beginner fly fishing lessons on a drift boat on the bow river with George.

First-Time Fly Fishing Experience with George: A Memorable Rainy Day Float

By Scott Smith, Lead Guide

Meeting George: A Newcomer to Fly Fishing

At the end of May last season, George, exuding a classic Alberta blue-collar vibe, called me while I was at the tire shop getting new tires for the old Fishin’ Truck. He spoke with purpose and clarity about wanting to try fly fishing without immediately investing in all the gear. Consequently, we arranged his first time fly fishing lessons with a Half Day Lesson Float, which is ideal for beginners.

beginner fly fishing lessons on bow river with George.

The Chilly Start of Our Adventure

We met near Mackinnon Flats on June 1st, a day characterized by overcast skies and a consistent, cold drizzle. This weather, while not ideal, was pretty close to what one would hope for in early summer. However, the light breeze was enough to create a noticeable chill.

Initially, I was expecting someone closer to my age. I am seasoned—let’s just leave it at that. Surprisingly, George was a 21-year-old with a beaming smile, dressed in jeans, a light hoodie, and cowboy boots, topped with a trucker’s cap. He greeted me with a firm handshake, and I could immediately feel his excitement.

George’s Optimism and Preparations

“Great to meet you, George. Grab the rest of your gear and throw it in my truck,” I welcomed him. Amused, he replied, “This is all I brought.” I smiled and shook my head, then gestured for him to hop into the passenger seat of the Tundra. Despite my instructions to dress for the weather, George was underprepared, but I reassured him, “Not to worry, I have waders, boots, and rain gear for you.”

George’s Background and Independence

During the ride to the boat launch, I learned that George worked on the oil rigs and had recently left a Hutterite Colony. This independence was new to him, and he had left with only a few personal possessions. His spirit impressed me as he talked about his new adventures.

Convincing George to Dress Appropriately

At the launch, it only took a minute to convince George to dress appropriately. He showed a feigned reluctance while sliding on the waders and the rain jacket I offered him. After handing him a fly rod and taking a quick inventory, we set off.

Fly Fishing Lessons Begin

I anchored in a shallow run, and we began the casting lesson. Teaching beginners from the boat has always been effective, and George quickly grasped the basics. With my coaching, he worked on his casting and mending.

A Day Without Distractions

The river was exclusively ours that day. We saw no other boats at the launch that morning and no other vehicles were parked, which indicated we would likely have no interruptions. It’s rare to have a world-class trout river all to yourself.

George’s First Catch

As we drifted into a likely riffle, George executed a decent cast. “Okay, cast again about 6 feet past where my oar is pointing,” I instructed. After a big mend upstream and a floating bobber, the indicator hesitated. “Set!” I yelled. Before George could react, a sizable Bow River Rainbow trout leapt out of the water. The line went tight, and George gripped it against the base of the rod as I had shown him, but the line went slack suddenly. George erupted into laughter, thrilled by the experience. “Did you see that? I had him!” he exclaimed, clearly hooked on fly fishing.

More Success and Memorable Moments

The boat slid into a mid-river shelf where we continued our fly fishing efforts. After a few casts and corrections, George’s indicator signaled another catch. As he managed to keep the rod bent and the line tight, he skillfully allowed the fish to take line without losing touch. “Like this? Like this?!” he yelled excitedly.

George’s First Successful Catch

“Yeah, man! You’re doing great!” I encouraged. After a few more strategic maneuvers, I slid the net under the fish, and George had his first successful catch on a fly rod. “That was amazing! Just so cool! Did you see that?” he exclaimed, still vibrating with excitement.

beginner fly fishing lessons on bow river, catching a trout in net.

Reflections on a Day Well Spent

It’s true that we remember moments. George and I had an outstanding day, despite the rain and cold, and we landed several more fish. While I don’t recall many details of the rest of the day, that first fish is etched in my memory.

Inviting New Anglers

We love bringing new fly fishers into memorable moments. If one of our fly fishing adventures appeals to you, get in touch, and we’ll set you up for a great time on the water!

Bow River Fly Fishing: Anticipation for the 2024 Season

By Scott Smith, Lead Guide

As the season begins, I’m already excited for the 2024 guiding campaign. Experiencing a mild off-season in the Calgary area, plenty of winter trout pics fill my social feeds daily. I’m not a winter fly fisher, but I certainly appreciate the need to get on the water at every opportunity. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day?

Scott fly fishing guide with drift boat on the bow river near Calgary.

Life as a Bow River Guide

Feeling extremely fortunate, I am among an amazing group of outfitters and guides working on the Bow River. Being on the river almost daily, I’ve met and worked with so many great people. Loving our guiding community, we support one another. Each guide brings a different perspective, always with the guest’s success top of mind for the day. In recent travels, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some sought-after trout waters in Montana and Idaho the past two seasons. While adventuring the Henrys Fork and the Bighorn Rivers, I was guided by some top-notch pros.

What Defines a Great Fly Fishing Guide?

Regarding engagement and communication, I value guides and outfitters that ask many questions. From the first hello, I hope to connect and have an easy conversation with potential guests. After all, when you book a float, you’re going to be stuck in a drift boat with each other for a solid 8 hours or more. During our initial chat, I ask questions to paint a picture of your ultimate day. Once we discuss it together, I can plan your unique trip down the river. Even if booking online, we ensure we build your trip based on shared expectations. Once we’re on the water, I appreciate a guide who leads with confidence.

Discovering the Passion of Fly Fishing

Talking about passion, if you’re discussing your trip with the outfitter, you can just tell they love what they do. The best guides I know bring the same passion and excitement on Day 100 of the season as they do on Day One. Despite the challenges, guides get tired. We’re out there for long days, preparing lunches, washing boats, adjusting gear, and sleeping. However, my motivation comes every morning when I meet the guests for the day. Your excitement and anticipation energize me and keep me fresh. During the float, I love to see you hook up trout, but I also celebrate seeing you make that perfect cast or lead a dry fly perfectly into a big brown.

fly fishing adventure prep drift boats

Building Skills and Patience in Fly Fishing

Considering skill and patience, I’ve been fishing with a fly rod for a long time but I’m always learning. Each outing with a fellow guide, or experienced guest, teaches me something new. Great guides help you with your game no matter where you are on your fishy journey. Taking moments to teach, skilled guides can turn a good day into a great one by improving casting, presentation, rigging techniques, or just reading the water.

Gaining Knowledge and Experience on the Water

With a focus on knowledge and experience, your guide should have good historic knowledge of the water they’re guiding. Learning about the area, I enjoy discovering interesting facts about the geography or human history of the places I fish. Additionally, your guide needs to know the river intimately along with the bug life.

Flexibility and Preparation in Guiding

Starting my guiding journey, I learned the importance of flexibility. Your guide should be well-prepared with the right gear and flies, and also for unexpected issues like broken rods, reels, line failures, and weather events. Being prepared for mishaps is part of good guiding. It’s perfectly okay to ask what safety and contingency gear is on board.

Character Traits of a Successful Guide

In terms of character, it goes beyond showing up on time and having a clean vehicle and boat. When I’m on the water, I’ve learned to relax and let the day unfold, taking what the river offers while respecting the guest vibe. I ensure my guests are enjoying every part of their trip genuinely. Maintaining respect for all, it’s also important that guides never speak poorly about other guides on the river and practice etiquette beyond expectations.

scott luke bow river fishing guides trout

How to Be a Great Fly Fishing Guest

Being upfront about your expectations helps us tailor your adventure. Assessing your skills realistically avoids misunderstandings and ensures a more enjoyable experience. Staying curious, asking lots of questions, and not being afraid to explore new techniques can significantly enhance your learning and enjoyment on the water.

