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This years St. Mary’s anglers consisted of Wayne and the twins, Jon Leonard, Dick and Mike Sasaki. Halfway through our week long expedition, Alberta Fish and Game closed a vast amount of its river system to fishing due to low and warm water conditions in order to preserve the trout. It was incredible bad luck returning to the St Mary’s after two years only to have half the days on the river taken away. The guides told us the closures were unprecedented. But Cam Jensen of Eastslope Adventures, managed to find a couple high country rivers that were not closed to fishing. We had great days on the Castle, the Old Man , and the Palmer Ponds. On August 14 and 15th, 18 fishing areas were closed due to low water flows combined with hot weather. Alberta Environment and Parks closed the Bow River, including the St May’s of the Waterton River and all tributaries upstream of the reservoir, castle river downstream of sh507, Pincher Creek, and the Old Man river downstream to road 501. I felt really bad for all the Calgary Outfitters who are out of work till the Bow reopens.
What started out as a busted trip turned out to be one of the most unique and memorable of our many trips to Alberta. We managed two days on the St Marys and the fish were big, beautiful and hot as usual. The water temps were in the 50s and the flows were down to 4.1cfs—the lowest we have ever seen. The river was different than we had ever seen it. Some of our favorite runs were unproductive and others seem to get good only at certain times of the day. We managed to get some great hopper fishing despite the 100 degree weather and there were some pretty good PMD sessions. There were not many groups of rising fish, but the ones we saw we generally caught. The St Marys was a technical as it has been. yet eveyone in the group caught fish over 20 inches on the Mary. The rest of the week we rotated groups to the Old Man, Castle and Palmer Ponds. I floated the Old Man twice this week. It was the first time I ever fished this river. The river holds very healthy rainbows, brown trout, cutthroats and cut bows, as well as bull trout. We all had 20 fish days fishing hoppers, indicator nymph rigs and streamers. I especially like the fast water dry fly fishing. It was amazing to see the fish hold in such fast water and still come up for a hopper or caddis. Next year, I think I will bring a spey line with a sink tip and try swinging softhackles.
The Waterton was too shallow to night streamer fish, but the boys manage to pick up some pike in some local ponds and lakes. The real highlight of the trip was the Palmer Spring Ponds
Several years ago I had the opportunity to fish these beautiful, highly technical Stillwater fly fishing ponds and on this trip all, six of us hooked and landed fish over 30 inches some on dry flies! Even the Syn Twins did a number on the some of the toughest trout around landing a 36 inch fish on a dry fly. The next day Mike landed a 30 incher and Dick landed a 39 inch 20lb fish! It was insane. Both Wayne and I hooked several fish over the 35 inch mark but they broke us off on 4X in the weeds and sticks around the beaver ponds. On my one day on the ponds, I hooked two fish over 30 inches but only managed to land the smaller one which turns out to be one of the biggest trout I have ever caught on stillwater trout tackle. The pond fish are spooky and tempermental. They hit only a handfull of flies– Midges, PMDS, Missing links, Clumpas, Floating Hoppers and Black Fat Alberts, water boatmen, cowboy leeches, ants and small wooly buggers. Most of the fishing on the ponds is site fishing. It is unnerving to watch a 30 inch trout in clear water cruising and eating midges. Watching a yard long trout slowely rise to a dry fly in still water is almost heart stopping and I can think of no where in the world you can do that. Its not Jurasic Lake–more like Jurasic Beaver pond.
If there is such thing as an Alberta Grand Slam, we as a group came close to achieving it. I had originally prepared to fish for Pike for an evening. Because of the river closures, the Syn Twins set a day aside to aim specifically for pike on a fly . In one day, they managed rainbow, cuthroats, cutbows, bull trout, whitefish and pike on flies. Thats what Alberta has to offer. I unfortunatly never made it over to the Pike water but I was definitly ready to go with wire leader flies and a stout 8 weight fly rod. I think the biggest Pike caught was around 37 inches. Maybe next year.
I like to post things I would have done differently so that I can be even more prepared next year. I would be sure to have some flies that I forgot to bring–specifically water boatmen, size 10 all black fat alberts, Wonder Hoppers in size 10, and small size 18 nymphomaniacs and some Deny Rickerts seal buggers. I would also pack a spey line with sink tip for the 3wgt Winston Micropsey. I would fish the ponds with 3X instead of 4X. I also think a 9.5 foot 6 wgt would be really usefull for the giant browns of the Waterton, the Small Pike on the ponds, and the yard long rainbows in the stillwater. Also, note to self – book a spring trip for the ponds and lakes for the best shot at 30 inch trout. And finally, shoot 4k video and gopros. 4KPhoto saves fish.
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