I am notorious for leaving things to the last minute and this trip was no exception. I ended up paying a premium to fly from New York’s Newark airport to Calgary via Dallas (I will give you a moment to process the geographic implications of this) but it was totally worth it!
Banff is found in the Canadian State of Alberta and is 128km West of its capital city: Calgary and there are regular shuttle buses running from the airport to the town
Banff town is absolutely beautiful; it is literally perched in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and was the first town to be included within the boundary of the UNESCO listed Banff National Park. My friends’ apartment was on the main street and when I looked out the windows I could see I was surrounded by stunning snow capped mountains.
As it is within the national park it isn’t uncommon to see deer or moose wandering down the streets. I came across some deer on my way to the supermarket one night and tried to befriend them by calling them Bambi. This didn’t exactly get the desired result…
Some of the more well known things you can do in Banff include skiing, snowboarding, drinking, drinking or drinking. Of which we did our fair share.
But one of the lesser known things you can do is ice fishing.
So on a fine snowy winter morning in March we were picked up by our guide, a tall Canadian with a booming Alberta accent called Anders.
Anders drove us to through the forest where we got out and loaded our supplies onto a sled. We hiked through the trees until we were standing in the middle of a huge frozen lake surrounded by swirling snow.
As someone who grew up in one of the hottest parts of Australia I had never seen anything like it. It felt like I was at the end of the world.
I was secretly scared that I would fall through the ice (like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon) however any concerns I had quickly vanished when Anders explained that the ice was 20 foot thick!
We were separated into groups and given a quick lesson on fishing (pull the rod up quickly when you feel a bite) and there we were sitting inside huts with our fishing lines down round holes that had been chiseled into the ice.
Which is how my friend J managed to hook a fish so big that it broke her rod. Luckily I videoed the entire hilarious event so we could show Anders, who didn’t exactly believe that us three girls could have hooked the biggest fish of the season and then let it get away!
At the end of the day Anders filleted and cooked the fish for us. I think it was a combination of spending the day out in the cold air and the fact that the fish couldn’t get any fresher that made it taste so good. Thankfully my lovely co-fisherman still let me eat some even though I hadn’t caught one.
You can book ice fishing trips from the information centre on the main street of Banff. You will have to get a fishing permit from the Canadian government but your guide will take you to get it before fishing.
For those worried about what to wear: I wore my own thermal tights and top and borrowed a ski jacket. Our guide supplied waterproof pants and shoes. Just check what clothes are supplied when you book, I wasn’t too keen on stumbling through forests and ice-sludge in my new Steve Madden boots.
I found this great video on the Tourism Canada site; they put cameras down the ice fishing holes so it gives you a good idea of what’s happening under your feet.
I can’t speak more highly about my ice fishing experience, people have literally been fishing like this for thousands of years in the great white north and I am sure they will continue to do so if they had as much fun as we did!