Making the Most of Your Fishing Trip

Encouraging fun, remember, this is fishing in a beautiful river valley. The atmosphere is relaxed, there is little to no cell service, and the guides think they’re funny. Enjoy every minute including the impossible tangles, missed fish, and casts in the trees!

bow river valley near calgary for fishing

Make Your Fly Fishing Trip Memorable

Embracing every moment, remember, this is fishing in a picturesque river valley. The relaxed atmosphere, the minimal cell service, and the humor of the guides all contribute to a unique experience. Enjoy every aspect, including the challenging tangles, the one that got away, and even the occasional tree snag.

Plan Your Adventure on the Bow River

As we look forward to a new season, I hope it holds many adventures for you. If a Bow River float is on your agenda, check us out to see if we’re a good fit and get in touch! We’d love to have you out to wet a line and share some stories.

top notch flies owner, bryce is a fly fishing guide in southern alberta.

Small Stream Experience Added for the 2024 Fishing Season

By Scott Smith, lead guide

I am often asked about guiding and fishing other waters besides the Bow River.  Do we guide in the mountain streams or the upper Bow River near Banff? The answer, until now, has been no.  We’re lucky in 2024 to have Bryce Coad of Top Notch Flies join us. Bryce is offering the Small Stream Experience and we’ve partnered with him to offer a really cool small stream fishing adventure.

Bryce from Top Notch Flys on left with lead guide, Scott Smith from Bow River Fly Fishing on right.

Bryce from Top Notch Flys on left with lead guide, Scott Smith from Bow River Fly Fishing on right.

Beyond the Bow River

Spending so much time on the lower Bow River is a choice.  I’m comfortable  knowing my waters really well. That is, knowing where the fish are and what’s going to hook them for our guests at all times. Of course, that’s the idea, but hey it’s fishing. During the 2023 season the only water I personally had time to fish was the Henry’s Fork in Idaho and Big Horn River in Montana, both highly recommended from this humble guide. The plan for 2024 is to be more versatile, work less and explore new water more often. After all, exploration is fuel for the soul isn’t it? The 2024 plan was also the 2023 plan, so I’m confident this will go well.

As Bow River Fly Fishing Company grows, I am resolved I can’t be everything to everyone, nor do I wish to be. There is a team of guides that take care of our guests and believe me, I’m grateful to work with every one of them. I love to fish smaller rivers and streams, but I have no desire to guide someone out there. I like the boat as a base. I like my stuff handy and the guests can’t wander off.

I am stoked Bryce approached me about guiding smaller streams in our area.

top notch flys owner, bryce is a fly fishing guide in southern alberta.

Bryce Coad, Top Notch Flys

Meet Bryce and Top Notch Flies

I met Bryce Coad of Top Notch Flies a few years ago. Having bought some unique flies Bryce posted on his IG page, we met, decided to get out on the Bow River together, tell some lies and hook into a few fish.  Bryce is a thoughtful, creative tier.   I like his willingness to experiment with different materials and patterns, truly making them his own creations; yet mindful his target species will eat the end result.

Recently, Bryce tied up and we experimented with a beautiful white Dahl Sheep Hair Stimulator. We were right on the cusp of the Golden Stone hatch as I recall. This isn’t a fly I use often, but I do carry stimulators in the box.  This is the beauty of fishing with an accomplished fly tier. “Just try it” Bryce says. It may have been the second cast when the first trout took big swipes at this thing!  Well would you look at me trying new stuff!  We managed to hook a few on aggressive eats and had a great day of “testing”.  Yes, I now have several of these babies at the ready. This fly is bright white, floats well and doubles nicely as an indicator. This is just one example of Bryce taking a different material and applying his idea into an effective trout fly. When you’re out with Bryce, be sure to pick his brain about fishy flies and how he comes up with some of his ideas.

Bryce has calm, laid back vibes, always observing, taking in the moment. At least that’s how
I see him. He may just be thinking of when we’re stopping for a sandwich. He’s got a smooth quiet cast and loves a dry fly presentation.

Sheep and Highwood Rivers

Bryce loves fishing the Sheep and Highwood rivers and says apart from the landscape, these rivers are easily accessible to the wading angler. The flows are slow and easy, which is great for beginners, but anyone will love this experience.  Anglers have the opportunity to hook multiple species on these rivers where you‘ll learn different presentations for success.

top notch flies small stream fishing alberta

We’ve taken our half day lessons and included more time to fish with your coach by your side.  The walk and wade adventure features gentler flows and great opportunities to hook some wild trout. During the experience you’ll learn about the gear, casting, rigging, flies and bugs, knots, presentations, reading the water and etiquette. We do have an agenda while we’re out there but this is your day. Bryce is happy to customize and break down the day anyway you want it. Maybe you want to focus on small dry fly presentations, or maybe you’re having trouble prospecting fishy water.  Maybe you want to target a PB Bull Trout or you’re just looking for that elusive first fish on a fly rod.

Bryce loves this game. He enjoys teaching and gets excited for your success. He’s laid back and patient which makes him easy to get along with.  We’re excited to have him on board and he’ll probably let you tie on some of his secret patterns I’m not allowed to see!

Some Thoughts from Bryce

As a professional fly tier and new guide, I am excited to offer the Small Stream Experience for the 2024 season.  I’m looking forward to sharing my bug creations, stalking trout and making memories with my guests!

Since moving to the area several years ago, I have explored and become comfortable with the Sheep and Highwood rivers as fishy waters. I really enjoy the Sheep for calm flows, easy accessibility, and willing trout. I think this is a great place to learn new skills and begin your fly fishing journey.  While we’re out there we’ll have some opportunities for Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout and Rocky Mountain Whitefish.

Additionally, we can fish close enough to the big city so travel to and from the river isn’t a major consideration.  We’re typically fishing very close to Okotoks, which is only about 20 minutes east of the Calgary City Limits.

I do my best to match the hatch and, when that doesn’t work, I enjoy experimenting with different tying materials to create unique flies. One of my newest materials is Dall Sheep hair. I tied some stimulators, Chubby Chernobyls and Grasshopper patterns with this rather than deer or elk hair. The results were fantastic! For anyone who ties, you know the thrill of having your creations catch fish!

fly fishing flies with top notch flies in southern alberta

I am also interested in how water clarity and light affects what and how fish see. Using this knowledge with patterns and materials makes a difference when we’re chasing those trout up and down the rivers.  Check out this video:

I will never tire of this game! I’ve had a passion for this since being a teen and each season brings new challenges. I am never disappointed with a day on the river. I’m looking forward to having you drift along with me.

Check us out while you’re swiping by.  If we’re a good fit for your next adventure, we’d love to see you! In the meantime stop scrolling and get your butt outside!

Book your adventure today!


winter fishing float bow river drift boat recovery using pontoon.

Winter Fishing Rescue on Bow River and Lessons Learned!

I am writing this one as a caution. I’ve spent countless hours on the Bow River, especially the stretch referenced in this edition of our blog. I am not proud of what you’ll read below. The caution or lesson is preparation and mitigation. Winter fishing is not typically my thing but we’re experiencing a mild winter so far and anglers are taking advantage of the open water on the Bow. I often walk Hopper, my fishing dog, along a ridge above the river where I can clearly see a five kilometre stretch of water.  As of November 28th, the channels were all ice free where the river splits into three channels approximately one kilometer from the boat launch.

One of my favourite guests of our fly fishing trips asked if we could take a friend of his out for a winter float. The friend, having some health issues sounded like he really needed a day on the river and I accepted the trip. Besides, the weather was great and a fire with a hot shore lunch sounded like a fantastic idea, fish to the net optional.   I needed to prepare, I headed out on my own for some recon the day before our scheduled float to find a few fish, drop off some firewood and enjoy some winter sunshine.

Legacy Island Launch

Launching at Legacy Island, also known as Jensen’s for many. It is December 1st and with plenty of slush visible in the current so I need to pick my spots today. I anchored a few times along the way, tossed some bugs and had a pretty good day that included hot coffee with a damn fine PBJ by the fire. My plan was to be home by 4pm to whip up a batch of chilli for tomorrows float.

winter fishing float bow river shoreline with slush.

