Boat Tours and see if we have a package that fits.

Fish species found in the Bow include brown trout, rainbow trout, bull trout and cutthroat trout. We offer a seasonal feeding schedule for the major trout food groups and our favourite flies for each. Check out our important fly fishing resources to keep informed about the weather forecast and Bow River flow rate.

We offer many options for half day and full day trips, unique adventures, private shoreline lessons and even family float trips!

These are great options for day trips from Calgary, where you can gain invaluable knowledge with our fly fishing lessons, tips and tricks. No matter what your skill level, we can accommodate.

We are also happy to look at customizing your day to suit special requests such as multi day float fishing trips for those eager to make the most of their time on the water.

There is no losing in fishing. You either catch or you learn. Either way it’s always better than work!

July 2018

From The Guide Seat

 

I am happy when local fly fishers want to fish the Bow. Most want to know more about the river, how to fish it and mostly which flies to use.

The first thing I like to ask clients when we head out is “Are you confident with your casting and presentation skills?” If not, we are always happy to provide lessons along the way.

I clearly remember the first fish I ever caught on the Bow, after several failed attempts. I was using a #4 Black Wooly Bugger. After I caught that fish, I continued to use that pattern every time I went out, stubbornly not changing the fly for the conditions I was fishing. After all, I caught a fish on it once! I did this for a whole summer, only occasionally changing my fly. And when I did change my fly, I didn’t really know why, other than I wasn’t catching fish on my tried and true magical streamer.

Eventually, through the grace of other Fly Fishers on the river, some books and some advice from local fly shops, I started to learn about the bugs, when they hatch, how to read the water and where fish likely hold during different times of the year.

The very first thing I noticed as I tried new methods and different set ups, was I could cast! I could lay a fly anywhere I wanted. I could perform a roll cast while in tight situations, I could shoot line across the seam, or I could lay a dry fly nice and easy above a rising fish. All those days of casting, getting hooked on the bottom, losing precious Wooly Buggers in trees and grass, and catching myself in the back, actually did me a world of good.

If you are one of the many new to the sport, getting tangled and messed up, keep at it. Soon enough you will find that confidence and the fish will follow.

Summer 2017

I suppose I take it for granted, getting to experience our river in every season. The fishing can be spectacular, but the scenic valley where it all happens is often even more stunning.  While moving to likely holding water and the next seam or riffle, keeping an eye out for willing Browns and Rainbows to stalk, and watching strike indicators for subtle eats, I often forget to look up.

As we get into fall and my favourite time to fish the Bow, here are some moments that stand out:

-The 70+ year old senior lady that landed a giant Brown, even though her line somehow wrapped around the anchor rope. Her comment after landing the fish? “The water is such a beautiful green.”  Her husband cheering us on was priceless!

-Rowing within 5 Feet of a Huge Golden Eagle and the client sending me the slow motion Video. I was re-tying a leader and didn’t even see it until it moved.  (Posted on the website)

-The little Mink who caught a nice rainbow and hid it in the rocks before I could get a good picture.

-The veteran Fly Fisher, 1st time on the Bow River, telling me the 16” rainbow he had on was the hardest fighting trout he had ever experienced. Later on he hooked a 20” fish and the surprise on his face made the whole trip!

-All the first timers that saw their confidence in their casting stroke build throughout the day and the smiles on their faces when they fooled a trout!

I learn something every time I head down the river. So far this season, a big thank you to all those moments that made me look up.

Tight Lines to all.

 

A Blog About Our Fly Fishing Adventures on the Bow

So it begins, or continues…

This pastime turned obsession has given me more than I ever imagined. So many great moments over the years that are now precious memories and ever growing Fish Stories.

I am extremely lucky to get out on the River whenever it suits me and cannot imagine a life without fly fishing. For me this sport is “The One Thing” (City Slickers 1991)

I am very grateful and excited to begin a new chapter in my fly fishing journey. Looking back I can now see the connections that have brought me here.

Thank you:

To my folks for moving me out of the city to the banks of the Elbow River and a bike ride away from the Bragg Creek!

To Dave Williams for putting an old bamboo pole in my hands

To Royce Williams for bushwhacking with me all those years ago

To Tara Smith for getting it (or at least pretending you do) and the encouragement to explore my passion

To Kevin Hawes for the Crow’s Nest fishing trip, helping me purchase my first flyrod, showing me the ropes, countless trips down the bow, and for rowing the “Captain Morgan” when it’s your turn

So I encourage all of you to get out there, give this a go. It just might be “The One Thing.”