It seems like every year come the end of February or early March I get the fishing bug, and suddenly can’t wait to get out on the river. Which is a shame because it’s usually a few months before the weather and the river conditions make it worthwhile.
Starting out at Carburn Park I headed south along the bank all the way down to where Deerfoot Trail crosses over the river. It’s a bit of a hike, and I had only been that way a couple of times before, but had seen both Pileated Woodpeckers and a porcupine in the past so I headed out with high hopes.
The fishing was not very interesting, all of the fishing holes that I had fished in the past had apparently been washed away in the previous years flood. The flood damage itself was likely the most interesting part of the trip. Massive piles of driftwood were stacked up twenty or thirty feet high in the middle of the forest, huge gravel bars stretching out where they didn’t used to be, and logs hung up way up in the treetops. It was somewhat surreal, and also fairly saddening.
Without any of the old fishing holes I never did find a decent place to fish, but eventually stretched out on a sandbar and threw in a line. I was quickly distracted though by a flock of a couple dozen Franklin’s Gulls that flew down and began feeding on a swarm of bugs just a short ways up the river bank.
In the last week or so of June 2013 Calgary had its worst flood in well…. ever… with both rivers spilling over their banks and flowing through much of downtown. But you probably know all this so that’s about all I’m gonna say about it (here’s some more info if you don’t know all about it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Alberta_floods).
Anyway things were pretty crazy in town, but in all reality it didn’t affect me in the least little bit, in fact I never even saw any of the flood water or river until about a week after it had crested. But as soon as the roads began reopen in Kananaskis country I knew I had to head out to have a look at the damage.
The damage was pretty crazy to see… tiny little streams had cut 20 foot chasms into hillsides and stripped shorelines of trees and plants and soil in huge swaths and ripping roads and bridges right off their foundations. What was really amazing was to see just how much earth the water had moved, roadside ditches that had been 10 feet deep were now filled to road level with dirty or gravel, and whole hillside that used to overlook the iver were simply not there anymore. At one point on the Spray Lakes trail I got out to take a walk along the stream that runs parallel to the road. The first thing I noticed was how wide the stream-bed was, it had probably only been about 10 feet across before the flood, but was now more like 40 or 50 feet across, with the bank on the other side made up of a wall of freshly exposed soil. But what really got me was the smell. The smell of pine coming from the hundreds or thousands of twisted, broken, and downed pine trees that lined the sides of the shore was so strong it literally made my eyes water and burned my sinuses, it was really quite remarkable.
Looking back (yes it’s almost a year later that I’m writing this), whats really crazy to think about is just how long the scars of that flood will be present, the debris and sticks and branches and mud stuck ten feet high in the trees will likely take a good 5 years to be dislodge and washed completely away. The piles of broken and downed trees might be recognizable for a decade or two or three. The changed in the course of the rivers and streams, and the deposits of gravel and dirt and boulders might take a few decades to become healed to the point where they no longer look like a visible scar on the landscape, but in all reality they might be there for a few centuries or longer, or basically forever, at least until the next big flood. Or until we decide to pave over them and put in a new parking lot.
I took a sunrise drive out to the mountains, heading first up the Bow Valley Parkway, and then up to the Icefields Parkway (#93) all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing with an hour detour down the David Thompson Highway (#11).
The morning started out fantastic, if a little chilly, with great morning light on Castle Mountain, and a nice shiny layer of frost on the grass.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long and by the time I got to the Icefields Parkway it had turned cloudy and overcast and by Bow Lake the roads were shear ice, and there was a few feet of snow in the ditches. Once I headed down from the summit, the roadsides cleared up and I was able to do a bit of walking around. The mountains are not very scenic this time of year with a lot of dead grass and old dirty snow, but sometimes you just have to make due with what you’ve got (in this case it meant a lot of bracketing and HDR in post, to bring out what little colour and detail there was).
Eventually I headed east on the David Thompson Highway, with the idea of going to have a look at Abraham Lake, but I had no idea how far it was to lake and it was so windy out on the Kootenay Plains that I gave up and headed back before I made it there.
This was the first time I had ever driven east on the D.T.H. and I have to say the view of the long straight road leading directly into the distant mountain was pretty impressive.
I spent a fair bit of time wandering around in the mud by the river (below the bridge) at Saskatchewan River Crossing. There is some pretty nice scenery there, but again, everything looks pretty bleak this time of year. I will definitely have to find some time to spend there when the grass is green and the wild-flowers are blooming.
The drive back was a bit touchy with a about a foot of fresh unploughed snow (slush) that had come down at the summit since I had passed by earlier, but at least the ice that was there in the morning had melted.
As far as wildlife goes the day was a complete bust. On the way back I spotted an absolutely massive Elk on the Bow Valley Parkway, but it was gone into the trees by the time I stopped the car, that was the only living creature I saw all day. I did follow some really fresh wolf tracks for a little ways, until I broke through the ice and ended up ankle deep in mud (I think the wolf was following a weasel or something of that sort, whatever it was I didn’t recognize the tracks).
