So what can you expect when you book a fly fishing trip with Home Waters guide service on the Elk River? Our guides love fly fishing. We have 6 full time guides and we are now in our tenth year of operation.
I’ve spent allot of time trying to figure out how I got so lucky with the guides that work for me and I came to one very simple conclusion. These guys love fly fishing and they take pride in all of the waters that surround our small town. These really are our Home Waters and when you get out on the water with one of our guides they can’t wait to show you the best of what we have.
Maybe it’s a little like bragging, we believe we have the best dry fly fishing in North America and our goal is to prove it everyday.
The Elk River and all of the tributaries might be the best playground for anglers of every skill level. Young kids get a thrill from watching dozens of trout hit their dry fly in a day, some of our favorite clients are well into their eighties and they tell me they come back year after year for the simple ease and enjoyment of casting a huge floating hopper and watching the rise. The more experienced anglers seem to like the variety. Casting tiny ants to rising cutthroat one day to placing a caddis over a huge rainbow holding tight to the grass bank the next.
We know we have it all here in Fernie but we still strive to show you new waters each and every year. We currently have 30 streams that we guide on. This makes it exciting for the anglers and the guide and it keeps everyone fresh.
So what should you do for your first trip to Fernie and the Elk River? This is the one question I get quite often so after ten years I’m starting to get a good feel for what people are really looking for. First of all, no angler is the same and because our waters are so diverse we do have a return rate of close to 90% but I will still try and paint a picture of what an average 5 day trip might end up looking like.
You probably arrived in Fernie the night before and you are ready to fly fish the Elk River. This is exactly what we recommend. The first day is for shaking off the rust and hooking fish. Two anglers in the boat with a guide telling you where the fish are when needed. The Elk River is a gem for sure. Most days guides can get you doing everything you need to make your trip successful. We generally get on the water between 10 and 11 am, even though the river is right next to our fly shop there is no hurry. In fact most of your takes on the dry fly will be between 12pm and 7pm or as late as you want to stay out on the water. We fish the hours when the trout are rising and all of our hatches seem to come off in the afternoon and into evening. Your first day should be filled with trout missed, lost and landed. It sets the pace for the rest of your trip.
Feel up for a light hike? This is a great day to get out of the boat and walk and wade on one of our many streams for bull trout and cutthroat. One of our guides, Ken Colson, guided for us about 50 days last season on various streams near Fernie. He never had a single client that did not hook into a bull trout. Many of these monsters are 10 to 20 pounds. From the Wigwam River to the Skookumchuck River and all the small creeks in between there is a walk and wade for everyone. Aside from the bull trout that are in these small creeks, some of the largest cutthroat are found in our smallest streams. It’s very common for anglers to land 20 inch cutts on dry flies in creeks small enough to jump across.
After two days on the water you will really have a good idea of what you want to do for the rest of your trip. If you are up for something new we will gladly take you over to Alberta where you can walk and wade for rainbows on one of the many small streams or you could float the Oldman River. A tail water where every evening the surface explodes with big aggressive rainbows attacking caddis. This is not nearly as easy as the Elk River but the challenge makes it a worthy trip. Besides after two days of easy fishing you might be up for having a few rainbows on the end of your line. The Oldman River is a favorite for the guides as well. Many of them will be found out on the water late when they are lucky enough to have a day off.
River X. There is a stream in Alberta we won’t mention. It is just too good. We worked a deal with a farmer a couple years ago and he lets us on his land to access this unbelievable river. I have never seen a stream so good. It’s too small to float but the walking is very easy and the trout are legendary. You will have your best luck with dry flies, mainly hoppers and most of the trout here are over 20 inches. Many are closer to 30 inches. For such a small stream it is pretty much unheard of. If you like the big trout you will also have to ask me about fishing the Waterton River in Alberta for browns. These 2 streams really make me wonder why people bother flying all the way to New Zealand!
