The Best Bow River Fishing Spots in Calgary

Mar 2 , 2021 · 6 min read

For those who love to fish, knowing where to fish on any body of water is key to a successful day, and is important when it comes to actually catching some fish. For even the most expert of anglers, the Bow River in and around Calgary tends to challenge them. 

Two big questions loom large regarding this river:

1) Where on the river are the best fishing spots,


2) what equipment/bait should I use?

To paint the answer in broad strokes of where to be and when to be there is everything. But having the right rig (your fishing rod, reel, and line set up) are important as well. 

Trout is the main catch in this river, and they are likely to hang out at the bottom of the lake around structure areas. Your flies and lures must be able to get down there where they are in order to entice them to bite. Anywhere out of their “zone” and you will not have much luck.

Bow River Fishing Spots in Calgary

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The Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, is renowned worldwide for its exceptional fly fishing opportunities. One of the most sought-after spots is the section between the city and the town of Cochrane. This stretch is famous for its healthy population of wild rainbow and brown trout, making it a prime destination for both novice and experienced anglers. The river’s riffles, runs, and deep pools provide diverse habitats for fish, while the scenic backdrop of the Canadian Rockies adds an extra layer of beauty to the experience. Additionally, the accessibility of this area, being close to Calgary, makes it a convenient choice for those looking for a quick escape into nature without straying too far from the city.

Another notable Bow River fishing spot is the stretch downstream from the Ghost Reservoir. This section is known for its prolific insect hatches, making it a paradise for dry fly enthusiasts. Here, anglers can expect to find trophy-sized trout that have been known to challenge even the most skilled fishermen. The wide, open banks offer ample room for casting, and the river’s crystal-clear waters provide an ideal environment for observing fish behavior. Overall, the Bow River near Ghost Reservoir is a must-visit destination for those seeking a memorable fishing experience in the heart of Alberta’s stunning landscape.

Finding Good Structure Areas

Bow River in Calgary

Structure areas are those nooks and crannies the fish will inhabit that provide a natural defence from predators and more access to a food source. 

Areas such as downed wood, rocks, and weeds; areas that are a natural geographic definition of a fishing location. Some examples are bends and shelves in rivers and places where streams join, or drop-offs in lakes.

As with any body of water, there are a few biological aspects that govern the fishing population that anglers can count on. The first one being that fish have to eat to survive. The second one is that they usually inhabit areas that give them the best chances to feed successfully.

On the Bow River, you will find all of these types of structures. A bend in the water will always offer a downstream seam past the corner in which faster water meets slower water – and a great place for fish to hang out, ripe for the catching.

 Ideally, you want the water here to be 2 to 4 feet deep (or a little deeper) where you cast your rod. The fish will sit on the slower water side at the bottom, then venture selectively into faster water to eat. 

 Some good areas to begin are at the Calgary 22X bridge all the way through to Carseland. The water is shallow enough in many areas where you can wade in the river to get a close up view to spot corners and structures perfect for fish to hide.

The River is Unpredictable, But the Fish are Not

Fishing in Calgary

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Regular fishers of the river say that the size of the fish is probably Bow River’s only consistent attribute. Conditions can change on a daily basis. They maintain that the river is best known for “great fish and great unpredictability.” Their best advice is to concentrate on parts of the river with character. Meaning variations in depth, the current’s speed and direction, and bottom/surface type. Therefore, be prepared to be versatile in your fishing style. 

Having the Right Rig

Bow River Fishing Spots

Fly fisherman will want to have a six weight fly fishing rod with a six weight floating line and corresponding six weight reel. You will also need a tapered leader or fishing line measuring 9 feet in length. Affix a strike indicator (a fishing bobber) that will sit seven feet from your first fly. In Alberta, anglers are allowed to use up to 3 flies in line. Different anglers may use their own method to affix their flies for presentation. It’s up to you what works for you and for the unique fishing conditions of the day.

Using dry flies, nymphs, and steamers are usually the best bet for catching brown trout. Use equipment that is somewhat heavier than for lake fishing. If you are fishing from the shore, use a mid-weight setup. If in a boat, you could use either a lighter or heavier weight. Going heavy may be best, as Bow River trout tend to be on the larger side, and they fight hard.

Knowing Fish Behaviour

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The time of year is also of importance and should be considered when determining the trout’s behaviour. Early spring can be tricky for catching brown trout, because their eyesight is very good, and they usually take cover to wait for food. Further on into early summer however, Streamers will hold close to the banks and be more out in the open, so if you’re fishing from the banks or from a boat, stick to within inches of the banks for the best catch. 

Then later into the summer, your techniques will likely change. Caddis, Blue Winged Olive, and Pale Morning Dun hatches are unparalleled for catching lots of large trout. The mid-season offers some very exciting and explosive surface action. Any water over six inches next to the bank will hold plenty of trout, and you will have the opportunity to get streamers, nymphs and dry flies all in the same day for large, strong fish.

Having said that, fishing for trout in the Bow River can be decent all year round as long as you know where to look.

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