Report #6 (June 18, 2017): The Columbia River continues to fish well!
We decided to take a quick trip over to the Columbia River to see if the early spring fishing techniques we use on the River are still effective later in June. So today’s trip was a kind of Columbia River late spring ‘test fishery’.
After we closed the Fly Shop in Cranbrook on Saturday evening, we drove over to Rossland and spent the night. We rose early on Sunday morning, had a very nice breakfast at the Prestige Inn and then headed down the big hill to the Columbia River.
The Columbia River is still running pretty good now at about 130,000 CFS (cubic feet per second). The nice thing is that there is now very little debris in the River apart from the odd log. So you still have to keep your eyes open for logs, but the surface of the River is pretty well clear now.
We launched the jet boat at the City of Trail boat launch and then powered up river to a stretch of back eddies we know well. The weather was very nice with temperatures reaching 70°F (20°C). The morning was beautiful with clear blue skies, but by mid afternoon we saw the dark clouds move in and provide us with a bit of weather!
Immediately after anchoring up in the first eddy we were into fish. The day continued to produce well as Karen and I had 3 doubles going at various times. We had fish on quite steady throughout the day.
The rainbows caught and released were all in the 19 to 22 inch slot… and let me tell you, they pulled hard. It does not really matter the size of the rainbows caught in the Columbia as they are all strong and fight like crazy.
Today we concentrated on nymphing the eddies. When the River is high like now the fish tend to stay in the eddies so that is were your efforts will be best rewarded. The trout feed on all the food that gets concentrated in the big revolving swirls, it basically provides the fish with a smorgasbord of different food; terrestrial, emergering, etc.!
We fished in many different eddies throughout the day, only breaking for a shore lunch at around 1:00 p.m. Later in the afternoon, around 3 to 4 p.m. the weather moved in and the barometric pressure dropped making the fish less active. But after it rained a bit the fish were back into a feeding frenzy again. We just had to put the fly in the right spot and wait for the fish to find it. We decided to call it a day at around 5 p.m. It was a great day to fish and get some good casts in. Overall the Columbia is fishing as good now as it was earlier in the spring!
There was a small hatch of Pale Morning Duns around noon, but the fish did not seem interested in feeding on them much. They wanted the food in the water column and seemed to feed contently just below the surface.
The flies that worked well on this trip included Kelly's Super Streamer, Purple Prince Nymphs, Hare's Ear Nymphs, Lightening Bugs and Regular Prince Nymphs (sizes 12-16).
Because the past winter was quite harsh in our part of the world, we are now seeing female deer giving birth, which is quite late. In term of birds we are seeing the normal amount of bird life, which includes the eagles protecting their nests!
Apart from this brief jaunt over to the Columbia we are now back in the East Kootenays as we start guiding on the St. Mary River next week. The level of the St. Mary River is dropping daily and it already has 3 to 4 feet of visibility. We are doing our annual ‘guide float’ this coming Sunday, it should fish awesome!
The St. Mary River is usually the first of our East Kootenay rivers to clear up in the spring. This is due to its sizable headwater lake which catches a lot the dirt and fine materials and acts a big natural buffer for the river.
The Elk River is also dropping, but is still quite dirty. We will let you know when it is in shape to fish. All the small streams that flow both into the Mary and Elk have cleared up and look good.
The Bull and Skookumchuck rivers are still quite high and difficult to fish at this time, but give it a week or two and they will come around.
The free stone rivers of the East Kootenays are about to open for the summer. Come on up and check us out. Call us at 1-800-667-2311 as we have a lot of information on the rivers and streams to tell you about.
PS Drop into our fully stocked fly shop if you are in the area. Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float trip for this summer.
Report #5 (June 6, 2017): Premier Lake has the fish and the scenery!
Today the weather looked great so a bunch of us decided to head up to Premier Lake to try our luck with the rainbows. Premier is a 40-minute drive north of the Cranbrook/Kimberley area. It is a beautiful lake nestled in the mountains with spectacular views and an abundance of wildlife. Today the temperature reached a wonderfully warm 75°F (24°C) to compliment the beautiful setting.
As everyone in our party was using pontoon boats, we decided to put in at the Rod and Gun Club. The Club is located on a road that leads down from the main gravel road to the campground. This launching spot is mid-lake so once you have your pontoon boat in the water you can either paddle across the lake, or stay on this side and work the nice bays and drop off ledges.
Premier Lake is about 5 km long and is very fishable from a pontoon boat. It is situated within a B.C. Provincial Park which also has a few smaller lakes (Yankee and Canuck lakes) that you can hike into and fish by float tube. The hike is not that onerous, but remember to pack accordingly as you are still in the backcountry.
We got on the water early this morning and headed across the Lake from the launch area. There are a couple nice drop-off ledges over there so we positioned the pontoon boats, anchored up and started to fish.
We fished in about 12-15 feet of water using a strike indicator, swivels and an assortment of Chironomids. We also hung micro leeches and balanced leeches under an indicator when the Chironomids were not hatching much. After we caught the first fish we used a stomach pump inserted into the throat to see what they were feeding on. At this time of year everything is hatching; chironomids, may flies and callibaetis in addition to scuds, shrimp and leeches. When any of them are hatching their respective artificials will work well. Our fish’s stomach was full of small black Chironomids, May Flies and small Scuds… stuffed full.
The fishing started off slow, but steady. By early afternoon the fishing picked up and we caught and release a dozen to 15 fish each by the time we got off the water round 6 pm.
The rainbow in Premier Lake are not huge, a nice 15-17 inches on average and beautifully coloured. We also caught a couple Brook Trout, which went into the pan for dinner!
The dominant hatch on the day was the Chironomids; certain times during the day they were very noticeable. The flies that were working best were the Red Butt Chironomid, Rick's Prom Midge, the Chromie, Black Chironomid with a red rib, as well as balanced leeches, micro black leeches and some varieties of May flies.
While out on the water we saw two loons cruising around looking for fish, plus an osprey up in it's nest.
All our rivers open Thursday June 15th. The snow pack is 105% of normal for this time of year and is melting off the mountains in our area at a nice rate. It is all up to the weather though. If we get huge rains it will keep the rivers muddy till the end of June. So we will keep you posted on the conditions of all our rivers!
PS Feel free to drop into our fly shop in Cranbrook to chat about the lake fishing or check us out on face book for the latest news and conditions.
Report #4 (May 27, 2017): White Swan Lake is fishing very well!
In the last week the weather has turned warm and the lake fishing has been very productive in the East Kootenay region of Southeastern B.C. The popular White Swan Lake has been fishing particularly well. Even the small lake just before White Swan, known locally as “Moose Lake”, has been terrific.
Once arriving at White Swan Lake people choose to fish either at Pack Rat Point, or go to the other end to fish from Home Basin. Either choice is good, but I have heard that Pack Rat Point is fishing great.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous today with temperatures reaching 73°F (23°C) with only light winds making for very nice conditions. Today we fished White Swan a couple of different ways. The first was to use chironomids in 10-15 feet of water; the second was to hang a balanced leech or a micro black leech over a drop off ledge. Both techniques worked quite well on this trip. We also saw some anglers trolling along the drop off ledges with big Black or Green Leeches, Doc Spratleys, Half Backs and Full Backs.
The fish we landed and released today were many, all in the 17-19 inch range, with a few over 20 inches! All the fish gave us a good fight as they jumped and pulled hard. The big rainbows have obviously wintered well and are now feeding vigorously.
The dominant hatch coming off White Swan today was Chironomids. It was a beautiful day to be out and fishing on this gorgeous lake.
When you drive up to White Swan Lake just a remember that you are on an active logging road so be sure to stay on your side and take your time. It is a beautiful drive up into this area. You may also be interested to know that there is a hot springs along the Lussier River that is very nice. After fishing you can enjoy a nice soak in the hot springs!
All the lakes in our region have been fishing quite well recently.
If you need information on any of the lakes in the East Kootenays give us a call at the St. Mary Angler and we will keep you updated and informed!
Make sure you review the new fishing regulations before you head out on the water.
PS Feel free to drop into our fly shop in Cranbrook to talk about the lake fishing and check out our extensive assortment of wet and dry flies.
Report #3 (May 22, 2017): The Columbia River is rockin’ on this Victoria Day weekend!
The Columbia River has been fishing so well that on our day off today we decided to do a reconnaissance trip to the lower section of the River. You know, get out on the water and explore some less frequented holes, eddies and runs.
For first time in what seems like ages, this long weekend was absolutely beautiful with temperatures reaching a high of 82°F (28°C). It has been such a cool spring that it was awesome to feel hot weather again! The temperature of the River water was around 52°F (11°C). So while the water remains very cold for us, the fish are not deterred as they have been very hungry and active!
With the regulation of the upstream dams, the water levels of the Columbia River are now on the rise. Today the flow of the water was around 130,000 cubic feet per second. With the levels and water flows this high, boaters have to be very careful because we are now seeing more debris and logs on the water. This stuff can come at you very fast when you are out on the water navigating the boat and trying to fish at the same time. Be careful to “keep your head on swivel”, always looking for stuff on the water and AWAYS wear a life jacket. Remind the passengers to keep an eye open as well since more eyes on the water reduces the risk of encountering any debris.
We are now finding the rainbows have moved away from the runs and are now in the big and small back eddies looking for food to eat. It also looks like the spawning period in the main river is coming to an end and the rainbows just seem to be focused on eating now. That said, a few days ago we had a report of over a couple of dozen of good sized rainbows seen spawning in one of the tributary streams.
Today our destination was some of the smaller eddies on the lowest stretch of the Columbia River from the City of Trail down to the Canadian/U.S. border. There seems to be fish feeding in every eddy now. We caught and released many bright chrome, chunky rainbows throughout the day all in the 18 to 21 inch slot. We were not able to entice any big guys to come out and play, but the ones we caught were tough fighters. We had a great day out on the River.
We found that when the fish hit, they hammered the fly hard and once hooked jumped many times before being landed. All the rainbows were very healthy and strong. We mostly used the standard nymphing technique on this day; with an indicator. Our approach was to cast out into the eddy and give the indicator a tug once in awhile to imitate the nymph moving in the water. It is a pretty straightforward and effective approach.
In terms of the hatches, the whole afternoon was one large Caddis hatch. But, as it would go, the fish were keying on the nymphs rather than the dry flies! The flies that were working for us were the Purple Prince Nymphs, regular Prince Nymphs, Lightening Bugs, Pheasant Tails and the Pickle pattern (Sizes 14-18). We could not resist trying some dry fly patterns as we were hoping the fish would be feeding on the black ant hatch that usually comes this time of year. So we tied on a few different ant patterns (sizes 14-16), but had little success as they were obviously feeding below the surface.
