Conditions such as weather, water clarity, height & temperature are constantly changing living in Calgary at the base of the Rocky Mountains. We’ve lived here all our lives and do everything possible to stay on top of the ever changing conditions. This page is to try and help you understand what to expect. We try very hard to stay on top of our fishing reports so you know how the different fisheries we guide on have been producing, and we’ve broken down the seasons, not as you would see the “4 Seasons” but instead into the season in which we fish the River.
Spring is filled with as much excitement as it is anticipation. With the melting snow, longer days, and warming of the season there is much to be grateful for and excited about. The possibility of early season dry fly fishing excites the die hard dry fly fans, while most anglers are just excited to be able to wet a line without fear of frozen guides or frostbite. These two months are typically characterized by “Feast or Famine” fishing conditions. April and May can be epic adventures or epic fail when it comes to the landing department. For whatever reason these two months can be very difficult to pattern the feeding behavior of the trout. One day these fish may be feeding so voraciously they will make anyone feel like a fly fishing hero worthy of everyones praise and admiration, only to humble the most experienced and seasoned veteran the next day with seemingly identical conditions. This is a time of year where dry fly fishing is a great bonus, but not something that can be counted on all years. At this time of year the browns are most dominant and reign supreme as many of their rainbow counterparts are up the tributaries spawning. May will mark a return of many of these rainbows back to the main stem of the Bow itself, and these fish are typically eager to put on the feedbag and make up for the weight they lost during spawning. Blue Winged Olive and Midge hatches can sometimes blanket the water at this time of year along with sporadic March Browns and even the smaller skwala stones. If the fish decide to look up life can be good for everyone.
The weather in April and May is a much needed break from the long winter months, however it can still be unpredictable. Freak little snow storms are still possible in April, although if they happen the snow rarely sticks around more than a few hrs or days. May is a month where we typically start seeing rainstorms as well. Late March some years also offers warm beautiful days that can provide great fishing. As spring progresses the river valley begins to bloom and renew the lush green grasses and leaves that will line the banks until fall.
These two months can be exceptional, or very tough and frequent combinations of both. Its a time of year more suited to local traffic as guide trips such as a float trip down the bow or walk and wade can be exceptional if you hit it right, or if you happen to be here for work or a conference or something like that. If you’re planning your trip to Calgary and the Bow specifically for a fishing holiday than we’d advise you wait until later in the season when the river fishes more consistently and is easier to pattern.
Typically much of the month of June is a write off for us due to snowmelt in the mountains and spring runoff. This usually starts around the last week of May first week of June and usually clears up and becomes fishable again the last week June, or in extreme cases the first week of July (there have only been 2 years we can remember where the river wasn’t fishable July 1st, one of those being 2005 the year of a 50, 100, and 200 year floods all that spring). Some years we don’t get a big runoff and the river stays fishable the whole month, but this is NOT something we can count on or predict. This is another month we would not recommend planning a fishing holiday during. If you happen to be in town for work, a conference or live in the area there is always the possibility that runoff could be late, end early or small enough in its intensity that the river is fishable, but don’t count on that without contacting us first. Keep in mind Out Fly Fishing outfitters offers many other trips during this time period, such as pike on the fly, arctic grayling trips, or still water trout trips for those who find themselves in town at this time of year and still wanting to be able to go on an exciting and productive guided fly fishing trip.
This is prime time on the Bow River. The majority of the guided trips happen during these three months as all of them typically offer, consistent weather for fishing, good-epic hatches and insect activity, and good fishing. Once runoff has come through the river fishes much more consistently and predictably. Living on the water and in drift boats all summer we’ve learned how fickle mother nature can be and how difficult it can be to pattern creatures like fish, however if there’s anytime of year that you have the best chance of patterning our fish it is now. If you’re a dry fly fisherman this is when you want to be on the bow river
July starts with water that is still fairly high, fast flowing, and usually moderately colored still after run off. The first week Post run off can be some of the best streamer fishing of the year. With high colored water fish are stacked against the banks and territorial. This also marks the time of year where our giant golden stones begin hatching. The dropping clearing water still has enough color to it that big fish will feel very comfortable laying and feeding in very shallow water. As the water drops and clears we transition to more nymphing and dry fly fishing activity, but streamer fishing can still be good anytime during the seasons that the right conditions present themselves. The golden stones are trout candy and they go nuts over them, but caddis hatches and PMD’s can not be overlooked and become your daytime staples. By the last week of July the river has typically dropped and completely cleared where there will be unlimited visibility.
