Report #11 (August 2, 2018)
Its Summer Time and the Fishing is Easy on the St. Mary River!
We have now cruised through July and turned the corner into August and the drive is going great! Today we rode the top section of the St. Mary River from the Lake down to the takeout at the power line.
It was a beautiful summer day with temperatures reaching a high of 30°C (86°F). We are now experiencing some smoke in the sky from wildfires, but luckily there are no fires close to us.
The water level of the St. Mary River is normal for this time of year. The St. Mary braids quite a bit which leads to some shallow water sections, but as we run Maravia rafts it allows us to move throughout the River with little problem.
The St. Mary is a true “freestone” river with and abundance of rolling rocks and very few hatches so the cutthroat tend to take a dry fly on the surface… that is when you get a good drift on your bug. Certainly, one can nymph the Mary, or throw streamers looking for bull trout with success, but there is nothing like a seeing a cutthroat come to the surface to eat your dry fly!
So today the guys rigged up their fly rods, jumped in the boat and headed down river from just below the mouth of the headwater lake. The upper section of the St. Mary River is a stretch where there are lots of places to get out of the boat and fish up the back channels or take your time fishing the runs. This is the section of the River that is most wild and natural with no houses or structures to draw your eye, just trees that come right down to the bank edges.
The anglers did very well on this float as they fished big attractor patterns along the bank edges. Just a reminder that when you are fishing big foam flies, it helps if you shake or move them quite a bit to entice the fish to come to the surface. This duo of anglers showed a good grasp of the technique as they each landed around 20 fish today. The average sized caught and cutthroat released was in the 13 to 16-inch slot. They also landed a nice 18 incher which had the typical cutthroat brilliance of colour; it was a really nice fish.
In term of the hatches, we observed some stoneflies to go with the grasshoppers that are starting to show along the banks edges. We used a wide selection of patterns including; Purple Haze, Stimy Chew Toys (yellow and orange), Chubby Chernobyls (purple or brown), Royal Wulffs, caddis, Fat Alberts and grasshopper patterns.
Throughout the day on the water the anglers marvelled at the beautiful scenery as they casted towards rising fish. They were also treated to seeing some osprey and eagles in their nests high in the trees as they drifted past a couple of other anglers fishing from shore and enjoying the outdoors as well.
Just a reminder that when you are out fly fishing along the St. Mary River from shore the rocks are very slippery so you want to be wearing proper boots or shoes.
So come into our fly shop and check out the new Simms sandals and wading boots we have on display. You will be amazed at how they stick to the rocks which can make your life a lot easier when fly fishing along river banks.
Remember to get out there soon to enjoy the weather and the fishing as summer is slowly passing by... so enjoy it today!
PS Drop into our Fly Shop in Cranbrook if you are in the area!
Report #10 (July 23, 2018)
Its Summer Time and the Bull River is Looking Awesome!
It was another beautiful day in the East Kootenays today. The preferred destination was the Bull River so we loaded up the trucks and headed out. The Bull is about a 45-minute drive from our shop in Cranbrook to the put-in on one of the upper sections.
The temperature reached a high of 30°C (86°F), so summer is definitely here. We are now seeing a little bit of smoke in the air drifting over from the fires in the Okanagan Valley a couple of hundred miles to the west. That said, there are no fires currently burning in our region so all our rivers are open.
Once we arrived we rigged up our rods with dry flies and started to float down the River. The Bull is known for its big rock and boulders structures, as well as a few higher velocity sections were the guide has to be on the oars all the time. So, it really benefits those who are able to put the fly in behind rocks and along bank edges. In addition, you sometimes have to land the fish on your own with all the stuff going on!
There are some sections of the Bull River where you can get out and fish from shore. But the Bull is a classic high mountain stream with forest cover coming right down to the water’s edge. So the best way to fish it, is to float it.
On this trip, the anglers caught and released about 40 cutthroat trout between the two of them. All the fish were very healthy and strong, putting up a good fight. The average size cut was between 13 and 14 inches, with a few in the 16 in range - which is pretty hefty for the Bull River.
