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Off-Season Fishing

The Bow River

The Bow river is Calgary's claim to flyfishing fame. It is classified as a blue ribbon trout river and simply provides great fishing for large brown and rainbow trout.
The prime stretch lies in and southeast of the city of Calgary, although good fishing for many species can be found throughout. The Bow is a large river with a gentle flow at most times. It can provide fabulous dry fly fishing but for the most fish it is mainly a subsurface quest. The resident rainbows and browns regularly top 20 inches...with the occasional specimen approaching 30 inches. You can expect numerous fish in the 16-22 inch range which, although exceptional in many rivers, is considered the norm on the Bow.
The river runs through a beautiful cottonwood valley and the river itself has many islands and side channels. Fast riffles and glassy slicks are both common. Nymphing produces consistently on this stretch, but when rising fish are found there is no experience equal to the dry fly fishing the Bow can offer. A 20+ inch fish on a size 20 fly is common. Stripping a large streamer can often produce the very largest fish, especially near dark. We simply cannot say enough about the Bow...it has to be experienced. While it may not produce the numbers of fish our mountain streams do, it is a wonderful river to experience and the thrill of a 4+ lb trout screaming across the current puts a smile on the face of even the most stressed-out anglers.

Fish Species:
Rainbow trout
to 29+ inches (average16-22 inches)
Brown trout
to 30+ inches (average 16-23 inches)
Cutthroat trout - Rainbow hybrid to 20+ inches
Bull trout
to 30+ inches (very rarely caught here)
Mountain whitefish
to 22 inches
Northern pike, walleye, goldeye, sturgeon, burbot
(all rare above Carseland)

Trip Options:
You may choose between full-day or half-day float trips or walk-and-wades in joining us to hunt for monster brown and rainbow trout on the Bow River. Please see our Trip Information page for what is involved in each and current rates.
If your time frame is flexible, we will recommend the optimal fishing period for your half-day or full-day trip based on current fishing experiences. If, however, you're on a tight schedule during your stay in Calgary we will be happy to work with your schedule.
What to Expect:
The average or better fly fisherman can expect a great time on the water and at least one 20 inch plus trout (often several). The novice angler can expect to learn a lot of techniques for fishing large rivers and fighting large fish, and hopefully land a few beauties as well! Numerous local anglers have come with us to improve on their Bow River fishing techniques, and many of them write back to let us know that they are now taking fish regularly.
Trips start and end at your hotel in Calgary, or a meeting place in south Calgary if you have transportation.
Summertime trips can expect good nymphing at first light followed by (usually) a little slower action throughout the day if it is bright and sunny. During mid-day we stalk the shorelines for snouts, work faster riffles with nymphs, or strip streamers through current seams. Overcast summer days can be excellent, with all-day hatches and good nymphing as well. Of course the real highlight of Bow River fishing in the summer comes in the evening when the fish move in to slurp hatching or egg-laying caddis.
Late summer into September you can expect to be doing most of your fishing with a dry fly. Hoppers are a great way to fish the river at that time, and the takes are usually very violent and exciting!
Spring fishing (March, April and May) is a combination of nymphing and streamer fishing, but is often some of the best fishing of the year.
If you dream of huge wild trout on the fly, the Bow is the place for you!

One good-lookin' Bow River brown trout

Stripping streamers on the Lower Bow

A typical 21in Bow River rainbow on the dry

Angler battling Bow River bullet at dusk

Happy angler with Bow River beauty

Golden Stonefly shucks on bankside rock

Nice 23in rainbow being released from net

A gentle release of a beautiful fish

The Bow flowing through cottonwoods below Calgary

A classic big Bow River brown trout

Evening caddis action is unequaled

Searching for snouts pays off

Sun sets on a river full of promise

What You Need to Bring:
Please see our Trip Information page for what we provide during your trip. This speaks to those incidentals that help make your trip more enjoyable.
- hat
- headlamp or small clip-on flashlight
- camera
- sunscreen
- bug spray
- polarized glasses
- wind/rain/wading jacket
- hydration pack

Recommended Gear:
You are welcome to bring your own rod(s) and reel(s), flies, vest, etc. but keep in mind that we are pleased to offer the use of Loop Flyrods with matching reels and line as well as all flies and terminal tackle you require.
4-6wt Fly Rod with floating line for dry fly fishing and nymphing
6-8wt fly rod with floating or sinking tip line for streamer fishing
For dry fly fishing, a 9ft 4X leader is usually all you need, though we may recommend adding 5X tippet if the fish are being selective.
For streamers, a short length of heavy butt section married to 20in or so of 0X-2X is often ideal.
See Our Flies and Hatch Charts for recommended flies
Waders & Boots:
Breathable CHEST waders are highly recommended coupled with supportive, felt-soled wading boots. If you do not own such they can be rented reasonably here.
We're happy to take care of the netting of all fish on your trip, but if you want to bring your own, think BIG! :)  The shallow, catch-and-release style nets do not work well on our large Bow River fish unless they have stretchable netting. Look for one with a large opening and basket for extra insurance.

Reports and Pictures from Recent Bow River Trips:
Click below to view a current Bow River fishing report along with pictures from our recent trips.

Click here for Bow River Reports & Pictures