Lesson One

I should have checked the take out point at Carseland BEFORE I launched at Legacy. Its winter with some steep temperature changes overnight. This time of year, open water two days ago is NOT a good indication of open water today.  

Lesson 1A

Fish with a buddy, preferably one smarter than you are.

The Bow River braids off near the irrigation weir at Carseland. Floating this section hundreds of times over the years, I know the channels and where I like to guide the boat.  The current slows considerably up stream of the weir.  Today I chose river right, heading towards the log jam.  The far right channel, just up river from the big farm house, is full of slush and the river stops moving. The boat launch is roughly 700 metres away, just around the corner.  I stop the boat, or rather, the accumulation of slush stops the boat.  I am close to the high bank on river right, the island on river left. There is moving water on the other side of the island. I decide to row back upstream and float down the next channel over. Winter fishing conditions mean low, slow water flows and I easily and quickly row back up and over to the next run. Pointing the boat slowly through the thread of open water available, it’s now around 3:45pm and the light is fading. I notice my phone is at 1%. Dammit!

Lesson Two

Take a charging block in the boat or backpack. I nearly always have one of these with me as part of my safety gear.  I didn’t today.

I make a quick call to my wife and let her know what I’m up against. We agree to give me a couple of hours and then she’ll worry.  From here, the middle channel is on my right or a substantial slow water channel to my left. I typically avoid the left channel. It’s slow and appears to be frozen all the way across. I drag the boat onto an ice shelf and explore the middle channel. I break through easily into thigh deep water. With effort, the boat moves along the ice but my feet break through. The good news is, I’m slowly moving towards the launch.

It’s now 4:20pm, I’m quickly losing light. Struggling with the boat to around a half kilometre from the launch, the ice gets thicker and the water is now above my waste. I’m in waders with good thermals, wool socks, well layered and still comfortable. I have great gear. I’m getting tired and push the boat closer to the shore. I’m behind the boat, lifting my knees to the ice in order to break through and keep moving. The river bottom is softer as I approach the shoreline and I’ve managed to find a deep pocket. Fantastic!  The water is now chest high; I can’t go any further, risking cold water spilling over my waders.  I move around, feeling for a shallow spot to rest on. It’s not there, so I retrace my steps to comfortable depth. It’s dark, I have no idea what time it is, and my phone is dead.  I move the boat back along the line I just walked, so the ice has been cleared away. I’m looking for a path to shore. I’m in a slow eddy, inside shore bend. I need to point out this is an extremely low water year for the Bow River, however I’ve managed to find what I believe to be the deepest part of the river to walk in, while it’s dark and iced up.

This is the moment I swear a blue streak. Mad at myself for the situation. I shouldn’t be here! A couple of deep breaths, getting it together, then I experience cold, December river water spilling over my waders. There may have been one or two more F bombs dropped as I scrambled back into the boat, I am thankful to have a dry bag full of extra layers, including an extra heavy coat.  Dry clothes go on quickly, my sweaty toque is replaced. A toque is a beanie for my American friends. The shore line, thirty feet off the bow, with ice barely two inches thick, and depth over my head seems like a long reach from where I am. I take a minute to think. I’m warm, dry and safe.

Lesson 3

Winter Fishing tip – Carry dry clothing. It’s easy in the boat. I passed this one with an A+.

My thoughts focus on keeping it that way. I punch a hole through the ice with my oar for a depth test, we’ll call it eight feet or, too damn deep! I spend some time chipping ice with the oar at the bow; slide the shaft to the river bottom from the stern, pushing the boat towards the shore. A slow process, but I’m getting closer to the island. This repeats itself for a while when I hear a rumble growing upstream. It sounds like a waterfall. Quickly, I realize flowing water is pushing just under the ice surface with a surge from up river of my position. Perfect timing as the ice gives way and current pushes me directly to the shore of the island. Thank you for a little break Mother Nature!  Listening carefully and straining my eyes I can’t tell if the surge is enough for me to ride it into the launch, which is roughly only a half kilometer downstream now.  No luck. The water flowing over top of the ice has re frozen.

winter fishing float bow river drift boat in ice.

Lesson 4

Wear your life vest.

I’ve lost track of time here but at some point I see headlights headed down the launch access road. My cell phone has been dead for a while, so I’m hoping Tara, my wife, has called my oldest and best friend and fellow fly fishing guide, Kevin. We’ve been friends since our elementary school days and there’s no one I trust more. Damn we’ve been through a lot and spent some great times together! Tara called Kevin at 6:02pm she tells me later. Thankfully, the headlights belong to Kevin’s truck. I see the truck stop at the launch and I call out. No answer. At this point I’m not sure if it’s him. What I don’t know, is Kevin has called my wife and is letting her know my truck and boat trailer are at the launch, but I am not. Kevin says he arrived at the launch around 7:30 pm. He hangs up with my wife and calls out my name, I answer back and we establish he needs to stay put and I’ll work on chipping ice and making my way closer to the launch. He can’t see me, but he knows the river well and from my voice, he knows where I am.

Lesson 5

A working flash light. A total fail for me here. The batteries were corroded and my light didn’t work. My headlamp with fresh batteries on board is sitting on the kitchen counter at home.

Spirits are renewed, but the reality is, I’m not getting out of here without some help. Darkness, Cold, Ice and Water need to be respected and this is no place to be stubborn. Thankfully my wonderful wife decides, unknown to me, this is now an emergency and instructs Kevin, with his agreement to call 911. Kevin yells an apology and the call goes out. The apology I think because he knows I’m stubborn as hell and still think I could get out of this.

Fire, Police and Paramedics are all dispatched. The boat launch is lit up from emergency vehicle lights.  Communication is established by yelling back and forth until the fire truck turns on the PA and they talk to me occasionally, checking on me, along with letting me know they’re working on getting me off my little island. Eventually it’s decided a helicopter will be needed to lift me out.  Hawcs agrees, thankfully, to help and after a little search light work, they find me. Impressively landing on a postage stamp size dirt slab the Calgary Police welcome me into a warm chopper cabin and lift me the short distance to the Carseland Fire Station. The boat and all my gear are left behind.  I’ve had no sense of time being out here, but it’s been 10 hours since the call to Tara letting her know I might have a little trouble getting home. I only realize the timeline after the helicopter ride when I see the clock in Kevin’s truck. It’s 2am. I was certain it was around 9pm at the latest!

Thank You, First Responders!

I cannot express my gratitude properly to the first responders, Kevin and Tara. Having the lights simply visible and the communication while they formulated the rescue plan was invaluable. Had I been alone, with no communication or sense I could get out of there, I know my mind would have gone to some dark places. Thankfully, I remained warm, comfortable and calm during the whole experience, other than a brief, ear splitting swearfest. I am only embarrassed. This could have gone very differently and had a tragic ending as the first responders pointed out. I will add here that I did have the means to start a fire, but I was pretty comfortable at -10c with very little wind. Had it been any colder, I would have scrounged up some dead wood and started the fire. This also would have made it far easier for the helicopter to find me. For some reason I didn’t show up on the thermal camera, so maybe I was colder than I thought.

winter fishing float bow river firepit on shore to keep warm.

Winter Fishing Safety Kit

I have already added items to my emergency kit. If you search winter survival, or winter safety kit, or boat safety kit you’ll find all kinds of information regarding what you should have on hand. Be prepared, in fact be over prepared if you have room. Here’s a link to one of the blogs I found helpful.  I have most of these items, but they didn’t do me any good in the garage while I was stuck on the ice! Don’t make my mistakes and please be prepared anytime you head out to wet that line.

winter fishing float bow river drift boat recovery using pontoon.

