In this installment of our “Costa Behind the Guides” feature, we’ll be headed Northward to the pinnacle of the Rocky Mountain Range: Calgary, Alberta. There, we’ll be sitting down with our friend, and distinguished fly-fishing guide, Paula Shearer, to talk about all goings-on that have to do with managing one’s own outfitting company, as well as what it takes to control the fishing fate of eager anglers on snowy Canadian mornings.

paula with a fish
Image courtesy of Nick Trehearne

FLYORDS: Who IS Paula Shearer?

Paula: I am a full-time guide and angler who is located in Calgary Alberta Canada, which is located on the East Side of the Canadian Rockies. I’m also the owner of PS On The Fly Outfitters which focuses mainly on the Bow River.

paula getting ready for a day of guiding

FLYORDS: What was your childhood like? 

Paula: From a young age, I was encouraged to be active and outdoors, which is where I spent most of my childhood. During the summer months, my family spent a lot of time camping around lakes while the other months were spent playing a number of sports including hockey, lacrosse, and skeleton.

Paula and her dog enjoying a game of fetch between pools.

FLYORDS: When was the first time you picked up a fly rod?

Paula: I can’t recall the exact first moment I held a fly rod in my hand as I was very young, but it was around the age of 8 that I was casting a fly rod in many of the lakes that my family would camp at. As with anything when you first start, it wasn’t pretty, but I became better at untangling line before anything else.

paula casting

FLYORDS: What first attracted you to guiding?

Paula: A lot of my fishing friends were guides, so it was something I had been thinking about for quite some time as I had always enjoyed teaching my non-fishing friends how to cast. One day in particular, I took one of my old teammates from skeleton to the river to fish. We both had retired from the sport due to injury and she wanted to try fly fishing as a new hobby. I met her at the river, put her in a pair of my waders, and taught her the basics of casting a fly rod. It wasn’t long before she was hooking into fish and we grew busy celebrating. Seeing how happy she was and how much she enjoyed the experience cemented my love for teaching others and made me pursue a career in guiding. I found enjoyment in being a part of other people’s happiness in fishing.

paula guiding a friend

FLYORDS: Can you describe the fishery that you guide in? What makes it special?

paula in alberta

Paula: The Bow River is a renowned quality trout fishery of wild rainbows and browns, and runs throughout Alberta. What makes this river unique is that it flows through a major city of over a million people, which is listed as one of the cleanest cities in the world. This, in turn, keeps the river clean and healthy as well. Our river system not only runs through Calgary but also through Banff National Park which is only about an hour and a half away from the city.

FLYORDS: What element of being a fly-fishing guide do you enjoy the most? What element do you enjoy the least?

Paula: One of the things I love most about being a fishing guide is the privilege of being a part of some people’s happiest memories. It is one of the best experiences to see clients excited about something I also enjoy so much. The element I enjoy the least is not having much of a social life during the guiding months, as the days are long and can be physically exhausting. Oftentimes, you’re preparing for the next day on the water the moment you get home.

FLYORDS: For someone who doesn’t know what it likes to be a guide, what is one consistent hardship that you wish you could show them?

Paula: Being a guide is very physically demanding, and rowing a drift boat in all weather conditions (wind being one of the worst!) can be exhausting. Even more than the physical demands would be having to be the mentally challenging component of the job. As with most guides, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to give 100% in order to try and give our clients the best day possible. This can be more fatiguing than rowing! One thing I’m grateful for was being able to openly chat with my other guide friends to get through the first couple of years of guiding.

picking a fly

FLYORDS: When did your involvement with Costa start?

Paula: I first started with Costa in 2016.  Since then, I have been increasingly involved and supportive of their missions such as; Kick Plastic, One Coast, and all of their numerous conservation efforts. It is one thing to put out amazing quality products, but to do so while being so environmentally proactive is something that plenty of brands claim to do, but few actually follow through with. That’s really what separates Costa from the rest.

Check out Costa Women’s Frames, HERE.

FLYORDS: What are some fly-fishing destinations that you find yourself wanting to visit/ revisit?

Paula: At the top of my list is the Seychelles. Not just because of its incredibly beautiful location, but for its rich fishery that is home to many fish on my bucket list. Other locations that I would love the opportunity to fish in would be the jungles of Bolivia and Iceland. I’d also like to revisit Baja, Mexico for Marlin and Roosters; as well as continue my travels to Cuba. This is however an ever-expanding list that continues to grow and evolve.

FLYORDS: What advice would you give someone who’s looking to get into guiding?

Paula: The advice I would give is to always continue to learn and grow through both your experience and knowledge. Learn from those you look up to. What I love about being part of a large fishing community is the ability to learn from those around you. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something and always be open to learning.

paula wading

FLYORDS: On the days that you’re not guiding, what do you like to do?

Paula: Fish, rest, recuperate, and spend time on the water with good friends.

Image courtesy of Amber Toner

FLYORDS: What’s next for Paula Shearer?

Paula: I’m just looking forward to 2023 with big plans to travel, host fishing trips, and guide my nearly booked-up season.

Ps on the fly

Thank you to Paula Shearer for taking the time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us for this interview. If you’re looking to learn more about Paula and ‘PS on the Fly’, you can find her on Instagram, or at her website, HERE. Also, thank you to Costa for making this series possible, as well as keeping our eyes protected, and our vision acute on and off the water. To learn more about Costa Sunglasses, and their conservation initiatives, visit their website, HERE. Lastly, remember to stay tuned for future iterations of “Costa Behind the Guides”, coming soon.

Header Image and additional media courtesy of: Nick Trehearne.

Costa Behind the Guides: Jeff Currier

Costa Behind the Guides: Jeff Feczko


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