As with any day you book with us it is up to you as to where you fish. Maybe you want to go back to one of your favorites, maybe you want to float the Bull River or the St.Mary River. Like I said before, you can’t do it all in one trip. Many clients prefer to fish the Elk River for one last time. We have 7 different floats on the Elk River so you will never have to fish the same piece of water unless you really wanted too. One last day on a drift boat is a great way to end what will probably be one of the best fishing trips you have ever been on.
This is only a suggested trip, the options are endless and even in our tenth year I am still able to take clients to water they have never seen. Even the clients that have been fishing with me since day one. I’m sure you will have some questions, drop me a line anytime. Fishing is my life and I love it.
When you fly fish, you need to learn how to properly cast. Learning how to cast correctly will help you to fly fish effectively. Casting takes a while to master, so you need to practice a lot. There are many different kinds of fly fishing casts, and each has its own special advantages.
The Basic Cast
The basic or standard cast is a simple type of fly fishing cast. It is easy to do. First, you start off by casting the line back. It should be cast back in a straight manner. Then you switch directions and cast it forward. It is simple enough, and this type of cast needs to be practiced until you feel comfortable with it. After you have mastered this cast, you can move on to the more difficult types of casts.
The False Cast
This cast is very similar to the basic cast; it actually uses the same movements as the basic cast, but you do those movements more than once. When you do this cast, you move the fly back and forth, never allowing it to land on the water. This cast can be done to get excess water off of the fly or if you would like to reposition your cast. It is also useful for helping you to practice your timing.
The Roll Cast
This type of cast is useful for when you are casting in an area that has obstacles. For instance, if you have a high riverbank behind you, you won’t be able to do a proper basic cast. The roll cast helps you to let out a good bit of line in front of you; you don’t have to cast it behind you. The water will then load the rod since the current of the water will pull the line out some. The roll cast can be used in any area that doesn’t allow you room to cast behind you.
The Side Cast
This cast is great for moving the fly around obstacles that are on or near the water’s surface. When this cast is done, you don’t cast the line completely straight; instead, you bend the line right or left depending on the direction you need to navigate the fly in order to avoid the obstacles.
When you haul, you give your cast more power. This is achieved by using both hands when you cast. The line speed can be increased a lot by properly doing this cast and pulling down on the line at the right moment which is generally immediately after you start your power stroke. If you use both hands when you’re casting forward and behind, this is known as double hauling.
Fly fishing is an enjoyable activity that takes a lot of time to master. There are many different casts you can try out, and each has its own uses and benefits. Once you have mastered some of the different types of fly fishing casts, you will become a more skilled fly fisher.
British Columbia’s Stringent Fishing Regulations Promote Conservation
As the westernmost province in Canada, British Columbia has numerous freshwater lakes and rivers, in addition to coastal fishing along its western shore. The scenic region provides fisherman the opportunity to catch marvelous trophy fish in inland or tidal waters. In an effort to protect its legendary sport-fishing industry, BC fishing regulationhas taken a ‘fish come first’ attitude, with the goal of saving the region’s fishing and wildlife areas.
Anyone over the age of 16, must carry a freshwater or saltwater fishing license in order to fish in any of the province’s natural bodies of water. A separate license is needed for each type of environment. Each type of fishing license is issued by a different department. Those needing a saltwater license can obtain one through Canada’s Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Freshwater fishermen can get a freshwater fishing license through British Columbia’s Provincial Ministry of the Environment, Lands and Parks. However, the Canadian government has made obtaining fishing licenses rather easy. Instead of going through the actual department, you can get both types of licenses from outfitters, fishing operators, sporting goods stores, marinas, and bait and tackle shops. Visitors can buy a license for one day or eight days, while residents can purchase a license for an entire year.