While out on the Columbia today we saw two eagles fighting high up in the air; quite a show. The bears have now emerged and are roaming around as we saw a two year old juvenile with its mother as we headed back to Rossland after fishing.
With the recent increase in temperatures and the onset of the higher stream flows, summer is becoming more than just a hint… perhaps its here?
We hope to see you up on the rivers and streams of southeastern B.C. this season!
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float trip, or just drop into the shop if you are in the area.
Report #2 (May 11, 2017): The Lakes and Columbia River
Fishing on the lakes is now in full swing in the East Kootenay Region of Southeastern B.C. They are all open and most have turned over. Lots of people are out camping; enjoying the fishing and great outdoors. The daily temperatures have been fairly cool, but there have been a few warm days where the hatches on some of the lakes have been huge! Chironomids are now the dominant hatch, however, we did see a small ant hatch recently. When the weather warms up we will see more flying ant hatches which will eventually be huge as well. The fish gorge themselves on ants and then seem to take a few days off to digest them!
The anglers are having good success on the lakes using leeches, balanced leeches and an assortment of chironomids. The chironomids include; Snow cones, Chromies, Prom Midges, in black, green and grey.
Just a reminder that when you are fishing chironomids you should check out the lake and find out where the fish are cruising before you start to cast. Once you find where the fish are, anchor your boat on a drop-off ledge, measure the depth of the water and then build your leader-tippet to the length you require. Some fishers build their leaders up to 20-22 feet in length. Long leaders like these can be very hard to cast, so if that is the case for you, try to find the fish in 12-15 feet of depth, which calls for a leader that is much easier to cast.
Once you have built your leader, attach it to your fly line. Then add your indicator to fly line above the joint with the leader. Then add a swivel down at the end of the leader to act as your weight. Finally, tie on about 18 inches of line to the swivel and attach your chironomid to the end.
Remember to anchor up and with the wind to your back cast out over the drop off ledge. You need to have confidence in the fly you are using and the only way to get better at this technique is to get out and practice as much as you can.
When you are in Cranbrook, feel free to drop by our Fly Shop. In the shop we will show you what flies are working on each of our lakes and you can examine the chironomid rig we are using and ask questions about the setup.
The Kootenay River has come up quite a bit lately with the rain and runoff and is now the colour of chocolate milk.
The Columbia River:
The last week on the Columbia has been a mix bag in terms of the weather. We have experienced some intense rain, but the last couple days were beautiful as it was sunny and warm with temperatures reaching a lovely 73°F (23°C). Today we were on the top end of this reach of the Columbia River near Castlegar. We drifted down stream into a complex of back eddies; some were small and others were huge masses of swirling water.
Where we launched our boat is a section of the Columbia that is closed at this time of year to fishing to protect the spawning rainbows. As we drifted through on our way to the fishable waters we could see the rainbows building their redds, as well as a few huge sturgeon cruising the flats for eggs and whatever else the could siphon up through their mouths. Some of the sturgeon are quite large, which makes it a crazy/cool trip to spy them through the clear water as we hover by. Always remember to check the regulations before you head out fishing on any of the local rivers or lakes to make sure you are following the rules!
On this particular day, the Kootenay River, which joins the Columbia River at the top end of the section we fish, was dark brown. This meant that some of the eddies we usually fish on one side of the Columbia were not fishable. So we fished some smaller eddies and did quite well hooking a number of fish. Even though the Kootenay was delivering a lot of sediment, the Columbia River was still very clear and fishable.
We mostly fished with nymphs, occasionally throwing a streamer. The fishing was quite good throughout the day as each angler landed and released about 10 rainbows. The biggest fish caught in one of the bigger eddies was a good 25 inches. We enjoyed seeing this big rainbow do a series of jumps and make a long run before breaking off during the fight. Man, these rainbows can get big in this River, and when you hookup you just never know what you may have!
Again the hatches on the Columbia were few and far between, with only a few small midges and mayflies on the day. We did get to see a good amount of bird life including eagles and ospreys flying about their nest feeding on the fish from the River.
In terms of the flies used today, the patterns that worked were definitely bigger than the ones last week. Size 10-12 Prince Nymphs were a good call. Also the Super Streamer pulled in a few fish during the day. The rainbow's did not show any interest with any of the small midges… it seemed they wanted a bigger meal!
With the recent increase in temperatures and the onset of the freshet, summer is just around the corner. We hope to see you up here this season!
Take care and enjoy the emerging spring and summer.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to discuss any of the rivers you are interested in fishing with us this summer. We are booking trips on all our rivers now.
Report #1 (April 28, 2017)
The local lakes are opening up and the Columbia River is fishing well for rainbows.
It has been a long winter followed by a cool and wet spring here in the Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. So after a long winter’s sleep the weather is starting to warm up and the lakes are opening around the Cranbrook/Kimberley area. The Columbia River is producing well, so the 2017 fishing season is finally here!
The month of March has been almost 2°C cooler than normal for us. Cool and wet weather through March has led to a significant increase in snowpack conditions across the Province, with the biggest increases being observed in south and southeast B.C. where we are. The snow pack in our part of the Province is sitting at around 120 percent of normal. We expect to see a pretty healthy runoff this spring. We will keep you in the loop on any high water and flooding conditions as the water does its annual reshaping of our rivers and streams.
Kootenay River and the Lakes around the Cranbrook/Kimberley Area
With the cool spring conditions the freshet and accompanying pulse of high water run-off has not even started. Some of the rivers are rising, but there is very little color to them. The Kootenay River, which is still fishing quite well, will soon start to get dirty as the runoff comes. All the rivers of our Region 4, except for the Kootenay and Columbia rivers, are now closed due to spawning considerations.
The local anglers and outdoorsmen coming into the shop have all expressed their keenness to get out onto the lakes to fish. The lakes opening up the past few weeks include; White Tail, White Swan, Premier, Lazy, Larchwood, Tamarac, Horseshoe and many more of the lower altitude ones around Cranbrook and Kimberley. The guys and gals have hit the ground running, casting an assortment of artificial chironomids and regular and balanced leeches into any of the lakes that are open. While a few of the lakes have started to turn over, all the lakes seem to be producing very well early on this season.
The Columbia River
The guides have been over on the Columbia River the past couple weeks guiding the stretch of River between the confluence with the Kootenay River down to where it crosses into the United States. The section of the Columbia fished today was the stretch from Genelle up towards the City of Castlegar, B.C. You can learn more about the different sections of the Columbia we fish at our website.
The weather has been a mixed bag this last week; rain, snow, wind and some sun! It seems crazy to say, but it is typical for this time of year! We have been spoiled the last couple of years with mild winters and beautiful warm springs… but not this year!
So the anglers equipped their rods in advance of getting into the boat with streamer and nymph setups. After our gear was prepped, we were suitably bundled up and outfitted in our PFDs, we headed out on the Columbia in search of big rainbow trout.
The water flows in this stretch of the Columbia River are controlled by a series of upstream dams managed by Canadian and U.S. power authorities so there is no big pulse of run-off to speak of. At this point the upstream reservoirs are being filled with the runoff so we are only seeing a slow/steady rise in flows on this stretch of the Columbia. This results in the fish starting to move from the bank edges into the big back eddies to feed as water levels rise and the eddies expand in size.
Today we launched the boat at Genelle and cruised upstream looking for a nice back eddy to drop into and start fishing. The River is flowing at around 80,000 cubic feet per second now, typical for spring. Our approach was to power upriver in our jet boat and then cut the engine and drift down into the top of a back eddy, rowing as we go to maintain optimal positioning. We started by fishing with streamers, but then changed to the rods equipped for nymphing as we found them to produce more fish. As always on the Columbia, you need to come prepared with multiple rods set up for different conditions; steamers, nymphs and dries.
The morning was quite slow, but as the day warmed up in the early afternoon the fishing turned on. The guys ended up catching and releasing around 20 rainbows. The average size landed was in the 17 to 20 inch slot. Some of the fish wintered well, while some looked skinny. That said, as the system warms up and more food becomes available they will all bulk up.
The biggest rainbow landed was a nice 21 incher that jumped many times before it was landed, photographed and released. This fish was slightly chunky with beautiful rainbow colors. As we checked out the different eddies along this stretch of River, we saw eagles and ospreys circling in the sky overhead looking for their next meal. We also saw spotted a group of wild turkeys gleaning the bank edges.
The weather has effected the hatches as the water temperatures are staying below 50°F (10°C). So the only hatches observed on this day were very small midges (sized 16-20). In terms of the streamer patterns used we casted mostly pickles (sizes 8 and 10). As for the nymph patterns, we tossed Rick's Baetis Midge and Black Chironomids (sizes 16-20) and Jig Head Prince Nymphs and Purple Prince Nymphs (sized 14-16).
The Columbia River has definitely turned on and the 2017 fishing season is in full go mode. We hope to see you up here this season!
Remember to check out the new 2017 fishing regulations for each region you will be fishing in B.C., as there are always changes.
Take care and enjoy the emerging spring.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float on any of the rivers we guide. If you are in town please drop into our fly shop in Cranbrook. Our friendly staff will be happy to serve you.ake care and enjoy the emerging spring.
Report #21 (October 17, 2016)
One last trip on the Columbia River as we wrap things up for the season!
The 2016 season is coming to an end and there is no better place for us to wrap things up than with a day on the Columbia River chasing big rainbows. On this last trip the group decided to fish the section from Genelle down to the City of Trail as this section produces very well during the fall.
The water level on the Columbia is quite low this week fluctuating between 38,000 to 44,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). These lower levels expose a lot of cobble shoreline habitat, which as you know, can make the fishing very good. The water is also clear to the eye, so we enjoyed very good conditions on our last time out.
At this time of year we basically throw streamers all day long. That said, we did use our dry fly rigs when the October Caddis showed up. We also decided to bring along the Spey rods for use on sections of the River with wide exposed shorelines that favor the use of this technique. One has a lot of different options when fishing the Columbia River in the fall.
We got on the water later in the morning and fished till dark. The fish tend to increase their activity as the air temperature warms things up so we start out later come fall. The fishing today was quite good. The anglers landed and released around 15 rainbows each. Most of the rainbow trout fell into the 16 to 21 inch range with one exception, a beauty rainbow that stretched 26 inches. No matter the size of the rainbow you hook up on the Columbia, they are all incredible fighters and can take you into your backing many times before they are brought in. Sometimes when we hook a particularly feisty fish we will have to chase them with the boat and that can be a lot of fun for both the guide and the angler.
