Fly Fishing Alberta
I remember the first time I played golf. It was a beautiful summer evening. That first shot flew out over the blue Edmonton sky and settled in the middle of the fairway. I was 12 years old and, from that moment on, addicted to golf. My appetite for fly fishing began many years later, but was also sparked by a single, memorable event – when, in a classic example of beginner’s luck, I landed a big brown trout on the Bow River.
Over the last decade I’ve wasted a glorious allotment of life’s brief flicker engaged in this new, perplexing pastime. Fly-fishing, like golf, is a pursuit that involves a litany of painful moments on the steep road toward competency. Unlike golf however, fishing does not entail the agony of a triple-bogey or the humiliation of a whiff. But, like the errant swing of a driver, casting a fly can result in plenty of frustration and some unintended consequences. There are missed fish, tangled lines – even an occasional need for the apologetic retrieval of a barbed hook from the derrière of a fellow fisherman.
There are a few different ways to wet a line. If you have a boat, you can drift a river or float a lake. If not, you can stand on a dock or cast from shore. But best of all is to walk and wade a shallow river. Nothing beats the solitary experience of crisscrossing a remote meandering creek, searching for elusive, rising fish. Plus I get to spend long peaceful hours alone with my favourite person. Haha.
Fly fishermen are notoriously secretive about their favourite fishing spots. One fall evening, at a secluded spot on the Oldman River in southern Alberta, I arrived late and, in the near-dark, set up camp. I wandered over to chat with a couple of well-fed fellows who were sitting contentedly by a campfire, cooking smokies and enjoying a few brews. A pair of hip-waders drying in the setting sun identified them as fly-fishermen.
‘Hi there,’ I said. ‘Can you tell me if there’s a good spot to fish around here?’ ‘
Yup,’ said the more portly of the two, taking a pull from his beer and looking downstream. ‘Just that way a bit. It’s called Zippermouth Creek.’
‘Where?’ I asked excitedly.
He looked at his buddy knowingly, then turning my way, pulled a thumb and index finger across his lips. Then he laughed, took another sip and returned his attention to the roaring fire. I slunk away – rebuffed but undeterred. And in the morning I did indeed hunt down a nice fishing hole. And since then I’ve discovered a few Zippermouth Creeks of my own.
Like every other endeavour, people who are skilled at fly-fishing make it look easy. A lot of time can be saved – and aggravation averted – by watching and imitating the pros. Turns out there are just three parts to the program. First, one must learn to operate a fly rod. Then, you need to figure out where the fish are hiding. Last is to determine what our pesce little friends are eating that day. My buddy Tony has patiently – and somewhat effectively – educated me in these three basic principles. But on occasion, even the master gets fish-schooled. We were drifting the Red Deer River on May 15th, opening day.
Tony was at the oars, scanning the surface, vigilant for signs of rising trout. Suddenly he pointed quietly toward a sunken log: ‘There, a big brown!’ He eased the boat toward shore and silently dropped anchor. Soon the telltale signs of a slurping snout re-emerged. Tony ambled onto the bank, tied on a green drake and, with precision, dropped the fly a few feet upstream of the log. The drift was textbook, directly over where the trout had been feeding. Nothing. Puzzled, he tied on a stonefly pattern and made another perfect cast. Nada. Finally he tried a caddis. Sure enough, the fish struck. But it was foul hooked and easily busted off. Tony, frustrated, gave up and, muttering about ‘dumb fish’, wandered up toward another hole.
I looked in my fly box, pulled out something that looked like a beetle, and tied it on. First cast the monster attacked. I set the hook and, to my utter amazement, the fly was firmly attached to the maw of an enormous brown. I reeled in the line but when the fish saw me – and I it – we both panicked. It set course for the middle of the river and the safety of strong current while I stumbled and fell on the slippery rocks. I regained my footing and after five minutes fighting the brute I called for help: ‘Tony, bring the net!’ But the cascading river drowned out my wails. I’d have to land the beast solo. Which, amazingly, I did, although the fish’s mouth and tail were spilling out the edges of my cheap net. Tony arrived in time to snap a picture, verifying what otherwise would have gone down in history as just another of Gerry’s fictional fish stories.
