I made my way down to the Bow River earlier in the week to try my luck at some trout fishing. I arrived and viewed the splendid colors of fall here in Alberta. The leaves are turning a golden yellow mixed in with warm reds. The leaves are slowly dropping from the trees as the north wind is pushing them off their branches. I still cannot believe summer has come and gone once again. What a summer I had fishing the Bow River! I would like to thank my fantastic clients I was able to guide this spring and into the summer months. I sure hope you had as much fun as I did!
When I decide to fish the banks of the Bow River I usually pick a slow deep spot in the river, so I drove down to a hole which usually holds big browns at this time of the year. I walked out into the clearing and stood beside the river in total shock. I saw back hoes, earth movers and likes damming up one side of the river. “So much for catching any fish in that place today” I mumbled to myself. I was in the same location in the summer and ran into two guys surveying the river. I asked them what they were doing and they informed me they were planning to put some sewage piping from one side of the river to the other under ground. I spitted out some words I cannot repeat here and left the river thinking “there goes another good spot to fish the Bow”.
There was a time not so long ago that a fisherman could leave Calgary and take a short drive into seclusion. Not anymore! As this city grows and grows it infringes on the once private sections of the river. Pretty soon I will need to drive an hour to escape the commotion of the concrete jungle. Those secret spots on the river are no longer secrets, but I still remain grateful we have the river here. It sure has been good to me over the years!
I left the river with my head hung a little lower than usual. Destruction of the river never gets me into a good mood. I never hooked into any trout that day, wonder if all the construction had anything to do with that? I stopped to daydream of the past and shoot a few pictures of the fall colors. A playful duck was hammering away at the larva which was all along the shore line. The wind picked up and sent chills down my back, a little reminder from Mother Nature that winter is just around the corner.
As we enter the fall season in Alberta, Brown Trout fishing on the Bow River will pick up. Those elusive Brown Trout will show up on the end of our monofilament fishing line. Brown Trout will start to fatten up for their spawn making for good fishing for this species. So how are we to hook into these lovely specimens? The answer I believe lies in their diet!
Young Brown Trout feed on insects and other invertebrates, but the larger fish are active predators of other bait fish including young Brown Trout, suckers, White Fish and Rainbow Trout. Larger Brown Trout will also feed on small animals that fall in the water from shore. This is a hint as to where to cast your lure when fishing from a boat! Brown Trout usually do not become active or feed until the late afternoon or early evening but when the weather is cool enough they will feed during the day as well. The largest Brown’s of the river feed under the cover of darkness, so stay out on the river bank a little longer than most fisherman dare too. Brown trout can be caught with artificial flies, spoons, jigs, plastic worm imitations and lures.
When I target Brown Trout I use lures with natural looking colors to imitate their natural diet. I select lures that look like Rainbow Trout, Rocky Mountain Whitefish and Brown Trout during daylight hours. It is very important to key in on these colors to have good success fishing browns when there is cloud cover. Browns have better “dim light” eyesight than most other trout. However I find success with brighter colors during the cover of darkness. Use the most natural of bright colors and you are sure to land a trophy brown in the dark.
On the Bow River I have found you need to stay fishing well past dusk, an hour past the last light is usually when I start to hook up trout. There is a slow period between twilight and total darkness on the Bow River. I use this time to conserve energy and prepare for what is about to transpire. I make a habit of checking my hooks for any damage, bent hooks or dull hooks will be dealt with at this time before complete blackness arrives. If I need to change a hook out I will do this before there is no light left. I like my hooks strong and very sharp, Eagle Claw hooks is what I prefer over any other hook manufacturer. There are a few other companies I like also but Eagle Claw is my selection when I trout fish the Bow River.
Plan your time to fish browns accordingly and make sure you use lures that are close to what the browns are feeding on. Find deep holes in the river and present your lure at the top, middle and tail ends of these holes. Try different speeds of retrieve and you will catch these wonderful hard fighting species of trout!
