Finding "secret" spots has always been a big part of fishing. When we were young, secret meant that deep pool on our local creek that was inaccessible except to the brave... or foolhardy. Now, as adults, secret may be a remote atoll in the Indian Ocean or an unnamed lake in the Rocky Mountains. The distance traveled may have changed, but the basic impulse has remained the same... find a spot where the fish are plentiful, big and not too well educated.
Thirty years ago, there were plenty of these "undiscovered" places to fish. Back then, many now famous destinations were just becoming known to anglers. The Snake River near Jackson Hole, The Gallatin and Madison Rivers near Yellowstone and the Bow River in Canada were all "new" and had yet to see the angling pressure which we take for granted today.
Finding great "new" spots is tougher today... but it is our obsession and luckily, our job. So with that in mind, here's one to consider: while not unknown, the area around Fernie, British Columbia has earned a great (and closely guarded) reputation. The good news is that this area has some of the best dry fly fishing in North America and it has not been widely publicized. The bad news is that word is getting out and this ideal situation may begin to change in the future.
Regardless, right now this area has fantastic fishing with the main focus being some fifty miles of the Elk River. Unlike on the Missouri, Yellowstone and many other rivers, the chances of seeing the typical "drift boat hatch" on the Elk River is small. You may only see a few other boats in a full day of fishing!
The primary target is Westslope Cutthroat Trout, a species alternately snubbed as too easy to catch or adored for its slow motion, dry fly take. And while both are true, it is also true that the larger they grow, the smarter they become... and the Elk River has some cutts' with thick shoulders and deep bodies! It is our opinion that catching big fish on a dry fly, no matter how stupid they might be, is a very good thing!
There are several other excellent rivers in the area with the St. Mary and Crowsnest Rivers being two of the best. Located less than an hour from Fernie, the St. Mary has excellent dry fly fishing for cutthroats while the Crowsnest is know for its big rainbows. In addition, there are several other small streams including Micheal (pronounced Michelle) Creek, the Fording River and the Wigwam River which hold good populations of big fish. Most of these small streams see very little pressure and can only be reached by foot. These streams may require a bit of an effort to fish, but the rewards make it very worthwhile.
Melting snowpack makes the Fernie area subject to spring runoff from late April to late June. The fishing season opens June 15, but really doesn't begin until early July... then the waters begin to recede and in no time, they quickly become gin clear and awesomely beautiful. It is then that the real fishing begins.
There are lots of great places to stay in the area from basic motels to top-notch accommodations. We have selected the best opportunities to suit every angler's desires and budget. More importantly, we know the best guides in this area many of which have some "secret spots" to fish. As angling pressure builds elsewhere, venture back into time and give the Fernie area a try this year.
Fernie Area Details
Anglers can fly into Calgary International Airport or into Kalispell, Montana. From there you can rent a car for the drive to Fernie. From Calgary, take Barlow Trail south to 16 Avenue West then take the Deerfoot Trail south (Highway 2) to Fort McLeod where you pick up Highway 3 which takes you right into Fernie. The trip takes about 3 and 1/2 hours. We can also have you picked up in Calgary for an added fee, but having a car while you're in Fernie is a good idea.
We have accommodations available from Condos to rental homes to conventional hotels to bed 'n breakfasts. Just let us know your wishes and we can arrange it. We can also arrange a private chef. This is an especially good idea if you have a group and have decided to rent a home. Remember... Fernie is a world class ski resort known for its powder skiing. As such, there are a great many options available especially during the off season (the fishing season).
Having a good guide is very important when visiting this area, especially if you wish to venture away from the Elk River and experience some of the fantastic backcountry and tributary water. Much of this water is only accessible via logging roads and game trails. Local knowledge is therefore critical. We have a superb guide staff available in Fernie and can pick a guide that fits your expectation and skill level.