Elk River Westslope Cutthroat.
Fernie, B.C. is a beautiful, quaint little town. A ski bum, ho humm, laid back, trout bum kind of town. And a river runs through it. The Elk – colored cobblestones of the Rockies shimmering beneath cool blue water. She gave up a number of Her cutthroat beauties to us. We caught and released them on our guided trip last Friday with Dave Brown Outfitters (purchased at this year’s Westslope Chapter TU banquet). Using imitation flies of beetles, ants and hoppers, we lured them to rise and splash beneath the surrounding great slate-colored Canadian Rockies.
The blue ribbon waters of the Elk River, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
Saturday Ron and I fished on our own at Island Lake. We rented a canoe for several hours and paddled through hatches of callibaetis, bright-blue damselflies, dragonflies, and a couple of traveling sedge. We could not get a fish to take our imitations, which allowed us time to marvel at the magnificence of the surrounding old-cedar forest and jagged mountain peaks.
Island Lake sits seven miles up a dirt road surrounded by a thick old-cedar forest. The lake itself reflects pine forests and rocky mountains. And we’re told it holds some big cutthroat, but all we saw were lots of bugs!
From Island Lake, we went in search of Lodgepole Creek and the Wigwam River – supposedly some 40 minutes away over rough dirt roads. We veered right in our sporty car, a Nissan Maxima, when we should have gone straight. And we travelled a gnarly rough road – one used, or punched in, barely, by the Power Company. Thankfully, after a couple of miles, it dumped us onto a good dirt road. After a few different approaches and attempts to find the right bridges and landmarks (two lakes and a cabin) on the maze of logging roads, we came upon the yellow gate!
The bridge at Lodgepole Creek.
We went left, crossed the Lodgepole Creek bridge, and parked the dust-covered Nissan. Ron and I scuttled down the steep, rocky, brush-strewn bank, stood upon some boulders, and commenced to fly fish. On my second cast, I landed a nice fat cutty on a hopper. Ron caught a couple more on his red-ant pattern as the sun began to wane. Hungry, tired, and not wanting to end up in some bear’s belly, we headed back to town.
Sunday morning found us back at the yellow gate. This time, we hiked in 2.25 miles to access the deep blue bull trout habitat at the confluence of the Elk and Wigwam Rivers. Up and down the rocky banks we fished, because two guys were already fishing “the” hole. After they were done, we moved in. Ron was throwing streamers and wooly buggers, trying to get one of the Canadian bullies to take. I dinked around on shore, taking pictures of the magnificent mountain ranges, old-growth pine forests, the rocks and the rivers. We landed no bull trout – turns out this time of year they’re doing the dance of love and aren’t too interested in feeding. We did land a couple of nice cutties and a sucker.
Ron fishing for bull trout at the confluence of the Elk and Wigwam Rivers.
Of course, there was that one big, long tail that flounced out of the water after smacking Ron’s dry fly … and the one bull trout that tugged so hard on the far side of the river … before the line went slack …
They seem to get more grandiose with each remembering. The ones that get away are indelibly inscribed in our memories. They are the ones that keep mystery and hope alive. Oh rivers of the Rocky Mountains, we’ll be back – we’ll be back.
The Wigwam River as the sun begins to slide behind the Canadian Rockies.