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Article Teaser: Alberta's international gateway cities of Edmonton and Calgary have rivers that run through them, and those rivers are alive with big, nasty fish that draw fishermen from around the world. It's the best of both worlds: big city living when you want it and rugged wilderness right next door.

Keep reading below...

Get Best of Both Worlds: Alberta City Fishing

Copyright (c) 2007-2017 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
Written by:

Alberta's international gateway cities of Edmonton and Calgary have rivers that run through them, and those rivers are alive with big, nasty fish that draw fishermen from around the world. It's the best of both worlds: big city living when you want it and rugged wilderness right next door.

Edmonton is the international gateway city to the North, so besides the remote fly-in fishing lodges that you can easily access, you've got a city of about one million people that offers one of the world's largest shopping malls (West Edmonton Mall – The Greatest Indoor Show On Earth) along with great fishing.

And while the focus is always fishing, Keith Rae, owner and operator of Get Hooked Fishing Adventures, says you should be prepared to experience a whole lot more. But first things first: let's talk about the fish when you're fishing the North Saskatchewan River, which infuses Edmonton with the rare opportunities for adventure.

"The opportunities for that fish of a lifetime are always there," says Rae, a professional guide whose been a top outfitter in the area for more than 10 years. "Walleye up to 13 pounds and Pike between 16 to 23 pounds are fairly common. You'll experience scrappy Goldeye and you never know if the elusive Sturgeon will bite your hook. We have actually pulled five species out of just one hole."


Have the River to Yourself

The North Saskatchewan provides fishermen, especially if they are traveling with their family or spouse, the best of both worlds, says Rae. "You get the comforts and amenities of the big city but within just an hour west, I can give you a true wilderness adventure. You can fish within the city, but go just a bit outside and it's a whole different world. Very few people fish the river, so you have it to yourself and I am the only one that guides that river system."

"A lot of people tell me they would never find that sort of experience that close to a major population of a million people anywhere in the world," says Rae. "You might see the odd canoe going by on a weekend, but as far as other fishermen, you have your own private world."

And if you want a different fishing experience, there are many nearby lakes with explosive fishing action where getting 50 to 100 fish is not uncommon. "We've done that lots of times," says Rae. "And now that I offer fly fishing we cater to everything and everyone. Whether you are a spin caster or a fly fisherman, Get Hooked can accommodate."

For experienced fly fishermen the possibilities of 10 to 20 pike is common, says Rae. Site fishing for Goldeye is available and nymph fishing for Walleye. "Having fished the river since 1994 has given us plenty of time to know the holes where the fish travel and hide," says Rae. "With very little pressure the fish are more than ready to bite. We have four different stretches and we never fish the same stretch two days in a row because we don't pressure the fish. We have specially made outboard jets that give us access to places no other boats can get to and we are able to run as shallow as two inches of water."


Best of Both Worlds

Now let's talk about that 'best of both worlds' business. First, the shopping. You may not be a big shopper (most guys aren't), but if your wife is along for the ride, and you've got kids to boot, just fishing may not make it the ultimate holiday. I've been to the West Edmonton Mall and it is a massive sports and entertainment complex that mixes a zillion activities and spectacles along with shopping, all beneath one roof that spans eight city blocks. And even though the summer daylight runs past 10 p.m. in Alberta – providing a lot of time for fishing – there's got to be some downtime somewhere.


Fishing Fantasy

It's no surprise that Rae's most popular package is called Fishing Fantasy.

"The thing about the families is that sure, you can make it a fishing expedition, but the women can go shop at the West Edmonton Mall, plus there's all the fine dining and patios and art and culture offered by the city," says Rae. "Because of the proximity, you are right there. My biggest package right now, Fishing Fantasy, lets you stay in the Fantasyland Hotel connected to the West Edmonton Mall, you can add days, and we even supply a coupon for a 'passport for savings' book. You can get your wife hooked on that!"

It's an adventure, says Rae, not just a fishing trip. People can pan for gold at lunchtime if they choose or go on a fossil find or comb gravel covered islands for souvenirs.