Drift Boat Recovery

The channels opened up again briefly with some passage to the boat launch several days later. Kevin and I scoped out a route from the east bank. We dragged my single man pontoon boat up the ice, above the drift boat. I crossed open water to the island. The boat was resting in the next channel where I left her, bottom frozen to the ice. It took a couple of hours to man handle her to open water. Once she was floating, I threw the pontoon across her stern and we floated to the take out. Kevin had made his way on shore back to the boat launch and chipped a perfectly sized opening, with the trailer already backed in. The “Mad Drifter” is now safely in the garage unharmed. I retrieved all my gear and only one rod tip was sacrificed.

Thank you again to Tara, Kevin and the First Responders for getting my ass off the river that night! This river rat is forever grateful, thankful and learned his lesson.

shoreline trout fishing on bow river near calgary, alberta, canada

Bow River Boot Camp

shoreline trout fishing on bow river near calgary, alberta, canada

A Fly Fishing Boot Camp Perfect for Beginners

You’ve been thinking about getting into fly fishing? Jump in with both feet! Well, maybe don’t jump. You’ll spook the fish, and the rocks might be slippery. Better to wade in quietly like a ghost, but excited. Get started with our fly fishing Boot Camp on the Bow River!

This is a lot of fun! We’re going to have plenty of laughs while learning and practicing new skills. This is fishing! For most of us it’s a relaxing pastime and a lifelong learning opportunity. Enjoy the process, make mistakes, and laugh at yourself! Most guests tell us, they’re completely focused and immersed in the experience and life takes a break while they’re on the river.  This is a good thing! It’s okay to check out once in while.

The Bow River Boot Camp combines outdoor classroom learning with actual fishing experience. This isn’t really that intense, but “boot camp” sounded right. No one is going to yell at you, and you probably won’t sweat too much.


Hanging out in our outdoor classroom, dressed like we know what we’re doing, we’ll get into everything you’ll need to get you started and make you dangerous!

Your classroom is 6 acres of waterfront along our home waters on the Bow River just outside of the Calgary City Limits. We’ve set up your adventure at our ranch located on a beautiful stretch of water and provide everything you need to explore for the day. We include all the equipment, but you’re encouraged to bring your own gear if you have it.

trout fishing on bow river using a drift boat and casting for trout


We load up the drift boat and fish one of our favourite stretches of the Bow River. You’ll have the opportunity to battle with hard fighting Rainbow and Brown Trout with your new skills.

That all sounds great right? What exactly are you getting yourself into?

Here is the course outline with some added detail. Try to contain your excitement!

fly fishing hook

Day One Itinerary

Gear Identification: Fly Rods come in different sizes for different applications. We’ll talk about a balanced set up for your needs. Fly Rod outfits are identified in “weights” which refers to the overall strength or size of the rod. We’ll show you how to put it all together.

Casting: We’ll teach, and you’ll practice the four principles of fly casting. We start in the field adjacent to the river, and then head to the water, where you’ll get the real deal experience. Repetition of good habits is the goal here. The good news is physics can help us. The bad news is physics can help us.

Knots: You’re need to know how to tie good, strong knots. Knot an option. (sorry) This is typically very light line, so the knots are critical. If you’re going to fly fish, you need to know how to tie two pieces of line together and you need to tie your line to the flies. There are so many knots and debates on which work best but we teach the IMPROVED CLINCH KNOT, NON-SLIP LOOP KNOT and the TRIPLE SURGEONS knot. Being on the river daily, these knots do the job. You’ll want to practice knots away from the water to become proficient. I guess you don’t have to but standing on the riverbank for 30 minutes trying to tie your fly on might dampen your spirits a little while your buddies are casting to happy fish!

Rigging: Now that you have your knots dialed in, what the heck are you supposed to do with them? We’ll teach you some techniques for rigging single and multiple fly applications and when to use them. You’ll use those knots to tie these rigs: Dry Fly. Dry Dropper. Deep Nymph Rig. Drop Shot. Streamer. On day two, you’ll fish all these rigs.

Bugs N’Flies: It would be kind of helpful to know what, exactly, to tie onto our rigs wouldn’t it? We’ll give you a down and dirty entomology overview to learn the difference between Mayflies, Caddis Flies, Stone Flies, Terrestrials, Annelids etc.

Reading Water: Now you need to find the fish. The river gives you clues to where stealthy trout like to be. Trout want a steady supply of food, they don’t like to use too much energy to eat, and they need cover or protection close by. Throwing your line where the fish are is the difference between hunting and hoping. Let’s hunt!

River Etiquette and Safety: Sharing our resources and being responsible is a must while you’re out there. A few Dos and Don’ts will help you enjoy your days on the water.

fishing guide alberta with drift boat near calgary

Day Two Itinerary

Let’s work on putting it all together and go fishin’! We’ll pack a semi-healthy lunch, and head out for the day. We’re fishing a great stretch of river, with plenty of trout, amazing scenery and we get to keep learning! Our goal is to get you more and more comfortable as the day progresses. Landing trout is part of the agenda today while your cast and presentation steadily get better. We cover approximately 15k of trouty river where you’ll fish from the drift boat with plenty of stops along the way to wade fish.

releasing trout while fishing on bow river with drift boat

Check out our website, stalk around our social pages and see if we’re a good fit for your next adventure. Please get in touch directly with questions etc. We love talking about this stuff and our spouses won’t listen anymore.  Explore videos, different guide sites, visit fly shops, and you’ll soon find a pretty cool group of people of all age groups and walks of life enjoying our sport. You’ll also realize quickly there is no substitute for being out there!

bow river osprey with fish

Fly Fishing Tale, October 20th – Mr. Big, the Eagle and the Osprey

I’m at the back of the truck, tailgate down, packing gear while Hopper impatiently wanders but always has me in sight.  Hopper, a black shepherd, a year, and a half old and my shadow when I fish alone. If you know German Shepherds, she is my shadow ALL THE TIME!  Yes, she is a fly fisherman’s dog, and I named her Hopper, but her nickname is Spaz. Right now, she’s working hard to free a downed fence post from the barbed wire still attached. Spaz.  The streamer rod comes out, then the dry rod. Still rigged up from yesterday’s float.  The dry rod is a 5 weight with a #18 BWO parachute thingy attached. I haven’t seen the river yet today, but what the hell, it worked yesterday.  It’s October 20th, overcast, a slight north wind. I can’t see the river from where I’m parked but I can almost feel the hatch.  I’m really hoping for a fall hatch. Experience tells me I should be in luck, but experience also reminds me the Bow River laughs at experience for fun. I’m betting on BWO’s, but we’ll see.

Hopper sigh’s “Finally!” as I sling the backpack and head towards the game trail leading to the bank. I’m headed to a run I’ve fished for at least 25 years. This past season, I’ve only walked it a few times, but guided guests on it daily from the boat. I’ve seen its structure change every year. Sometimes dramatically to where it’s unrecognizable. The one constant is big trout. Always big trout.

fly fishing guides dog hopper with stick and fish inspection.

A week ago, the valley was full of yellow, still holding on to it’s fall kaleidoscope.  I love this river valley with its stunning beauty during Summer and Fall. I struggle to look up an appreciate what’s in front of me. Do all fly fishers have this problem? Today the landscape is brown and grey. The pretty season is over. This is serious fishing terrain. Nothing to focus on but reading the water and finding happy trout.

Hopper leads the way, approaching the water. She finds a log instantly deciding all seven feet of lumber needs relocation to the rivers edge. The grass is tall, thick, and dusty, but she’s determined as both of us crash through the maze announcing ourselves to the gravel bar with absolutely zero grace or finesse. Hopper wrestles with her log as I shed the pack and get ready to scope out the situation. The situation I want to see is dimples, splashes, disturbances, heads, backs, and tails. Within a reasonable casting distance would be nice. I’ve fished a long time. No need for hero casts around here. Anyways, there’s no one around to see my quirky casting technique.

