Fly fishing can be defined in many ways to different people. Some people define it as a hobby or pastime. Some get more serious and define it as art, a lifestyle, passion or livelihood. In my experience one tends to lead to the other.
So what is fly fishing? A search on the Internet will bring you a definition like this one – ‘fly fishing is an angling method, where the angler uses an almost weightless fly attached to a special weighted line in order to catch fish.’ This is about as cut and dry as you can get, although true it has a narrow scope. Fly fishing is much, much more than that. Fly fishing is a rhythm, a connection with nature and water; a slower more methodical way of fishing. It is relaxing and exhilarating.
Fly fishing is frustrating, yet rewarding. It can also be intimidating. The motion and timing have a learning curve and takes time and practice. Some compare the cast to a golf swing; every cast is different – some are great, others need work. Fly fishing may take a lifetime to master, but you can learn the basics of casting motion and timing in an afternoon or two.
First things first. If you are thinking about taking up fly fishing, you will need some equipment. Starter packages are available for a variety of price ranges and options. For around Central Alberta you will want a 5 or 6wt rod with matching reel and line. Echo and Temple Fork Outfitters both offer great inexpensive packages to start. They will run you $200-$300 roughly.
I would recommend casting lessons, an instructional DVD or the very least some YouTube research. I would also recommend starting on still water to get the feel for casting. The water current adds a whole new element that can be dealt with later. A few places that stand out in town for learning are Bower Ponds and the Waskasoo Pond which is close to Heritage Ranch. Both have large open areas for back casting (watch for pedestrians) and both have fish. Bower Ponds has a healthy pike population that entered the ponds in a flood a number of years back. You will need wire leader or thick monofilament 40lb+ to catch them. Waskasoo Pond is a stocked pond with rainbow trout.
Exploring fly fishing has shown me some of the most beautiful places I have seen. It can be an addition to many other activities due to its lightweight and compact pack size. It’s ideal to go along with activities such as hiking, camping, road trips, travelling home from out of town work, vacations, picnics, day trips and more. There are some amazing places to see and fish in and around Central Alberta with many species to target including brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout, a species of char known as Bull trout.
Fishers can also try and hook a Northern Pike (jack fish), walleye (pickerel), goldeye, mooneye, and more.
Some of my favourites to fish for are pike and trout. Pike are super aggressive, get big and can be found all over. Some great places to hit are Buffalo Lake, Cow Lake, Jack Fish Lake, Bower Ponds, the Red Deer River and the Blindman River. Pike like bright colours and erratic retrieves. You can also fish them on top with poppers and other surface flies. Trout are amazing because they live in amazing places. Ram River comes to mind and always the Bow River has world-class brown trout fishing that’s well known. Stocked ponds like Dickson Trout Pond, and Waskasoo Pond can provide some good fishing and easy access. Some less known places I like to fish for trout include the North Raven River, Shunda Creek and Abraham Lake just past Nordegg.
Exploring wilderness and connecting with nature are at the core of fly fishing. Have fun, fish barbless and practice catch and release.
Brandon Fawcett, originally from Red Deer, is the owner/operator of Fly Fishing Little Corn on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.