Upon purchasing a freshwater fishing license, you will see as many as five boxes marked as Conservation Surcharge stamps. The purpose of these stamps is to ensure you do not exceed the daily catch quota of a particular species. This BC fishing regulation is meant to protect endangered and highly sought after game fish. The following fish species require Conservation stamps: rainbow trout from Shuswap and Kootenay Lake, steelhead trout, freshwater salmon, char from Shuswap Lake, and white sturgeon. Becoming friends or following avid fishermen on social media sites can be an excellent way of staying informed on the current fish species that require Conservation stamps. Certain sizes of fish are also protected in order to ensure fish reach maturity. You must measure each fish you catch and release any that are too small to keep. For those that always catch and release, Conservation stamps are not necessary.
Classified Waters License
Some freshwater rivers and streams in British Columbia require the purchase of an additional Classified Waters license. Anyone without a Classified Waters license is not allowed to fish on these designated lake and river waterways. Usually, the most actively fished waters require this special license. Classified Waters licenses can be purchased from guides, outfitters, stores and most places that sell regular fishing licenses.
Fishing in national or provincial parks is also strictly prohibited, even with a basic fishing license. Sometimes, special permits are available to fish these waters, but you must contact the park service for details. If granted a park fishing permit, you can only use one line, and the use of live bait is strictly prohibited, because foreign fish species could disrupt the natural ecosystem.
Fly fishing is very different from traditional rod and reel fishing. It involves the use of artificial flies or other bugs, as opposed to using worms or bait that simulate small fish. Usually, fly anglers cast a hook that has tiny pieces of feather, yarn, fur, or similar material that is attached to a thread. This forms the “fly”. Unlike rod and reel fishing, fly anglers spot the fish beforehand and then meticulously set the fly above the fish in an attempt to snare it on the way up.
Dry Fly is the classic form of the sport. Using this method, the fly fisherman first spots a fish. He then casts out an artificial fly, which floats on top of the water, in an effort to catch the fish as it rises up to swallow the fly. This method is preferred by many fly fishermen because it allows them to see everything. However, trout and other popular fish feed underwater, which makes them difficult to catch using the dry fly method.
The other form of the sport is known as nymph fishing. Flies first lay their eggs in rivers or lakes. As the eggs hatch out, the “nymphs” make their way to the surface and continue hatching into a fly. Nymph fly fishermen utilize baits that are meant to resemble nymphs, instead of adult flies. The nymph baits are then weighted to stay underneath the surface of the water. Though nymph fishing increases the likelihood of a trout taking the bait, it is often considered to be much more challenging due to lack of visibility.
Places to Fly Fish
Fly fishing can take place in any body of water. The sport is most common in shallow bodies of water where the target fish can easily be seen. However, it is also utilized in large deep lakes and oceans as well. There have been many anglers who have caught marlins, sharks, and other large game fish from a fly.
Fly Fish Species
Almost any fish can be caught from a fly, but trout are the most popular due to their shallow water habitats and propensity for eating small insects. Of these, Rainbow Trout are the most coveted because of the intense coloring and terrific taste that they provide.
Gear Needed for Fly Fishermen
The fly rod, reel and line will always be staples in the fly fisherman’s arsenal. However, gear evolves as new tools and gadgets are introduced to the market. Fly fishermen are always on the lookout for any new technology, such as fish finders and underwater cameras that can help them haul in more fish.
Fly fishing is an increasingly popular sport and pastime. Many are appreciating the sport for its environmentally friendly attributes, as it is far less harmful to the fish and local environments than other forms of fishing. Some anglers are almost religious in their love of the sport, while most consider it a relaxing hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Probably the one thing that keeps our customers coming back year after year is the variety of waters in the area. We have about 15 small streams within about a 30 minute drive of the Elk River. Many of these streams are full of large bull trout and native cutthroat trout.
Of course we are close to popular streams such as the Wigwam, Skookumchuck and Crowsnest Rivers but they are just the streams that get the most attention. It is the smaller streams, the unknown tributaries where trails do not exist. These are the places that we take our clients.
We suggest you bring a 3 or 4 wt rod for these streams. Most of the banks are very wide open and we are generally using dry flies and light tippet. Some of these streams do require some difficult wading but we also have a few put away for those guys that are not able to get around like they once did. Our clients range in age from about 11 years of age to several clients in their 90s.
