Crowsnest Angler Anniversary

Today marks the 30th anniversary of The Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop. We opened on December 1st, 1993. Although it’s been three decades since our opening, I remember everything from that day as if it happened yesterday.

It was a day very much like today – sunny and cool, with a bit of snow on the ground. It was a special day for Carol and me. We had been married less than a year and were looking forward to operating the fly shop and guide service. One of my partners, Jim O’Neil, was there to help with the opening. It was also my Dad’s birthday.

Renovations started on the house in September 1993

We converted an old house along Hwy. 3 in Bellevue, Crowsnest Pass into our fly shop. The house was previously owned by Mrs. Rosina Pavan. She had been living here since 1929. It was a typical Crowsnest Pass coal miner’s house, with lots of character and potential. For years after we opened the shop, coal dust would settle from the rafters into the ceiling lights below. The old Mohawk tipple is located only a few hundred yards away. We always knew where the coal dust came from, originally!

My Dad helped me with the renovations. Actually, my Dad conducted the renovations and it was me who helped him. My Dad, Carol, and I started work in early September and on November 30th, the eve of our opening, the last coat of varnish was drying on the pine wall displaying the fly rods. We were exhausted but excited. The morning couldn’t come soon enough.

Winter – 1996

Numerous people came to the shop on December 1st for coffee and doughnuts, to wish us well in our new endeavor, and of course, to make purchases. By the end of our first day, we netted a whopping $700 in sales! We thought that was a huge sum, considering the fishing season had closed a month earlier.

We held our official grand opening a few months later, on May 14, 1994. There was more coffee and doughnuts on hand, and door prizes, too. December 1st, 1993 was a dream come true for me. Many things have happened since that memorable day. Our journey to this point in time would not have been possible without our many loyal customers and staff over the years. We were truly blessed. Thank you all very much!

Here are some photos from the past 30 years.

Summer – 1998
Carol and Vic Bergman – 1999

My wife Carol played a huge role in the shop over the years and I couldn’t have done this without her help. In the early years, Carol kept the books, worked in the shop, made our guide lunches, ran errands, and did whatever was necessary to make our business successful. In 2014, Carol and I purchased the fly shop from my partners, Jim O’Neil, Gary Ash, and Curt McLeod. Without them, the shop would have forever remained on the drawing board in my mind. Carol continued to work in the shop into her late seventies, until her health began to fail. She loved being in the shop and meeting people, and everyone loved her. She was always friendly and always had a smile on her face. Carol passed away in January of this year. We miss her very much.

Crowsnest Angler guides and clients ready to leave for their float trips – 2001
Lost Creek fire – 2003

We experienced some tense times with Mother Nature in our 30 years, including two major floods (1995 and 2013) and the 2003 Lost Creek wildfire. In the photo above, smoke is billowing over Turtle Mountain as the fire approaches the communities of Hillcrest and Blairmore. A helicopter can be seen in the sky, bucketing water from the Crowsnest River. At the time, we had pine shakes on the roof of the shop. Embers and burnt pine cones were landing on our property. I was here much of the night watering our roof to prevent the wood shakes from catching fire.

Crowsnest Angler Guide Nathan Bond shooting rapids on the Castle River – 2005

We have had many great guides work for us over the years. One of these was Nathan Bond of Blairmore. He started working in the shop at the age of sixteen. Two years later, he was on the water guiding clients from around the world.

Jim McLennan instructing a fly-fishing school on the Crowsnest River – Aug. 20, 2005
Lynda McLennan instructing a women’s fly-fishing school at the shop – Aug. 21, 2005

We conducted many fly-fishing schools and fly-tying courses over the years. We were fortunate to have had Jim and Lynda McLennan instruct some of their schools through our shop. Some of our Saturday fly-tying seminars were conducted by Rolf and Shirley Ann Schwabe, Robert Cormier, Roman Scharabun, and Tim Lysyk.