August marks a month that typically has our most heat and least rain. Keep in mind if we do get rain its not a bad thing, short violent hail storms that blow through in 30 minutes or less can often murk up the water and make for exceptional streamer fishing. August is typically characterized by warm weather a dry fly fishing opportunities There are always fish around that you can catch nymphing, which is great for people who love the numbers and when you’re learning to fly fish, but when you’re ready for the true challenge of hunting fish on the surface with dries this can be the month of your dreams. August will get massive Trico hatches, the smallest of the Mayfly family which can be extremely challenging, exciting and an unbelievably rewarding if you can land one of these tanks on a size 20 and smaller dry fly! There’s nothing quite like walking banks hunting for snouts, and then when you find them stalking the one fish, watching him sip naturals and then fooling him when he sips your fly over the unlimited number of natural options around it. Its hard to beat how rewarding a feeling that is. Don’t be discouraged if tiny flies isn’t your thing as we often still see stoneflies around into August and then late August marks the time of year we typically see hoppers coming out to play. Nothing like slapping big dries at the bank while you float down river and then stopping to stalk and hunt for snouts along the banks.
September can be an almost magical time of year on the river. Most people have already taken their summer holidays at this point and kids are back in school so the river has less traffic. That being said a busy day on the bow may remind you of the least busy day you’ve seen on many of the Montana trout rivers. The Bow is a big river and people are good at spreading out. Out Fly Fishing outfitters also realizes that no fish we’ve met feeds on a 9-5 schedule so we start earlier or later, whenever possible to to keep you on the water with as few people around and possible. Early September is often still very hot and the hoppers are typically in full swing. September can also be characterized by its incredible Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches. These tiny mayflies in the #18-24 range can somedays blanket the river giving it an almost furry appearance. Mid too late September marks the onset of cooler nights and warm days that tend to be pleasant instead of some of the blistering heat August can deliver. This is also when the river starts changing color and the river valley is painted with the vibrance of fall. Browns are on the move, making their way upriver towards their spawning grounds for late October, early November. These transitional fish are often very aggressive an ideal targets for bombing streamers to the banks while drifting from the boat. We find some very big fish at this time of year that only really get seen at this time while they’re on the move.
October and November can both provide exceptional fishing opportunities, these two months just become much more weather dependent. Early October can be absolutely gorgeous. At this time of year we can still get warm comfortable days but the cooler nights trigger aggressive feeding behavior as the trout know it won’t be long before winter. The rainbows will often feed very aggressively trying to fatten up before winter. October and November mark the period when our brown trout spawn so there may not be as many around however pre spawn fish can sometimes be very aggressive and post spawn fish can be very hungry and anxious to try and recover as much weight as quickly as possible before winter sets in. At this time of year guided trips are more weather dependent than fishing dependent. At some point in October we’ll often get a quick snow storm, but the snow is usually gone as it lands or within hours, snow won’t stay in October very long or very often. The fishing is usually consistent, people’s dedication to fishing in cold weather is usually far less consistent.
This is when we finally get to fish because we’re not working everyday 😉 The Lower Bow, or the Blue Ribbon section of the Bow is open year round, however through the winter we will get temperatures that will make it far too cold to fish. Below -20C frozen guides on your rod aren’t even the issue anymore, there will be so much ice coming down the river you wouldn’t be able to get your leader through to get your flies to the bottom, and even if you did you wouldn’t want to bring a fish out of the water in those temperatures. Not to be discouraged though the Bow still affords us plenty of fishing opportunities throughout the winter as Calgary is prone to getting Chinooks (warm winds from the mountains that heat the air and melt our snow). During Chinooks we can be well above freezing and the fishing on these days can still be great. Nymphing is the main game in town through winter but some trout are still willing to grab streamers or a swung fly. When it gets warm enough midges will start popping and you never know when a trout will decide to sip one of these in the warmer days of March between winter and spring. We’ve done guided trips in December right through to March, but again this is not a time of year to plan a fishing trip. If you’re local or happen to be in town for work, or any other reason and the weather cooperates a trip could be viable, and there’s something about breaking out the waders and hitting the river months before everyone else that is exciting and liberating.