There is one section on the Bull that flows into a canyon which has a very deep pool. Some of the cutthroat caught in here take on the color of the water and thus look very blue, it is so cool to see them like this!
We did see a few caddis flies hatching along with some stone flies. In response, we tossed a few different patterns including; Orange Stimulators, H&L Variants, Purple Haze, Fat Alberts and Schroeder's Caddis.
When fishing with foam bugs you must first give it a good mend after the cast then give it a little shake, or a pop, on the water. You want the fish to think the bug is moving and struggling to get off the water, so this is a very good technique to bring the fish to the surface. When it works, it feels so good to fool these cutthroats!
We saw quite a bit of bird life along this float including; eagles and ospreys as well as a couple deer walking along the bank edges.
The Bull is one of our floats that is exceptionally beautiful with mountain views all around.
While summer has been here for a while and we are almost into August there still is a lot of the dry fly season left. So, come up and check out our beautiful area, you will not be disappointed!
We hope to see you on the water this summer.
Kelly and Karen
PS Come into our Fly Shop in Cranbrook and check out our great selection of flies. We also have a lot of local knowledge of the rivers in our area that we are happy to pass along.
Report #9 (July 17, 2018)
The Elk River is Rounding into Form.
Today our destination was over on the Elk River where we floated one of the lower sections down to the community of Elko. It was another beautiful day with temperatures reaching a high of 35°C (95°F). One definitely needs to wear the sunscreen, hat and sunglasses now, in addition to drinking a lot of water on hot days like today.
Driving over to the Elk River from Cranbrook means we have to leave early in the morning so we can hit the water when things are still cool. Something we strive to do when the heat of summer is upon us. Once on the River we rigged up the dry lines, put the pontoon boat in the water and headed out on an early start.
The water flow on the Elk River is normal for this time of year. Water temperatures remain pretty cool slightly warming as the day proceeds. Our approach was to float along looking for any log jam, boulder, or any such structure so we could throw the fly into the downstream eddy or pool to pull out a nice cutthroat trout.
It was a little slow in the morning so we tried nymphing for a while. As soon as the air temperature warmed up the dry fly action commenced as the cutthroats started to come to the surface to hit any fly with a good drift.
The fish took the flies pretty consistently for the rest of the day and the two anglers landed about 45 fish between them. The guys were ecstatic with their fishing success and really enjoyed the shore lunch break in the middle of the day. Our shore lunch always gives the anglers and the guide a chance to sit back and relax over a nice meal; reflecting on the morning fishing and looking forward to what the afternoon may bring.
As it turned out the dry fly fishing was very good throughout the afternoon. The biggest fish caught was a lovely 18-inch cutthroat. These Elk River fish tend to be very chunky and healthy and this one fit the description perfectly.
The caddis were coming off nicely today, in addition to a few Green Drakes. This hatch provided a lot of action and made it very fun for us to cast Stimulators, Purple Haze, Caddis, Fat Alberts and Green Drakes which all worked fairly well.
In terms of the wildlife we saw a number of eagles and ospreys throughout the float.
All the rivers we fish in the East Kootenay Region of B.C. are now experiencing good summer dry fly fishing conditions. So come on up and enjoy the splendor of the Rockies and the pleasure of our dry fly fishing!
Make sure you check your regulations before you head out.
Have a wonderful summer wherever you end up fishing.
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book your cutthroat trout trip today!
Report #8 (July 9, 2018)
St.Mary River Report
Our latest report is on the St.Mary River. The weather was absolutely gorgeous on this float with a high of 31°C (88°F), it is definitely time for the sunscreen. The wind picked up slightly in the afternoon, but it was not a problem.
We all met up at our Fly Shop early in the morning to purchase the fishing licences and peruse our wide selection of flies. We then packed up all the fishing gear in the boats and drove over to float the Canyon Section on the St.Mary River; from Wycliffe down to the St. Eugene Mission. We got on the River at around 9.00 a.m. just after sun had hit the water, warming it slightly and sending shafts of light through the water column.