A float trip on the Elk River with my partners Gary Ash, Jim O’Neil, and Curt McLeod.
On the far left is Rick Firlotte – Aug. 6, 2005
Crowsnest Angler guide Bill Robertson floating the Elk River with clients – 2005
Our booth at the Calgary Fly Expo. Two of our staff, Cathy Thomas and Al Crandlemire, are standing. Seated is Crowsnest Angler guide Kelly Thomas – Feb. 5, 2006
Crowsnest Angler guide Gary Enzsol selecting flies for his clients – Aug. 3, 2006
Front counter area of the shop – Aug. 13, 2006
Another view of the shop – Aug. 13, 2006
The Bell 206 helicopter we used for our guided trips to Southfork Lakes. Lower Southfork Lake is in view – Aug. 28, 2006

In 2006, we expanded our guide service to include heli trips to Southfork Lakes for golden trout.

Al Stewart landing a colourful golden trout at Lower Southfork Lake – Aug. 28, 2006
On another heli trip, our camp is set up overlooking Lower Southfork Lake – Sept. 10, 2006
Preparing to load our gear into the helicopter for the return flight to the Crowsnest Pass – Sept. 11, 2006
Filming an episode of the television program Columbia Country on the tailwater below the Oldman Dam – Sept. 12, 2006

I appeared on a number of television programs over the years, including Columbia Country, Sport Fishing on the Fly, The Complete Angler, Iron Blue Fly Fishing, and The New Fly Fisher. Carol and I produced two fly-fishing and tying videos, Trout – Tying and Fishing Effective Trout Flies (1994) and Fly Fishing Alberta’s Chinook Country (1996).

Construction begins on our new addition – Mar. 9, 2008

By 2008, we needed more retail space and decided to expand the shop. Cliff White Contracting of Hillcrest was hired for the job. It took 2-1/2 months to complete work on the addition.

Pouring the foundation – Mar. 14, 2008
Backfill completed – Mar. 18, 2008
Sheeting the addition – Mar. 24, 2008
Closing the roof – Apr. 3, 2008
Work begins inside the addition – Apr. 9, 2008
Inside the addition – April 9, 2008
Drywall is up and ready for painting – Apr. 30, 2008
Painting completed and ready for electrical work – May 4, 2008
Getting close! Terry and David Hrudey installing the beautiful new counter that Terry built. The flooring is in and the changing room door is ready to be hung – May 7, 2008
The view looking into the new addition. Everything was finished in time for the season – May 29, 2008
The outside of the shop with the completed addition, including new asphalt singles, windows, and vinyl siding. The building should be good for another 100 years!
Randy Rinaldi Welding and crew erecting our new Crowsnest Angler metal frame and trout sign – Aug. 12, 2010

A couple of years later, we added a large metal fish to our sign beside the shop.

Our new sign – Aug. 12, 2010
Linder Armitage and his grandson, Mitchell, holding a colourful Elk River cutthroat trout – Sept. 11, 2010

The fly shop has provided us with an opportunity to meet many wonderful people. Some of these folks have become close friends. One of these is Linder Armitage. 2023 was Linder’s 23rd year fishing with us.

Fishing a side channel on the Elk River – Sept. 6, 2013
Digging out after a snowstorm – Feb. 8, 2017
Here we are today, 30 years later!
This entry was posted in Back In Time, This And That and tagged , .


