Category Archives: Bull Trout

Early Autumn on the Blackfoot River

There was an early October crispness to the air, but the mid-morning sun and light breeze quickly melted it away. We stuffed our polar fleece hats and gloves into the dry bag with our rain gear – just in case. Another day on the Blackfoot River – from Scotty Brown’s bridge to County Line, a short four mile float that we would milk all afternoon.

Scotty Brown's Bridge, Blackfoot River

Scotty Brown’s Bridge on the Blackfoot River.

Shortly after we pushed off, a little dun horse came down through the burnt-red bushes and golden grasses along river’s edge to have a drink of cool water. Beauty and harmony, peace and quiet. The Blackfoot River is my Heaven on earth.

Blackfoot River Cutthroat

This autumn-colored Blackfoot River cutthroat put up an exhilarating fight!

Except for the evergreens, trees and brush were morphing into the brilliant colors of fall. The trout, too, seemed to be donning their autumn wardrobes. Several 12” to 16” rainbows of bright silver and pale pink, a 16” brown with deep golden fins and bright red spots, and a feisty 18” cutthroat with brilliant salmon-colored cheeks and belly. This fish took hard and swam deep, fighting to get behind boulders in the middle of the River. When I finally got him to the net, we were both exhausted. Absolutely thrilling!

The entire day was five-star from start to finish. A mile or so from our take out, we anchored downstream from a sharp bend in the River near a couple of VW-sized boulders. It was not long before I had a small cutthroat on the fly, when Ron shouted, “Look! A bull trout is trying to eat your fish!” Sure enough, this freight train – about 24” of bull trout – was attacking the poor little fish with my hook in its’ mouth. I reeled the cutty in to the safety of our net, and though his sides were scrapped, there were no mortal wounds.

Apparently, the bull trout are just finishing up spawning and are very aggressive this time of year. It is illegal to target this protected species on the Blackfoot, but what a privilege to see them in action.

Always an adventure on the Blackfoot River!

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is Heaven on earth during any season.

Throwback Thursday, Bull Trout on the Elk River

Since Fernie, B.C. is this week’s theme, here’s a shot of Ron back in March of 2006. This was our first trip to the Elk River.

We took the kids to go Spring skiing. Ron and I wandered into the Kootenay Fly Shop, ran into the owner, Gord, and he agreed to take us fishing on the spur of the moment. Snow was still thick on the ground and the boat ramps were not accessible, so we helped Gord slide his raft down a bank beside a bridge and commenced to have a magical winter-wonderland kind of day.

When Ron and I went into the Fly Shop last weekend to get our licenses, Ron was wandering around the shop, then suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, there I am!” Gord had posted a picture of Ron with another Elk River Bully on his “Wall of Fame.” The next words out of Ron’s mouth were, “That sweater is terrible!”

Ron Watt, Elk River, Bull Trout

Ron with an Elk River Bull Trout, March 23, 2006.

Fly Fishing in Fernie

Elk River, Westslope Cutthroat

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.

Elk River, 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

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!

Lodgepole Creek bridge

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.

Confluence of the Elk and Wigwam Rivers

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.

Wigwam River

The Wigwam River as the sun begins to slide behind the Canadian Rockies.