By Jeff Porter
So in August my wife, Dana, was going to do a Bike Packing trip from Banff, AB to Fernie, BC. Which meant that while she was riding I would be fishing. 🙂 I joined an Alberta FF facebook page and had also reached out to the Jensens (WELCOME! – Jensen Fly Fishing https://jensenflyfishing.com/) in AB to get some recommendations. Amelia responded with a very long email and a myriad of suggestions on places to try. Because of her I ordered the Alberta FF guide AND ended up buying the Backroads Map Book (BRMB) for southern AB. Bonus! It included some of BC as well. And it has MORE detail than a DeLorme Gazetteer!
One of the most highlighted recommendations from friends near and far was to make sure to hit the Oldman in AB. Someone from the Alberta Facebook page offered to show me around to some of his favorite spots. Boy, am I glad he did. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We started the drive from Salida, towing our trailer, until the winds in WY got to be too much. Highway electronic billboard just short of Rawlins said, “Caution. Winds gusting over 40 MPH!” We pulled off into a KOA for the night.
I’ve been wanting to get Dana into Fremont Canyon since the day I fished it in May 2021. Surprise! They were doing a flushing flow. ☹ 479cfs. When I had fished it, it was ~79cfs. Needless to say, no bueno. I saw ONE fish caught amongst 5 fisherman while we were there. We headed out to get to her favorite anywhere. It’s in WY. A small high mountain meadow stream in a valley with 18”+ Cutts. I landed fish #200 for the year. And many moose. She ran into 3 while fishing and 6 total for the two days. We had just missed the wildflower explosion we’ve witnessed there several times before.
Then we traveled to Bozeman for old times sake. To EAT and tourist, then on to Whitefish to pick up her friends and shuttle everyone to Banff NP. Not known for its great fishing, but the views are spectacular. I relocated down to Okotoks to be closer to the Oldman and the day I’d spend with two new friends. Excellent fishing and a good pivot to relocate closer. Otherwise I would have had to drive all the way back to Banff and think it would have been close to 9 PM by the time I arrived. As it was I was back to the Okotoks CG at 5:30. I should explain. Our Lab is now elderly, cannot fish with me anymore 🙂 and needs to stay in the trailer when we go out. So she was happy when I returned.
We (the bikers and I) were to meet up in Elkford where they would also spend a rest day. Low and behold, the CG in Elkford is right on the Elk River. Who’d of guessed? 🙂 Westslope Cutthroats are VERY willing to take dry flies. Even when they make a swing-and-a-miss. I had decided to look for some more new water the next day and Fording River was close by. And am I glad I did. Here is where I should mention that I’d snapped the tip section on my Winston 5WT earlier in the trip which left me with a 4WT and a 6WT. Thinking the Fording was going to be a smaller river I had opted for the 4 WT. That ALMOST didn’t work out too well. I caught and landed the largest Cutt of my life so far. Not the longest but definitely the biggest, easily 4 lbs, filling the bottom of my Fishpond Nomad net. I could NOT get my hand around it’s girth. I did catch a couple more but after that one I decided, Why?
Sat AM the bikers departed and I went back to the Elk for the morning. At lunch I went back to the car just as my wife texted me to come get her. She was not feeling well so it was a short drive to Sparwood. At least I got to have a root beer float and see the world’s largest truck!
The next day we headed to Fernie. BC. Fishing regs are a bit different and have many “special regulation” waters. Not only do you need a BC license you also need a reservation AND a special reg permit. An additional $20 Canadian/day. I headed over the hill to the Bull where one wasn’t needed. Fortunately I got into a Green Drake hatch that produced 20 fish, 14-16”, all on dries in one river bend.
The following day we had a guided float trip on the Elk where I wanted to target Bull trout. Dana in the front using dries, me in the back of the boat slinging a HUGE streamer. The fishing was hot! She was on almost immediately and I was having great success with the streamer, albeit with Cutts. I did mange my largest Bull to date. We HAD to measure. 11 inches! Woo hoo. 🙂 It slowed quite a bit after our shore lunch but I did SEE the biggest trout I’ve even seen. I hooked an enormous Bull. Easily as long as my arm if not more. I rarely ever fish streamers so I’m not good at it, therefore I rarely fish streamers, therefore I’m not good at it. You get the picture. Instead of a strip-strike I lifted the rod. &^&^&((%^%$$, THAT WAS A BIG FISH!!
Only a 4 more days of fishing ensued on the trip. Coeur D’Alene, ID and Lolo National Forest south of Missoula. It was sooooo hot. 97F in Missoula! We skipped the last days we were supposed to be in Yellowstone and headed home instead. Since moving to CO I think I’ve fished in the park 8-10 times so it wasn’t a big loss.
All totaled my stats were (if anyone cares): Fished 13 days, 8 new bodies of water, 151 fish landed. It. Did. Not. Suck. 🙂
More photos at this Google Photos link.