Simply put, the tributaries in the Elk Valley are wonderful and mostly untouched. If you would like to spend a couple days on some great waters and get away from the crowds just give us a call and we can help you out.
New for 2008! Fly fishing around Fernie is always full of surprises. In 2007 we found a new creek with large untouched trout in it. I actually think it might be one of the best ever. Not a great place for huge numbers but the perfect stream for finding some really big cutthroat that don’t see many flies. This stream is about 30 minutes from our shop and we will be guiding here next year. Below is a trout caught on this little treasure.
One of the greatest enjoyments associated with the sport of fly fishing has to be the act of tying or buying flies. There are an endless amount of patterns neatly displayed throughout fly shops covering every shape, size and stage of insect available. The tying sections are filled with myriad dubbing colours, various hook sizes, countless feathers and miles of thread. What we end up with is an ongoing search for the best patterns for the best hatches on the best streams. Our job as guides is to narrow down those selections and create patterns that just simply out produce other flies and ultimately, a guides success on the river will be determined by what he takes off his vice and attaches to the end of a clients tippet.
As guides on the Elk River we are given an assortment of hatches to work with which demands an assortment of flies to match the insect diversity of the the Elk River watershed. As the season opens, spring runoff has left the water a greenish hue providing the trout with a little less visibility. Nature works with the fish, however; providing the Westlope Cutthroat trout of the Elk River with an abundance of large, highly visible stoneflies which become easy prey on the waters surface. Chernobyl Ants are a popular pattern at this time as they are virtually unsinkable in the faster water, are highly visible and provide the fish with a profile similar to that of the Golden Stoneflies. Triple Deckers with orange bellies are also common choices and more natural replications like the Rio Grande Stone and Stimulators get a lot of attention from Elk River Westslopes. Sizes 6-10 handle most situations and bigger is often better. Larger heavily weighted stone nymphs are needed in order to get down in the faster current and Spirit River’s Double Beaded Golden Stone Nymph is a lethal choice for dredging up some beasts from the depths of the river.
The Green Drake Hatch on the Elk River begins towards the end of the Golden Stone Hatch and provides some amazing surface action as well. This hatch occurs earlier in the lower elevations and then gets chased up the watershed into the various tributaries such as Michel Creek and the Wigwam River. The Drakes are plump and heavily dubbed bodies such as that of the Colorado Drake replicate Elk River green drakes quite well. Fishing the various stages of this hatch will result in greater productivity and the Green Drake Biot Emerger is a stellar choice. As the hatch subsides turning to a spent dun pattern will bring up some of the more selective fish and often a sunken pattern will out produce one stuck in the surface film.
P.M.D.’s are a must in any Elk River fly fishing guides box which is why the parachute adams is such a staple on our streams. Sulphur dun patterns and Light Cahills work well in sizes 10-16 and soft hackle patterns swung properly will get some excellent reviews from fish. Spinner falls are a spectacle in the evening light and fish will often turn on to the a rust colored flat winged spinner with long fib-tails. If you need to go under, a tungsten bead hare’s ear nymph in the 12-16 range will consistently hook fish.
Terrestrials such as black ants, hoppers and beetles comprise a large part of the fishes diet and there are times when they are all that’s available on top during the heat of summer. Anyone who has had the pleasure of fishing a good ant hatch realizes that when ants are on, nothing else matters. Fish will key in on these insects and feed on them throughout the day and there are periods when a hi-vis para ant will be the only pattern a guide need own. The Kootenay River has an early spring flying ant hatch that drops thousands of large black ants onto the waters surface and the river comes alive with hungry Cutthroats.
Hopper banks are present throughout the Elk River and its tribs and Chernobyl Ants become an important part of the guides arsenal again. Dave’s Hopper is a more realistic replica that is also very effective. The King Kong Hopper is a highly visible and extremely buoyant pattern that produces some amazing results when accompanied with a dropper on our Alberta streams such has the Oldman River, the Crowsnest River and the Bow River.