We started by casting along the bank edges, behind big rocks and obstructions and into the nice runs. Occasionally we would take a quick break from the casting to look up and enjoy the scenery as the St.Mary provides a beautiful backdrop to your dry fly fishing experience!
The fishing was slow in the morning, but built throughout the day. By the late afternoon the fishing was great!
The water temperature is still quite cool, and as always, one needs to get a good drift so the fish can see the fly before it will be enticed to come to the surface. The fish still seem be moving into their summer lies, so things are still in a little bit in flux.
The anglers caught and released around 20 wild Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The cutties all looked very healthy and fought hard. The average sized fish was 13 to 15 inches with the biggest being a nice 21-inch Cutthroat/Rainbow hybrid. This ‘cutbow’ ran hard and the angler had a great fight till he brought it to the boat and got a wonderful picture.
The dry flies used on the trip included; Orange and Yellow Stimulators, Stimy Chew Toys, Purple Haze, Purple Chubby and Fat Alberts. In terms of the hatch, the stone flies have only slowly started to show, but the water is still high and cool for this time of year and once it drops we will see the stones move into full-hatch mode.
The St.Mary River is slowly warming up and dropping. We expect the dry fly fishing to only improve from now on.
During the float, we saw eagles and ospreys circling above, as well as a couple of mule deer down sipping water at the edge of the River. We never know what wildlife we will see, but there always seems to be something around the many bends and twists of the River.
Come on in and check out our Fly Shop as we have a great selection of flies and wide assortment of fly fishing gear. We are also willing to share our knowledge on where to go and what to use on the water to improve your chances of having a successful trip!
Have fun out in the backcountry and make sure you read all the regulations before you wet the line.
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book your float for this summer or fall!
Report #7 (July 4, 2018)
The St.Mary River is Ready To Go!
The St. Mary River is looking beautiful this time of year. The water is dropping and the River is running crystal clear. All our guides are ready to go and fishing is improving daily.
Today we floated from the Pump House down to the St. Eugene Mission, a ‘double run’. The water is still on the high side so we knew we could get away with fishing two sections at this time of year. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today with clear skies and the temperature reaching a high of 28°C (82°F). In the afternoon the wind decided to pick up and the casting got a little tricky for the anglers, but they still had a great day on the water.
The water temperature was around 10°C (50°F) this morning. The water level is dropping daily and the pools are formed up and runs are well defined. The cutthroat and bull trout have been moving up into their summer feeding stations. The River is all setup now and the fish are where you would expect them to be.
The guys casted dry flies at the trout all day. The only exception was a youngster who got to throw nymphs to help him hook up on a fish or two; and he was very excited to land a lovely wild Westslope Cutthroat. The experienced anglers landed 17-20 fish with the average size in the 14 to 16-inch slot. One of the clients landed a nice 17-inch cutthroat. His dry fly fooled the big guy into coming up to the surface and taking it along a big old log. The fish fought well and the log made for a tricky landing. The cuts tend to move slowly so when they take the fly you have to be prepared to not pull the trigger too fast. You want the fish to eat it before you act to set the hook.
On the River today the guys noticed a small caddis hatch, along with some stone flies coming off. This is a fun time of year to throw big stone flies out there like; Stimulators, Stimy Chew Toys, Black and Red Fat Alberts, Purple Chernobyl Ants, Split Wing Purple Haze, and any of the other cool looking stone fly patterns we have in the store!
As the guys floated down the River today they saw some whitetail deer, eagles and osprey doing their thing. They also noticed just how much work the beavers have already done this spring along the banks of the River.
The season is in now in ‘full go’ mode in terms of the fishing and we still have some guided days available. So give us shout and come and check out our special little corner of British Columbia. In addition to the cutthroat fishing the backdrop provided by the Rocky and the Purcell mountain ranges makes for a special experience!
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a float today!
Report #6 (June 17, 2018)
All Our Rivers are Open; St.Mary River Report.
