It's all about balance.
If you’re like us, you fish all the time.
When I say all the time, I mean literally every available moment of your free time is spent fishing or thinking about fishing in some way.
I have a tendency to be super focused on things that are of interest to me – the rest of the world disappears kind of focused. My wife contends that this leads to the detriment of our relationship from time to time. I can’t argue with that.
Over the years, I’ve been trying to create balance here by getting my wife involved in fishing. The experience has been great.
My wife and I have traveled to quite a few renowned fisheries around the U.S. and just recently, Canada. She’s indifferent to whether or not she catches fish (somehow, she always does). She claims she’s just happy to experience some of nature’s beauty and to see me happy. I’m happy to oblige her those opportunities.
Nate (my partner in our guide service, Brookdog Fishing Co.) has a similar relationship/dynamic with his wife, Jen. He too tries to correct prolonged periods of imbalance in his relationship by going on outdoor-oriented/destination fishing trips with his spouse.
This year, we decided to test the waters of a couple’s vacation. It worked out incredibly well. Whatever the dynamics are between you and your significant other, destination fishing is a great way to spend a vacation together.
This isn't going to be a kiss-and-tell article. I'm not going to tell you exactly where we fished. In the end, that’s not important. There’s a lot of angling opportunities in this slice of fly fishing heaven. All you need to do is pick up a map and explore the blue lines. Better yet, Google the drainage and use Google Earth – there’s a wealth of info out there.
What I WILL cover is how to execute a couple’s vacation to this incredible angling destination on a budget. If you put aside a small sum of money and go on this trip, you’ll come home closer to your significant other than when you left.
Alberta, Canada – a great place for a couple’s fly fishing vacation.
Alberta, Canada – cutties, bullies, mountains, pines, pristine water, numerous ways to get on and off the grid.
Need I say more to attract you to the place? The pictures say it all.
Google the Crowsnest Region, buy maps for the area, and take your pick on the blue lines. They all produce. Finding fish is easy.
The key to a couple’s vacation is balance. Here’s how we pulled it off.
In my limited experience, Canadian airports are a picture of efficiency compared to those in the United States.
If you can depart from somewhere in Canada – do it. The exchange rate is great, ticket prices are reasonable, and you’ll get in and out of a Canadian airport quickly compared to what we’re used to in the U.S.
If you want to fish this region, you want to fly to Calgary. Take your time getting there (remember balance). If it was just Nate and I, we’d land late, grab the rental car, drive for a couple hours, set up a tent in the dark, and pass out. That wouldn’t be a fun endeavor, but would be worth the pain as it would set us up for a full day of angling the next day.
I’m sure many venturing anglers can relate to pushing hard to get on the water as soon as you hit the ground at your destination. However, that’s not too favorable if you’re traveling with your significant other.
If you’re on a couple’s vacation to this part of the world, stay the night in Calgary. It’s a great city with a ton of stuff to do. Grab some food. Drink some drinks. Get some sleep. Grab a big breakfast in the morning and hit the road rested, full, and ready to have fun. Trust me, it’ll pay off for all parties involved.
Establish a base camp.
As a former USMC logistician, I think I understand the value of sustainability better than most.
Yes, living out of your trunk while moving all the time on a fishing trip has its charms/benefits but it has some serious drawbacks, the two biggest being:
- You’re going to burn a lot of time breaking down and setting up camp every day.
- You’ll also burn a lot of time looking for a new spot. Displacing is always a gamble. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve moved to a new camping area only to find out it was full or in rough shape. Follow being shafted by a night spent crashing in a car in a Walmart parking lot and you’ll be a wreck the next day.
Those are huge considerations when you are trying to maximize time on the water. Put that idea aside for a second.
A couple’s vacation isn’t all about time on the water. Sure, that’s an big element, but having an established place to come back to at the end of the day allows for:
- Evening drinks and a well-cooked meal.
- An easy transition to tent time.
- Use your imagination of what can follow…
What’s great about the Crowsnest Region is that there are numerous base camp options. From established campgrounds to provincial land, opportunities abound to set up a base camp that’ll keep you close to fish while allowing you to spend quality time off the water.
Hire a guide.
I’m not just saying this because I am a guide. Our profession exists for a reason – we put you on fish and eliminate the requirement/burden of planning.
In all likelihood, someone who reads this will likely comment that guides only exploit a region. “Hiring a guide is a sign of weakness – you should be able to figure the area out yourself.”
When on a couple’s vacation, you want your significant other to catch fish. I’m also assuming YOU will want to catch fish too. Guess what? The guide can help your significant other while pointing you in the right direction.
If you go to the Crowsnest Region – look up Shane Olson. Both he and his wife will put you on fish and entertain. Check and check!
Make a transition to something different.
Maybe I’m getting too personal with this article in thinking at least one partner in a relationship won’t want to fish the entire time.
I’m also thinking one won’t want to camp the entire time.
This is anecdotal but every angler I know whose spouse “fishes,” really does so as a means to spend quality time with the other. Remember balance – allow for some payback. After camping out and eating camp food for a few days, make a transition to something a little more civilized.
A hot shower, clean bed and clothes, and a robust meal cooked by someone else while sitting in a restaurant is a great change of pace, especially if you’ve been sleeping in the dirt, not showering, moving your bowels in outhouses (or worse), and dining at a picnic table or tree stump for a few days.
The area we visited in southwestern Alberta is ideal for this. Banff and Canmore, Alberta are a short drive from the Crowsnest region. Both towns are gorgeous. Surrounded by mountains and flowing rivers, there are numerous hotels and restaurants for every taste and budget.
In addition to dining and lodging options, there are cool things to do throughout the day. From hot springs to gondola rides to shopping, a couple can easily spend a few days in these towns and only scrape the surface.
Plan your fly fishing getaway!
Hopefully this helps.
As I mentioned above, my wife Janice and I have done a few of these couple’s vacations and all have been great.
If you plan it together and develop a balanced itinerary, it’ll be a success.
Oh, by the way – if you think your spouse can’t pull it off for some reason, think again. Jen was 6 months pregnant on this past one and had a blast. She’ll be able to tell her child that she caught fish with it in the womb.
That kid’s gonna be fishy fo sho!
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About Ryan Shea:
Ryan is a fly fishing guide and co-owner at Brookdog Fishing Company in Western New York. As a logistician and project manager in the US Marine Corps, he served his country on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and executed nearly a dozen moves throughout the country – fishing where and when he could (but mostly working his ass off) along the way. During this time, he formed a life goal of catching a fish on a fly in all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces (the bucket list keeps growing though), and he is nearly halfway there. After spending more than half his life on the move, the idea of “home waters” started to sound appealing. With a desire to grow roots, provide stability for his family, connect with community, and teach others the joys of fishing and importance of preserving our natural resources, Ryan got together with his friend Nate and started Brookdog Fishing Company back where it all began – Western New York. Follow them on Instagram (@brookdogfly) and Facebook.