Alberta is one of the world’s premiere fly fishing regions, especially for stream and river trout. The Livingstone River, nestled below tall pines in southwest Alberta’s stunning mountain foothills, is one of the best streams for cutthroat trout – and a perfect place for a fishing holiday.
Fly Fishing 101
In the excitement of hooking my first fish, I forget what I’m supposed to say to alert our guide.
With my frenzied pantomime disturbing the peaceful emerald pool, Jarett Black, Alberta fly fishing aficionado and owner of Trout Tracker Guide Company, and my husband Colin – who is also learning to fly fish under Jarett’s tutelage – are coming to help, as I cry, “Fish on!”
We both sport mile-wide grins. Outdoor enthusiasts, we have long wanted to try fly fishing in Alberta.
As my heart beats wildly under grey chest waders, Jarett grasps my fly rod. It’s a cutthroat trout, he confirms. With the struggling fish pulling the line taut, bringing it in is slower and more difficult than I imagined, even with his help.
It’s close enough for me to see its black spots and bright orange-red streak under its mouth, when the line suddenly goes slack.
Darn! What a disappointment. It was about to be my first catch, and the first of our private half-day lesson. Setting the hook and learning to play the fish while bringing it in are some of the trial and error skills that novices learn in “fly fishing 101”, unless blessed with beginner’s luck.
Bountiful Alberta Cutthroat Catch
Cutthroats are the best trout to learn to fly fish on, Jarett explains, because they like to eat flies on the water’s surface and are not as picky as other trout species about what they eat. Cutthroats here average 12 to 14 inches, but 16 to 18 inches is not uncommon.
Although I’d like to parade a tasty trophy back home – should I actually catch one – cutthroats are threatened, so it’s catch and release only.
More determined, we continue to practice casting – back to six o’clock, pause, stop at three o’clock and pause.
Within minutes, we both get bites. Jarett jumps in to assist. This time, I joyfully bring my fish in. Jarret photographs it above and below water before setting it free. Colin is not so lucky. But not to be outdone by a woman, he soon has another and proudly brings it in.
“Everyone’s like a kid when they first catch a fish,” Jarret says with a smile, clearly enjoying teaching the sport he loves.
By afternoon’s end, we’re hooked. We each caught six fish -- not unusual for Livingstone beginners.