The rivers in our corner of B.C. all opened on June 15th, so the beginning of the dry fly fishing season for cutthroats has begun…yay!
Every year we take all our guides on a reconnaissance float down the St. Mary River to see how the river morphology as changed. So, our small flotilla of drift boats put in at the Golf Course in Kimberley and we floated all the way down to the confluence of the Kootenay River, hauling out at Fort Steele. The weather was fairly good on this day with only a few clouds in the sky and temperatures reaching 22°C (72°F). It got a little windy as the day progressed, but as we closed in on the Kootenay River the wind turned into a blessing as it swept away the mosquitos!
Throughout the float we were constantly looking to see how the River had changed at all our favorite runs and holes. Many trees had fallen in along the River as the channel moved, reacting to the spring freshet. Some of the clay banks are now eroding away, clouding up the water a bit. But as the water flow decreases and drops away from the high banks into the cobbles and gravels, the clay banks will stop giving up their tea stained material. The St.Mary River is still a bit high, but is clearing up nicely.
The cutthroat trout are just coming off the spawn and are finding their way to their summer feeding zones. We decided early on to just to throw dry flies leaving the streamers and nymphs in storage. After all we know we can catch these guys on nymphs and streamers and our real goal for today was to see if the fish are dry fly ready!
Some of the guides in the other boats threw streamers and hooked into some nice bull trout and cut-bows in the deeper holes. Our boat, with our dry fly approach, landed about 10 cutthroats and missed a few more that came up and hit but got off right away! The cutthroats we landed averaged in the 13-15 inch range and looked like they had wintered quite well; lots of colour and healthy looking. The water temperature was about 5°C (41°F). So things are still pretty chilly in the water which definitely suppressed the activity as the cutthroats as they were very slow to come to the surface. But we did fool a few!
In terms of the bugs, some stone flies were hatching during the float, but we are not in full go mode quite yet.
It was a lot of fun to get out on the Mary for the first time this season and it was really educational to see the whole River in one shot. The downside was we had to cover so much water in on the day that we could not get out of the boat to fish the back channels much. It was pretty well a day of fishing along the bank edges and behind big rocks and along the log jams in an effort to fool a fish on the dry fly! Today we needed to drift the fly for quite a distance so the cutthroat could spot it and make a play for it. As per usual if the fly dragged at all they passed up the opportunity and there would be not hit on that cast.
The artificial flies that were working today were stone patterns; such as Orange and Yellow Stimy Chew Toys, Red and Black Fat Alberts, Chernobyl Ants, Turks Trantula, and Golden/Black Butt stoneflies.
The guides chasing the bull trout were using the white Muddy Buddies and the white Dali-Lama streamers in addition to the Golden Stonefly nymphs.
We saw plenty of bird life out on the St.Mary including; bald eagles and osprey high above and mergansers cruising along the bank edges.
Welcome to the 2018 season! The rivers are just rounding into form. Remember to check the regulations before you head out on the water and have fun!
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book your summer float trip now as the prime days are starting to go fast!
Report #5 (May 28, 2018)
The Confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers is the Place to Hook Some Nice Spring Rainbows!
Today we were out on the uppermost stretch of the Columbia River we fish; from Castlegar down to the confluence with the Kootenay River. This section can be very productive, but with the River this high we have to search out the big back eddies for the prime water. The daytime high reached a very comfortable 28°C (83°F). Some high clouds came in late in the afternoon causing the air temperature to cool down somewhat, but overall it was a very nice day to be out on the water.
We launched the boat upstream of the confluence of the two rivers and jetted down to where we spotted a nice looking set of eddies. There is still a good amount of debris on the water so one has to be very careful out there now. A lot of the woody debris gets caught up in the back eddies; swirling round and round. It tends to track the path of the big eddy currents and comes in and out of the way our fishing activities.
The fish like to hang out where the food is being concentrated by the currents. So after reading the water the key is to identify a few target areas to throw your line. If you get the right drift into these sweet areas, the trout will slurp down your fly and you are in business.
