Fly fishing is a great pastime for many Albertans during the summer months, with a tremendous selection of superb fishing locations within an hour’s drive around Calgary. As such, fishing inside the city limits is often overlooked. But devoted anglers, like John Vukelic and Sean Bowett, say fishing within Calgary is not only as good as the locations outside the city, it’s even better.

As summer comes to a close, Vukelic encourages people to make their way to the river even if they haven’t had a chance to get out this year. For him, August to November offers a great in-city fishing experience.

“Late summer, all the way through to November is the time to fish. What’s happening here is all your fish species are feeding up for the winter and it’s just dynamic. You throw in a fly, run it right, present properly, and boom you got a fish on the line.”

Rules and regulations

One of the perks of fishing in the city is that you can find great locations close to home. This makes fishing on the Bow River an attractive option for people getting their start. But it’s also important to educate yourself on the bylaws as a failure to comply could lead to large fines and even criminal charges.

One of the most important things to know before heading down to the river is that it is strictly catch and release. Another significant detail to be aware of is hoot hours — when fishing isn’t aloud under any circumstances. If you are unsure of what the hoot hours are in your location check Bowett explains the importance of observing these hours.

“Hoot hours are brought in due to low flow volumes through the rivers, and the high temperatures. Alberta Fish and Wildlife, along with Alberta Environment, bring in these restrictions to ease the stress on the fish,” Bowett said.

“It’s typically at the end of summer months that they put these hours in. When the water temperatures are steady above a certain point for three days in a row and the flow levels are down as well. It typically happens at the end of July, and in September they tend to lift them, so we only get them in the summer months.”

Bowett also mentioned that certain laws apply to the fishing gear used and it’s not allowed to use live bait as other particulars to be aware of.

2-12 p.m. has been the hoot hours for the last two years. PHOTO BY JAMES WINDLER

What makes fly fishing unique

While there’s rules and regulations to brush up on beforehand, Bowett and Vukelic had nothing but positive things to say about the fishing scene in the city and encouraged people to head down to the bow if they want to get their start in fishing, particularly fly fishing.

“I don’t like spinners on this river for one reason,” Vukelic said. “To effectively fish them you need a small lure, what’s called a Panther Martin, and they only come in treble hooks. These have three hooks and all it does is hurt the fish unnecessarily and for all that pain on the fish you got to release it anyway.

“On the fly rod, the fight is so much more fun. It’s just so much more dynamic, so much more personal. You got to finesse it, and you got to be gentle with it. On a spin [rod], it really does all the work for you.”

Vukelic checking the waters. PHOTO BY JAMES WINDLER

How to get started

Vukelic and Bowett admitted to spending a healthy chunk of money building up their fishing gear but advised people that are just getting their start to not overspend right out of the gate.

“You don’t gotta go spend thousands of dollars on your gear when getting started,” Bowett said. “Be patient with it because it’s not one of those things that you pick up immediately. There’s forms [certain techniques] to fly fishing that impact it significantly if you’re not doing it correctly.”

Bowett has been fishing on the Bow River regularly since 2020. PHOTO BY JAMES WINDLER

So, what are those forms and how can you develop fly fishing skills if you are new to that style of fishing? Vukelic said there’s no better way to get the form down than heading to a local fishing shop that offer instruction.

“If you’re just starting, one of the better ways to start into the sport would be to go to one of the multiple fly shops in town and take a beginners fly fishing course where you learn how to cast and all the rest of that,” Vukelic said.

“They love to teach you what bug selection to use, what fly selection. They teach what hatches at what time of year and things like that. It would be the best way to get started. I would recommend new people go to something like this.”

A simple search on Google should provide additional information on which shops do and don’t offer fly fishing programs.

Bow Lagoon Bridge on the north shore of the Bow River across from Bowness. PHOTO: CALGARY JOURNAL

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