By NEIL WAUGH
The legendary Alberta cavalryman and cop, Sir Sam Steele, had a spiritual moment rolling down the grade from Lake Louise on a Canadian Pacific Railway train.
Over what country singer Corb Lund calls the Kicking Horse Line.
It was 1886 and Steele was returning from the coast with the first train-load of dignitaries riding the new road.
Where he reported in his compelling memoir, Forty Years in Canada, “the magnates of the railway were received with enthusiasm” by the Victoria honchos.
When the train emerged from the mountains and “the magnificent expanse of prairie” rolled out in front of them “pleasure beamed on every countenance.”
Because before them appeared “the beautiful, sparkling Bow meandering to the eastward,” Steele wrote.
He has a similar experience while on a stay-cation at the Glengarry Ranch in the Porcupine Hills. Where ranch manager Allan Macdonald “did his utmost to make our visit agreeable.
“By taking us for jaunts over the hills to the best fishing pools of the numerous pretty trout streams which meander through that favoured region.”
But that’s a whole other column.
Steele was given the tough task of bringing law and order to the chaos of the CPR railway construction camps which were “the ruination of the navvies.
“Large numbers of gamblers, whisky-men, in fact almost every description of criminal, plying their trade on the Northern Pacific Railway, were wending their way from Sand Point,” Steele warned.
It was Sam’s job — with a North West Mounted Police detachment for back-up — to corral them.
But in the spring of 1885 he hit the pause button to raise and lead the Steele Scouts, providing cavalry cover for General Thomas “Jingo” Strange’s Alberta Expeditionary Force in the Northwest Rebellion.
I was riding in longtime river guide Barry White’s ancient Suburban with his Lavro drift boat in tow rolling east on Hwy. 22X.
It’s Barry’s 43rd year in the rowing seat and his Lavro is already an artifact – having spent a few weeks on loan to the Glenbow Museum as the integral component of a Bow River exhibition.
At Indus we turned south through the lemony canola and at the brink of the valley, before the road switchbacked down to the McKinnon Flats put-in, there it was.
The “beautiful, sparkling Bow” meandering in a blue ribbon before us through its grand Paskapoo sandstone canyon.
From here to Legacy Island, it’s the stretch of the Bow Barry loves best.
Describing it in his successful new book, My Bow River – headed for a second printing, by the way – as “the most beautiful access site on the river.”
Here before his “inaugural float trip” Barry shared a cosmic evening with Bow River author Jim McLennan where “trout were rising throughout the pool.”
It was Calgary Stampede Week and Environment Canada had issued heat warnings.
Great if you’re at the grounds for the bulls and the chucks.
But not necessarily for river trout.
None were rising at the launch despite some caddis about with Yellow Sally stoneflies mixed in.
I rigged up my 8-weight streamer fly-rod with one of Barry’s signature Marilyn Monroe Woolly Buggers and the guide plucked a Whitlock’s Golden Stone from the band of his battered Hat Doctor hat, which I knotted below a strike indicator on my 5-weight nymph rod.
The weather dictated going subsurface.
At the bottom end of the first drift while Barry was pulling for Rumpel’s Run the indicator dipped.
We were caught mid-river in heavy current and after two jumps the rainbow was gone.
Trout Two hit the Golden Stone on the Upper Pesticide Pool and two runs and three aerials later it finally slid into Barry’s net. A credible 17-incher.
No. 3 hit a swinging Marilyn Monroe at the Sheep Shack and the last trout took the stonefly nymph at Pump House. And we were done.
Climbing the coulee at Legacy we paused at the top.
For one last look at Sir Sam’s beautiful, sparking Bow.
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