There is just something special about the Oldman River. The diversity of habitat in the various reaches, the size, the scenery, the species present, the benthic invertebrates (aka bugs) and other elements all contribute to making this one of our favourite rivers in the province so far! It is the kind of river that on any given day you can walk for kilometres or cast a fly into every nook and cranny in a short section. With the time that was available on this fishing excursion the latter was the order of the day. Having found an unoccupied access point west of Highway 22X, a short walk/roll down into the valley provided a beautiful series of riffles and pools within about a 300m section.
The low hanging fruit or specifically uninhibited Cutthroat Trout came to hand first. Many were readily fooled by big dry flies (Stimulators, Madam X, Chernobyl Ants). Once those “eager” fish were sent back to the water to recover from their unsatisfying (for them) feeding, tactics were changed and stonefly nymphs were sent through the pools, runs and riffles. With this approach a number of Rainbow Trout were successfully coaxed from their refuge found behind rocks and in the tailouts of the pools. Rough estimate would have put the catch tally around 15 Rainbows of various sizes with the largest specimen measuring about 20″ estimated against the landing net opening.
Having spent considerable time fishing this stretch and knowing just how fishy looking some of those deep pools were it was time to try for the elusive Bull Trout. These aggressive fish are often seen chasing and slashing at Cutthroat and Rainbows that are frantically trying to shake loose from a hook and while none showed up during the many fights with the “little trout” they just had to be there somewhere. Big streamers on a sinking tip were put through the pools with no success. With one more trick up the sleeve the last attempt at a Bull Trout was made with a BIG, ugly, black stonefly nymph under an indicator with added split shot to get it down into the dark depths quick. The first drift through the most likely pool was made beautifully but with no takers. The second drift through and that bug was absolutely hammered by a fish and instantly the heavy head shakes and a lightning fast run confirmed it was a Bull Trout!! In fact the first one caught in Alberta!
Now it wasn’t very big by Bull Trout standards but it fought like it was twice its size and the battle lasted a lot longer than expected. When in hand, the true beauty of the markings became apparent in the sunlight! After a short moment of admiration it was returned gently back to its home to grow even bigger for next time.
The end of this successful day of fishing was celebrated with an incredible sunset in a truly beautiful part of this province! Oh yes Mr. Bull Trout we will meet again.