In terms of the hatches we saw some small size 18 midges hatching earlier in the day before the October Caddis and Blue Winged Olives came off in the afternoon. Hatches usually occur here when the River and air temperatures warm up and that is when we put down the streamers and try dry fly fishing.
Today we used a variety of streamer patterns that all worked well, in addition to the October Caddis and BWO's when these hatches showed up.
We had another great day of fall fishing on the Columbia River. In addition to the reeling in some beautiful rainbows we had the pleasure to enjoy it all with the resident river otters, eagles and ospreys that live here year round, very nice.
As this was our last trip of the season it is now time to put down the gear for a while. We would like to give a special thank you to all those who fished with us this season, as well as those who dropped into the fly shop in Cranbrook. We greatly appreciate your patronage. We will now take a few days off before preparing for the Holiday Season and attending tradeshows in the New Year.
Take care and enjoy the rest of the fall and the coming winter.
Hope to see you next year!
Kelly and Karen
PS We will let you know via facebook when we have our tradeshow dates for 2017.
Report #20 (October 2, 2016)
The Columbia River is rocking this fall!
Well we are back on the Columbia River for another episode of ‘fall fishing for big trout’. The weather has been quite nice, but there is change in the air as cooler temperatures and rain are one their way in the next few days. Today the weather was very nice as it has been beautiful this whole first week of October. The flow of the Columbia is dropping now and it has been very good for the fishing.
In the fall we mainly throw streamers, but there can be a good dry fly hatch as well at times. So on this day we rigged up rods for both the streamer and the dry fly methods. We decided to head down below the City of Trail to fish the eddies and along the bank edges down towards the U.S. border.
Fishing from a boat on the Columbia has many advantages. It allows one to cast into the big eddies and along the bank edges with ease. Maybe even better, fishing by boat means you do not have to walk along the cobble strewn shoreline, which can be very slippery. It is also quite difficult to wade with the strong current moving around your legs! So the boat is the preferred mode of fishing the Columbia.
The fishing has been outstanding this past week and it continued today. The rainbows were feeding aggressively and took a streamer without hesitation. The guys were hooking up on pretty well every second cast! This was a week were you could do nothing wrong; as long as you could get the cast out 30-40 feet from the boat, the fish spotted the streamer and hammered it. Today the guys landed 20 fish each, while missing quite a few more. The biggest rainbow caught was a nice 27 inch rainbow trout that jumped multiple times and almost took the angler into his backing. It was very exciting for these guys… an awesome day of fishing.
October Caddis and some small midges were hatching, but the guys decided to stay on the streamer technique and continue to pick up fish. The flies that worked well included Kelly's Super Streamer and the Girdle Bug, a.k.a. the Pickle. We did use a few dry flies including October Caddis, Stimulators (Orange Stimi Chew Toy) and Blue Winged Olives.
In terms of wildlife, we spotted some turkeys working their way along the banks of the Columbia, as well as some eagles perched on their nests.
The Columbia is an amazing fishery and can produce some outstanding days of rainbow trout fishing, like today.
This week of October 2-8th the rain has moved in, so we will see if the big boys want to come out and play. We are on the Columbia till the 16th.
Report #19 (Sept. 26, 2016)
A Beautiful Fall Day for a Walk and Wade on the Skookumchuck!
This last week of September has brought back the summer weather to the Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. Warmer temperatures and beautiful blue skies are always welcome. This fall has been very mild and the colors of the trees are now vivid and bright.
Today was a great day to head back into the mountains for a walk and wade deep into the canyon section of the Skookumchuck River. The guys met at our fly shop in Cranbrook at 8:00 a.m. With coffee in hand, everyone piled into the truck and headed out for the 1.5 hour drive into the back country. The morning was very cool to start, but as the day progressed it warmed up to a pleasant 18°C (65°F).
The conditions on the Skookumchuck River are normal for this time of year. It is low with many pockets of water. It is now easy to walk and wade and can be crossed in a number of sections.
We got to the River, strung the rods and headed down along the path towards the canyon. We walked for about 30 minutes before we reached the beginning of the canyon, stopping to cast into a nice pool. Thinking that the River had to warm up a bit, we were not expecting readily active fish on the dry fly in the morning. However, we were proven wrong as the first cutthroat rose and slammed the fly! The activity continued thoughout the day. Each of us landed around 15 cutthroat trout, which was an unexpected count for dry fly fishing at this time of year. The cooler temperatures of the fall usually means nymphing or throwing streamers is a more successful approach. But the weather has been so nice that the fish came to the dry flies all day.
The average size of the cutthroats landed was 12-14 inches. We scoured the pools for bull trout, but because they have headed upstream to spawn there were no bulls in our stretch of the Skook.
The hatches on the day included a few October Caddis with some midges coming off as the day warmed up. The flies used were Orange Stimulators, Royal Wulffs, Fat Alberts and Lime Trudes which all worked quite well.
Because the days are getting shorter and the daylight runs out early, we started our hike back earlier than we would have liked. The animals start moving more at dusk as well, so we walked out in plenty of time to get back to the truck.
It was a beautiful fall day to be out in the backcountry to take in the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the Skookumchuck River canyon.
Now we are moving on over to fish the Mighty Columbia River where we will guide thru October. The Columbia River reports are to come.
So stay tuned!
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311, or check the Face Book page to keep in the loop on how the upper Columbia River is fishing for the big rainbow trout.
Report #18 (Sept. 17, 2016)
Fall on the Elk River is sublime.
The fall weather has been spectacular with many dry fly enthusiasts taking advantage of the nice days and heading out to fish. On this day we decided it was so nice out that we would make the drive over to the Elk River and try our luck on the stretch below Fernie. At this time of year it is absolutely beautiful with the trees decked out in all their fall colors and the mornings are cool, crisp and clear, just a wonderful setting.
We each rigged up our fly rods (a streamer rod and a dry fly rod) and climbed into the boat, pushed off and rowed down and across the Elk to fish the first run. As soon as we got to the other side we got out and walked the bank edges surveying the water for lurking cutthroat. The bubble line is where all the fish hang out, so instead of walking deep into the water, we began fishing close to shore and systematically worked our way into deeper water. This way we can cover more of a run and be very effective in searching for fish.
Most anglers like to throw long casts, but on the Elk and St. Mary rivers all you really need to do is cast 20-25 feet. The most important thing you must remember is to control the line (make a quick mend and get a good drift) and present your fly softly on the water.
We hooked a few fish in this first run and then climbed back into the boat and headed further down river. Throughout the day we tossed our flies along the bank edges, behind large rocks and along logs. We hooked up many fish along the way. Most of the cutthroats were in the 15-16 inch range, very colourful, healthy and chunky. We saw a few bull trout heading out of the holes while we floated through them, but they were not interested in our offerings. We stopped at a particularly lovely run down river quite a ways, got out and began casting. It really produced well, a fish a cast for a while and some of them were a nice 17 to 18 inches. Overall we landed about 20 cutthroats each, it was such a productive day.
By late in the day the temperature reached a balmy 23 °C (73°F) with only the occasional cloud floating by. As we floated closer to our takeout we were lucky to see an eagle dive down into the Elk River to catch a fish. This was on a flat, shallow piece of water were the birds can easily spot fish. However, the fish won this round as the bird flew away with empty claws. But not for long I suspect.
Throughout the day we saw small Blue Winged Olives, Midges and Green/Brown Drakes hatching. Later on in the afternoon the big October Caddis were coming off as well. The successful flies used on the day included; Green Drakes, Mahogany Duns, Blue Winged Olives, Fat Alberts, Purple Haze and terrestrials - ants and beetles.
Fall really is a beautiful experience on the Elk and St.Mary rivers.
We are heading over to fish the Columbia River at the end of the week. We expect it to be awesome!
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to keep in the loop on how the upper Columbia River is fishing for those big rainbow trout.
Report #17 (Sept. 1, 2016)
The St.Mary River is looking good for the fall!
The St. Mary River, the quite little sister of the Elk, has fished outstanding this year. As we turn the corner to the fall, it continues to produce a lot of quality fish!
Today we decided to float the lower section of the St. Mary down to the Kootenay River take-out near Fort Steele. All the rivers are now at their fall low flows. On the St. Mary, with all of its braids, this means the River can get quite low. Fortunately, we run Maravia rafts, which allow the boat to skim over river without drawing much water. On occasion your guide may have to get out of the boat to get it through a tight spot, but that is okay as the River is still fishing very well.
The mornings are consistently cool now, as fall has arrived. There is snow on the tops of the Rockies and the threat of wildfires is over. Today’s temperature started off at a cool 2°C (36°F), warming up to 17 °C (63°F). The weather has been all over the map this past week. Storms roll through the area fairly quickly where you can get wet, or it may miss you completely. Some sections of the river get bouts of wind and other sections are protected and calm. On the bottom section of the St.Mary today the wind was light and the sun was in and out throughout the float.
It is beneficial to bring along a set of waders and boots on fall floats. In addition to keeping you dry and warm, it allows you to wade the low waters as much as you want. And you can always take them off if you get hot. It is nice option to have.
The Mary started off a little slow, until things warmed up and then the fishing took off. The anglers landed close to 20 fish each. In addition to cutthroats they also caught and released a number of cutbows and a couple full strain rainbows. The kokanee (land locked sockeye) have moved into the river system now in anticipation of spawning. This usually starts in the third week of August and lasts into September. Sometimes this can change the feeding habits of the cutthroats as they stay below the kokanee and feed on eggs as they spawn. But today the cuts were still feeding on the surface readily taking dries. The biggest fish caught was a nice and chunky 16-inch cutthroat. These cuts pull pretty hard and it is fun to fight these fish. Sometimes you have to chase them down the river so you can land them!
Today we noticed some stoneflies hatching on the lower river, as well as a few midges. The flies used consisted of terrestrials like Blank Ants, Black Fat Alberts and Hoppers. We also casted Purple Haze, Parachute Adams, Clinkhammers and Stimulators.
During the float we saw a black bear run off into the bush plus a lot of osprey and an eagle activity. Overall it was a wonderful fall day on the water!
The fall fishing on the St.Mary and Elk is wonderful, come up and check us out.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a fall fishing trip on the St.Mary, Elk or over on the upper Columbia River for rainbow trout.
Report #16 (August 27, 2016)
As we make the slow turn to fall, the Elk River is fishing great!