Before I head out to fish a river at night I will go out and do some scouting during the daylight hours. I look for hazards that could endanger me and I also look for prime fishing water while there. I look for classic trout holding water such as pools, slow deep runs and under cut banks where fish could be holding. When fish are hiding here during the day it can be quite difficult to cast to them, or they are not going to feed during the day. As nightfall happens, these fish move out of their cover and come alive into more approachable fishing water where you can cast to them.
For these reasons your prime water at night might now include slow outside bends, tail end of a pool, inside shallow bends, and those calm open flats can all start to produce fish once the cover of darkness arrives, especially if this water boarders deeper “classic” holding areas.
The lures I prefer to use at night include plugs like Rapala’s, Berkley Frenzy’s, Matzuo jointed minnows. What I will do when fishing at night is have two fishing rods rigged up and ready to go. I do not like fumbling around at night trying to tie on hooks. So I avoid this hassle and get prepared before hand in the daylight hours.
When approaching the location of water you plan to fish, do so quietly and softly as to not scare off any fish that are holding near the edge of the bank. Also keep your flashlight or head mounted light away from your targeted water. Remember, the less you disturb your location the more chance you will have at landing a trophy Brown.
Please remember fishing in the dark is sometimes awkward and can be challenging. This type of fishing is purely based on feel. But once you have done it a few times you will become productive and could be rewarded with the trophy Brown Trout of your dreams.
On a warm winters day as February is coming to an end, I decided to wander on over to a spot on the Bow River where three weeks ago was fully covered in ice. I was frantically looking for my sunglasses before I left the house for the river, I then remembered they were in my car the whole time. I loaded my new Berkley rod into the vehicle with care and strapped the camera firmly around my neck; you never know when you are going to hook a monster! I dressed for the occasion; ok I overdressed and stepped on the gas pedal hard. There was one reservation however, would the water be open or would it be loaded with ice?
As I arrived at the river I was pleasantly surprised the river had opened wide enough to cast a lure. The sun was beating down on the slightly stained Bow River and making the water glisten as it sparkled off the choppy water in the afternoon sky. Sure glad I had those sunglasses with me! I surveyed the river and the tall ice ledge I was standing on as I put safety first while walking on ice. You cannot reach the bank of the river as the ice has heaved and piled up in this area of the river so I needed to be crafty and select the right hook for the conditions. This was no foot of ice, eight feet of ice has piled up and lined the river bank.
Blue Fox was the first out of the tackle box today. Presentation was important today! I aggressively casted upstream and quickly retrieved my lure as naturally as possible. This method looks real to a trout as the lure is moving downriver. Food is carried from upriver to where these fish were lying in wait to pounce. A twenty plus inch Rainbow was quick to grab a hold of my Blue Fox and take it for an exciting ride across and down the river until he was tired enough and was landed on the ice ledge. I had to step down onto a lower block of ice to get him back into the river without a ten foot drop from where I was standing. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
I had the presentation down to a science and several Rainbow Trout later I decided to change hooks. I am a big fan of the Rapala X-Rap and decided it needed to seek and find some trout along the river bed. The color selection plays a factor when the water is stained or dirty. I fancied a color that was more on the natural looking side of the color spectrum. I launched it out into a slower pocket of water just below a long run in the river. I slowly reel the lure to make it dive down into the water and then I gently lift the rod tip up to make the lure rip in the water, this ripping affect makes the fish go nuts and entices them to strike. If at first I do not get a strike I leave the lure sit in the water and do not reel for a few seconds, this pause is sometimes is what the fish are looking for, a wounded fish not moving which makes for easy prey. Six trout later and a sore arm to show for the effort, I unhooked the lure from my line and placed it back into the clear plastic box it came from.
Before I left the river I stopped and sat on the long brown grass that the cold and snow has killed. I could not help but think to myself; only one more month and spring will be upon us once again. The ice will be gone and the sunglasses will be taken out from their case to shade the glare of the sun from the reflection coming off the clear blue water of the Bow River.