Before I can settle into the recon part of the afternoon, I see a familiar drift boat up stream. Jason doesn’t recognize me on the far bank. I’m just a random bank fisherman and he’s focused on drifting the boat on its fishy line. So focused.  I give him a yell; he looks over and pulls the boat in.  Jason is a great guide and guy.  I’ve had the pleasure of being guided by him and working with him these past few years. Today he’s fishing with his brother. Guides typically only get to fish in spring and fall around here. It’s the only job I know, where we love heading to work on our days off!  We’re catching up on the week, discussing the coming cold weather, while both scanning the river for you know what. A few minutes go by then Jason says,


I say, “Yep.”

Another minute goes by. “There’s one”, he says.

“Yep”, I say.

“There it is again. Nice fish.”

“Yep, big tail”

After a few more rises, Jason says, “Grab your dry fly rod, I’ll net it for you.” I love his confidence in me.

Our specimen is about fifteen feet off the bank, feeding in about eighteen inches of water. I position myself downstream so I can get a 45-degree cast above it and the fly will be right on the feeding lane. I’m ready. I did math, I moved into position, I stripped line and did a test cast for distance. I’m so ready. I wait. I wait some more.  Jason says,

“I don’t see it.”

“Nope”, I say.

I think I have the right line on where we saw Mr. Big, so I toss the bug. Nothing. One more time. Nothing.

Damn. Fishing. It really is 90% anticipation.

fish jumping out of water

It seems like forever, but it’s probably only a minute or so. We see another rise. This isn’t the same fish. It comes up several more times in the same line. I reposition my feet, adjust my distance with a couple of false casts and lay it in there. I absolutely cannot see my fly. It’s a small BWO with a nice parachute, but it’s the same colour as the foam. The sun, although behind cloud cover is just in the right place to cause trouble. If only I was fishing from the other bank! Glare is fun.  I move down stream slightly, so my cast will now be closer to straight upstream. More math and measuring. Fishing is hard. Thankfully this trout is still feeding, so I have a shot. I lay the cast in the lane; I can see the fly! It’s perfect. Smack!! A 13-inch brown splashes and makes a fuss. I say 13 inches because 13 is bigger than 12. No one gets too excited. It’s a fish, this trio has all caught them before. Still, it was a damn nice cast to a rising fish. I’m happy. Still, this isn’t the big old boy we saw a few minutes ago. We’ve made some noise now and Hopper crashes the water to check out our little brown friend.

Jason and I fist bump and he heads down river.

I just know Mr. Big is going to show up again. I’m looking up stream, scanning. I get down on one knee so maybe I can see better. Nothing. I head up stream, well back of the rivers edge. There he is!  Right where I was looking, but so subtle, I couldn’t see around the glare while down stream of the rise. There’s a lesson here. Fishing isn’t so hard. More dimples. I’m only seeing the back and the tail on this guy. It’s hard to say for sure with the glare, but I go with my gut and tie a little emerger off the back of my BWO thingy. I don’t know the name of the flies I’m using, but the size and colour seem right. Yes, I am a full-time guide. Really. I want to get down stream of him, but I know I’ll never see my presentation. I opt for a downstream presentation. I make sure I have more line than I need so I won’t have to mend. I remind myself to be patient and let the fish eat before I set the hook. As it is, if he takes the emerger it’s a going to be a perimeter set. I know I’m overthinking this, but man I’m having a great time!

Okay here we go! Wait! I feel a dull thud on the back of my knees. WTF! It’s Hopper and a new stick she apparently needs me to see. She’s snuck up behind me and her driftwood slab catches the back of the legs. Perfect. She decides to splash around in front of me, steps on my slack line catching the leader and making a helluva mess.  Fishing is hard with Spaz. I swear a blue streak at my companion, she seems to understand and retreats, log firmly in her jaw. I’m getting the eyes from the tall grass, yes dog, I agree, I’m the problem!

I’ve retied. New tippet and both flies. As I retie, I’ve noticed my friend happily sipping, oblivious to the carnage bankside. I look both ways for the Black Menace. She’s wandered off somewhere. Here we go!

The cast lands the BWO about four feet above the last dimple, the glare is horrible, but I can just make out the white parachute. The fly drags on a cross current. I let it float by before I pull it off the water. I work my feet out and upstream a little more. This should be a better line. I don’t like a downstream presentation, but this is the best option and not a completely blind cast. The trout makes another appearance now closer to me. It’s moved up and closer to the bank. I cast, stopping the line short, allowing it to land about six feet above the fish. It’s right online. Come on baby!!! The top fly floats only two feet into its drift and disappears. I feel nothing, I see nothing. Set! It’s there! All hell breaks loose in 18 inches of water! Yeah baby!! The line is tight, the rod is bent! Shit, it’s coming right at me!! My arm goes up way over my head, I’m stripping like a mad man! Why am I so bloody short!!  I quickly turn away from the fish, sending my rod tip upstream, stripping line tight!! It turns, headed for deep water. Give it line! Give it line! I must have twenty feet of line in the water at my feet now. It peels off in a split second! Hot Fish! I turn and chase as it heads downstream, hands above my head, hoping I don’t faceplant! We’re in for a ride with this one!


The line goes slack. Just like that. It’s gone. Hopper is downstream where the fish was. She often gives chase to where she sees trout splashing on the line. A beautiful, dark, fall Rainbow got the best of me today. I couldn’t be happier! I watched that fish for at least forty-five minutes before I made a cast to it. Once it ate the fly the whole thing was over in less than fifteen seconds. I hear a Bald Eagle chirp. Looking up I see it chasing an Osprey that has a fish in it’s talons.

bow river osprey with fish and a bald eagle chasing it.

An old high school classmate once wrote; “In life, we remember specific moments. Not days or weeks or years, specific moments.”

Hopper and I stuck around and caught several more fish today. We switched to streamers and played around with a hopper dropper after the fish stopped rising. I won’t remember any of those fish in a week, but I’ll remember stalking that one trout. Even if it hadn’t taken the emerger at all, I still would have remembered the chase and the anticipation. I’ll remember my dog harassing me. I’ll remember running into a friend on the river. I’ll remember the eagle and the Osprey.

Here’s to more adventures and moments for all of us!




proud fly fisher with trout in drift boat

Bow River Sports Fishing Company Wraps Up Busiest Season in 2023

Discover the thrilling adventures of a sports fishing company as they reflect on their busiest season yet on the majestic Bow River.

The sports fishing season on the Bow River in southern Alberta has come to a close, and it has been one for the books. Anglers from all over the world flocked to this popular fishing destination to test their skills and catch some impressive fish. The guides at our fly fishing company had their hands full, but they made sure that each and every guest had an unforgettable experience on the water.

Another Great Season Fly Fishing in Southern Alberta

For yet another year, the Bow River proved why it is a must-visit spot for anglers. This beautiful river is known for its abundance of fish species, including brown trout, rainbow trout, and Rocky Mountain Whitefish. Its diverse ecosystem provides the perfect conditions for fly fishing, making it a dream come true for both seasoned anglers and beginners.

With its breathtaking scenery and glacial waters, the Bow River offers more than just a fishing experience. It is a place where nature enthusiasts can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse themselves in the tranquility of the great outdoors.

Bow River Remains a Popular Destination for Anglers

This season, the Bow River attracted anglers from across North America and beyond. Its reputation as a world-class fishing destination continues to grow, and it’s not hard to see why. The river is well- populated with wild trout, and its size and flow rate make it a challenging yet rewarding place to fish. Whether you are an experienced angler or new to the sport, the Bow River offers opportunities for everyone. The calm stretches of the river are perfect for beginners to practice their casting techniques, while the fast-flowing sections provide a thrilling challenge for seasoned fishermen.

scott smith fly fishiing guide albertaLead Guide, Scott Smith, Looks Back on 2023 Season

I think the biggest story of the 2023 season must be adaptability. We saw a record low snowpack and low water conditions for most of the season. The summer saw steady flows at 80 CMS which helped the fish and bug life to stabilize. There were a few weeks dealing with Time of Day restrictions, where we had to be done fishing by 2pm. This didn’t affect our guided trips other than we had guests out on the water earlier.  The good news is our trout were willing to play and we had some amazing fish to the boat this season!

