Blue Ribbon Bow
by Charles F. Waterman.
book explains the history of the Bow River valley and the development of
the river into one of the world’s most celebrated trout streams. The
first edition, published in 1986 as a large-format, coffee-table book,
received the Book of the
Year Award from The Outdoor Writers of Canada.
That edition is now out of print, and occasionally fetches high
prices in used bookstores. However
the revised and updated edition was published in 1998, and is available
in hardcover or softcover.
Chapter titles: The Whole of the Bow; A History of the Bow River Valley; A History of the Bow River Trout Fishery; The Bow River Trout Fishery Today; Fishing the Bow River; The Upper Bow River; The Middle and Lower Bow River; Fly Patterns; The State of the Bow River Trout Fishery
Ribbon Bow – (184 pages) hard cover - $37.95 (Cdn) + GST.,
from the Introduction
from the Introduction
The Bow River and I go back a long way—back to a time when, as
songwriter Ian Tyson would put it, I was young and limber, and when the
river was something of an upstart, too, breaking all the rules of trout
riverdom. I note with
pleasure that my affection for this river has not diminished in the 30
years since I first stepped into it; I note with less pleasure that the
river seems to have aged more gracefully than I have.
A river’s reputation, like a
young athlete’s or artist’s, grows in a fairly predictable fashion:
the first to notice their gifts are family members, then a few friends,
then a writer from the local newspaper.
Next is the national press, then an American TV network.
Publicity reaches its zenith when yokels who knew them when they
were nuttin’ write books about them.
Things didn’t work exactly
this way for the Bow River—except for the book part.
While I would never claim to have been the only guy around in the
early days who appreciated the Bow and its trout fishing, in the mid-1970s
the group of us was pretty small. If
one of us saw somebody across the river with a fly rod, it wasn’t hard
to figure out who it was. Those
of us fly-fishing the Bow then knew its trout were big and strong; we just
didn’t appreciate how much bigger and stronger they were than trout
In typical Canadian fashion it
took high-profile outsiders—Lefty Kreh, A.J. McClane, Gary Borger—to
point out that the fish in the Bow were bigger and stronger that the fish
in the famous American rivers they had been writing about for many years.
Ironically, among the last to find out about the quality of the Bow
River was the average fly-fishing Albertan, who might have lived within
sight of the Bow but continued dutifully plotting obligatory trips to the
Madison, Snake and Henry’s Fork. The
last to meet and appreciate the charms of the Bow as a trout stream were
the provincial government and the city of Calgary, both of which have made
progress—albeit grudgingly at times—toward better stewardship of the
The Bow has been pressured and
abused by technology, pollution and simple accumulating humanity.
But the river and its fish have survived, and just as importantly
the river’s appeal has survived. Solitude,
the core element of fly-fishing, is still out there, even if it now must
be sought more diligently. I
still find it in the gold light of daybreak at McKinnon Flats or in the
brittle, tangy aroma of an October afternoon.
As far as quality trout streams go, the Bow River in Alberta
flowing by Calgary and downstream is a recent development, something that
came about starting about fifty years ago. Some of the influencing factors
contributing to the creation of one of the West’s best trout streams
were the discontinued planting of trout, the successful introduction of
brown trout and the building of a dam on a tributary that serves the dual
purpose of lowering water temperatures on the main stem in the summer and
contributing a volume of water to allow trout to successfully overwinter.
There are many other factors that make the Bow the trout stream that it is
and Jim McLennan weaves these all together to provide an intimate portrait
of his home stream.
As one of the first guides on the Bow, you would expect to read about how to fish the Bow and this is covered in every aspect. What you get from reading this book is far more. Jim gives a history of the land and the people through which the Bow runs and he has the courage to speak of the river’s future in the most frank terms. There are expert anglers who write and there are writers who fish. Rarely do you find them one of the same, as here. Even if you never plan to fish the Bow, you’ll enjoy this read.
This is the second edition of this book published in 1998 bringing all timely information up to the present. In the 6"x9" format, "Blue Ribbon Bow" covers 184 pages with 16 pages in color bound together at the end. Black & white photographs are sparingly used and maps help to orient the reader.