Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Fortress Lake Adventure to Catch Big Brook Trout

Devon Saunders and his buddies; Massimo, Carson, Dan, and Luke; biked, hiked and paddled their way into Fortress Lake, B.C. so they could fly fish for the coaster brook trout that reside in the lake. Getting there includes a 23 km trail that starts close to Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park. The adventure requires negotiating the Athabasca River and wading the Chaba River. The Athabasca River used to have a bridge across it but it fell into the river during a high water event several years ago.

The first 10 km you can easily bike, then it's time to hike and use a raft to get across the cold fast flowing Athabasca River. You may again need to use a raft to get across the Chaba River as well. Fording both rivers is dangerous and every precaution should be taken to safely negotiate these crossings. The actual hiking terrain is not difficult, just long.

Once you enter Hamber Provincial Park, which is also a World Heritage Site, you come to East End Campground at Fortress Lake. East End Camp is beautiful and sits high above Fortress Lake. Fortress Lake is approximately 11 km long. It is deep and was stocked with coaster brook trout in the 1950s. Don't forget to get a BC Fishing license.

The guys had done their research and knew where on the lake to hike to and set up their camp so they could fly fish. The guys were also fit and they had a great plan to safely enjoy their trip.

I do know that safely crossing the Athabasca River was a real challenge for the guys. All the guys had a small raft. After crossing the Athabasca River, look for the remnants of the old bridge, you will find the trail to Fortress close by, essentially behind it. It is a bit grown in. You can usually ford the Chaba River but when warmer weather arrives, the Chaba can be a bit dicey to cross.

Fortress Lake is just inside British Columbia and sits right on the Continental Divide. Having rain gear and warm layers is imperative. Also this is bear country and every precaution should be taken to avoid any conflicts.

Once there, a full sink line and a floater will be necessary. Stripping a wide variety of streamers, like small clousers, is an excellent strategy, as is using floating lines and indicators with balanced flies and nymphs. There are dry fly opportunities as darkness falls as well! Karen and I spent parts of 5 summers at Fortress Lake Retreat. We saw lots of both black and grizzly bears, especially when the buffalo berries ripened.

The brook trout that the guys caught were mainly in the 15-17 inch category with a few larger ones as well! The guys caught lots of brookies! There are several "hot spots" on the lake but the guys were limited to fly fishing mostly on the east end of the lake. Their rafts certainly helped them get out on the lake.

Fortress Lake is an absolutely beautiful place. Serenity Glacier at the west end of the lake is an amazing backdrop for fly fishing. Chisel Peak sits right out from where Chisel Creek flows into the lake. The alluvial fan there is home to Fortress Lake Retreat. The outflow of the lake is the Wood River that eventually tumbles all the way down to the Wood Arm of Kinbasket Lake.

The guys definitely enjoyed a fantastic adventure. Take a look!

Crossing the Chaba River


Monday, August 30, 2021

Lake Trout on the Icefield Parkway at Bow Lake

There are numerous fly fishing opportunities along the Icefield Parkway in Banff  and Jasper National Parks. Many of the lakes and rivers are spectacular because of the amazing backdrop of mountains!

One of our favourites is Bow Lake in Banff National Park. There are several species of trout in the lake but we have only encountered lake trout! Bow Lake is feed by Bow Glacier that is a finger of the Wapata Icefields. The water is always cold and at times the visibility is off because of glacial melt! The backdrop of Bow Lake are the hanging glaciers around the lake.

There are places that you can fish from shore too! For the most part you are fishing along drop offs. We try to find 12 to 15 feet of water along drop offs or find some rocks in the water to work!

You do not catch a lot of trout during your day unless you hit a chironomid hatch just right!

We usually use ice minnows or a small forage fish imitation!

Be aware that you do need a Parks Canada Fishing License. We got ours at the Fishing Hole in Calgary!

...also you cannot use a motor of any kind, that includes an electric motor. You have to paddle or row! It is very worth it. 

...and, you need to fill out one of these forms below and have it with you at all time!

Bill Blades photo

Bill Blades photo

Peyto Glacier

Mount Mitchner on Hwy 11 near Lake Abraham

Icefield Parkway is well worth the drive!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Hiking to New Cutthroat Water '"Above the Canyon!"

Karen and I just got back from 14 days of camping with family and friends. We did lots of fly fishing too!

We decided on this particular day to walk close to 8 km into a stretch of water we wanted to spend some time fly fishing. The last time we were there, thunderstorms turned us back to the truck! But this time was different! We got a good start and after 5 km, we took a break while I tried to climb down to see if the canyon section just below us was fishable. Sadly it was high and running fast in a narrow box canyon!

So we finally got above the canyon and ventured off to see if we could connect with some cutthroat and possibly some bull trout too! We tied on an Orange Crush Chernobyl and started to explore. The water was moving fast and there was no chance to fish both sides of the river so we were content to fly fish the edges of side we were on. 

It did not take long to connect with some cutts. They were quite aggressive too! We mostly dry fly fished but occasionally we nymphed when the cutts did not rise for our foam chernobyls. The interesting part of the day was the light coloured cutts mainly due to the milky glacial water.

We had to scramble down some steep spots and carefully move around in fast flowing water. We were cautious.

As the afternoon wore on, thunderstorms started to roll in. Our Norwegian Elkhound, Pepper, got quite anxious so we hot footed it back to the truck!

We landed about a dozen cutthroat trout and two small bull trout! It was a great day.

We wanted to avoid the big crowds our blue ribbon cutthroat rivers have this time of the year. It was well worth the effort. The hike was about 16 km total. Karen's activity APP said we climbed 90 flights of stairs. I laughed.

We stopped for ice cream as we headed back to our camp sight! We also treated ourselves to extra dessert at supper! We earned it!

There was a lot of water to explore. We hope to get back in a few weeks!