The Oldman River in the southern part of the province flows from slopes of the Rocky Mountains eastward through a number of communities including Fort MacLeod, Lethbridge and Grassy Lake. It joins with the Bow River coming from the northwest and forms the South Saskatchewan River. The Oldman River is also home to a legendary trout fishery that has been in the forefront of our minds for quite sometime. This river provides excellent habitat conditions for Rainbow, Cutthroat and Bull Trout (in the section we planned to fish) as well as a plethora of aquatic and terrestrial insects that keep them healthy.
As soon as we could get ourselves packed up and out the door we were off southward down Highway 2 to the small community of Nanton, Alberta. Just south of the “business section”, Hwy 533 offered incredible scenery as we traveled westward to The Cowboy Trail or 22X where we continued the final leg of our journey south. The Oldman River is crossed by 22X and there is an overnight camp area on the northwest corner where you can hike down to the river and start fishing. Or …. instead of walking 2km at the base of rugged, rocky canyon wall, near fast flowing chutes … you can drive comfortably down a well groomed gravel road that leads to another camping spot a little further off the beaten trail.
Having made the treacherous hike from the bridge downstream once before, we opted for the drive this time. We quickly threw ourselves into our waders and made the short trek to the edge of the river. The lack of trees and shrubs combined with the plush carpet of ground vegetation make the walk relatively easy. The river itself flows over a number of bedrock ledges through the canyon section. Plunge pools bellow these ledges hold many trout if you can get a nymph down quick enough or perhaps toss a big streamer for the Bull Trout that haunt the depths of some these pools. Despite a valiant effort, we were unable to entice a single trout to show itself. We opted to walk even further downstream where the river starts to make a sweeping bend south. We were momentarily assessed by some curious deer before they bounded up and out of the floodplain.
The section of river we were headed for had produced a number of nice Rainbow and Cutthrout during an earlier scouting trip. Though considerable effort was made, we only managed one small Cutthroat before a severe thunderstorm quickly roared over us. We made our way back to the truck, picking up the pace as the rain intensified. Gratefully, we jumped in the truck just as large hail started falling. We’ve learned that intense storms can move in very quickly and you have to keep one eye on the sky during an Alberta summer!
We took this meteorological event as a sign to explore another spot on the Oldman, so we headed west on Hwy 33 to fish “The Gap”. The Oldman is considerably smaller in this reach but the valley remains as dramatic. With the sun dipping towards the mountains, we only had time to explore a few small pools and some pocket water before it was time to head back to Calgary. We’re blaming this tough day on the weather!