As the alarm clock sounded revelry on a Saturday morning it became apparent that a tough week had taken its toll on half of the household when those barely audible words were heard “you better go without me”. From that moment a mere 20 minutes had passed making coffee, sandwiches, packing snacks and loading the gear before the truck was heading south. While it is never really a preferred choice to fish alone it certainly wasn’t going to stop this train from leaving the station! After all, there are only so many weekends in the open water season that one can educate the trout of Alberta and experience thus far would suggest that they need regular schooling.
The Oldman River had been selected as the river of choice and the days expedition was intended to discover new access points and new stretches of river to fish. The Oldman River had proved enjoyable to fish at all of the locations that had been previously explored. With this experience it has become very apparent to us newcomers to Alberta that the “early bird does indeed get the Cutthrout”. Or perhaps more clearly for those non-anglers … Cutthroat Trout are pretty easy to catch… you just have to be one of the first people chucking flies at them. One could also expand this further and state that generally, catching trout in Alberta has not been very challenging unless you have slept in or have moved locations and are now just one of the many other anglers anglers frothing the water. In spite of this, our experience would seem to suggest that the fly fishing community in Alberta doesn’t really fly out of bed at the crack of dawn and rush to the river.
By mid morning the truck was pointed west and throwing dust on a gravel road that comes off Highway 22X immediately north of the Oldman River. There seemed to be trucks pulled off at the various well used access points to the Oldman which admittedly raised some concern about finding a good spot to fish and also cast doubt on the earlier statement about Albertan anglers sleeping in. As luck would have it, a quick stop to just “check out” the river from the top of the valley turned out to be an access, albeit an extremely steep one, down to the river. This kind of descent is well within the wheelhouse of a mountain goat so it was important only to think about the down “safely” part not the “how the hell am I going to get back up” part. It seemed to take no time at all to cover the 60m from top of valley to bottom and begin fishing. There was a beautiful pool immediately downstream of the access trail that produced a number of good sized Cutthroat as soon as the fly hit the water. After the pool had been fished, a quick hike upstream to the next spot was timed beautifully to “stake claim” just in advance of a couple other anglers who had opted for an easier access point. A number of Cutthroat came to net from this pool who were successfully fooled using big dry fly patterns. After the fish had been educated here, a short walk downstream lead to another deep holding pool and run. As luck would have it, the first fly landed just as another angler from downstream turned around knowing that this water was already “occupied”.
A number of other modest sized Cutthroat were skillfully “educated” during the remaining few hours of the day. The class was interrupted only by a deer who didn’t even seem to notice the big guy on the other side of the river casting, whistling and singing (*80’s classics of course). Lets hope for the sake of deer in Alberta that this one was either deaf or blind or both and not representative of the population as a whole because I am pretty sure it could have been hooked by a dry fly on 1X tippet with the right cast.
And then there was the hike back out … but that is another blog post.