Those of you that know us well, recognize that we’re not exactly the type of people that like huge throngs of people for extended periods, so after a day at the Stampede, we were due for some quiet time on the water. After looking through our Alberta fishing reference material and some quick “remote sensing” with Google Earth, we loaded up the truck with fishing gear and headed south. Our destination for the day was the Crowsnest River and thoughts of catching Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout and even a chance at a Bull Trout had us giddy with excitement. The stretch of the Crowsnest River looked inviting with riffles, pools and runs everywhere we looked as we drove along the gravel road that hugged the river closely. We found an access point to provincial fishing area very close to where the Crowsnest joins the Oldman River Reservoir. This spot looked even more promising primarily because it had no other cars parked which is always a welcome sign and there was even a token security cow on watch!
It didn’t take us long to wader up, load up our packs with survival essentials (water!), string our rods and start the modest hike down to the river. On this day, the waters of the Crowsnest River were gin clear which gave an incredible view into even the deepest pools and runs of the river! You would think that you would see every fish in the river, but to be clear (excuse the pun), you do not see even the smallest fraction of the fish. However, from time to time they do give themselves away by a rise form or a flash of feeding activity from below. It took only a few casts with a large tan and reddish brown ‘Stimulator’ to catch the first of what would turn out to be many Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout. This one was only a 12″ Cutthroat but it fought above its’ weight class and was incredibly colourful with a dense “freckling” of black spots.
As we worked our way downstream we prospected all the likely holding water with large attractor dry flies. This is an incredibly exciting and pleasant way to fish which allows you to cover lots of water and the flies are big and buoyant enough to roll cast with them. It is amazing to catch a large trout from a pool where you couldn’t fathom one being without being able to see it in such clear water.
We walked all the way downstream until the river got too deep to wade as a result of the backwater effects of the reservoir. Frustratingly, large Cutthroat and Rainbows were feeding aggressively just out of our casting range. We caught dozens of trout and each one more beautiful than the last. The Crowsnest River valley through this reach is fairly narrow and the river is bounced off near vertical rock walls which add to the beauty of the location and helps you spot fish from a height! The fish were plentiful with a nice healthy range of sizes and most importantly were easily convinced on this day to take a well placed attractor dry fly! We spent a bit of time on our way back home to explore other potential fishing access points along the Crowsnest and Oldman River as these rivers will be fished a lot more in the coming seasons.