The fall is the time to fish

Don’t put away the fishing rod just yet. The fall season is still a perfect time for fly fishing, says David Blair, owner of Fish Tales Fly Shop. With winter fast approaching the fish are feeding heavily, and this is good news for fishermen.

Fly fishing is all about interacting with the fish and their environment. Successful fishermen know what the fish populations are doing so that they can act accordingly. Blair says that September and October are prime times to go fishing because of how the fish are behaving.

“The two main species are brown trout and rainbow trout, and they’re actually doing almost exactly opposite things,” Blair says.

In the fall the brown trout are preparing to spawn and that means that there will be a period of intense feeding leading up until the spawning and then there will be a few weeks where they won’t be eating at all as they spawn. The rainbow trout, meanwhile, are preparing for winter and will be feeding consistently to last through the winter. As long as the weather allows it, Blair says they will run trips into November.

Condition of the riverGuide Terry Johnson (center) launches his boat from Policeman’s Flats.

Photo by Evan Manconi

Earlier in the year, the Bow River experienced the longest and highest run-off that local guides can remember.

Now the river has dropped and the water has cleared up, and that makes for better fishing.
Terry Johnson, head guide for Fish Tales, says, “With the clearer water the fish can see the flies coming down and you can get a lot more hook-ups than when the water is off-colour.”

The appeal of fall fishing for beginners is that they are likely to catch a lot of fish. There are plenty of smaller fish in the river that are easier to land, but there is always an opportunity to catch the monster browns.

How the fishing has been

“Monday we caught a 25-inch brown that was seven pounds. All of a sudden he hooks it and we saw this big huge swirl and we knew it was a big fish,” Johnson says.

Right below Policeman’s Flats, a popular boat launch south of Calgary, there is a section of water where the guides pull over to demonstrate how to cast. To the right there is slow water and to the left is fast water. Johnson tries to show what it would look like to hook a fish.

“I meant to throw it into the slow water, hook the bottom, because the bottom stops the indicator,” he says. “I threw it over there and boom, 22-inch rainbow.”

After bringing the fish in, one of the other guys casts into the same spot and hooks a fish.

“Boom, his very first cast a 24-inch brown, and that’s why people fish the Bow,” Johnson says.

Guide Terry Johnson demonstrating how set the hook and land the fish.

Photo by Evan Manconi
Other fishing

It isn’t only trout fishing that picks up in the fall. Pike fishing also lends itself to cooler temperatures.

Ed Dea, a geologist and avid fisherman, says that he is excited for an upcoming pike fishing trip.

“The water for pike is better because when the water cools off they come into the shallows. In the summer the water gets warm and they tend to stay pretty deep,” says Dea. The warmer summer temperature causes the fish to seek out deep cooler water and it makes the fishing more challenging. Dea says that trout fishing suffers from the same problems when it gets too hot out.

River traffic

On top of the cooler water conditions, this time of year always has bugs hatching, whether it’s midges, blue wing olives or tricos. Hatching bugs benefits the fishermen because they know that the fish are actively feeding on these particular flies.

“There just isn’t the pressure that you see during the middle of summer,” guide Johnson says. “You don’t have rafters coming down on top of your bobber. Plus there is always a chance for a rising fish.”

EMANCONI@CJOURNAL.CA