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