The morning started off slow with the guys picking up a couple of fish early on. After working a couple of the eddy structures, towards 11:00 a.m. they found some trout that were eager to play. In a single eddy the guys proceeded to catch and release 8 to 10 rainbows over the next hour. By then it was lunch time so we stopped to dine on the banks of the Columbia.
By the end of the day the fishers had landed 30 to 40 fish, all in the 18 to 22 inch range. These fish looked chunky and brite, they are obviously eating well! Some of the trout jumped like crazy and gave the anglers some good fights. The guys took lots of pictures and were very happy with their day on the River.
Our approach on the water today consisted mostly of fishing with a nymph and indicator. That said, we did throw a few streamers through the eddies to see if the fish wanted something bigger. We used the typical patterns for this time of year. In terms of nymphs we used; the Prince, Hare's Ear and Copper John's, sizes 8 to 12. The streamer patterns included; Kelly's Super Streamer, Pat's Rubber Legs and some Sculpin patterns, sizes 8 to 12.
As per usual we saw a lot of bird life out on the water today including a number of osprey, eagles, swallows and Canada geese.
Local fishers have been coming into the shop with lots of reports on the lakes in the Cranbrook area. Whitetail Lake is still fishing quite good, but the fish have recently moved out into deeper water. So you want to be using 20 foot leaders now when fishing Chironomids. Anglers are also doing very well fishing damsels, dragons, leeches and booby flies along the dropoff ledges.
Premier and Whiteswan lakes have also been fishing well. Again at Premier Lake the fish have moved into deeper waters. When you first get onto these lakes we encourage you to take some time and cruise around for a while looking for fish. If you see some then anchor up and begin to cast. Whether you are fishing Chironomids, balanced leeches, damsels or dragons it always pays to do a little looking around first.
Presently all the insects on the lakes seem to be hatching, so you have many types of flies and fishing techniques at your disposal to catch rainbows. One of the keys to success is to remember to change things up once in a while if you are not catching fish, or even if things just slow down. Fly fishing is a sport that provides you many different tools to do your job, so feel free to use all of them!
When in Cranbrook feel free to stop by our shop to find out what lakes are heating up and which ones are cooling down. It could save you a little driving time.
The river flows and levels are starting to drop in the East Kootenays. The St. Mary River is starting to get a green tinge to it so we are now past the peak freshet and moving towards it being fishable… yay. We will be checking the rivers when they open on June 15th to see if they will be fishable right away, then we will let you know.
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a summer float trip on the St.Mary, Elk, Bull or Skook rivers.
Report #4 (May 26, 2018)
Victoria Day fishing on the Columbia River is awesome!
This past weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, giving some of us the Monday off to go fishing. Thanks Queen! As per usual at this time of year the weather is pretty nice. Recent days we have seen sunny skies with temperatures reaching highs of 25-28°C (77-83°F). We have definitely given up on the waders now as it feels like summer fishing in May.
Once again, this spring we are seeing high temperatures and very low precipitation around much of B.C. Hopefully rain will start to show up in June. The Columbia River is presently flowing at around 158,000 Cubic Feet per Second. So water levels remain high, but the floating wood debris is slowly clearing out of the eddies as the River moves all the logs and debris down out of this stretch of water. The River is flowing high enough now that some of the eddies are disappearing, but there are still plenty of eddies left and lots of places to fish!
Today we decided to head out on our lowest stretch of the River flowing downstream from the City of Trail to the Canada/US border. All the rods were set up in advance and stored in the boat as usual, so getting onto to the water and ready to fish was a breeze.
We pointed the jet boat downstream and proceeded to the areas that looked like prime holding spots for some nice big rainbows. As we moved towards the top of an eddy the motor was cut and we began to float under the control of the oars. The anglers began by making casts of 30 to 40 feet from the boat; hoping to entice a nice rainbow to their flies. At this early stage of the trip they were casting nymphs with an indicator and swivel to get the fly down into the current. This type of fishing has produced very good results under these high flow conditions.
