Southwest Alberta

 

South West Alberta Brown Trout

South West Alberta Brown Trout

The variety of angling opportunities that exist in Southwestern Alberta are many.   You would be  hard pressed to find an area that offers so much variety  within such a short distance.  The Oldman River is a perfect example of this.   The upper reaches of the Oldman river behaves as a classic mountain freestone; cold, clear water with higher gradient and a healthy population of cutts.   As soon as the Oldman River begins to leave the mountains into the foothills, Rainbow trout begin to appear and co-habitate the waters with the cutthroats; the result, hybridization and the addition of cuttbows to these waters.

Crowsnest River Rainbow

Further downstream the water slows down and the wild rainbows of the Oldman River begin to predominate.  The upper Oldman then collects into a reservoir of the same name and continues below as a tailwater which has become one of Alberta’s most infamous trout fisheries.  It is one of the few SW Alberta streams which we can drift all season and hatches occur throughout the year due to the relatively constant temperatures as the water is pulled from the middle of the dam.   A mix of rainbows, cutthroats, browns, bulls and cuttbows all share this bug rich stretch of river  that hosts an epic pmd and bwo hatch as well as a variety of caddis.   Like most tail water trout, appetites are large but food selection is more scrutinized due to the sheer volume of insects.  It can be an excellent dry fly fishery under the right conditions but even at it’s optimum fishability  it will test your skills, patience and nerves.  The fish here fight extremely hard and due to their selective feeding habits the use of 5X is often required; combine those two elements and heartbreak is inevitable on the Oldman River tail water.  This is a day off destination for a lot of our guides; a place of great reward and constant humbling.…Love it!!!

For a taste of some brown trout we offer floats and walk and wades on the Waterton River.  It’s a gorgeous drift through foothills with the back drop of the Waterton Provincial Park mountain range in the background.  Most all of the rivers banks are owned by ranchers so access is minimal creating a low pressured fishery.  There are some large fish in there that respond well to streamers, nymphs and quite often dry flies.  We usually pair this trip with the St. Mary’s and Oldman Rivers and spend the night over there to avoid the long drive back to Fernie 2 + hours.

The other famed river of this region is the Crowsnest, a ‘perfect’ little trout stream for walking and wading.  The relatively small stream meanders through the mountains and foothills of the Rockies offering the angler a wide array of hatches with some of the finest stream habitat anywhere. The undercut banks are the bedrooms of some huge rainbows that are temperamental at best.  During the Salmonfly hatch in June and the PMD hatch throughout July these fish are a little easier to coax from their protected lairs and the fishing can be truly magical.  Hopper fishing on the Crowsnest River can also provide some amazing dry fly fishing as the summer progresses.  Nymphs are part of the program here as the fish here are not as agreeable to rise as their free rising East Kootenay cousins but the river is fairly shallow and you are often sight fishing to these beautiful specimens.  You can also use multi-fly rigs that allow you to cover more water with a drift something we are not allowed to do in BC.

Upper Oldman River

Upper Oldman River

There are many other rivers in the area that we treat as both walk and wades and seasonal floats.  Some are predominated by rainbows and cutts while some are brown trout fisheries; they are all exquisite pieces of water with gorgeous mountain backdrops.   This is where we spend most of our days off as guides when it’s our turn to fish and we in turn incorporate our findings into our guiding portfolio.   There are some rivers that produce browns and rainbows well over 20 inches and do not receive much angling pressure.  The Southwestern Alberta fishery is as good as any fishery and we are grateful to have it next door.