Spring Fly Fishing Highlights

Spring saw some great early season top water action on Caddis and BWO’s. The guides love stalking big “happy” fish feeding on small bugs. We often get just as excited as our guests when we hook these beauties! For our guests on the Deep Nymph Rig and Hopper Dropper, I fished a #16 copper-coloured Hares Ear variation for about 8 weeks straight. This caddis pupa imitation seemed to do the trick and judging by the gaping space in my fly box, it was the go-to fly for late spring and early summer. I often fished it with a black or brown leech pattern while deep nymphing.

Summer Fly Fishing Highlights

Summer saw a mix of a fantastic Stone Fly season along with the continuation of Caddis and some surprisingly great Pale Morning Dunn action. If you’ve never experienced getting on the water ridiculously early to throw giant foam bugs, you’re missing out. I’m not sure how you feel about a shot of adrenaline at 4:30am, but these takes are explosive! I often paired a big old Demoes Golden Stone with a simple Elk Hair Caddis in the early mornings. However, there were several mornings we just tossed the foam until the sun came over the ridge. I was so happy every time I had to pull the boat over to stalk fish for guests. That one big fish up on emergers always presents a challenge. Figuring out which size of bug, then getting the guest into position for the right cast in the feeding lane is just the best part of guiding in my opinion. Second best is the take, the line goes tight, and all hell breaks loose!!

Fall Fly Fishing Highlights

Fall fishing was a little different this season. The water levels dropped significantly so we didn’t see much active current along the banks. I don’t have scientific basis for this, but I think this is why our Hopper season was sporadic. The banks were dry and there were plenty of hoppers everywhere. The fish just didn’t seem to key on them for me. That said, at some point the trout starting hammering Prince Nymphs and Pheasant Tails on the dropper. For the deep nymph rig, I was running mostly the Reece’s Pieces worm and a #14 Prince. No magic patterns, but fished at the right depth, this was deadly. I don’t get a lot of opportunity to fish streamers with guests, but when we did, the Bullet Head Sculpin, the Skiiddish Smolt and a good old Wooly Bugger saw action and success.

Thank you to the amazing guides who help make fishy memories for our guests. Your dedication to your craft is inspiring and I learn from all of you. Thank you to our returning guests for trusting us with your experience. We hope we live up to your expectations and would love to see you again! Thank you to our new guests. We hope you enjoyed your time on the water with us as a new fly fisher or an experienced angler! Learn more about your Bow River fishing guides.

drift boat fly fishing group bow river

About the Bow River, Alberta

The Bow River is a majestic waterway that flows through the heart of Alberta. It spans over 587 kilometers and is fed by glacial runoff from the Canadian Rockies. Its location near Calgary makes it easily accessible for locals and tourists alike.

Not only is the Bow River teeming with fish, but it is also home to a variety of wildlife and bird species. On any given day, anglers may catch sight of bald eagles soaring overhead or elk and deer drinking from the river’s edge. It truly is a nature lover’s paradise.

What is Guided Fly Fishing?

Guided fly fishing is a service offered by professional fishing companies that pairs anglers with experienced guides. These guides have intimate knowledge of the river and its fish, and they can provide valuable insights and tips to help anglers improve their skills.

During a guided fly fishing trip, anglers are taken to the best fishing spots on the Bow River. The guides will provide all the necessary equipment, including rods, reels, and flies. They will also teach anglers the proper casting techniques and help them select the right flies for the conditions.

What is Drift Boat Fishing?

Drift boat fishing is a popular technique used on the Bow River. Anglers board specially-designed boats that allow them to float downstream while casting their lines. This method provides excellent access to prime fishing spots and allows anglers to cover more water in search of fish.

The Bow River’s drift boat fishing experience is truly unique. As anglers float down the river, they are surrounded by stunning scenery and have the opportunity to observe wildlife up close. It’s an immersive fishing experience that combines adventure and relaxation.

happy times fly fishing group bow river

How to Choose your Fishing Guides in Alberta

Choosing the right fishing guide is crucial to ensure a successful trip on the Bow River. Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice:

  1. Do your research: Look for fishing companies with a good reputation and positive customer
  2. Experience matters: Opt for guides who have extensive knowledge of the Bow River and its fish species.
  3. Check their equipment: Make sure the fishing company provides well-maintained gear and quality boats.
  4. Ask about certifications: Inquire if the guides are certified and have the necessary licenses to operate.
  5. Customizable trips: Look for companies that offer tailored fishing experiences to meet your specific needs.
  6. The Outfitter should ask you lots of questions to make sure they understand your needs

Before You Book: What to Look for in Fly Fishing Companies & Charters

When booking a fly fishing trip on the Bow River, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Customer testimonials: Read reviews from previous clients to get a sense of the company’s reputation and the quality of their trips.
  • Availability: Check the company’s schedule and make sure they have openings during your desired dates.
  • Price and inclusions: Compare prices and make sure you understand what is included in the fishing package.
  • Guide credentials: Inquire about the experience and qualifications of the guides who will be accompanying you on the trip.
  • Flexibility: Look for fishing companies that offer flexible cancellation policies and rescheduling options.

What Is Usually Included in Fly Fishing Packages?

Fly fishing packages on the Bow River typically include the following:

  • Professional fishing guide
  • All necessary fishing equipment
  • Transportation to and from the fishing location
  • Packed lunch and refreshments
  • Photography of your fishing adventure

It’s always a good idea to confirm the inclusions with the fishing company before booking to avoid any surprises on the day of your trip.

rainbow trout in net

What Fish Are in the Bow River?

The Bow River is home to a diverse range of fish species. Anglers can expect to encounter brown trout, rainbow trout, and rocky mountain whitefish during their fishing adventures. These fish can grow to impressive sizes, with some reaching over 20 inches in length!

Additionally, the Bow River is known for the occasional northern pike, adding an extra layer of excitement to your fishing experience. With such a variety of fish, every cast could lead to a thrilling catch.

What Kind of Flies Are Used on the Bow River?

Choosing the right fly is essential for successful fly fishing on the Bow River. The most commonly used rigs include Streamers, Dry Droppers and Deep Nymph Rigs. Depending on the time of year and the fish you are targeting, the guides will recommend specific techniques, patterns and sizes. It’s important to have a variety of flies in your tackle box to match the changing conditions and the fish’s feeding preferences. Being prepared and adaptable will increase your chances of hooking into some trophy-sized trout.

How Does the Bow River Flow Rate Affect Fly Fishing?

The flow rate of the Bow River plays a significant role in fly fishing success. As water levels rise or fall, the behavior of the fish changes. When the river is high and fast, fish tend to seek shelter in calmer areas and along the riverbanks.

During lower flow rates, fish become more active and move into the main current to feed. Understanding how flow rate affects fish behavior will help you target the best fishing spots and increase your chances of a successful day.

How to Find the Best Fishing Spots near Calgary, Alberta

If you’re in search of the best fishing spots near Calgary, Alberta, look no further than the Bow River. Start by researching popular fishing locations, such as Policeman’s Flats, Graves Landing, and Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Consider hiring a fishing guide who can provide insider tips and take you to hidden gems along the river. These guides have spent countless hours exploring the Bow River and know where the fish are biting. They will ensure that you make the most of your time on the water.

Do You Need a License to Fish the Bow River in Alberta?

Yes, anglers are required to have a valid fishing license to fish the Bow River in Alberta. The province offers both resident and non-resident licenses, which can be purchased online or at authorized retailers.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with Alberta’s fishing regulations before casting your line. This will ensure that you are complying with the law and help protect the fish populations for future generations of anglers.

