First priority down south was to take eldest grandchild, Sarah, 4½, fishing.
That happens whenever a little kid whose dad likes fishing gets within sight of Pincher Creek. The little foothills creek is kid-size most of the time, and full of feisty, hungry rainbow trout; the ideal place to teach beginners to fly fish — particularly kids.
Last year about this time, Sarah’s dad, my son John, and I took Sarah fishing with the creek not in quite as good a shape as it was on our first morning down here this year. Last year, Pop’s (my) hand on hers, Sarah cast the flies a few times, but there was no response. She did see one being caught as I lucked out just upstream and since then has made it clear that she’d like to go fishing again.
This year it was John’s hand on Sarah’s, and a couple of those marvelous rainbows responded, so that Sarah felt the initial pull and helped reel the trout in. The mandatory releasing she left up to her dad.
Cool mornings after the horrendous thunder and lightning storms each night were when to go fishing; after about 11 a.m. it was just too hot and bright. So I spent an afternoon re-exploring the Crowsnest Pass to see what remains the same and what’s new.
Most of the many angler access points to great fishing stretches of the Crowsnest River remain the same, but a gate and sign now allow foot access only over private land along “The Wall” downstream of the main Hillcrest Bridge. A Trout Unlimited local has leased the land to keep it open to anglers, I suspect because the landowner was getting tired of the litter and the deeply rutted vehicle trails.
Ominous blaze orange signs were posted here and there along the Crowsnest warning of the date and time when the “Blue Weed Area” would be sprayed with herbicide, including 24D. Blue Weed is an exotic, noxious weed that spreads quickly along watercourses and is toxic to and chokes out native vegetation. Organized landowners along Pincher Creek have annually been pulling hundreds of pounds of blue weed every July for several years.
Pincher Creek has a superb museum that is worth a long look on rainy or too hot days. But I was on the hunt for antique fishing tackle, particularly old-time snelled wet flies for the kids to use on Pincher Creek. So I naturally turned to Garry’s Barber Shop and Consignment Store on Main Street in Pincher Creek, but this was not one of the scheduled open days.
Anglers eat too, so I headed west to report on lunch. The excellent Savoury Café in Cowley is still open, but not for lunch; either was the new Tin Roof in Blairmore, which was highly recommended to me. Finally I found an eight-inch pizza at Vito’s in Coleman, so good that it may explain why pizza joints seem in short supply in the Pass. Too late I noticed the enticing sign beside Hwy 3 through Coleman: “Crowsnest Café Fly Shop & Gallery — Thai, Mexican & East Indian Flavours.” Next time for sure.
Then it was time for my perennial must-stop down here: Allied True Value on Main Street in Blairmore which, with the passing of gems like the store run by the Soppit family in Rocky Mountain House and the old WW Arcade in downtown Edmonton, may be the finest old-time hardware store left in Alberta.
As usual they had everything on my list, including those snelled wet flies, three to the card. But this is a place for browsing and, in an obscure corner, I could not believe I was seeing an item I have vainly been seeking ever since I bought too few of them in Red Deer several years ago: perfect green, light iron garden posts with stabilizing flange, holes and wire hooks.
I took all but one and, as I was carrying my prizes to the check-out, one of the owners asked: “What are those?” So I explained I had a few, had been vainly looking everywhere for years for more, and that they were the perfect pea fence posts, for example.
“Damn!” he said. “I spent yesterday pounding 2X2’s for my peas. Our motto here is ‘if we don’t have it, you don’t need it’; now here’s something I needed that didn’t even know we had.” He recorded the product number to order more and gave me that last post gratis.
En route back to the ranch I stopped at the uniquely independent Frank Slide Liquor Store to pick up a couple of bottles of a favourite Canadian white wine I can find nowhere else in Alberta.
It was a good thing we took Sarah fishing the first morning. On the last morning, just after we all left for home, it commenced pouring 18 cm in seven hours: Pincher Creek suddenly became non-kid-friendly, rising three to four times its normal size and tearing out all the fences.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.