The challenge to these current conditions is figuring out where the fish are feeding, as well as navigating the River under high flows. That is why being out with an experience guide can speed up your learning curve, as well as keep you safe… something that is important at this time of year.
On this trip the anglers caught and released around 35 rainbows between the two of them. The trout mostly ranged in size from 18 to 21 inches in length. But again we hooked a few fish in the 23-inch range …. and some of these fish are crazy strong. Once hooked most of the fish jumped and some ran the fishers into their backing. You never know what size of fish you are going to catch; some of the 16 to 18 inchers pull just as hard as the bigger guys. The trout in the River now are in very good shape and strong. Most of the rainbow spawning in the mainstem seems to be over, but many fish are now moving into the tributaries to spawn as their flows drop.
In terms of the bugs on the water, a black caddis hatch was coming off throughout the day in addition to some small midges popping off fairly steadily. The artificial patterns that work best for us included the different nymph patterns, including the Purple Prince, Hare's Ear, Copper Johns and Pat's Rubber Leg (aka The Pickle). All these patterns were sizes 8 to 14.
Regional Round-up for South Eastern British Columbia
The lakes in our region including; Premier, Whiteswan, Whitetail, etc. have all been fishing very well the last couple of weeks. As always it depends on the day, but as it is nearing the end of May most of the food on the lakes is in full bloom. Mayflies, dragons, damsels, leeches, balanced leeches, chironomids, are all out and in the water for the fish to eat.
So when you are out on the lakes, remember to start out by cruising around looking for fish. If you see some in the shallows anchor up and try chironomids if the hatch is coming off. If you do not see a hatch then hang a micro leech, or a balanced leech under an indicator as these can be very effective fishing methods! Some guys fish dragons or damsels along the shallows with a wet line as well. Sometimes a big trout will just come up and hammer the fly when using this method. Whatever the way you prefer to fish the key thing is to get out on the water and try it!
When on the water always be careful, use life jackets and remember to read the regulations in advance of the place you are going to fish. While the lakes are producing well, the rivers are still high and dirty due the freshet and closed till June 15th (with the exception of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers)
Kelly and Karen
PS When you are in Cranbrook feel free to come by the shop and check out our extensive selection of flies and learn what lakes are fishing best in our area. Call 1-800-667-2311 to book a summer float.
Report #3 (May 13, 2018)
Water Levels are Rising Across the Province as the Columbia River Continues to Fish Well!
The spring freshet is now in full swing and the weather has been absolutely beautiful. We are now seeing warm temperatures reaching highs off 28-30°C (80-86°F) in the West Kootenay region of B.C.
The deep snowpack and early season hot span are having an impact on our rivers and lakes. To the west of us, the Kettle and Granby rivers have breached their banks. The result is that many homes and businesses in the Grand Forks area have received water damage. With so much snow in the mountains the water has headed into the historic floodplain, where many people live. This flooding is not good for structures, but is part of the natural hydrological cycle which renews the river habitat that fish depend on.
The Columbia River has risen quite a bit in the last few days and is now flowing at around 130,000 CFS (3,600 CMS). Water releases from the upriver dams is increasing which means the Mighty Columbia River is living up to its name.
Under these conditions, the Columbia River has quite a bit of woody debris on the surface now. And for good reason the trout love hanging around this concentrated material where they gorge themselves on all the food that accumulates with it.
The anglers were on the water at around 9:00 a.m. this morning. We put the jet boat in at the boat launch in Trail and headed upstream inspecting the eddies and watching out for rogue logs on the way. Fishing from shore is not an option right now, so being in our nimble jet boat is the best way to go. Once we hit the top of our chosen eddy, we shut off the motor and drifted down into the prime water allowing the anglers to throw streamers and or nymphs. Either technique works quite well on the River at this time of year.
During the outing the two anglers landed 15 to 18 rainbows each. Many of these fish were in the 16 to 18 inch range, with a few bigger ones in the 19 to 21 inch slot. These rainbows are very strong and look like shimmering silver bullets when landed. After the hookup, some of the rainbows made big runs almost into the backing, in addition to several jumps out of the water providing lots of excitement. Even the smaller fish are strong fighters. Given the number of large trout in this River you never really know what size fish you have hooked until you see it near the surface… so much fun!
