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A fish story, involving fish

When you're having fun, catching something is beside the point

Writer Lee Hart with co-operative brown trout, remembers the words “there is a fine line between fishing and standing on the bank looking like an idiot.”

Here’s a new idea — go fishing and actually catch something. I know it is different, but I am an outside-the-box kind of thinker.

As part of my personal Canada Day celebrations I hired a fly fishing guide with a boat and did a float trip on the Bow River east of Calgary. I had fished from the shore a few times earlier this year — beautiful weather, beautiful water, and I looked darn good standing there but nary a bite. Obviously the fish were away those days.

So Canada Day weekend Sunday, I took to the river with trusted fishing guide, Steve. He had been out the day before with a party and the fishing was “hot,” so I had modest expectations as I stepped into the Sage Mackenzie-style boat for a seven-hour float down the lazy Bow to the planned “take out” point. I don’t think fish like me.

There was no run-off this year. The river needs a snow-melt run off to clean the system. Nothing quite as dramatic as the flood of 2013, but it can stand a good annual flush (usually in June.) That didn’t happen. The water looked good, but the river is low. The fishery may be in trouble over the coming weeks as water levels likely will continue to drop and the water warms. Part of the problem, too, I hear around some fishing circles is the provincial government is doing a sub-par job of managing water release from upstream reservoirs. But this isn’t a day to think politics. My mission is to slay some fish.

So off we set from departure at a point known as Policeman’s Flats… let the killing begin. First job was to get my gear organized. Some people like to be prepared the night before, I prefer to do it in the boat. “How come this new reel my son got me for father’s day isn’t fitting properly? Okay, there it goes. I guess it was just me…” Steve, use to dealing with beginners, fortunately had brought the proper supplies to set up the line with never-fail flies and it wasn’t long before they proved their value.

Drifting along in beautiful country, on a glorious Sunday morning, does a person really need to catch a fish? Damn right. I had stood out on the shore for too many hours looking like an idiot. Today was pay day.

Within the first half hour of being on the river I caught my first fish. A nice 12 to 14 inch rainbow trout. It co-operated fully, stayed on the line, and after a couple minutes of protest allowed Steve to gently scoop it up with the net. I proudly looked at it for a few seconds, Steve removed the hook, I did a little dance “I’m not a complete failure in life”… and then back into the water it went.

“That’s the skunk fish,” said Steve. “The most important fish of the day… at least now we won’t be skunked.” And as the morning went on I added a few more notches to my belt — two or three more rainbows (who can keep track) and a nice brown trout… my first ever. It wasn’t crazy fishing but enough to keep my interest up.

And meandering along the river, checking out this run and the next, with a guide who has been doing this trip for years I learned some local history as well. We passed a cliff area now a long-abandoned buffalo jump. There had been seven or eight encampments of Indian tribes who had used this site over several hundred years. While it is grass covered today apparently the bison bones buried at the base of the jump are several metres deep. Later on in the trip there was a once very nice home with two stone fireplaces, standing on a bank just above the river. Now abandoned and badly vandalized, it was once owned by a wealthy businessman, now sitting on land earmarked for development.

And at different points of river bottom or upper slope rolling grasslands a few remnants of movie and TV show sets, that for a short time pretended they were somewhere in Nebraska, Colorado or Montana. The quiet Bow even hosted two large ocean-going ships, built and then dismantled after they carried “passengers and supplies to a new settlement” as part of some Hollywood production.

But back to fishing. The water continued to look good, but fishing was slow. Other guides passing with clients confirmed the same. I thought perhaps my run was over, but as we closed in on the last hour of the trip, another nice brown trout took the fly… this one larger than the first. A bit more fight, but then the 24-incher was in the net for a few seconds. My day was complete.

It was a great day. I caught some fish. It didn’t rain. I didn’t lose or break anything, all in the company of a great guide, and all round good guy. And just for the record, no fish died in the making of this yarn. All lived to swim another day.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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