Bow Valley Provincial Park is a lot bigger than I expected. I’ve driven past the entrance a few hundred times, and did stop in once but only made it as far as the parking lot and information centre before the sun went down. So I think I assumed that was all there was to the park. There is actually a fair bit of road to explore, and a great little picnic area on the shore of the Bow river with a fantastic view of Mount John Laurie (Yamnuska). Which I will most definitely be revisiting with my fly rod come next spring.
I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I could have in Bow Valley because my plan was to drive the Banff Parkway and look for wildlife. Unfortunately once I got into the National Park the weather turned a bit nasty, and after a few hundred kilometres of driving the only animal encounter I had was with a massive bull Elk at the Johnson’s Canyon Parking lot. Which turned out pretty good despite the mob of cell phone tourist chasing the poor thing around.
Other than the Elk there wasn’t much going on for photography, although the sky did clear up a little, and turned into a spectacular sunset. Which I pretty much missed (I had the spot I wanted to photograph, but didn’t make it back there until it was mostly over). I did shoot a few pictures, but wasn’t really happy with the results, I tried to salvage them in post by converting to HDR’s but still couldn’t get the result I wanted.
I had to go out to Banff for work to do a delivery to a production company that was filming a movie out there, so I figured that I might as well bring my camera and make an afternoon of it.
And…. It was pretty much a waste of time……..!
I headed up the parkway, shot a couple bad photos at all the usual spots, and finally made it up to Moraine Lake (after years of failed attempts). But by the time I got there it was pretty much dark, a storm was rolling in, and the light and clouds were total garbage, so I climbed up the ‘Rock Pile’ took a few bad photos, and headed back.
Note to self (and any other photographers)…..
If you want to take pictures of Moraine Lake you need to go at sunrise in the early spring so that the sun is in position to give the view the light it deserves. Sunset in the fall is pretty much just a waste of time.
The pictures really were garbage, so I did what any self respecting photographer would do… Made them into HDR’s, and edited the $#!% out of them.
I took a quick drive out to Kananskis Country and Spray Lakes, mostly just to see how much snow was still out there as I was planing a hiking trip the next weekend. I also wanted to do some fishing, and planned too stop by Buller Pond to see if it had been stocked with trout yet.
It was probably a good thing I went, because as it turned out the planned hiking trail was closed to prevent trail erosion during the spring run-off.
I stopped at the pond, but couldn’t see any fish (it’s really shallow and clear so if they were there I should have been able to see them). It turned out that the pond was actually stocked in May as opposed to June as the hatcheries report said it was scheduled to be. So I guess I was already too late for the good fishing.
We were still a bit excited after seeing the bear near Golden. So we thought we’d take a detour and stop at Moraine Lake by Lake Louise (I’ve been trying to get there for three years now). Unfortunately, like usual the road to the lake was still closed.
Feeling unsatisfied we decided to take the slow route back to Banff down the Bow Valley Parkway. We stopped at all the usual scenic spots to take photos. The light was a bit contrasty (hence the HDRs), but it had turned into a nice day, and it was good to get out of the car.
We spotted a couple of really tame Elk, that wandered right down beside us while we were out having a look at a little pond I’ve never noticed before (the name escapes me).
It turned out to be a really beautiful sunset, but we were already on the way back, and anxious to be home before dark, so we didn’t bother stopping.
I wanted to do some fishing before the spring run-off started so I headed out to McKinnon Flats. There was a bit of a wind, so I figured I’d use my spin rod. But when I got down to the river it soon became apearent that the wind was the least of my problems. While it had been warm lately and all the snow was pretty much gone, the ice on the riverbanks was a whole other story. As much as five feet thick in places, it made it almost impossible to even get to the rivers edge without risking falling through into the water. So I spent most of my time walking the bank looking for an opening.
I did finally find a spot where I could climb down off the ledge of ice onto a foot or so of exposed bank. And was rewarded with a solid bite, but never got it to shore (how I miss the days of barbed hooks).
It was a particularly warm January afternoon, so I thought I’d take a walk and maybe do some fishing at Carburn Park. The fishing wasn’t really happening, but I did get up close with some of the resident White-tailed Deer, and of course the ducks!
On the third day we headed out early for another drive down Maligne Lake Road and again encountered nothing. So after a bit of breakfast in town we hit the highway and made the long slow journey home. This time taking the Icefields Parkway (Hwy. #93), making all the usual stops along the way. Climbing around the ice at Tangle Falls, taking the short hike down to Mistaya Canyon, chasing (not very) wild Ravens around a parking lot, and wandering the shores of Bow and Waterfowl Lakes. Though there wasn’t any wildlife to be seen, it was a good drive home and a nice autumn day to be out in the mountains.
I was out fishing the Bow River at Carburn Park in Calgary when this Beaver crawled up the beside me. And I mean literally beside me, I was sitting on the shore tying a knot when I heard something behind me so I turned, and there he was on the other side of the stump I was leaning on no more than 3 feet away from me, easily within arms reach. Needless to say I jumped to my feet, and he jumped in the river, but was nice enough to climb up on the other bank so I could get some photos.