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Off-Season Fishing

The Highwood River

The Highwood River is located 25 to 60 minutes southwest of Calgary (depending on what stretch you have chosen to fish!) and provides the angler with good fishing and superb scenery. This is truly one of the most stunning places I have ever fished. Deep emerald pools combined with crystal clear water make it an amazing place to spend the day. A canyon stretch runs from the Kananaskis Country border down to Longview and a little bit past, and then it stays in a deep valley right up until it meets the Bow. Access can be found at a wide number of places, from Kananaskis Country picnic areas right through to Nature's Hideaway near the Bow. The smaller fish are quite abundant, and enough Bow River rainbows stay in the river after spawning is done to make the chance of hooking into a 23+ inch rainbow here a definite possibility. Some of the deepest pools hold immense bull trout, which will chase and strike at a hooked rainbow or cutthroat--sometimes stealing your catch right off your line!

The Highwood river has many fish species for us to chase. Predominantly we hunt rainbows, cutthroats, and bull trout, but this river does have brown and brook trout in it as well. The cutthroats can reach about 18-20 inches, though more commonly they run between 12-16 inches. The Bull trout in this river are massive, and some fish of 30 inches plus have been landed. The odd brown trout does make its way into the river here, though they are few and far between they usually end up being very large fish! They are more common the closer you get to the Bow. And of course there are the rainbows--both native to the stream and those that came up from the Bow to spawn...which means you can expect just about any size right up to the mid-20 inch class.

Highwood River Fish Species:
Rainbow trout
to around 20 inches (larger ones present but less common)
Cutthroat trout
to about 18-20 inches (larger ones present but very rare)
Bull trout
to 30 inches plus
Brook trout
mainly in upper sections
Brown trout
to 23+ inches but a rare catch here
Mountain whitefish
to 20 inches

Trip Information:
With its close proximity to Calgary, you may choose between full-day or half-day (if available) walk-and-wade trips for your guided trip to the Highwood. Please see our Trip Information page for what is involved in each and current rates.
Your day will start and end in Calgary, or a meeting place en route to the river. If you do not have your own transportation, we can arrange to pick you up at the Calgary airport or your hotel--call for availability.
Probably the single most important thing to expect in fishing the Highwood is to be blown away by the beauty and wildness of the river. The water is staggeringly clear and deceptively deep. The insect hatches can be intense and are usually some of the largest bugs we encounter. And the fish are fat, hard-fighting, and not always easy to catch--but always worth the effort. Most days we see 10-20 fish to hand averaging in the mid-teens, with one or two really exceptional fish whether they be rainbow, cutthroat or bull trout. That being said, days of 50+ fish are not uncommon. Our clients would probably catch more if they could keep their eyes on their fly instead of being distracted by the surrounding beauty!

The Highwood River canyon stretch

Fat Highwood cutthroat

A typical Highwood River bull trout

Evening comes to the upper Highwood

There is a sense of majic in pools like these

Angler doing battle with a nice Rainbow

Nice Highwood River rainbow being returned

It takes some scrambling, but it's worth it!

Angler fighting a scrapper

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 with matching reel and line as well as all flies and terminal tackle you require.
4-5wt fly rod with floating line for dries and nymphing
6-8wt fly rod with floating or sinking tip line for bull trout streamers
A 9ft 4-5X leader is usually all you need for dries and nymphs, though there are times in the slower pools you must use longer leaders of 6X or finer.
Streamer set-ups require 2X-0X.
See Our Flies and Hatch Charts for recommended flies (see the Bow River and Tributaries info)
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.

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

Click here for Highwood River Reports & Pictures