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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!