I’ve read a lot of fly fishing tips but living in Saskatoon does not afford one the opportunity to fly fish a river for trout very frequently. Never having done so, I didn’t think I was missing much. After all, there are plenty of ponds and small lakes stocked with trout within a couple hours drive of Saskatoon. But, as I was delighted to find out, there’s a big difference between a trout laying at the bottom of still water and a trout spending it’s life in a river moving 15 miles per hour. Wild trout vs. stocked trout? I’ll take the wild trout please.
I was fortunate to be fishing with someone who has fished the bow river many times and knows how to read the water for good fish holding areas. In fact, as my brother in law Terry was demonstrating how to cast the double nymph rig, he immediately hooked a fish. A small rainbow was sent back to grow bigger. Now I was pumped! Standing in the Bow River, fly fishing, one fish already caught, but not by me, yet. I decided to follow his fly fishing tips as I awkwardly cast the stone fly and san juan worm into the seam between the fast water and the slow water just in front of me, and let it drift through a pool. After three or four tries, I got one “not too bad” according to Terry and suddenly the strike indicator was gone. I set the hook with a quick tug and “FISH ON!”. Being a novice to river fishing, I gave it too much and it took off cross-river, got behind a rock, and worked it’s way free of the hook. thinking we may have “spooked the hole”, we waded down stream 25 or 30 steps to a spot Terry called a “classic nymph run”. I worked the nymph rig into place with a couple of casts and drifted through the hole, poorly, the first four times. On the fifth try, a decent cast, a decent mend to the line, and the strike indicator disappears again. I set the hook, the fish takes off. Terry not too gently instructs me to turn the fish to the bank. I manage to do this, while noticing the pull on the line and the bend in my 9 foot 6 weight fly rod is nearly 90 degrees. This one feels like the “Bow River ‘bows” I’ve heard about! It takes off, down stream, a strong fish with the current and my reel makes that beautiful ZIIIIIIIIINNNNNG sound of a good fight. On aerial display number of 4, we can see it’s a good sized fish. After a 3 or 4 minute battle, we have the fish in hand (see the pictures in the Campfire). My first fish landed on the Bow River is an 18″ Rainbow Trout. I was feeling pretty good about it, especially as we released it back into the river.
The gear we were using was a 9 foot, 6 weight rod, floating line, 9 feet of leader with a strike indicator, 2 feet of 4x tippet tied to a San Juan worm with an extra 18″ of 4x tippet tied to the hook on the San Juan and then to a stone fly nymph. “Why the two flies?”, I asked Terry. “Because the rainbows like the stoneflys and the browns like the worms he explained. I couldn’t argue, and for good reason. We moved another 25 to 30 feet down stream and I worked the rig through a similar seam and a few good drifts later had hooked into a big brown. It took off right away and I could feel the power of this fish. 5 minutes later, we discovered the 20” brown trout had taken the San Juan worm.
What I learned was that fishing a nymph rig was al about getting the right float. If you don’t pass through the hole looking like the way the food usually does, you get ignored. Get the right float, and your chances improve. With the fast moving water of the Bow River, a bad float might last 5 seconds, and your flies may never get in the right place, down low, into the pools that hold the fish. This is usually caused by too much fly line laying on the water ahead of the strike indicator. A good cast, about 45 degrees from the bank, and a slight mend to the line, seems to double the time the flies are drifting, getting deeper, acting like food. On all of my bad casts/mends/floats I caught no fish at all. That’s one big difference between river fishing and lake fishing, technique really matters. You don’t need to cast very far to catch the fish only 10 feet in front of you, but you need to use good technique. On a lake, many a bad cast have produced fish for me. In fact, I’ve hit the water on my back cast before when fly fishing for Pike and accidentally caught a fish, on the back cast. On the Bow River, it’s all about getting the right float.
We have more fly fishing tips in the journal. We encourage you to read them and add you comments.
We hope this story will help you land more fish the next time you go rainbow trout fly fishing or brown trout fly fishing. Keep the fly fishing tips from this story in mind.