Elk, Crowsnest and Bow Rivers

Road trip 2007 – my son (15) and I headed out to Calgary Alberta and fished along the way. A bit wordy but what the heck ...

Day 1 – Basically taken up with a 10 hour drive from Issaquah to Fernie BC. Worst part of the drive was the Issaquah – Hobart road! Took a hotel room the first night under the assumption we'd camp the next couple of nights. Obtained our fishing license at Canadian Tire (I only needed one since my son was younger than 16) in preparation for the morning.

Day 2 – Woke up, got some coffee and donuts from Tim Horton's and went back to the hotel room and woke my son up. Hit one of the many fly shops (Elk River Guiding Company) in town – got some flies and the daily access permit ($20 / day) for the next couple of days. We drove roughly 9 miles west of town and pulled off the road into one of the various pull-outs. Rigged up a couple of 5 weights and hit the river for some fun. My son was quoted at this time saying “I feel like this is going to be a bad day Dad”. 5 minutes later he's pulling in the largest cut throat (17 inch) he's ever caught on a fly! He could then be heard saying, “Guess I was wrong about the day.” Fished from 10:00 until about 3:30 and landed about 4 nice cut throats and observed dozens of other large fish. Warm day – probably in the high 70's, low 80's and the sun did not quiet things down. Tried getting into the camp ground at Fernie – no luck. Decided to stay at the Griz Inn instead of driving farther from the days activities. Took a break, had dinner and hit the river from 6:00 until about 9:15 or so. We landed another 6 fish and one topped out at 20 inches. All fish were taken on dry flies – parachute adams and green drakes were the hot flies.

Here are a couple of pics from the day:
...a nice cut ...

..another nice cut ...

..okay and another one .... :)

Day 3 – Woke up, and my son and I went and got some coffee and donuts from Tim Horton's (you'll notice this is a reoccurring theme). Hit the same section of the river again and had an even better day than before (landed 12 fish between the two of us). A brief storm chased us off the river at about 3:30. We took the opportunity to get dinner and hit the river again about 5:30. Fished through a brief rain storm and continued the fun until dark. We observed a large bull trout that was working a hole we frequented. First time we heard it land in the water – sounded like somebody threw a large boulder into the river. Second time my son saw him airborne and described him as a purple 2x4 jumping out of the river. Again all fish were caught on dry flies – I had tried some buggers and large nymphs at a hole we knew had large fish in it (no luck).

..best fish of the day ...

.. a shot down the valley ...

... a sweet hole we took a lot of fish from ...

Day 4 – Woke up, tried getting Tim Horton's but the line up was large and I wanted to drive through to the Crowsnest area (Bellevue). Hit the Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop in Bellevue. Got a few flies and headed down to the river – east of town. Fished the Crowsnest from about 10:00 until 4:30 or so. Bright sunny day and the dry fly action was slow – total opposite of the Elk river. Caught a few fish on small nymphs in some of the large pools. Took a break at 4:30 – hit Tim Horton's and the fly shop (The Crowsnest Cafe and Flyshop) in Coleman Found the gal at the shop to be very helpful and full of tips and suggestions. Hit the river about 6:00 and fished until 9:30. The dry fly action was hot and we managed many fish in the 8-10 inch range. We got into a few larger fish but a combination of bad luck and poor knots lost them. The Crowsnest is a river more reminiscent of a stream than a river and reminded me of parts of the Snoqualmie forks. Ended the day by driving to Calgary and hitting my brothers house about 12:30 in the morning.

..picture of my son working some promising water on the Crow

Day 5 – Booked a guide for day 7 at the Bow. Hit the river for a couple of hours after dinner - went to Policeman's Flats. Difficult getting down to the water since you have to work through a swamp to get there. Landed one 17 inch brown trout (okay, my first brownie) on a double nymph rig. No noticeable dry fly action due to the wind that night.

..a picture (not the best quality) of the brown that night:

Day 6 – rest and visiting.

Day 7 – met our guide (Dave Sewell) at the fly shop (Bow River TroutFitters) at 8:30am. Drove to our take out and hit the river about 9:30 and fished until 9:15 PM or so. It was about 3 hours before we got into our first fish – a nice 22 inch rainbow that the guide hooked and I landed while we stopped for lunch. We fished hoppers and streamers to start the day and then shifted to double nymph rigs for some deep water nymphing. We had some success doing this and managed a 3 or 4 fish to the boat and had at least that many that we lost – the smallest was a 13 inch rainbow and the rest were in the 17+ range. My son had a Bow River Slam, as they call it – a rainbow, brown and a white fish. His white fish was a fat 21 inch fish – largest whitey I have seen. Forgot the camera for the float so still waiting for photos from the guide – I will post them when they arrive.

Day 8 – drove 13 hours back to Issaquah.

Lessons learned
- book camp site in Fernie weeks before hand
- work deep holes in the Crow more
- bone up on the drift boat fishing skills
- don't forget camera at in-laws

- Elk river and all the cuts
- Bow and all the large fish
- Peters Drive-In - Calgary


Tropical member
Right on Mac!
This is the report I am waiting for...can't wait to fish that area!
Good writing and nice fish!! Thanks for sharing!

Great places to fish Mark - do it if you get the chance. My 15 year old wants to do the Elk as a yearly adventure now!

I will also post the Bow River pictures once the guide provides them.

Looks like you did well. We ended up at the Mt Fernie Provencial Park around the same time. What we saw of the campsite was pretty good. I kept on hitting the website daily until a spot opened up. I think they divide the sites up into ones you can reserve way in advance, within a few days, and first-come. It was pretty central to everything I would definately go back there to camp.

We heard of on guide boat that only got two on a float so we considered ourselves lucky to be catching as well as we did. It was hard work between the heat and the smoke when we were there. I usually don't fish with a net but it was needed there.

Our experience was the same on the Crowsnest. We worked the deep pools alot but never came up with anything better than 11". It was a beautiful river with great dry fly action but left alot to be desired in size of fish. We fished both near Bellevue and the TU land. Totally different feel to each area.

Never made it to Tim Hortons, we always hit the coffee shop in Fernie. My buddy liked the way they made the white chocolate mochas with nestle quick! Have you stopped at the liquor store in Frankslide? We were amazed to find that place open at 10pm and packed, neat shop and real nice people.
Good times eh.
Missing Tim Horton's is a crime .. it filled the hole several times :)

Agreed on the Crowsnest. I did not visit the liquor store in Frank. Being with my young son drinking was not on the agenda. On a side not. The mountain at Frank there my son nicknamed it "Emo" mountain since he was such a b*tch when we fished in that area.