Friday, 2 August 2013

Alberta Floods and Good Fishing

Alberta's Hell and High Water Song
Zach at 2:42 rescuing people

The past few weeks have been a whirl wind of events that has all happened in a blink of an eye. The week of June 17 started with hot weather pushing in and the streamer fishing picking up as the river starting dropping from the constant rain we had experienced over the past couple weeks. I fished in the afternoon of that Thursday not knowing that it would be a couple weeks before I would be able to fish the Bow again. That night we had a weather warning that called for a lot of rain over night. By 10pm it started to rain hard and I went to bed not thinking much of it. When I woke up that morning I turned on the TV, only to hear that Canmore's Cougar Creek (a nearly dried up creek) had turned into a raging river that made backyards disappear and destroyed homes beyond repair. Not only were houses destroyed but the main highway and bridges in and out of city were destroyed by this newly created raging river.

As the day wore on, more news came in about other rivers flooding. This time the Highwood River breached its banks and overflowed into the town of High River putting nearly the entire town underwater forcing everyone to evacuate, most with just the cloths on their backs.  Zach and many other with boats headed over to High River as soon as word was heard that people were trapped and needed to be boated across the town to safety. It would be a couple weeks before they would be able to see their houses again and see what was left. Sadly this town has been almost completely destroyed with many homes being swept away and thousands uninhabitable.

By mid-afternoon it was inevitable that the Bow River would breach its banks as the flooding in its tributaries would soon meet the river. Within hours there was wide spread flooding in communities that were on the flood plain with the water even pushing its way into the down-town core. Everything in the rivers path was being destroyed or swept down the river never to be seen again. In less than 24 hours these normally comforting rivers turned into dangerous raging water way taking away bridges, roads, homes and sadly peoples lives. Many towns and cities in Alberta were put into state of emergency shutting down parts of some towns and cities and in the case of High River prevented the residents returning to the homes for almost two weeks.

Slowly, as the water receded, the realisation of how much damage had really happened started to set in. When it was safe to do so, people were allowed back to their communities to begin a long and emotional clean up of their homes.  Immediately after the flood Calgary's outpouring support of volunteers became infectious and everyone came together to help those who were effected by the flood.  In this tragic event, the city came together in a way that no one had ever seen before. Its amazing to see how much clean up and repairs have already been done to these cities.

Within a week of the flood , Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited put together an extensive fish rescue operation on the Bow River. As the water receded from once flooded areas, fish became trapped in the newly formed ponds. Over the next week and a half  Fish and Wildlife , TU and  many volunteers including myself went around the city to rescue any fish that had been trapped in these recent flooded areas. We used electro shock boats to stun and net fish as well as seine nets to rescue these fish. We then released them back into the river. Fortunately the majority  of the fish we rescued were white fish and dace with very few being trout which are known for receding with the current back into the river. After the 2005 flood, we had some of the best fishing in years.

Photo Taken By: Adrienne Comeau
After a couple of weeks patiently waiting for the river to lower and to be safe to be around again, I  made my way back to this exciting newly structured river. The Bow was still higher than normal high water and coloured, but had a few inches of visibility and I was excited just to toss a few flies in again. By sunset I was completely covered in stoneflies and had spotted a couple aggressive rises, but none of them took my presented foam bug. I went out the next day to explore the newly formed banks and look for water that fish would hold in during this time of faster water.  Once I had found a good run to toss my flies into, I was able to hook into a few trout, even losing a really nice brown.  Over the next couple days my friend Zach and I were able to look at a few newly changed areas and hook into some really nice rainbows and browns. It was comforting to be able to find the numbers of healthy fish that I had fished to before the flood. In the next couple weeks we will be floating as much as we can to learn this new Bow River.