An expansive photo-filled look at fishing some of BC's best trout water.
by Chad Shmukler - Wednesday, Mar 4th, 2015
(1/2) Though imminently fishable on foot, the Elk is best fished from a drift boat. We rendezvous at Fernie's Elk River Guiding company and, despite the fact that the Elk flows within walking distance shop's front door, head north in owner Paul Samycia's pickup, drift boat in tow.
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Flowing through Fernie, British Columbia is the Elk River. While the Elk is well known to anglers across the globe, many other less recognized rivers that flow within day trip distance of Fernie in western British Columbia and eastern Alberta also dot the landscape. And each is rich with native westslope cutthroat and bull trout: rivers like the Wigwam, Bull, Kootenay, Fording and Michel Creek. The region these rivers flow through is also a place of staggering beauty, draped by the Canadian Rockies, which have a distinctly different personality to their American counterpart.
Yet these waters -- even the Elk -- are often overlooked as a destination. Anglers are regularly drawn to more famous waters which course through Montana, less than two hours south, despite the fact that the waters surrounding Fernie often offer more of what anglers are searching for, with less of what they're not. Simply translated, that equates to more fish and less anglers. To be sure, anglers searching for the Missouri's monster rainbows or the Madison's big brown trout won't find them here, but those that are in search of the native Rocky Mountain westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout (which can't be legally fished to in much of the states) will discover a bounty.
The Elk and the other waters of this region of the Canadian Rockies might be best described as rivers and creeks where fish do what fish are supposed to do. A veritable paradise for novice anglers, the cutthroat that predominate these streams take dry flies, streamers and nymphs (though you won't catch anyone in BC using them) with zeal. But, while this most certainly isn't difficult fishing, Fernie's cutthroat don't reward stupidity. Drag-filled drifts are ignored, poor fly selections produce slow or no results and clumsy wading and sloppy approaches spook fish.
But otherwise, these trout do what they're supposed to do. What you want them to, especially if you're not a seasoned angler. Wisely placed flies are snatched from the surface, smartly swung streamers are tugged at. Thoughtful water reading is rewarded, as fish hide behind and in front of rocks that you'd expect them to, feed happily in riffles and tailouts and so on -- offering feedback for the learning angler each step of the way.
These aren't trout in your local stream, they're the ones you've read about in books. And they're everywhere.