Blue Winged Olives hatch in such great numbers that it sometimes seems like your bringing a sandwich to a banquet. Because of this guides will often carry many different types of patterns for this one hatch. Breck’s Emergers, Parachute Olives, and upright winged imitations will cover the hatch as long as you carry them in enough sizes (generally smaller 14-18) and different shades of green will sometimes make the difference on a fussy fish.
With so much focus on the massive mayfly hatches on the Elk River, caddis flies are sometimes overlooked but seem to always be in abundance towards the days end when they return to the stream side to mate and drop eggs into the water. The Elk Hair Caddis is the obvious choice and colour variations are numerous for this popular pattern. Humpy’s are an effective pattern for caddis imitation and clean up on the waters of the St. Mary’s River as well the smaller Skookumchuck River. Shane Stalcup’s Ice Caddis Emerger which features a deer hair wing and a d-rib body tied on a curve shanked hook is an excellent choice when the tent wings are out. The brute of the species is the October Caddis and when they are hatching a more prolific pattern is needed to match the massive body and wing of this amazing bug. Large Stimulators are effective as well as orange Double Humpy’s and an orange bodied PMX has produced very well for this fall time fly. Lafontaine’s Sparkle Pupae and an ostrich hackled pattern called a Fuzzball take care of the pupal stage. Larger San Juan Worms will take fish feeding on the larvae.
Although the bugs will stay the same, the quest for the perfect fly is an endless search as tying materials become improved and introduced. This will keep the keen fly angler exploring fly bins in fly shops everywhere, trying the latest in pattern innovation and tying thousands of miles of thread around wire hooks in the hope of coming up with the next best thing for a trout to eat. Nothing is more satisfying to the fly angler than hooking trout on innovation and adding a little more magic to an ever-filling flybox.
A SMALL LIST OF FLIES COMMONLY USED IN THE KOOTENAY RIVER WATERSHED
Royal Wulff –10-16
H & L Variant–10-18
CDC Biot Drake 8–12
Turk’s Turantula 8–12
Elk Hair Caddis 10–16
Triple Decker 6–10
HI-Vis Para Ants 12–20
Copper Johns 12–16
Lightning Bugs 12–16
Disco Midge 16–22
Arizona Prince Nymphs 12–16
Ice Midge 16–22
Bunny Clouser 6–8
Yellow Yummies 6–10
Freshwater Fishing in BC
Virtually everywhere in British Columbia offers the freshwater angler an unforgettable sport fishing experience. Most interior and northern BC lakes have mixed, healthy stocks of rainbow trout, kokanee, lake trout, bull trout, Dolly Varden, mountain whitefish and lake whitefish. In the fall months, rivers abound with sea-run steelhead and sockeye, chinook and coho salmon on spawning runs. During a typical year in the interior, spring trout fishing starts right after ice-off (May) with a flurry of fast action. In some areas of the province, rivers and lakes never freeze and are fishable year-round. In other areas, winter ice fishing flourishes.
Major Freshwater Species in BC
Trout Rainbow Trout – Rainbow trout are considered the most popular of the freshwater fish. While trout as large as 16 kilograms (35 pounds) have been taken from B.C. lakes by sport fishers, they can grow larger. The Kamloops rainbow trout are considered the highest jumping, most acrobatic of any trout in the world.
Steelhead – Many exciting fishing experiences centre on a battle with a steelhead, a feisty, sea-run rainbow trout. Average size: between 3 to 10 kilograms (6.6 to 22 pounds)
Cutthroat Trout – Closely related to rainbows are two other species of trout native to B.C.: coastal and westslope cutthroat trout, commonly called “cutts.”
Brown Trout – Brown trout have a very limited range in BC but are known to reach weights of up to 6 kilograms (13 pounds) on Vancouver Island.
Char (dolly varden, bull trout, lake trout, brook trout) — Char have lighter coloured spots on a darker body than trout. Dolly varden are present in many lakes and streams, and are often caught while fishing for coastal cutthroat or rainbow trout.