Makhabn is a Peigan tribal name meaning “river where the bow reeds grow.” When settlers began to arrive in the area the river became known as the Bow, although Big Fish River may have been a more appropriate name since this is the reason why the Bow is so famous. Anglers in pursuit of 20+ inch trout need to put this on their bucket list, for the wild rainbows and browns in this river have one of the fastest growing rates to be found on any river system in today’s world.
The Bow rises in the Canadian Rockies inside Banff National Park near the foot of Mount Gordon and flows from glacial Bow Lake southeastward through lush mountain terrain. After passing past the towns of Lake Louise and Banff, the river exits the park and heads eastward and flows through Calgary. Its journey continues for a total of 365 miles before joining the Oldman River and forming the South Saskatchewan River.
While the river is open year-round for fishing, the optimal time to fish is after the spring runoff from mountain snowmelt. Runoff usually occurs in late May or early June, and in a typical year the river is ready to fish by late June. Most guides agree that the months of July, August, September and October are prime for catching trophy trout.
Downstream from Calgary are 40, highly coveted river miles of great trout fishing. This blue ribbon water is where the really big trout are concentrated and where snagging a trophy is most probable. Most parts of the river are not easily waded, so most guides suggest floating or drifting. If you hanker for a wilderness experience and decide to wade or fish from the banks, tread softly. Wildlife is abundant and active; bear spray is highly recommended.