The weather became hot very quickly today so we are already seeing caddis hatching on the water. As usual we saw lots of bird life on the River today including ospreys, eagles and some Canadian Geese to name a few of the bigger species.
The flies working best today included different types of Chironomids (yes, just like on the lakes). Prince nymphs, Copper John's nymphs, Lightening Bugs, as well as black streamers and, of course, the Pickle streamer also produced well.
All the rivers in the East Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. are closed right now from April 1st to June 15th because of run-off and spawning. The only rivers open all year round are the Columbia and Kootenay rivers.
The lakes have all been fishing quite well, but this can change from day to day. As with all types of fishing, lakes can get moody. But given we are now in May, all the food is out on the water including; Chironomids, Balanced Leaches, Callibaetis, Dragon Fly Nymphs, Booby Flies, etc., so the fish are actively feeding.
When you are in Cranbrook feel free to come by the shop and check out our extensive selection of flies and learn what lakes are fishing best in our area.
The weather is now beautiful so it is time to get out and enjoy nature.
Hope to see you on the water this spring!
Kelly and Karen
PS Call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a summer fly fishing trip on one of the rivers we fish.
Report #2 (May 5, 2018)
The Rainbows on the Columbia River are Settling Down and Biting Hard!
We are now into May and the Columbia River has been on fire! The big rainbows have been feeding steadily for some time now and we are hooking loads of fish. The spawning period for rainbows in the mainstem of the River is coming to an end. The fish are now moving into and setting up in their feeding lanes and eating steadily, so once you find a few you know there will be more in that area.
We start our Columbia trips by picking up the anglers from their accommodations in Rossland, B.C., where with coffee in hand, we head down into the valley for a day of fishing.
The weather has started to get very nice lately with temperatures reaching highs of 25°C (77°F) in the Trail to Castlegar stretch of the Columbia. That said, we are still dressing in layers as it remains a little cool and crisp in the morning and one does not want to have to wear waders at this time of year. When the sun comes out and you get the reflection off the water, all of a sudden it gets hot out there.
The flows and associated water levels on the Columbia are definitely rising now and currently sit at around 2,300 cubic meters per second (81,000 cubic feet per second). We expect them to keep on rising for some time as the freshet builds. This is the time of year when you must be very aware of your surroundings when managing a boat out on the Columbia.
The rising flows pick up a lot of logs and associated debris from the shore, transporting everything into the water. The boat pilot must always be looking around as people fish. The floating debris can get caught up in the big back eddies and rotate back at you causing a real mess. So you want to be vigilant when out on the Columbia at this time of the year.
Today we launched the boat at Genelle and moved upstream towards Castlegar to fish. We cruised upriver in the jet boat until we passed a big eddy that looked promising. We continued upriver a bit then cut the motor and drifted down into the eddy under the control of the oars where we started to fish.
As dictated by the time of year, the anglers used both streamer and nymphing techniques. The fish near the boat tend to be a little spooked, so one needs to cast about 30-40 feet out away from the boat to get into the calmer fish. Casting a little further away also allows you to get a good drift on the fly so the fish can be fooled into taking it!
On this float the anglers caught around 20 fish each with the biggest fish coming in at about 22 inches. They saw a lot of fish in the 17-19 inch slot. Some of the rainbows were chrome colored, healthy and strong. Others had a dark red stripe down the side of the body, just fresh from spawning.
Throughout the day small midges and black caddis were hatching, but the fish seemed to be keying on nymphs and streamer patterns rather than dry flies. The flies that were used included; Pat's Rubber Legs, Sculpin patterns (Green or Tan), Prince Nymphs (Purple and Regular), Copper Johns and Hare's Ear Nymph (sizes 12 to 14).