"The North Saskatchewan is historically a river containing gold and it's not often you don't find colour in your pan," says Rae. It's seldom you find a nugget but for some people panning for gold and finding flour gold in the pan is an experience that they can take back home with them.

Get Hooked is all inclusive; the companies supplies everything: rods, reels and a full, sit down gourmet lunch. The trips start at 8 a.m. and you usually fish until about 5 p.m. which leaves you hours of sunlight to enjoy one of Edmonton's many festivals.

If you wait until the autumn, Rae says the fall season is one of his strongest. "The fishing just gets better with the season, they start holing up, and they are not so spread out," he says.


Fishing Calgary's Famous Bow River

If you want to get to the throbbing heart of the Bow River, you want to go with this guy. Tom Cutmore of "Must Be Nice" Drift Company is so passionate about the river and so knowledgeable about its fishery that he had me on the phone for more than an hour and baby, I was running a deadline, but I was hooked.

"We have nasty fish with big trout that go screaming across the river," says Cutmore, eagerly explaining how one of his customers experienced the Bow. "He shouts 'My backing is half gone' – now we're jumping in the boat so he can get his backing back. I've had a fish tangle a guy up and he almost got spooled and we went back and forth from bank to bank, and when the fish went to the weeds, the backing failed. What can you do? That's the type of fish we have in this river."

"I think the Bow river is the best river in the world," says Cutmore, who, sure, is going to be biased, but you've got to check out Cutmore's website about the Bow River to see the full extent of what the river offers fishermen. You can even check the flow rates. The website in and of itself is a trip!

To take a page from Cutmore and his website, the Bow River is an angler's paradise. This world class Rainbow and Brown Trout fishery draws fly fishers from around the planet. The many miles of trout water are best fished from drift boats, as access is limited, says Cutmore, who's been guiding it since the 80s. The shoreline is, for the most part, easily waded with endless angling opportunities. The numerous islands, riffles, runs and flats hold a large population of wild native Rainbow and Brown trout, he adds. The summer months are the peak season and usually the best fishing.


Get Big Trout

"We have a river there that is unsurpassed," says Cutmore. "It's a river that is known world wide for big, big trout."

"To my knowledge the river has only been stocked once and the fishery has been self sustaining," says Cutmore. "On a lot of rivers a 16 inch trout in fresh water is a great fish; that is our average size and we get 20 inches and under certain circumstances when the weather and fish cooperate, you can catch 24 inches. One client caught a 29 inch Brown. This has become known as a big fish river."

It's a river that's really good by accident, not really design, says Cutmore. There are a few dams upstream of Calgary "and they are, I believe, mid-draw dams, not bottom draw," he says. If you have a bottom draw dram above a fishery, he explains, it better regulates the temperature of the river and keeps it cooler in summer months, so it's better for the fish.

The city of Calgary is about one million people and the effluent put into the river facilitates the growth of some weed, he says. This is a byproduct of a city on the banks of the river; the effluent grows bugs and so you get very big fish. The story goes that a train wreck in the 1920's prevented the Rainbows from being stocked in Banff National Park and a wise someone released the trout in the Bow. About the same time a wagon broke down in Carrot Creek and the Park's Canada wagon operator released 40,000 Brown Trout. That's how the German Browns arrived.

Calgary was settled at the confluence of two rivers: the Elbow and the Bow, where a lot of wildlife lives. So along with the fishing, you'll be experiencing wildlife throughout your trip, and when you want it, big city living. This is a city where someone working downtown can go out for lunch, fish, go back shower and get back to work.

And if you're considering your budget, says Cutmore, the dollar it is still favourable for Americans to come here. A 12-hour day on the Bow is no more expensive than say a round of golf at a highly rated golf course.

"Fishing, canoeing, watching bald eagles, hawks and all the birds here, it's a great resource, the Bow," says Cutmore. "If we are on a given stretch of the Bow, if we see another two dozen boats that is a very busy day. We'll often have privacy; this is a river that can be enjoyed by everyone."


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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