What Are the Benefits of Private Fly Fishing Lessons near Calgary, Alberta?


Private fly fishing lessons near Calgary, Alberta offer numerous benefits for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you’re new to fly fishing or looking to improve your casting technique, these lessons provide personalized instruction tailored to your needs.

During private lessons, you will receive one-on-one guidance from an experienced fishing guide who will share their expertise and help you refine your skills. You’ll learn the fundamentals of fly fishing, including casting techniques, fly selection, and reading the water.

Private lessons are ideal for beginners who want to start their fly fishing journey on the right foot. They also benefit experienced anglers who want to take their skills to the next level and catch more fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I bring my own fishing gear on a guided fly fishing trip?

A: Absolutely! If you have your own fishing gear and prefer to use it, you are welcome to bring it along. However, our fishing company provides all the necessary equipment to ensure that you have a successful and enjoyable experience on the Bow River.

Q: Is fly fishing on the Bow River suitable for beginners?

A: Yes, the Bow River offers excellent opportunities for beginners to learn the art of fly fishing. Our experienced guides will provide patient instruction and help you develop the skills you need to catch fish. With their guidance, even novice and first-time anglers can have a successful day on the water.

Q: What is the best time of year to fish the Bow River?

A: The Bow River can be fished year-round, but the most popular times are during the summer and fall. Early Summer brings the arrival of the stonefly hatch, which triggers a feeding frenzy among the fish. In the fall, the river is teeming with spawning trout, making it an excellent time to target big fish. However, anglers can enjoy a successful outing at any time of year, as the Bow River’s fish are active and hungry throughout the seasons.

Q: Can I catch and keep fish from the Bow River?

A: It depends on the fishing regulations set by Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife. Currently, on the Bow River, catch and release is mandatory in the sections we fish. This practice ensures that future generations of anglers can enjoy the thrill of fishing on the Bow.

As the fishing season on the Bow River comes to an end, our fly fishing company reflects on another successful year. We take pride in providing exceptional experiences to our clients and helping them create memories that will last a lifetime.

If you’re looking for your next fishing adventure, consider joining us on the Bow River. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, our knowledgeable guides will ensure that you have a memorable day on the water. Book your trip today and get ready to reel in some fish!

alberta rainbow trout in net on the bow river

Spring Fly Fishing on the Bow River: A Guided Perspective

best fly fishing lessons in Calgary, on the Bow River

Well, the spring fly fishing season is finally here! I must admit I’m not a winter fly fisher but as soon as the sun starts to warm my face, I am just itching to get on the river! The boat gets a work over and a shine, all the gear gets checked, new lines are added where necessary and by now the fly boxes are re stocked. Looking at the calendar we have some early season floats booked with our buddies and fellow guides before we get into the heart of the season and won’t have time to fish.

Learning New Skills and Shaking Off The Rust

Spring gives me the opportunity to jump into lessons. I love getting new and aspiring fly fishers on the water. Watching folks progress with their casting stroke, understanding where to find fish and become proficient with knot tying and fly selection is a great reward as a teacher. I always love seeing pictures and hearing tales of your adventures after you leave us. Our hope is always that the lessons are a great beginning for you.

We’re happy to start at the beginning or work with you on specific challenges to help up your game.

We throw a lot of information at students during our time together, so I put together a 50-page book to accompany our beginner’s fly fishing course. It covers everything in what I hope is an easy-to-follow format…and there’s pictures!

We’re different, in that our class size is a maximum of two students. We offer a half day “boot camp style” experience, and you’re hands on from start to finish. Our classroom is on the riverbank and yes, there are trout holding at your feet. You might just hook up!

Check out our fishing packages and see if this is for you. We’d love to see you!

Spring Fly Fishing – What to Expect

Water flows are still on the low side. Some slow run off will start and we may see some off-colour water from the late season snowstorms. This is typically short-lived. April in Alberta can be great weather, but we could also be in a blizzard. In April, we’ll find fish in their wintering holes. So, a deep nymph rig with a leech as one of your offerings is never a bad choice. A worm and a pheasant tail will also produce when fished at the right depth.

If you’re going to fish a streamer, which I always enjoy, slow that bad boy right down as you move it through the zone. I like a white or tan #2 or #4 classic Woolly Bugger.  As the water warms and the bugs start to get more active, you’ll see some BWO’s and some fish up on them. Remember, the midges are always around, so don’t be afraid to tie on a Griffiths Gnat. Around mid-April, we start to see the fish move around as the water and air temperatures become consistently warmer. Remember though, this is Mother Nature. Her clock doesn’t match our fishing expectations.

May often offers some fantastic fly fishing and we can see a wonderful Caddis hatch for about a week. If you hit it right, it’s epic. Do the kids still say epic?

alberta rainbow trout caught inthe bow river

Keep in mind the Rainbows are moving out of the system to spawn, so you’ll see more 16” to 18” Rainbows as their larger cousins are in the tributaries doing their thing. This can be a great time to target some larger Browns.  The big rainbows usually return around the last week of May.

alberta rainbow trout in net on the bow river

Some Things to Remember while Spring Fly Fishing

  • The water is cold. Fish are cold blooded.
  • Fish are not going to move too far or fast to take your fly.
  • Get your flies low in the water column and keep that drift below the speed limit.
  • Fish in a grid pattern. I always start closer to me, then move my casts out. X is where the Fly lands and Y is the current line you want to fish. A crude diagram below with the message to change up where you land that fly or indicator on the water.
    Spring Fly Fishing Bow River Currents and flow chart.
  • Only cast as far as you can maintain good control. If you can’t mend effectively, shorten it up and move your feet to a better casting position.
  • Depth is key. Before you change your fly selection, try moving that indicator or adding/subtracting some weight.

Rigs to Experiment with in the Springtime

A Simple Deep Water Nymph Rig. Play around with your distances between flies and where you place the weight. I use a swivel as weight and add split shot as needed. Usually, the weight depends on if I’m using tungsten or brass beads or unweighted flies.

Fly Fishing Bow River in the Spring Deep Nymph Rig 

Dry Dropper

I’ll often nymph in shallow water in the early spring if the water speed is right. (Walking Speed)  In these cases, it doesn’t make sense to me having the indicator, weight and all that gear in the water.  I like to tie on a big foam fly as an indicator and then one or two flies below. I like this set up especially if I’m fishing water depth of 4 feet or less. I’ll often tie two nymphs below the foam fly.  Play around with this set up to your preference. It’s effective and much nicer to cast. For new or beginner fly casters, you might not like this in the windy conditions that accompany Spring fishing.

Best Flies for Fly Fishing Bow River in the Spring.

Some thoughts on Spring Presentations

During the early spring, I tend to slow down my presentations and work the water a little more diligently. Try to remember, fish are cold blooded, and the water is still cold in early April. Trout may not be willing to move very far for a fake meal. Be patient and methodical in your presentation. Fishy magic depends on what you do AFTER your fly lands on the water. I will always adjust my depth before I change my fly. I actually employ a dry dropper set up all year while fishing water less than 5 feet in depth. If I need to go deeper, faster, then I’ll throw on a bobber (Strike Indicator) 😊

Get out there and enjoy your water! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different presentations and work the water. It’s the best therapy I know.

If you’re looking to get into it, give us a look. We’ll introduce you to an amazing opportunity for endless adventure and lifelong learning.

fly fishing training

Fly Fishing Therapy

By Scott Smith, Lead Guide

I am a fly fisherman. I have been a student of fly fishing for over 25 years and teach it as well. Fly fishing is more than just throwing a line into the water and waiting for something to bite. It is about balance, mindfulness, and casting away your cares for a moment of rest and relaxation—a respite from life’s worries; a chance to become one with nature; an opportunity to feel at peace with yourself. Fly fishing offers therapy for the mind, body and soul.

