… Speaking of course about the chosen location to fish relative to moving further upstream into the headwater reaches rather than a state of “dazed and confused” … but lets start at the beginning of this adventure.
The fishing opportunities that abound within reaching distance of Calgary always keeps our sights on the next river or lake to explore. This day would see us exploring the Highwood River, encouraged by the recommendations we had been receiving from our angling friends to fish it. We packed up the usual gear and supplies and head southwest towards Longview where we would enter Kananaskis Country along Hwy 541. The highway follows the path of the river as it meanders, offering travellers many fantastic views as you drive along. Having no specific details of actually “where” to fish the Highwood we continued along into the headwaters passing a few major tributaries like Hat Creek, Cataract Creek and Heatherington Creek. After stopping at a few points along the way to survey the upheaval caused by the flood and once to (shamelessly) gawk at the “intensity of use” at one spot that had over 20 cars scattered across the shoulder, the washed out access road, gravel bars and onto the scoured flood plain . We travelled a little further west seeing many trucks pulled off at the various fishing access points before letting the fishing “bug” direct us to park beside a lone truck. Thoughts of eager Cutthroat Trout mingled with images of those same Cutthroat being inhaled by goliath Bulls kept us focused on getting the rods strung and waders on. Our chosen starting point on the Highwood was showing all the signs of flooding that the downstream reaches did. The Highwood River levels were low, consistent with most southern Alberta streams and rivers which made for a stark contrast with the flow of water that must have ragged downstream a few years past.
The low water levels made crossing the river and exploring the various channel braids possible. While one pushed upstream in search of deep holding pools and inviting looking runs, the other positioned at the first pool cast a small dry fly that was aggressively taken by an 18″ Cutthroat. The exploration of a few kilometres of river upstream did not result in anything bigger than an adorably optimistic 6″ Cutthroat that tried to inhale a #8 grasshopper pattern. The water was absolutely crystal clear and the river showed no strong sign of bug activity which could be a result of such significant channel erosion and substrate shifting but regardless of cause it was making the catching part of fishing near impossible. No other fish were seen or caught for the rest of the excursion.
There was one tense moment
during the day when the sound of a large animal rustling through the undergrowth with glimpses of black amongst the foliage, had hands scrambling to settle on the welcome grip of the bear spray. Though it was a great test of speed and dexterity it proved to be unnecessary as the monstrous black shape was actually a cow. Damn cow.
After sharing the tale of our unsuccessful fishing exploit on the Highwood the next day with a colleague we were informed that we had stopped to fish just a “little” to soon. If we had just gone a little higher up in the system … or so we are told … our day could have turned out a whole lot different. Perhaps it would have but nonetheless, the day left us with an appreciation of the Highwood River, its’ resilience and a fishing potential that will draw us back to fish it again.
Damn cow … seriously …