Do I tie my own flies? Certainly not. I get everything from my dealer, Tony. It starts with a phone call:
G: ‘Hey, Tony, I’m outa green drakes and I need some, real bad.’
T: ‘I ain’t got no green drakes, I can get ya some browns. Maybe.’
G: ‘No, Tony, please I really need the greens.’
T: ‘Ok, ok, calm down. I’ll leave a packet in the rear mailbox. Leave cash. Use the back gate and don’t let nobody see ya.’
G: ‘Thanks Tony, you’re a life saver.’
Then the conversation changes:
G: ‘Oh, Tony, did I mention the big cutthroat I landed at Prairie Creek last week.’
T: ‘No, Gerry. Tell me more. Was it male, female? Any colour?’
G: ‘Golden red. A fat male. 18 inches. Maybe more. With a huge kype.’
T: ‘Oh, Gerry, that is so-o-o exciting! Tell me more.’
I call this 1 (900) FISH TALK. It’s kinda weird. But then, fly fishermen really are fanatical.
These days I spend about as much time casting about as I do strolling fairways – and if I have the choice between fishing and golfing, more and more I’m leaning toward avoiding those nasty three-putts and instead trying to land that big one.
By the way, did I mention that, after hitting that first big drive all those years ago, I duffed three shots in a row?
contact Gerry at [email protected]
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. We hope you enjoyed his Irish adventure. He and his wife Florence live in Red Deer, AB and Kimberley, BC.
Southern Alberta hailstorm caused almost $1.2B in damage: insurance bureau
EDMONTON — The powerful hail storm that pounded homes, vehicles and crops across parts of southern Alberta last month caused almost $1.2 billion in insured damage.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the hail, rain and wind that hit Calgary, Airdrie and Rocky View County on June 13 were part of the costliest hailstorm and the fourth most expensive insured natural disaster in Canadian history.
Hail as big as tennis balls shredded vinyl siding, pounded roofs, smashed windows and flattened crops.
Celyeste Power, a vice-president with the bureau, says insurers are still processing claims.
The bureau says damage caused by hail and wind is typically covered by home, commercial and comprehensive auto insurance policies.
It notes that the Alberta government is offering some support for people who experienced overland flooding in flood-prone areas.
“Albertans know too well the stress, turmoil and financial hardships that severe weather events can cause,” she said Wednesday in a release.
“Of the 10 most costly disasters in Canada, six of these have hit Alberta. Fortunately, Albertans are resilient and continue to come together in difficult times like these.”
The most expensive insured natural catastrophe on record is the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, which cost almost $4 billion.
The next highest loss was the 2013 flooding in southern Alberta at $3.5 billion.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020
The Canadian Press
Alberta RCMP Officer attacked with own baton
From Cold Lake RCMP
Cold Lake RCMP officer recovering after aggravated assault
A 44-year-old male is in custody in Cold Lake following yesterday’s violent attack on the RCMP officer trying to effect his arrest.
At 5:30 p.m., Cold Lake RCMP located a stolen vehicle in the Walmart parking lot and the responding officer made an effort to deal with the vehicle and arrest the male who was believed to be responsible. The male allegedly assaulted the RCMP member by punching the member in the head. The RCMP member’s baton was taken by the male and the member was struck in the head numerous times with the baton.
The male fled on foot with the RCMP baton. The male smashed the window of a different, occupied vehicle in an unsuccessful attempt to steal it. He then threatened another driver with a knife and the baton and fled southbound on Highway 28 in the newly stolen Trailblazer.
Cold Lake RCMP initiated a pursuit and managed to cause the stolen Trailblazer to become disabled. The male was arrested on scene without further incident. The RCMP baton was recovered in the vehicle.
The RCMP member has been treated at the hospital for non life-threatening, but serious injuries and is recovering at home.
The male remains in police custody and will be facing charges as this investigation continues. An update will be provided when available.
“I want to thank the community members who came forward to assist our RCMP member and to provide valuable witness evidence in relation to this terrible incident” says Sergeant Ryan Howrish of the Cold Lake RCMP. “An incident like this highlights the unpredictable and dangerous situations we face on a daily basis.”
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