Having celebrated our sixth month living in Alberta (plus or minus a few days) we were starting to feel a bit of cabin fever brewing and it was decided that we were due for a bit of a fishing getaway. With an extra long weekend fast approaching we contacted our buddy Rick to figure out where we should go. Having chosen many of the previous fishing locations before he put the planning square onto our shoulders and told us to pick! Undaunted and after only a bit of deliberation we made our choice. We were heading north to fish the Ram River near Nordegg Alberta . Nordegg is located approximately 3.5 hrs away from Calgary and is situated about 200km west of the City of Red Deer in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. When we arrived on Friday afternoon at the Nordegg Lodge, we found a very basic, clean and pretty expensive room. But, it had a bed, bathroom and a fridge for beer and cider. The truck was emptied with the exception of the fishing gear and we headed out to the Forestry Trunk Road (FTR) just west of the town.
The FTR in the north part of Alberta is a very windy, gravel road and the dry conditions made for extreme dust plumes which isn’t bad if you are the first truck heading south but as luck would have it we were behind a convoy of trucks and trailers looking to camp at one of the many “public” camping spots available along the FTR. For those that haven’t been to Alberta before you will quickly notice when you arrive that almost everybody over the age of twenty five (not exaggerating) has a fifth wheel camper complete with air conditioning, satellite, wifi, gourmet kitchen, hot tub … you get the point right? Even more astonishing is that they drag these trailers down some trails and into camping areas that most people would think twice going down in a military HumV. The hidden message … don’t buy a used fifth wheel in Alberta. Fortunately for us the convoy pulled off at the crossing of the North Saskatchewan River allowing us to make tracks.
After about 30 minutes we finally arrived at the crossing of the North Ram River and bailed out of the truck to see just what kind of river we selected. We were not disappointed! It was a beautiful, small stream (in part due to low water levels) with gin-clear water flowing over cobble and gravel with deeper pools of turquoise blue. Looking for a good place to start fishing, we drove west until we couldn’t go any further and then back east along the 383, a road that parallels the river. We hadn’t gone very far east when we found a good access through an old quarry which took us right to the waters edge. Of course we stopped there but historic ATV and 4×4 tracks kept on going across and upstream through the river which sadly is commonplace in this province. Geared up and walking downstream we managed to tempt a few small Cutthroat Trout to take our well presented dry flies. Still in exploration mode we continued a bit further east to admire the river as it flowed through tight bedrock canyons and out into wide, cobble strewn floodplains. Knowing that night was quickly approaching and we were going to be fishing solid for at least the next two days we decided to hit the Ram River Falls (see https://exploringalberta.net/2015/07/31/ram-river-falls/ in case you missed the post) before heading back to Nordegg.
Saturday morning came quickly and after eating a hearty breakfast at the hotel restaurant we were off again down the FTR. Surprisingly, we encountered virtually no traffic heading south and in record breaking time we were heading east (downstream) along the 383. We will not disclose what mile marker we stopped at but suffice to say we “nailed it”. A short hike into the floodplain and across a few braided channels we found a likely looking pool with a few trout taking mayfly and caddis that were emerging sporadically. Taking turns with different fly patterns we caught Cutthroat.
We caught a lot of
Cutthroat. Specifically … we caught more fish in one small pool than one of us (won’t mention who) could imagine was possible and we are both fish biologists!! This density of fish included at least 8 fish over 18″ and a few pushing 20″ mixed into the more typical 10″ to 16″ size range. To be clear it wasn’t stupid easy and regular fly changes and good presentation were required but there were fish to be had! Feeling a little weird “mining” one pool of fish for a few hours we decided to explore the water both upstream and downstream and even more Cutthroat Trout came to net. There was little doubt that we picked the right river to fish and we couldn’t wait for Rick to arrive and share in the action. This continued all day long. When dry flies weren’t attracting any fish a switch to nymphs and wet flies kept the rods bent. This was only day one and although our Ontario fishing buddies frown on the premature use of this word … it was turning out to be EPIC.
Rick joined us late in the afternoon and we found ourselves back at the “Fish Factory” Pool. The fish were still rising and we sat back and watched Rick continue the smack down on those unsuspecting Cutthroat. We explored various pools, runs and riffles for the rest of the day and well into the evening before packing it in and heading back to the hotel with plans to fish another spot further downstream on Sunday.
Sunday’s choice of location turned out to be as productive as Saturday and while we had to walk a little further to find deeper pools and holding water for Cutthroat to stack up in, it was well worth the walk along the river. There were also a few more anglers and campers enjoying the river in this section. Wading was easy and a lot of river miles were covered by the time lunch rolled around. We ate quickly and decided to head back to the first spot. To our delight there was no one fishing that we could readily see and we hit the water again. We split up to cover the various spots we had found the day before and even went another few kilometres upstream to try some new water. The fish were still active and many trout posed for pictures and even starred in a few videos! There was no point counting the fish we caught as it was enough for us to remember the “starving” Cutthroat that took the fly on its way down after leaping clear out of the water or the Cutthroat that was tricked into eating an extremely well placed fly within an inch of the bank or the three more 18″ plus trout that were caught by one of us (won’t say who) at the very end of day from the “Fish Factory” pool after it had been quiet for 4o minutes despite a valiant angling effort.
The Ram River was all we could have hoped for. The fishing had rejuvenated our spirits and added to our growing love and appreciation of this province! We also told Rick that we would continue picking the fishing spots in future.