Elk River

Soom Drooling on the Elk River

The Elk River is a classic freestone cutthroat trout stream; a perfect dry fly fishery that is ideal for drift fishing from a boat. The river features an abundance of structure indicative of an ever shifting high mountain runoff stream. There are countless log jams, undercuts, boulder runs, riffles and buckets throughout its course, a seemingly endless array of structure to cast to. The river also features myriad  back channels and braids which allow the clients to get out and fish smaller water within the float, perfect for a smaller weight  rod.  Combined with the fish holding structure is an abundance of insect hatches and terrestrial falls. The river has about 8 different floats which allow anglers and guides alike to spread out and remain at a good distance from each other. It is not unusual to spend an entire day without seeing another boat which is impressive for a river with the angling appeal of the Elk.

4 and 5 weight rods are the norm, with fast action 5’s coming in handy for those windier days. A variety of leader and tippet sizes will be employed to ensure proper presentation of the various patterns you will be fishing and generally range from 9 to 14 feet in length with tippet ends of 3x to 6 x. The fish in the river vary in size but most fish caught will be in the 14 to 16 inch range. 18’s are common and the odd 20 inch ‘pet’ is caught and lovingly returned to it’s lair. The fish of the Elk tend to be football in shape. Big high backs and deep bellies help these fish weigh in beyond your average trout of equal size, they are truly beautiful specimens. The westslopes of the Elk River are certainly deserving of their legendary status in the angling world.

Crushin’ the Ant Hatch on the Elk River

The Elk River opens for angling on June 15th of every year and its fishability greatly depends on the level of run off. We generally concentrate on guiding the Columbia River and its massive caddis hatch at this time, however; when the elk turns on… it really turns on. The fish are keen to greet the first summer hatch of golden stoneflies and although the water can be coloured at this time, the big bright golden bellies of the stones make for easy targets amidst the cloudy water. Big flies cast tight to the bank will trigger some violent strikes from the hungry cutts.

As the golden stonefly hatch begins to slow, the plump ephermidae drunellas begin to emerge. The green drake is one of the largest of the mayflies making them an enticing meal for foraging trout and a favourite to fish amongst anglers.  Ranging in hook sizes 10-12 these beautiful insects are easy to spot and are eagerly consumed by the local fish; including the odd bull trout.

Following the goldens and green drakes are an array of bugs such as caddis, and yellow sallies. Perhaps the most prolific of the Elk River hatches is the PMD (pale morning dun) hatch. This hatch predominates the mid July to mid August period of the season and the spinner falls of this mid size mayfly can offer some of the best evening dry fly fishing of the season. We often start later in the day and fish until dark to capitalize on this hatch stage.

Drift Boats Resting on Elk River

As summer progresses terrestrials become a more important food source for the Elk River cutts. Beetles, ants and hoppers are regular choices for much of the month of August. When the flying ants begin to blow into the valley, things get completely out of control. The fish that religiously adhere to an underwater diet forget about their nymphal addictions and rise feverishly to the top to feed. Any angler lucky enough to catch this hatch will be stunned at the reckless abandon of the trout dining on ants. When our blog makes its first ant hatch entry it’s time to stop whatever it is you might be doing and get up here!

As fall approaches and the water begins to cool blue winged olive mayflies hatch in abundance. Although a smaller mayfly, it hatches in large numbers which gets the attention of the trout preparing for the colder months ahead. The water tends to be at it’s clearest at this time of year and the fish tend to stack in the deeper runs as the water level drops. This is also the time of year for one of the Elk River’s largest aquatic born insect to hatch. The October caddis is a huge bug, and when it hits the water it creates an irresistible profile on the surface, a protein source that cannot be ignored by the Elk’s trout.

Ron Myers and One of Many Elk River Cutthroats He’s Landed Over the Years

There are many other hatches on the river and our blog will update the hatches as they occur throughout our season. The Elk River is a must do for all levels of anglers and it’s not just about  the angling experience.  Fernie is abundant  in fresh air,  snow capped craggy  mountain peaks and lush green forest, providing a perfect setting for a day of drifting down the river  The smaller tribs of the Elk River are also exquisite  and  beautiful in both scenery and fishability. All our guides have extensive knowledge of this area and each guide brings his own unique brand of Elk River guiding mastery to the oars.

Dry Fly Victim Released Back Into the Elk River