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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!