The fall feeling is in the air as we are experiencing cool, crisp mornings now. With fall around the corner, the Elk River is calling out as this is my favorite time of year to fish it!
The cooler weather and rain brings out the hatches on the rivers. So we were excited to climb into the truck and drive an hour east of our Cranbrook fly shop towards Fernie, B.C. The section of the Elk we decided to float was the stretch from Fernie down to the Morrissey bridge. The weather was quite nice today with temperatures starting out at a chilly 8°C (46°F), but reaching a lovely high of 24°C (75°F). The wind picked up a bit in the afternoon as it looked like some weather might be moving in, but it held off and the day turned out to be quite nice right through.
The water level of the Elk River has dropped down to its normal summer low with many defined runs and pools formed throughout its length. The guys wanted to mainly fish dry flies for cutthroats today, but if they spotted some bulls along the way, they would cast into the holes with their streamer rigs.
So we carried along the 4-5 weight rods for the cutthroats and 7-8’s for the bull trout. It makes sense to be prepared for whatever you may run into while out on the river.
So we floated down to the runs and got out to fish along the bank edges when we spotted a few hatches coming off. We could see Blue Winged Olives and a few Green Drakes popping off the surface. We fished, matching the hatch, and also tossed some ant patterns. The fish liked them all. So it just goes to show that the fish are still on terrestrials in a big way and feeding well.
The fly fisherman landed around 25 fish each and they did have a couple of shots on the bull trout. They noticed the bulls were moving in some areas, while some looked like they were starting to stage for spawning in others, so they did not even look at the fly. It is always worth a try to cast amongst the bulls to see if one will take a streamer.
The cutthroats on the Elk River are “cookie cutters”. From one to another most are in the 15-16 inch range. In addition, they are very chunky and fight quite good.
One angler caught a gorgeous 18 inch cutthroat when casting along a log structure. This cut was sipping flies and the fisher put in a very good cast, mended, got a nice drift, lifted up the rod and hooked the fish perfectly in the top of the mouth. You got to like that. The fish took off and he was into the backing quickly. The fight occurred while we floated down River so by the time he was landed and released he had been relocated to a different pool!
The flies used throughout the day included; Black Ants, Mahogany Duns, Blue Winged Olives, Green/Grey Drakes, Caddis and foam patterns such as Chernobyl Ants and Fat Alberts. It is always good to have a wide selection of artificials that you can choose from when you hit the river.
During the float we saw a black bear plus a lot of the bird life amongst the trees. The forest along the river is full of life and to see some of it is exciting.
While summer is slowly fading, fall fishing is my favorite time of year. With the color changes of the trees, cool mornings and light traffic, you will love it.
Come and check us out.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to discuss a fall fishing trip on the St.Mary, Elk or the upper Columbia River.
Report #15 (August 20, 2016)
The St.Mary River is having a great year!
The St. Mary River has been so good this year that we have spent most of our time fishing it - rarely leaving to fish other rivers! Today we met our enthusiastic group of anglers early at the fly shop, loaded all the gear into the trucks and head off to the put-in. Since we had four anglers who wanted to get some instruction on both fishing from shore, as well as learning to cast from the boat, we decided to float the Pumphouse to Wycliffe section.
The weather was absolutely beautiful today with the temperature reaching the low 30's °C (high 80’s °F) with a bright blue summer sky. The morning however, started off quite cool, giving us that beautiful freshness that only mountain air can provide! It is good idea to dress in layers so one starts off warm when it is cool and as the temperature rises you can shed the clothing to remain comfortable. It is also a good idea to bring a rain jacket just in case a squall or a little rain storm rolls through at some point in the day. That being said, the weather cooperated on this day and stayed wonderful.
We all got into the boats, floated down to the first nice piece of water and pulled over so the anglers could pile out and get a lesson on the basics of fly fishing. We started with how to cast and how to read the water. The clients first were instructed not to walk into the water too far so as not to spook the cutthroats. And the lessons went on from there.
Over the course of the day floating in the boat and stopping and fishing from shore the anglers learned the techniques of fly fishing. And as a result, they all landed some fish. The cutthroats are a very accommodating lot, some of the smaller fish even chased the bug when the anglers did not get a good drift as the fly was dragging across the water!
Our beginner clients each landed 6-8 cutthroat trout and had numerous chances to hook up more. The fish are still feeding aggressively and are looking very healthy. Even the smaller guys put up a good fight.
The hatches on the day included small midges, but the grasshoppers are now out in full force along the bank edges. So patterns of hoppers and foam bugs are now working quite well. The guys also fished some Stimulators and Royal Wulffs, but they really stuck with big foam bugs partially so they could get used to seeing the fly floating on the water. All they had to do was twitch it on occasion so the bug looked alive.
Overall the day was a great success for this group of anglers. Whether you are new to fly fishing or an expert, the St.Mary River is the place for you.
St.Mary Angler PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to discuss fishing conditions or to book a float.
Report #14 (August 14, 2016)
The hike into the Skookumchuck River is an awesome fishing experience!
This morning we headed up to the Skookumchuck River to fish for the bountiful cutthroats and bull trout. The Skook provides an intimate and picturesque walk and wade fly fishing experience. The drive from our fly shop in Cranbrook to the Skook takes us about an hour and a half.
It was a gorgeous day. We left early, around 7:00 a.m. to get a good start on the day. Once we arrived at our destination we got ‘all geared up’, put the packsacks over our shoulders, and started to hike into the canyon portion of the River.
The walk into the canyon is an absolutely beautiful thing as we pass along the River’s pools that taunt us with their beauty. But we know they are too close to the road and get worked over pretty good so we push on. We keep walking, heading back into the wilderness to find the perfect run and pools that take more effort to get to and thus harbour some pretty nice cutthroats and bulls. The weather was clear and beautiful today with temperatures reaching a nice 28°C (82°F).
Once we arrived at our destination we waded into the emerald water and started casting the dry fly-lines. We immediately targeted the backside of rocks and along log structures. The cuts love coming to the surface for their food and are very opportunistic feeders. They will eat a dry fly if it looks real and is floating naturally down a run most of the time. We hooked up many cutthroats on the day in the 13-15 inch slot. We did catch a couple bigger cuts, up to 17 inches, which were chunky and brilliant in colour.
After a while we hiked in further down the River in search of a nice deep hole where the bull trout lurk. We tied on one of our custom streamers from the shop. The angler then casted and stripped it through the hole quickly…. and … you guessed it, he caught a nice 10 pound bull trout! It was a very exciting fight and once landed we took a quick picture and released this beauty back into the emerald waters of the Skook.
In terms of hatches we saw a few caddis and midges coming off. The guys had good success fishing Orange Stimulators, Purple Haze, Split Wing Caddis, Clinkhammers and Red Belly Fat Alberts. We also threw the Clark's Rat and a Dalai-Lama fly for the Bull Trout.
Overall the day was a wonderful success and the guys were very happy with the fishing and overall experience.
We hiked back out of the canyon to the truck reaching it around dusk. It was a good long day, but we still had some food left over from lunch and devoured it on the ride back to Cranbrook. That buttermilk fried chicken and pasta salad was even better than when we had it for lunch!
Come on up and check us out. You will enjoy yourself.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float. If you have even a little sense of adventure and like to hike, the Skook really is the trip for you.
Report #13 (August 7, 2016)
The Elk River is fishing great!
We were off to the Elk River today as we headed over to Fernie to fish the lower section from the old ghost town of Morrissey down to the Elko take out.
The morning was cool, as has been the case recently, but as the day progressed the temperature reached the high 20’s°C (mid 80’s °F). So we piled into the drift boat with the expectation that we would stop to do some wet wading when we felt the urge.
The water level and clarity on the Elk are now back to normal for this time of year. With the cooler weather this summer the levels are holding nicely and the fish are very active. We expect these good conditions to continue through September into October making for excellent fishing.
The guys set up their dry fly rods, but also took along a bull trout rod for the possibility of getting into them. Most anglers we guide prefer to fish with 4-5 weight rods for the cuts and go with the heavier 6-8 weight rods for chasing the bulls. The float on the lower section of the Elk is very beautiful as it gets away from the roads and has some great sections were the fish hold in good sized pools and runs.
As soon as we were off the bank, the guys were casting towards the bank edges as we floated down the River… you know, lots of casting and mending! The closer one can get the fly into and behind the big rocks or along the logs, the better the chance of pulling a bit cutthroat. These cuts can be tough, but if your drift is good, allowing the fly to float free long enough for the fish to spot it, you have a great chance of hooking it up.
As the day moved along the anglers hooked into a good number of fish in the 14-16 inch class. One angler managed to keep on a nice 18 inch cutthroat that bolted up from the bottom and grabbed the fly… and put up really a good fight. After it was landed we took a nice picture and released it. It was a nice fish, very chunky and healthy looking. These anglers had a really good day on the Elk landing around 50 fish between the two of them.
Hatches on the Elk River are pretty well always guaranteed. Today we had Caddis, Mayflies and a few Green Drakes hatch during the float. The artificial flies fished included; Purple Haze, Green and Grey Drakes, Red Butt Caddis, Fat Alberts, Purple Chubby Chernobyls and Swisher Caddis.
We observed a lot of birds during this float of the Elk and also spotted a couple deer hanging along the bank edges, drinking.
In general, all the rivers are fishing very good now. And with no wildfires to worry about and good healthy water levels, we expect the rest of the season to continue to be very productive.
We will fish the Elk, St.Mary and the other rivers of the East Kootenays into early October. After that we head over to the West Kootenay to fish the upper Columbia. Come on up and check us out.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float, or drop into our fly shop in Cranbrook if you are in the area. Our friendly staff will be happy to help you out.
Report #12 (July 31, 2016)
The St.Mary River continues to deliver!
Today we decided to float the Canyon section of the St. Mary River from Wycliffe down to the Mission, as it remains clear and is fishing well. Unfortunately, all the intense short duration rain storms we have been experiencing recently in the East Kootenay region have led to some rivers getting blown out.
When the rains come so heavy that the water runs over the ground instead of being absorbed by the soil, it causes the stream banks to erode. This erosion releases lots of fine sediments into the water leaving us with only a couple of feet of visibility, which makes it very difficult to fish dry flies. This happened both to the Bull and Elk rivers this past week. Fortunately the St. Mary River escaped this fate due in part to its headwater lake and luck.
The weather has been ‘wait 5 minutes’ type of weather. The days start off clear and beautiful and then during the day a storm will roll through bringing some short bursts of intense rain with it. Today most of the time it was quite nice reaching a lovely 30°C, with just a few short storms. It really just depends on where you are on the river when the systems move through whether you get wet or not.
The St.Mary River is now flowing at its regular summer level. All the rain we have been getting has meant the rivers are holding levels nicely and the water temperature has been normal for this time of year.
Today we wanted to dry fly fish and were very excited to get out onto this beautiful leg of the St.Mary. The fish were very active again as the anglers landed 15 to 18 fish each. Mixed in with all the cutthroats were a few cutbows and one rainbow that jumped several times before it was landed.We also had a bull trout come up for a dry fly, which is unusual but does happen. This bull trout was around 19 inches in length, that would have been a nice “chicken”, as we like to call to them.
We also had a bull trout come up for a dry fly, which is unusual but does happen. This bull trout was around 19 inches in length, that would have been a nice “chicken”, as we like to call to them.
The hatches today were mostly Caddis and Mayflies as the Green Drakes and Stone Flies have slowed right down. The artificials that worked well included; Purple Chernobyls, Purple Haze, Split Wing Caddis, Swisher Caddis, Stimulators and Fat Alberts. Black Ants and Beetles also performed well.
We did float by a black bear on the river bank, which was quite exciting. We also saw eagles and ospreys flying around their nests. So there was lots to see on the River today in addition to the scenery.
Here comes August!
Well, July is just about over already… wow. We are now booking floats into September on the East Kootenay rivers and later into October for the Columbia River over on the West Kootenay. So we will just keep rolling along; getting experienced anglers into fish and teaching beginners how to do it! All our guides (Kelly, John, Brennan, Nate, Ken, Steve and Rick) are great teachers and will put you in position to catch many fish!
Hope to see you on the river this season!
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float for August, September or October!
Report #11 (July 24, 2016)
The Bull River is ready to go and producing plenty of cuts and bulls!
Today was our first float of the Bull River in 2016. Recently we have heard good things from many of the anglers who have been walking in and fishing below the dam were the Bull flows into the Kootenay River. The word is that the anglers have been doing quite well, landing some big bull trout and lots of nice cutthroats. So based on this intel, we decided to check it for ourselves!
Our goal today was to float the top section of the Bull River. Upon arrival we could see that the River was in great condition with typical water level for this time of year and running crystal clear. The Bull has a lot of nice pools and great structure where fish hold and feed; it is a beautiful little piece of fishing paradise.
The temperatures reached a nice 26°C (79°F) with no clouds and just a slight breeze… a wonderful summer day!
The anglers wanted to dry fly fish all day so they put together their 4-5 weight fly rods and tied on their dry fly of choice. As we climbed into the drift boat, the anglers started casting right away towards the bank edges, then behind rocks and solid structures as we drifted downstream. We soon noticed a small caddis hatching (always a very good sign), so the guys changed their flies to black or tan caddis and continued to cast with confidence.
We pulled the boat over on a nice stretch of the River to allow the guys to jump out and walk the bank edge; casting into the top of a run and drifting the fly through it. When we fish this way, one has to be mindful to keep mending the line continuously so the fly looks like it is floating naturally all the way through. If the fly drags at all, the cutthroats are smart enough to see ‘that isn't right’ and will ignore it. The fly also has to be on the water long enough so the fish can spot it, track it and eat it. If it starts to drag, you only have one choice… to pick it up and cast again.
Casting from the boat is a great advantage on the Bull River as you can get casts onto both sides of the River, as well as drop casts into pools and behind rocks in the middle of the river! It greatly increases the water you can access on every outing.
On this float the guys caught many trout in the 14 to 15 inch range, as well as a few in the 16-17 inch slot, which are good sized fish for the Bull.
The Bull River is really seeing the benefit of the extra enforcement provided by the Conservation Officer service. They have done a great job of reducing the illegal harvest and killing of the wild cutthroat trout on this River. In the last few years we are seeing the size of the cutthroats landed getting bigger and the fish are looking bright and healthy! It is a nice little success story that will benefit the River’s ecology and those who fly-fish it.
The flies we used on the water included; H&L Variants, Sparkled, Tan and Black Caddis, Purple Haze, Split Wing Sparkle Adams, and of course the foam patterns such as Fat Alberts and Chernobyl Ants. Just a heads up that the grasshoppers have not quite started yet.
We are moving into a cooler “La Niña” period this summer, which has brought cooler temperatures to the Pacific Northwest. These temperatures have really helped to keep water temperatures down as well. Water levels are also holding steady. The result of these positive biological conditions is that the fish seem to be very happy and scrappy!
We observed a wide variety of bird life on the Bull River today, ranging from eagles to osprey flying up around their nests to numerous song birds. We did not see any signs of bears on the River today…they are likely feeding in the high country now.
All the rivers of our Kootenay region have been fishing very well this year. We are seeing lots of hatches coming off due to the cooler temperatures and the fish are feeding aggressively.
If you have never been fishing in Southeastern British Columbia, come on up and check us out. The setting is beautiful and the dry fly fishing is remarkable!
Hope to see you on the river this summer!
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a summer float. Drop into our fly shop for a great selection of rod, reels, flies and accessories!
Report #10 (July 15, 2016)
St.Mary River Report: the top section is in summer form!
We are now into ‘summer cruise mode’ as we are half way through July. Basically the conditions are now summer like and we are entering the busy time of the year for us. As for the weather, after a sizzling spring things have been dialed right back as we are now experiencing July temperatures that are cooler than normal with showers at some point most days.
With the cool temps and the regular rain the rivers are definitely holding lots of water for this time of year. The back channels are still looking good with good flow moving amongst the new structures and logjams that have formed. Over the last few weeks the fish have been moving throughout the system, but now seem to have settled into their summer homes … which are our favorite runs and holes to fish!
Today the anglers decided to float the upper most section of the St.Mary River; from the Lake down to the Mathew Creek pullout. The storm clouds looked threatening throughout the day, but we only experienced showers on and off. We would experience a shower, then it would stop and the fish would feed heavily. This weather pattern brought some huge Stone Fly and Green Drake hatches. Once the storm occurred, the barometric pressure would go back up and the fish were happy to feed as the hatches began! A nice pattern on the day for fly-fishing.
We fished dry lines most of the day from the boat, casting along the bank edges and behind structures of large rocks, boulders and logs. We also got out of the boat a few times and fished up the back channels in search of some big cutthroats.
We carried along a 7-weight rod just in case we decided to target the big bull trout lurking in the deep holes. The bull trout are moving into some of the deep holes on the upper reach for the summer and we wanted to be prepared to take a shot at them if the opportunity presented itself.
On this float the anglers hooked and released 20-25 cutthroats and 4 bulls to round out the day. They were very pleased with the catch and the wonderful experience of the St.Mary. The biggest cutthroat was a nice 17 incher; a chunky fish that pulled very hard and put up a really good fight. This fish looked very healthy, and as I have said before, they seem very happy and are feeding aggressively this year.
The water temperature of the St.Mary has remained cool this season so the fish are not stressed, which is a big change from last year’s high temperatures. Every year is different and we just hope for no extremes!
The flies used on this St.Mary trip included Stone Flies, big attractor patterns like Chernobyl Ants, Fat Alberts, Purple Haze, Turk's Trantula, Lime Trudes, yellow and orange stimulators and Caddis patterns.
We saw a group of wild turkeys along the road to the Lake, as well as a lot of bird life along the River. This included ospreys to eagles and of course, the ubiquitous swallows swooping down eating the bugs just above the water surface as they hatch.
All the rivers are fishing very well now, so come on up and check us out.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to discuss available days, or to book a summer float.
Report #9 (July 4, 2016)
Summer is here and the river fishing is unreal!
Today the destination was the lower stretch of the St. Mary River from the St. Eugene Mission down to the confluence with the Kootenay River near Fort Steele, B.C.
The water levels are holding nicely as we are seeing some precipitation this month. Compared to this time last year we are getting more rain. The rain has been really good news for the rivers as it provides for cooling flows as the season moves along and reduces the danger of wild fires in the region. As the spring was so unseasonably warm and dry, this recent rain has brought us back into the normal realm in terms of precipitation.
The weather today was overcast with a few clouds and occasional sunny periods. The air temperature reached a comfortable high of 21°C (70°F).
After the freshet this spring this bottom section of the St. Mary River has changed somewhat from last year. The River is now a little more braided and we are seeing a lot more back channels. The lower St.Mary is such a pretty float as one gets a great view of the Rockies as we roll down thru the channels. Every once in a while I have to remind folks that we are here to fish and to not get mesmerized by the spectacular backdrop! After all we are floating and I can’t power them back upstream if they miss a nice piece of water.
The anglers wanted to dry fly fish all day so they rigged up their 4 and 5 weight rods and put on their dry fly of choice. We jumped into the Maravia raft and floated down into the runs. Our approach focused on casting along the bank edges, along structures such as logs, or behind big boulders, all in search of the hungry cutthroat. The St.Mary is still a little ‘pushy’ in spots, so the anglers had to make a good cast and mend it quickly so the fly looks like it is floating naturally in the run. The fly has to float along the surface long enough without drag for the trout to find it and eat it! Many times the fly will get sucked under the water and then the fish will not even look at it. When this happens, you must immediately pick it up and cast it again. There is a lot of casting in a full days float, so you will be well practiced by the end!
On this early July day the fishing was very good at the start, slowed a bit towards lunch and then really picked up into the afternoon. The two anglers landed 30 cutthroats between them, as well as a number of cut-bows, which made for a very interesting and exciting day of fishing.
The biggest fish landed at the raft was a cut-bow measuring around 18 inches. This fish jumped quite a few times until it was brought under control and photographed for posterity, then released.
The fish this year are looking very healthy in terms of color and girth. It seems that the fish are getting a little bigger every year in the Mary.
As it was overcast today, the Green Drakes started hatching mid morning and continued pretty much all day long. We fished foam patterns to start with including; Stone patterns, Fat Alberts and Chernobyl Ants. But as soon as the Green Drakes started to come off in force their match was the fly of choice. At various times throughout the day we also offered Royal Wulffs, H and L Variants, Purple Haze and Lime Trudes to keep things fresh.
As for wildlife, we spotted a deer coming down to the River for a drink, occupied osprey and eagle nests and even some wild turkeys at the take out.
The fishing is already in summer form on the St.Mary and Elk. So come on up and check out the rivers in the East Kootenays as summer is here.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to discuss available days, or to book a summer float. If you are in the area, pop into our fly shop on the main drag in Cranbrook to check things out.
Report #8 (June 26, 2016)
The Elk River is open and fishing well!
Today our destination was the bottom section of the Elk River down to the small community of Elko. On the drive to Fernie we did our informal “wind check”. We stopped just before the southern entrance to the Highway 3 tunnel between Elko and Fernie and gauged how much wind there was. Our rule of thumb is that if is blowing hard before we enter the tunnel, we will not fish down on the lower section that day. Fortunately for us, it was relatively calm, so off we went. We ended up with some wind after lunch, but it was not too bad at all.
The weather was quite nice with the temperature reaching 27°C (81°F) later in the afternoon. The feeling that summer is here, was felt by all of us.
The Elk River is at least 2-3 weeks ahead of normal in terms of water clarity and flow. We are seeing some of the best early season fishing conditions in quite awhile. All the anglers are excited to be out catching cutthroats on dries and bulls on streamers in late June!
As I was setting up the boat and getting it ready to go downstream, the anglers were stringing their rods in anticipation of doing some dry fly fishing for these wild fish. We brought along an assortment of lighter rods for cutthroat dry fly fishing (3, 4 and 5 weights) and a little heavier rods for the bull trout (6 and 7 weights).
As soon as we got to the first hole on the Elk we put some nice casts into the run; mending the line to get a good drift on a traditional pattern in anticipation of a big mouth coming up to eat the bug! You could see them cruise up from the bottom to take the fly on the surface right of way… very cool!
The day started with a bang and continued throughout. Fishing was very consistent and the guys had a great time. Each angler landed around 15-20 cutthroats. Lots of fish in the 14-16 inch range were landed and released. They all exhibited that bright red cut along the jaw line and were very chunky. The fish fought hard and were exciting to pull in.
The biggest fish landed was a robust 18 inch cutthroat, which got close to the net and then popped off. The angler got the good fight, but was not rewarded with the picture. Oh well, that is what brings them back the next time!
The hatches coming off throughout the day included big Stone Flies, Green Drakes, Tan Caddis and PMD's. Artificial flies such as Green Drakes, Orange and Yellow Stimulators or Stimi Chew-Toys, Purple Haze, Split Wing Caddis, Chernobyl Ants and Stone Patterns were all working at various times. It pays to have a good selection of flies in your box to try in case it gets tough and you need to try other patterns to get some action.
On the Elk we always see a lot of bird life along the stream banks and up in their nests.
The rivers are already fishing well and bookings are coming in, so give us a shout about coming up yourself. If you are in the area, just stop in the shop and we can give you good advice on where to go and what to use day by day.
Remember to check your fishing regulations before heading out. There have been a few changes and you need to be aware of them before you hit the water.
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to stay in the loop on fishing conditions, discuss available days, or to book a summer float.
Report #7 (June 19, 2016)
St.Mary River is open and ready to fish now!
Our inaugural test float on the St. Mary River happened today and the season started off with a bang!
We hit the water as a group of 6 boats, heading out early in the morning after launching at the Kimberley Golf Course put-in. Our game plan was to float three sections of the River, all the way down to where the St.Mary empties into the Kootenay River. We knew we would have to move quickly, but we wanted to see as much of the River as possible to see how it may have changed from last year. As we gathered to launch our boats I could feel the anticipation and excitement of all the anglers. We worked quickly to string our rods, get the boats in the water, and push off for our first St. Mary float of the season.
The St.Mary looks amazing for this time of year. The hot weather earlier this spring and corresponding early freshet means we are now seeing conditions similar to those of the first week of July. The River is still a bit high, but very clear and fantastic for our float. The St.Mary is ready to float now.
The temperature on the River started out this morning at 9°C (48°F) and reached a high of 18°C (65°F) in the afternoon. The weather was pleasant but mixed with some sun and cloud throughout the day.
We dry fly fished all day for the abundant population of wild Westslope cutthroats. As we drifted downstream, casting along the bank edges, behind big boulders and through the deeper holes, the cutthroats slammed our bugs if the drift was good. The trout looked very healthy, but not only are they chunky, they have a lot of spunk in them as well.
As our group worked our way downstream we observed Green Drakes, Stones, Pale Morning Duns and Caddis flies hatching all day. While the cutthroats are now moving upstream to their summer feeding spots they fed heartily. On the drift we came across pockets of fish in some sections of the River, and then noticed other sections where the fish had yet to move into. In terms of how many fish were caught, anglers in all of the boats caught and released many fish with an average size in the 14-15 inch range…nice.
The biggest fish caught on the day was a hefty 18-inch ‘cut-bow’ that slammed a stonefly on the surface. This fish jumped so high out of the water it made everyone take notice.
The artificial flies used on the day included Golden Stone patterns, Green Drakes, Purple Haze, Stimulators Caddis and PMDs.
We floated three of the four sections of the St.Mary River, so we had to move quickly through a lot of really good water. We saw eagles and ospreys fishing in their favorite holes and we saw ducks cruising along the bank edges with their young. What was really awesome is that all our guides were able to see the River, float it and enjoy a day fishing with their family and friends!
If you want to dry fly fish all day and catch some nice cutthroats come soon as the River is in good shape early!
Remember to check your regulations as new rules have come into effect this season.
Hope to see you on the river this summer!
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to keep abreast of fishing conditions, discuss available days, or to book a float.
Report #6 (June 4, 2016)
Columbia River Report: the weather has heated up and the good fishing continues.
The Columbia River has been fishing very well over the past month and the last few days have been no exception. We started today by having a nice breakfast at our meeting place at the Prestige Hotel in Rossland. We then loaded up the gear and headed down the mountain into the valley to meet the Columbia. We launched the boat near Castlegar and headed upstream to some of our favorite eddies.
The weather this weekend was smoking hot as temperatures reached a high of 36°C (97°F), yet the fishing was outstanding. The water levels recently increased from 95,000 to 110,000 cubic feet per second, so yes, it is a big river to fish. Our jet boat gets us around the river quite nicely at these flows.
As we approach the big eddies this time of year we always scope them out for excess debris and logs swirling around. While debris accumulation is normal as the flows build early in the season, we avoid eddies where we feel the debris is such that it will interfere with our fishing.
Today the anglers fished with their nymphing rods the whole day. Each eddy or run we fished produced about 3-4 rainbow trout. The average sized fish caught was in the 18-22 inch slot. The rainbows had very nice color and fought very hard as they are in prime shape!
The nicest fish was a 22 inch rainbow that was landed and photographed. It took the angler some time to land it as once the fish got into the heavy current it ran a few times and jumped repeatedly. On the day each angler landed about 15 fish, a nice haul indeed!
The dominant hatch on this hot day was a small size 18 midge. Later in the afternoon there was hatch of size 18 ants, as well as some size 16 mahogany duns. The fishing definitely picked up after the midges started to hatch. As usual, once the hatches started to come off in decent numbers the swallows were out in force dipping and diving over the water as they fed heavily.
The flies that were most effective today were Copper Johns, Jig Pheasant Tail (size 14-16) and Kelly's Micro Midge (size 16 -18).
Lakes and Streams Update:
The lakes in our area continue to fish well and all the small streams in Region 4 open June 15th so we are in full go mode soon! We expect the rivers to fish very well early on given the early freshet this year. If you want to come up and check us out, I encourage you to come early as you will not be disappointed.
Remember, the stonefly hatches on the rivers are awesome early in the season!
We hope to see on the water soon,
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 if you want to chat about fishing in our area. Check us out on facebook for frequent updates.
Report #5 (May 23, 2016)
Columbia River Report: the weather has cooled down and the rainbows have changed their feeding pattern.
Our Victoria Day long weekend was a wet one for us, but great for the backcountry and the rivers and the lakes that drain it. Snow fell high on the mountains around the Kootenay region and everything has suitably cooled down. As for the upper Columbia River, where upstream dams control the water levels and flows, there was no bump in run-off to worry about. The Columbia is currently running at about 100,000 cubic feet per second up about 10,000 from a week ago. That said, the rain did cool the water temperature of the River down and subsequently changed the eating habits of the rainbow trout.
On the Tuesday after the weekend of rain, the anglers put on their waders, boots, layered clothing and headed out onto the River. The temperature warmed up throughout the day peaking at around 16°C (61°F) with only a few light showers later in the day. We launched up at the top end of the system near Castlegar and powered downriver to fish along the bank edge runs and the big back eddies that dominate this River.
The guys started the day by nymphing, but we quickly realized the fish were not cooperating. So we decided to throw streamers and the activity perked up a bit. After some trial and error we seemed to find the right bug and we landed a few rainbows.
After our lunch break we could see that the caddis had begun to hatch. We eyed a pod of rainbows rising to the surface to feed in a big eddy. So we exchanged our streamer outfits for our dry fly fishing rigs and the game of enticing them to take the fly on the surface was on!
One of the anglers landed a nice 22-inch rainbow on the dry fly. It was a very exciting to watch the hookup then see the big rainbow take to the strong current and run. Over the course of the day the two anglers landed 18 trout. These rainbows were all in beautiful shape and pulled hard regardless of their size. The rainbows on the Columbia like to jump out of the water once hooked which makes the retrieve pretty exciting as long as they stay on the line.
With the cooler temperature of the day, the hatch was later in the day and included Black Caddis and small midges. One always knows when the big hatches are coming on the Columbia as the swallows appear across the water swooping and diving for every insect they can grab.
In terms of the flies used on the day we started off with Prince nymphs and Caddis nymphs, Lightning Bugs and Copper Johns (sizes 14-16). We then switched over to Kelly's Super Streamer and Girdle Bugs (sizes 10-14). We finished off with Tan and Black Caddis flies (sizes 14-16).
The month of May has gone by quickly. The lakes have been fishing quite well so far this season. While there is always the odd tough day, overall all the fishing in the Kootenay region has been really productive this spring.
All the Rivers of Region 4 will open up soon, June 15th to be precise. Many anglers are starting to count down the days and we expect to have a superb dry fly fishing season in 2016. If you get a chance, come on up and check us out.
We hope to see you on the water this summer,
PS If you have any questions about the services we offer call us at 1-800-667-2311. If you are in the area, feel free to stop by the fly shop and chat for a while. Find out were to go and what is working!
Report #4 (May 11th, 2016)
The Lake Report: While the weather has cooled down, Premier Lake is producing well.
The Lakes in Region 4 have been fishing very well so far this month. There are many lakes in our Region to choose from, but today we decided to head out and fish one of our favorites, Premier Lake.
Cooler weather has recently moved into the area, which is a nice respite from that early season heat we experienced. The snow pack did build up a little recently putting more depth up in the mountains after all that warm weather was melting it away. Today the temperature started out at a chilly 2°C (36°F) in the morning building up to a seasonal 16°C (61°F) later in the day! But what a change from the hot temperatures of a week ago!
Premier is a beautiful lake located a 45 minute drive north of Cranbrook nestled up against the Rocky Mountains. Premier Lake is a consistent producer of nice rainbow trout and poplar with the locals.
We put our craft onto the water mid-lake at the rod and gun club. We immediately set to checking the drop-off ledges for cruising fish. Once we spotted some rainbows in the shallows we anchored the boat in place with the wind to our backs. We set up our chironomid rigs to sink down about 15 feet with a swivel for weight about 18 inches from the end where we tied on a size 14-16 chironomid.
We casted our lines out over the drop-off ledge setting the indicator in the proper position so the chironomid was left hanging just off the bottom. Then we began a slow, short retrieve. When the chironomid hatch is on, the fishing can be fast and furious and you can watch the indicator go down like crazy, it so much fun!
The fishing was quite good today. Each angler caught and released around 15 rainbows. All of these fish were in the 15 to 18 inch range. Two of the rainbows were over 20 inches in length and jumped repeatedly making for an exciting fight. All the fish looked healthy and strong. The fishing at Premier can be very good when it is on, but it is always fun to get out on this Lake.
In addition to seeing strong chironomid hatches on the Lake, we also saw Callibaetis mayflies coming off, while the damsels and dragons were just starting to come out along the bank edges.
The flies we used on this trip included Green Chironomids, the Chromie, Rick's Prom Midge and Black Chironomids (sizes 14-18). We also used micro leeches, damsels, and Callibaetis Mayflies (sizes 12-14).
Just remember if you are out lake fishing and not hitting anything, you can always increase your chances by pulling a leech or Doc Spratley along the bottom. The fish love feeding on these flies as well.
The Columbia and Kootenay River are open year round. The Columbia continues to fish very well this spring. The Kootenay is still dirty due to the freshet.
If you are in the area, come into our Fly Shop in Cranbrook to check our excellent assortment of flies and fishing accessories!
PS Call us today at 1-800-667-2311 to book your trip on the Columbia River or discuss available days on the St.Mary and Elk rivers this season.
Report #3 (May 2nd, 2016) )
Columbia River Report: another great day of chasing rainbows!
This trip out we decided to fish the upper section of the River stretching from the City of Castlegar down towards Genelle. Our goal was to hunt through the big and small back eddies, plus look in on the bank edge runs along the way.
The last couple of days we have seen some rain, which was great for the tributary streams. But on this day the weather again was spectacular. In the morning the temperature started out at a nice 16°C (61°F) and later built to a high of 28°C (82°F). Wow, it was just like a summers day!
The water temperature remains quite cool as the River level is starting to come up. On this day it was running at around 80,000 cubic feet per second and we expect it to reach 90,000 CFS in a week or so as the runoff builds. This stretch of the Columbia is influenced by the operation of upstream dams on both the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. The increased flows are now pushing a lot of the food into the big back eddies and the fish are starting to move from bank edges to the big swirls.
Before we launched the boat we assembled streamer rods, nymphing rods and one rod set up for dry fly fishing as it is great to be ready for anything that comes our way. One angler even brought along his Spey rod to fish from shore!
The fishing started off with a bang and we caught a few rainbows in the 16-18 inch range. After this initial action we moved on to another of our preferred areas and began casting again. The key to success this time of year is to get your fly into that little wedge of water where the current is forcing and concentrating the food. Once there you must mend and maneuver your fly appropriately to keep it there long enough so the fish can find it.
The biggest fish landed on the day was a nice 22 inch rainbow which took the angler into the backing and jumped like crazy. The rainbows are in very good shape now and have a lot of energy --- they are chunky and fight very hard!
On this particular day there was an epic Black Caddis hatch on the River; it was like a snowstorm. Thank goodness we all had our face buffs on during the hatch or we would have been eating our share. One wonders when a hatch like this is going on, why would a fish even take our artificials as there was so much food in the water…crazy! The fishing did slow down a bit with the hatch, but as the day progressed the fishing picked up again with each angler catching 15 to 20 rainbow trout. Yes, the river is fishing well.
The flies that were working well included: the Prince Nymph, Lightening Bugs, Copper Johns (size 14-16); Kelly's Super Streamers and the Speckled Girdle Bug (size 10-14). We also tossed the Black and Tan Caddis on dries (size 16-18).
During the trip we saw an eagle and an osprey prowling the eddies and cruising high above their nests. We also saw the Canadian Geese working the grass along the shore.
The fishing season on the Columbia River is now in full go mode. We still have some days open so give us a call and come on up and check it out.
The lakes in our region are also fishing very well as we are experiencing some great Chironomid fishing. Basically everything is hatching right now: Dragons, Damsels, May Flies and Chironomids and the fish are gorging themselves!
If you are nearby and have any questions on the rivers, streams and lakes in our region, come on into our Fly Shop in Cranbrook and we will help you out!
PS Call us today at 1-800-667-2311 to book your trip on the Columbia River!
Report #2 (April 22nd, 2016)
Lazy Lake Report; ice free and ready to go!
We normally see the lakes in our region starting to ice off by the middle of April. However, this year, like 2015, some of the lakes were already ice free by the end of March and all the other lakes were iced off by the first or second week of April.
So Whitetail, Whiteswan, Premier and Lazy lakes are all ready to go now. This crazy warm April weather has seen many of the locals out enjoying the balmy weather; camping and fishing the lakes every weekend. So we thought we would join them in the fun.
With such an early start to 2016 the lakes still remain cold and not all of them have turned over. Where they have not, the oxygen has yet to spread throughout the whole lake so the fish remain deep, feeding on the bottom targeting different types of leeches, scuds and shrimp. That said, we are seeing hatches of chironomids popping off at certain times of the day. So we are finding that the fish are either staying very deep (20-25 feet) feeding on chironomids, or traveling along the drop of ledges a little higher up in the water column where guys have been hooking them at around 10-18 feet of depth.
As we progress through April we have seen the hatches of chironomids and callibaetis may flies become more abundant. Again when these bugs are hatching, the fishing can be very good. On the lakes that have turned over already, the oxygen and nutrients have been spread throughout the water column and the fish are happily feeding at all depths.
Today we went out to fish Lazy Lake. I would describe the fishing as “interesting” as we really had to work hard to figure it out! We anchored on a drop-off ledge with the wind to our backs. Our setup was an 18 foot leader and tippet outfitted with an indicator and a swivel (weight) 18 inches above our chironomid. We casted out over the drop-off ledge, let the rig sink down about a minute and then slowly retrieved the fly back towards the boat. If we did not touch a fish after a couple of casts we would move the boat closer to shore and fish higher up in the water column.
We hit a few trout using this approach, catching and releasing five rainbows each. Then we switched over to a sinking line and fished along the bottom pulling leeches. On the first fish we landed, we decided to use a throat pump to see what it was consuming. As it turns out the trout was keying on very small green chironomids, scuds and shrimp.
We continued to fish while observing a few sporadic hatches. The weather started to move in and with barometric pressure dropping it began to rain. Once it had rained a bit, the fish became more active and we caught some nice ones.
The fish we landed were healthy, but one could see they need to fatten up a bit… again it is very early in the season. The biggest fish on the day was a nice 19 rainbow that put up a good fight, leaving the water a few times. Lazy Lake has some nice big fish in it and they always put up a pretty good fight.
The flies used today included the Chromies, Rick's Prom Midge, Snow Cones, Green Chironomids, Balanced Leeches and Micro Leeches.
The wild life on the water included a group of turtles tanning on the rocks near the bank edge, an eagle flying around looking for it's next meal and ducks cruising the Lake… trying to avoid the eagle perhaps? We also saw some Canadian Geese doing their thing along the shore.
All our rivers (Region 4 - Kootenay) are closed from April 1 to June 15th. The only exceptions are the Columbia and Kootenay rivers. The Kootenay River is presently pretty muddy because the run-off has started. The Columbia remains clear.
Always remember to check the fishing regulations before you head on the water. Feel free to regularly check us out on Instagram and Facebook for updates, programs and shop specials we put on over the course of the year.
If you are in the area and have any questions on the lakes or streams, feel free to stop by our Fly Shop in Cranbrook to chat with us in person!
PS If you are interested in booking an early season trip on the Columbia River or any trip throughout the year, call us directly at 1-800-667-2311.
Report #1 (April 11th, 2016)
Columbia River Report: there are lots of fish out there!
The annual cycle of life has brought us back to the opening of the 2016 fishing season again! Today we were are out on the Columbia River chasing the big rainbow trout.
This winter was a good one in terms of the snowpack as it deposited a normal amount of the white stuff in our region. The month of March and April have seen temperatures a couple of degrees Celsius warmer than usual, so the runoff has already commenced. We don’t expect any flooding, but should have plenty of water to carry us through the summer. This is good news considering the elevated water temperature problems that were experienced throughout the West last year.
On this trip we started off with a great breakfast at the Prestige Hotel in Rossland, B.C. Then with the remnants of coffees in hand, we loaded the gear into the truck and headed down the big hill into the valley of the Columbia River.
We drove upriver to the put-in at the waterside village of Genelle. After our launch we powered up towards the top section of the Columbia River near the town of Castlegar. This stretch of the Columbia has many great runs and back eddies, so the guys were pretty excited to get their rods out and shake off the winter cobwebs!
The weather has been exceptional this spring with numerous beautiful sunny days and warm temperatures reaching a pleasant 20°C (70°F).
Today we had very light winds, which is always a bonus when out on any river. It certainly makes casting streamers and nymph rigs on the Columbia easier. The water temperature is still pretty cold at this time of year and the water levels remain relatively low at around 56,000 cubic feet per second.
Our approach on the day was to fish streamers with a sinking line, as well as using fly rods set up for nymphing. It is always good to have multiple rods at the ready so once out on the water one can try different methods depending on what’s working. So we fished along the bank edges and worked the big back eddies.
There is no doubt that the fishing has turned on, as the anglers started hooking up trout right out of the gate. On the day, each angler hooked and landed 15 rainbows each. A lot of them were in the 16-18 inch range with a couple of robust 20 inch rainbows caught and released… and all of them put up an awesome fight! During the day we caught a number of different sized fish which demonstrates the age class diversity and health of this fishery. When you throw your line into the Columbia you never really know what size of fish will be fooled by your fly. All the fish looked healthy and chunky, obviously over wintering well in this big system.