  1. Peter Amundsen December 10, 2023 at 1:36 pm #

    What a wonderful walk down memory lane from the first time I walked into the shop looking for a birthday present for David who was about to turn nine up to the present day. I remember talking about Corbin Creek and my growing up in Natal and Michel and you wondering where Corbin Creek was and you having to very respectfully teach me the present day name change from Corbin creek to Michel Creek (my grade 5 geography taught Corbin and Alexander creek joined to form Michel Greek). Thanks for all the great memories

    Peter Amundsen

    • Vic Bergman December 10, 2023 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Peter,

      It’s great to hear from you. You played a role in the shop, too. You worked here for several years after you retired from your dental practice. Thank you for your time! It’s funny how you mention Corbin Creek. There are still lots of locals who refer to that part of Michel Creek as Corbin Creek. I now know the section of creek they are referring to and don’t say anything! Back then, everyone probably had the same geography teacher. You and I had some great fishing trips and conversations about photography over the years. I hope all is well with you and Fran. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Curtiss McLeod December 4, 2023 at 10:46 pm #

    Hi Vic;
    Congratulations! It doesn’t seem like 30 years ago that this all started, but now the Crowsnest Angler is a destination in this part of Alberta, thanks to all the hard work you & Carol put into it.
    Hope to stop by and reminisce with you in the New Year.

    • Vic Bergman December 6, 2023 at 9:58 am #

      Hi Curt,

      The years have gone by way too fast. I look forward to seeing you sometime. Thanks for your message!

  3. Jim O'Neil December 3, 2023 at 2:07 pm #

    Hello Vic,
    It was my privilege to assist you in the development of the shop and guiding operation. You and Carol were the heart and soul of the operation and the glue that made it work. I learned a lot from you on the habits and haunts of stream trout. It was a pleasure to accompany you on float trips on the Oldman and Castle Rivers. You assembled a great photo record of the development and operation of “The Angler.” Another of your talents.

    I look forward to stopping for coffee this spring. Congratulations!

    Your friend
    Jim O’Neil

    • Vic Bergman December 3, 2023 at 5:56 pm #

      Hi Jim,

      The shop has provided me with a lot of memories. I remember our 10th anniversary and how we thought that was a great achievement. We have tripled that. The shop would not have been possible without Gary’s, Curt’s, and your involvement. I learned a lot from you, too, especially when conducting some of the fisheries work with R.L & L. Environmental Services. All of this eventually lead to the formation of The Crowsnest Angler. I look forward to seeing you in the spring. Thanks for everything you did to help us!

  4. robert garnier December 3, 2023 at 6:37 am #

    Vic: Congratulations on 30 years! You love History and you and Carol have contributed significantly to the Crowsnest Pass community and its history. Many happy anglers have walked through those doors over the years…

    • Vic Bergman December 3, 2023 at 9:18 am #

      Hi Bob,

      The years have gone by fast. It seems like they go faster the older I become. At some point, we will all become a footnote at the bottom of a page in the history of the Crowsnest Pass. Thanks for your help in the shop the past few years and for being a great customer before that. I have learned a lot from you. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Bob Costa December 2, 2023 at 8:41 am #

    A long haul with a notable history and great legacy for both you and Carol. Truly, a job well done. Cheers!

    • Vic Bergman December 2, 2023 at 9:44 am #

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your kind words! You played a role here, too. You were the first person to work in the shop, the first summer we were open. Thank you for being part of our history!

  6. Terry Maurer December 1, 2023 at 10:44 pm #

    Congratulations !

    I don’t know Canadian business statistics at all well, but south of the border, only one in three new USA business startups last more than two years.

    You’ve always had services, product and service your friends and anglers need.

    Hope to see you in the New Year.

    • Vic Bergman December 1, 2023 at 10:59 pm #

      Hi Terry,

      It’s great to hear from you. I think Canadian success rates are similar to the U.S. In this business, you always have to be thinking about the economy from one year to the next, let alone forest fires and floods, or pandemics. Over the years, we managed to weather it through all these. In the end, we always had loyal customers to help us along. Hope to see you in 2024. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Nicholas Swoboda December 1, 2023 at 8:35 pm #

    Cool to see the shop through the years. I’ve never been in but driven by several times.

    • Vic Bergman December 1, 2023 at 10:09 pm #

      Hi Nicholas,

      You’ll have to stop by the shop sometime to say hello. Thanks for looking at my post!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *