There aren’t many large cities in the world where you can step out your front door and walk a couple minutes to one of the best trout fishing rivers in the world. Here in Calgary, however, the words “any luck?” are heard frequently on the banks of the Bow River and, to a lesser extent, the Elbow.
In fact, if you’re lucky enough to live in a riverside community, you can easily get out for a quick half-hour or hour of casting every day all summer long.
Longtime local fly fisherman and outdoors writer Jim McLennan was one of the first fly-fishing guides on Alberta’s legendary Bow River. He has been casting his line in local waters since 1970.
Like most Calgary anglers, Jim prefers the Bow to the Elbow, simply because it’s a bigger river with more variety of fish. Although the Elbow does carry brown and rainbow trout, mountain whitefish and northern pike, according to Albertafishingguide.com, it doesn’t have the same world-class reputation as the Bow.
“The best parts of the Bow are generally in the southern half of Calgary. A lot of it is accessible in Fish Creek Park and through the great bike path system in southeast Calgary.” – Jim McLennan, local angler and fly-fishing guide
Numerous fish species live in the Bow River, including brook, brown, rainbow, bull and cutthroat trout, as well as whitefish, burbot, sturgeon and walleye, which require a special license.
Jim says he catches mostly rainbow and brown trout of a decent size. “This part of the Bow is known for its large average-size fish,” he said. “They run from small through large, but with many between 16 and 22 inches or so – both rainbows and browns.”
Though he has nothing against spin casting, Jim’s a “fly guy” at heart. “There’s no one fly that always works and no ‘secret fly.’ The right fly depends on the time of year, the water conditions and the peculiarities of the fish that we can’t explain,” he said.
“The best parts of the Bow are generally in the southern half of Calgary. A lot of it is accessible in Fish Creek Park and through the great bike path system in southeast Calgary.”
Alberta fishing licenses and Alberta WIN (Wildlife Identification Number) cards are required whether you are fishing for keeps or catch-and-release. You can purchase and renew both online at albertarealm.com or at select retail stores for $28 and $8, respectively (anyone 16-and-under or 65-plus is free).
Different waterways have different regulations, including when the river is open for fishing and whether it’s catch-and-release only. There might even be different rules for different species of fish, so make sure you find out about any restrictions before you go at albertaregulations.ca/fishingregs.