Essential Elements of Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a sport that requires patience and focus. You can’t expect to catch fish by just throwing your line in the water, so it’s important to know what you’re doing and how to fish properly. Learning the skills necessary to consistently have fish at least look at your fly is the journey. Learn to enjoy the process.

Fly fishing is not just about catching fish—it’s also about the experience of being in nature. It’s about getting out there and appreciating all that the outdoors has to offer.

Fly fishing is a social sport; you can go with friends or by yourself! While fly fishing alone may seem intimidating at first, it can actually be very enjoyable if done right. I’ve learned to put the fly rod down and enjoy what’s around me while I’m basking in solitude.

The Balance Between Process and Product

Balancing process, product, and experience is essential to the pursuit of fly fishing.

The process is the journey from beginning to end; it’s the act of getting your line in the water and casting out. It’s about learning where the fish are, what they’re eating, why they’re eating, when they’re eating. It’s the experience of figuring it all out, only to go back to discover everything you were successful with yesterday, isn’t going to work today. The product is what you experience at each stage along that journey—whether that’s catching a fish or not catching one at all (and whether or not it matters). And then there are the people you meet along the way: guides, shop owners, fellow anglers…all these people help create an experience that goes beyond just going out into nature by yourself or with friends and family to cast around for trout.

The Science of Mindfulness with Fly Fishing

The power of mindfulness can be harnessed to help you relax, improve your focus, and even increase your ability to handle stress. It’s all about fully engaging with the present moment, which is one of the hardest things for us humans to do (especially if we’re stressed or anxious). Just think of how many times someone has told you “Don’t worry about it—it’ll be fine.” That’s an example of how hard it is for us not to worry about things!

We can use fly fishing as a way of practicing mindfulness because it requires us to be present in order for our minds and bodies to work together efficiently. When we are fly fishing, we must pay attention both physically and mentally. We need our bodies’ muscles coordinated in order for our arms and legs (and sometimes torso) movements to properly propel the rod forward through space so that when we cast out there will be enough energy behind the line at its maximum distance from where we stand on dry land (the reel end). But this only occurs when all these body parts are working together harmoniously because they’ve been trained over time through repetition—by casting thousands upon thousands of times before finally getting good enough at it so that casting becomes second nature…

Fly Fishing Therapy is all about mindfulness, balance, and casting away your cares.

Fly fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s a great way to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, while also getting exercise and enjoying nature. The sport requires you to be mindful of what you’re doing, so you’ll have time to clear your head and focus on something other than all your daily responsibilities.

Fly fishing can help bring balance into your life because it requires physical strength and endurance but also demands patience and calmness in order to catch fish-something that doesn’t come naturally for most people unless they practice it regularly (or meditate).

Final Thoughts on Fly Fishing Therapy

Fly fishing is a way to be present in the moment, to let go of your worries, and connect with nature. It’s also a great way to spend time with friends or family members. For me, fly fishing has always been about mindfulness—but it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone. The important thing is that you find something that brings peace and balance into your life so that you can stay focused on the task at hand. Whether that means taking up fly fishing or some other pastime depends on what works best for each person! We are professional guides and get to live on the amazing Bow River near Calgary Alberta. If you’re looking for a great experience, we’d love to see you on your own fly fishing excursion!

bow river fly fishing for kids and family

Fly Fishing Lessons and Adventures for Kids

By Scott Smith, Lead Fly Fishing Guide

I’ve spent most of my adult life as a river guide, and I’ve seen all kinds of people come through the doors. Every now and then, though, there’s someone who catches me off guard with their enthusiasm for fly fishing. Usually, they’re kids. Six-year-olds with skinned knees who want to know how to tie on a dry fly because their uncle told them that he did it when he went fishing with his dad. This is great! Kids are the future of our sport, but if we want them to stick around for long enough to develop into lifelong anglers (or even just enjoy themselves for one weekend), we need to make sure that they have fun out on the water—and not just catch fish

Find a Mentor

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “knowledge is power.” With that in mind, it’s no wonder that so many people are interested in learning about fly fishing for kids. What your mentor has to say could be the difference between a good experience and an amazing one.

So how do you find someone who can teach you how to fly fish? You may be lucky enough to have a friend or relative who can help out. If not, consider joining a club or getting involved with an organization that promotes fly fishing for kids. There are many groups out there (like Trout Unlimited) that welcome new members every year and will encourage them to get involved as quickly as possible. If none of these options work for you, try asking around at local fly shops—they’ll know where all of their customers hang out, so they’ll likely have some leads!


Know the area you’re fishing in. Everyone should wear a life jacket when on board a boat, and this goes double for kids. It’s also a good idea to put the kids in a life jacket if you’re fishing in swift moving water.

Be sure to take care of yourself as well: don’t forget sunscreen!

Be sure to stay hydrated and bring plenty of water with you. Make sure that everyone in your group has a life jacket on, and make sure that the boats are properly equipped with first aid kits, flares, and other safety gear.

Fishing License

Fishing licenses are usually sold at sporting goods stores, fly shops, and the like. You can also get a fishing license online. The cost varies depending on whether or not you’re a resident of that province. Be sure to check your local regulations.

Licenses generally last for one year from the date of purchase. Kids and Seniors don’t generally need a license, but if you’re the adult fishing with them, you’re going to need one.


There are a few points to remember when selecting equipment for your child. The most important is that they’re going to be able to use it themselves, so make sure anything you buy is age appropriate and fits into the size of their hands. You don’t want them struggling with too many tangled knots or having too much trouble handling their gear for fear of dropping it in the water and getting frustrated while trying to get the cast right.

There are some great beginner kits available online and at your local fishing shop. For smaller hands we use the Echo Gecko kit. I don’t have any affiliation with Echo, but we love these outfits for kids. The grip is narrow, the rod is shorter than adult rods, and it’s easy to get the line moving. Your local fly shop can point you in the right direction. However, kids can certainly use adult gear easy enough. Especially when you’re testing the waters. If you’re not sure what kind of gear would be best for your kid yet, just ask an employee who knows their stuff at the store; they can help find something suitable without breaking the bank.

Knots And Tangles

Whether it’s a loop knot or a clinch knot, you’ll need some knowledge of knots to keep your line in place.

If you’ve never tied a fishing knot before and want to learn how, don’t worry! Knot tying is one of the easiest skills to learn how to do on the fly; it only takes a little practice and patience. Once you get the hang of it, there are all kinds of different knots that can help make your fishing trip more enjoyable and successful. With some basic instruction and practice, even kids can learn how to tie on their own flies when out on the water with parents or friends for an afternoon adventure!

There are going to be tangles, lots of tangles. Your job is to be patient and remind the kids, this is all part of the process. Make sure you have lots of leaders, tippet and a pair of good snippers!

What to Bring

  • Rod
  • Leaders and Tippet
  • Flies
  • Waders (if you need them)
  • Boots or wading shoes. They’re going to get wet.
  • Bug Collector. Collect the bugs you’re imitating and make it educational.
  • Rain gear
  • Snacks and drinks

Fly fishing is a great family activity. It’s good for bonding, learning something new, and getting outside.

Fly fishing is a great family activity. It’s good for bonding, learning something new, and getting outside. In fact, there are many ways to enjoy fly fishing as a family:

  • You can teach your kids how to hold the rod correctly and give them some basic pointers about casting and then let them experiment. There are no bad casts.
  • Go where you know fish are holding. It’s great if they can see the fish. This creates a great opportunity to learn about fish behavior.
  • Focus on the process and learning something new. The fish will come.


Fly fishing is a great family activity. It’s good for bonding, learning something new, and getting outside. I hope this article gave you some ideas on where to start! We have lesson programs and family floats that will help accelerate the learning curve. We’d love to introduce you and your crew to our sport!

Book your flyfishing adventure today!