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!