The hatches were few and far between today, but we did see some chironomids and small midges coming off at various times throughout the float. We also saw a lot of bird life on the River. This included ospreys patrolling overhead, hanging around their nests and feeding in the same eddies we were fishing!
As the day progressed, and the typical experimentation was undertaken, we figured out what flies were quite effective. These included; Kelly's Super Streamer, as well as the Sparkled Girdle Bug, Purple Prince Nymph and the Regular Prince Nymph.
The fishing on the Columbia has been very productive early this season, so give some thought to coming up and chasing these big rainbow trout with us.
As for the lakes in our region, they are all open and have been fishing great. Whitetail, Whiteswan and Premier Lakes are now all iced off. This is very early for them to be ice free and fishing so well. It seems a little crazy they are fishing this well, this early. Come check them out for yourself.
Just a reminder that all the small streams in our region are now closed (April 1st – June 15th) for the spring run-off and the spawning period. This includes the St.Mary, Elk, Bull, etc. Spring has come early again this year so everything is way ahead of normal.
We hope to see you up here sometime throughout the 2016 fishing season. If you have any questions on the lakes or streams, just stop by our Fly Shop in Cranbrook and we will help you out!
PS Call us today at 1-800-667-2311 to book your trip on the Columbia River!
St.Mary Angler: 2015 Season in Review.
Overview of the Conditions.
Last winter left us with a snowpack across the mountains of southeastern British Columbia that was far below normal. As of May 1st the snowpack in the East Kootenay region, including the St.Mary and Elk Rivers, was 46% of ‘normal’. Over on the upper Columbia River it was 72% of normal. The low snow levels for the East Kootenay were a little concerning to us right from the start due to the implications for low flows and high water temperatures during the hot days of summer.
With the low snowpack in the East Kootenay we did not see any significant flooding during the spring freshet. Since the flows on the upper Columbia River where we fish are managed by four large upstream dams; the spring, summer and fall flows were all prime for fishing.
In addition to the small freshet, we also experienced below average rainfall during the spring of 2015. This meant we were able to start fishing the St.Mary and Elk rivers early as we hit the water in late June, weeks ahead of schedule. The below average rainfall persisted from May right through August leading to low stream flows and elevated water temperatures.
High water temperatures became a significant threat to the health of freshwater fisheries across western North America in 2015. Many fisheries in Washington and Oregon were closed due to high stream temperatures. Southern British Columbia saw pretty well all of its freshwater fisheries from southern Vancouver Island through the Okanagan and into parts of the West Kootenays closed to fishing. Fortunately, while some of the small tributaries of the St.Mary and Elk rivers were shut down due to temperature concerns, the St.Mary and Elk remained open and fishable. We are very fortunate that the St.Mary, Elk and Bull rivers are fed by high mountain streams and headwater lakes that keep the cool water flowing in a drought year like 2015. The concerns over water temperatures disappeared in late August and early September when we saw a spurt of above average rainfall that cooled everything off and improved stream flows for the fall.
In terms of air temperatures in the East Kootenays, they were quite a bit hotter than the long term average. The temperature was 4 to 7 degrees F warmer than normal from May through August. The hot weather in conjunction with the lower than average rainfall created one heck of a hot dry season. Temperatures were also warmer than the average in October making for a warm and prolonged fall fishing season. It was an extraordinarily hot and dry summer across the West in 2015, but our East Kootenay fisheries remained open and produced well right into late fall.
Over on the upper Columbia River the temperatures were also quite a bit above average from May through October, with the exception of September when it was normal. From May to July it was from 5 to 9 degrees F warmer than normal. Again, rainfall was below average for pretty much the whole season. Fortunately, this did not create any water temperature problems in the spring and fall when we fish for the big rainbows. The stretch of the upper Columbia we fish is already hundreds of miles downstream of its headwaters and receives inflow from many streams and rivers by the time it gets to us. The upper Columbia River is a very robust and resilient piece of water and we experienced excellent fishing conditions in 2015.
The fishing season started in late April with us guiding for the big rainbow trout on the upper Columbia River south of Castlegar B.C. We started the summer fishing season for wild Westslope Cutthroat on the St.Mary and Bull rivers in late June and early July on the Elk. We got to the Skookumchuck River in mid July. The season lasted into late September on the St.Mary, Elk and Bull rivers. Over in the West Kootenays we fished the upper Columbia River with our fly and spey rods into mid October finishing with the release of some really big rainbows.
East Kootenay Temperature and Rainfall (Station ‘Cranbrook A’, B.C.):
Columbia River Temperature and Rainfall (Station Castlegar, B.C.):
The Spring Season on the upper Columbia River in the West Kootenays.
We fish the 35 mile stretch of the upper Columbia River from the confluence with the Kootenay River near Castlegar, B.C. down to the Canada-U.S. International Boundary. in 2015 this tailwater fishery provided fly fishers with plenty of excellent days of fishing from late April through June. We fished with double handed spey rods from the cobblestone shorelines and gravel bars, in addition to rod sets equipped with dry flies, nymphs and streamers from the platform on our jet powered Jon boat.
The rainbow fishing on the Columbia was very productive this spring. Most of the fish landed fell into the 19-22 inch slot with some bigger fish of 23+ showing up. The water levels were fairly low to start with at around 65,000 cubic feet per second, but moved up through May and June to around 120,000 CFS. The clear water and rising flows produced some excellent conditions as the backdrop for some robust hatches of caddis, callibaetis and mayflies. The Columbia produces hatches like a ‘conveyor belt of bugs’, so we just have to keep changing things up and matching the hatch. The rainbows this spring were again very strong and colourful; a product of their big river environment and we had a lot of fun catching them.
Summer Cutthroat Fishing on the St.Mary, Elk, Bull and Skookumchuck Rivers in the East Kootenays.
By early July the St.Mary River was in good shape, with clear water and runs formed up nicely as the spring freshet came and went quickly. The St.Mary was ready to fish about two full weeks earlier than usual. The anglers experienced good catch rates of Westslope Cutthroats right from the start. The Bull River was also fishable and producing lots of cutthroat early in July. The Elk River took a little longer to round into form because a fairly large log jam backed up a section of the River during the freshet. Once the log jam broke up and let loose a pulse of water and wood debris, things cleared up nicely. The Elk River then rounded into from quickly with lots of cutthroats being caught on dries.
By late July the weather was hot, hot, hot! The rivers were all crystal clear and the pools, riffles and runs were in prime form. On the St.Mary we were dry fly fishing all three sections of the River from the drift boat. We were working the banks, as well as getting out of the boat to fish up the backchannels with good success … and the grass hoppers were everywhere. The Elk was also fishing very well with water levels approaching what we normally see in mid August. Catch rates of 20-30 fish per day were common and the odd cutthroat over 18 inches was being landed. The 2015 season was in full swing!
By early August the hot weather was causing the closure of many streams across the West due to high water temperatures. Fortunately, the St.Mary, Elk, Bull and Skookumchuck rivers remained cool and in prime fishing condition. We were on the Bull River on the first of August catching lots of cutthroats with some pushing 17 inches, which is pretty good for this scenic gem of a river. The St.Mary and Elk really produced well in August. By late August the water levels were getting pretty low and water temperatures were starting to be a concern when we received some much needed rain to stabilize things. The St.Mary and Elk continued to produce good catch rates of cuts with big cutthroats in the 17-18 inch range showing up on occasion. On our last August trip to the Elk we enjoyed hatches of October Caddis, Blue Winged Olives and some midges on a great day on the water.
By the first week of September we were seeing some nice Blue Winged Olive and Green Drake hatches on the Elk River. The days were already cooling down a bit as the hot weather had broken. Thankfully we received some rains which caused the water levels to come up a bit and the temperature to cool down. In mid September on the St.Mary River we were seeing large hatches of big October Caddis, as well as some large format Blue Winged Olives, some Green Drakes and Mahogany Duns. All these hatches led to some great days on the water as the cutthroats were loading up on all this food. We finished off the month with a trip to the scenic Bull River against the backdrop of the fall colours.
All out rivers fished very well in September as things cooled down and the fish gorged themselves in preparation for winter. As usual there was very little fishing pressure on the rivers in September leaving our clients to have them pretty well to themselves.
Fall Fishing for Big Rainbows on the Upper Columbia.
Late in September we went back over to the Columbia to chase the rainbows on this rambunctious piece of water. The weather remained very good this fall, as we experienced lots of warm and sunny days with only a few rainy ones. The flows on the Columbia were very good for fishing rainbows providing a nice assortment of exposed gravel bars and cobble strewn shorelines to go along with the big eddies and runs. The water was nice and clear. We fished all four sections of the Columbia from the confluence with Kootenay River down through Trail, to where it crosses the border into the U.S.
On each trip we readied our jet powered Jon boat with rods to fish nymphs, streamers, dries, as well as the spey rods. We caught a lot fish in the 20 inch plus range and had good daily catch rates. We saw a nice diversity of hatches coming off in September and October including; big October Caddis, Midges, Green Drakes, Blue Winged Olives, Mahogany Duns, etc. On our last trip out for the season the anglers landed 20 rainbows during the day including the biggest fish of the year… a spectacular 28 inch rainbow. This fish hit hard, then took off into the current and put up quite a fight. In the Columbia River, every time you throw out your fly you never know what size fish you are going to catch, these fish fight so hard, it makes for some very exciting fishing.
So there you have it, another year of fishing with the St.Mary Angler is complete. I am sure there are many enjoyable memories etched into the minds of all those anglers we accompanied out on the water this year. 2015 was hot and dry throughout the West. Fortunately for us, the unique geography of our rivers and some timely late August rain, allowed us to enjoy excellent conditions throughout the season. The spring fishing on the upper Columbia was excellent and the fall provided some exceptional days of rainbow fishing. The summer season on the St.Mary, Elk, Bull and Skookumchuck rivers produced a lot of beautiful Westslope Cutthroats for our guest anglers.
As always, we greatly appreciated the patronage of our guide service and the fly shop in Cranbrook, B.C. We wish everyone a healthy and enjoyable winter and hope to see you in the shop, or out on the rivers of the East and West Kootenays next year.
We will be attending tradeshows in the northwest U.S. in the New Year. We are also hosting another trip to Christmas Island in February to fly fish for bonefish and GT’s. While our February 2016 trip is already full, if you have an interest in coming along with us next year, just drop us a line as we are now booking for 2017.
Kelly & Karen
St.Mary Angler Fly Shop
PS To find out which tradeshows we will be attending in early 2016, click for dates, locations and to contact us for will call tickets if you will be attending.
page was last updated on
June 22, 2017
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