We saw a lot of bird life on the water today. While the Canada Geese were working along the shoreline, we could see the eagles spotting fish from high up in nearby trees. We also saw hundreds of swallows swarming over the water eating the midges, which we take as a good sign that fish will feeding on them as well!
Back over in the East Kootenays around our flyshop in Cranbrook the fishing in the lakes is taking off! Most all the lakes have iced off, including White Swan and White Tail Lakes. The fish are now busy gorging themselves making them catchable on the many different types of Chironomids, Balanced Leeches, Micro Leeches, Dragon Nymphs and Booby Fly techniques.
If you are in the Cranbrook area and want to get out on the water, come down to the fly shop to check out the products and chat about the opportunities. We can outfit you for the water as well as discuss the latest information on our various lakes and what fly is working best at certain times.
The fish are now biting, so welcome to the 2018 season of fly fishing!
See you out on the water soon.
Kelly and Karen
PS Feel free to call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a trip on any of the rivers we fish. Don’t forget to review the new freshwater fishing regulations for British Columbia before heading out on the water.
Report #1 (April 21, 2018)
The Early Fishing on the Columbia River is producing Lots of Rainbows.
The 2018 fishing season on the Columbia River has begun! The River is still in its normal flow range for this time of year, running at about 1,100 cubic meters per second (40,000 cubic feet per second). The tributary streams entering the Columbia have started their run off. The freshet has come very late spring this year as the grip of winter has only recently let go.
We have been on the water for over a week and half now and have found the rainbows to be pretty active for this early in the season. While some local anglers fish the Columbia River all year round, including the winter when the temperatures are above freezing, we wait for spring.
On this particular day, the weather was typically “spring like” which means “all over the map” including both sunny and rainy periods. The temperature started at around 5 °C (41°F), but reached a comfortable high of 14 °C (58 °F) by mid-afternoon.
These spring conditions mean we have to be prepared for all types of weather. So we wear layers of clothing to stay warm and dry, but allowing us to shed one or two of them when the sun comes out and warms everything up nicely.
On this day, we picked up the anglers from their hotel and headed down into Trail B.C. where we launched at the Indian Eddy boat launch at Gyro Park.
We set up the rods in advance for both nymphing and casting streamers and headed upriver to check out some of the spots where we know the fish hold this time of year. Once we arrived at our starting point we cut the engine and started to drift downstream under the control of the oars. Our boat allows us to power upriver then basically turns into a drift boat. As we drifted the anglers fished along the bank edges and around the big rock structures until we reached a big back eddy where we settled in for a while. This is a good approach for us as the fish at this time of year are transitioning between the runs along the bank edges into the big eddies.
In terms of the hatch today, small midges and Blue Winged Olives were coming off sporadically throughout the day. The anglers caught many fish in the 15 to 18-inch range, but no big guys were hooked. Between the two of them, they caught and released about 30 fish which is awesome for this early in the fly fishing season.
The most effective artificial flies on this trip were the Purple and Regular Prince Nymphs (sizes 10 to 14), Pat's Rubber Leg, Kelly's Super Streamer and green or tan Sculpins (sizes 8 to 12).
Using our rowable jet boat on the Columbia gives us a lot of flexibility. It allows us to power around to different stretches of shore line where we can get out and cast, or wade in the shallows. As the fish move from the runs into the back eddies on mass we will tend to row the eddies fishing from the boat most of the day. As we are early in this process we are doing both types of fishing.
Today we were able to see both eagles and ospreys tending their nests along the River, as well as watch groups of turkeys moving along the shoreline. So, there was lots of action on and off the water today.
The Lakes in the East Kootenay Region have just started to ice off. Premier, Horseshoe and Campbell Meyer Lakes just came clear in the last couple of days. Edwards Lake has been ice free for a few weeks now. We are getting quite a bit of wind the last couple of days and they are calling for hot temperatures next week so more lakes will bust loose soon! We will keep you posted.
If you are in the Cranbrook area stop in and check out all the new stock in the fly shop. 2018 spring has brought us lots of new items to help you catch lots of fish.
If you are heading out on the lakes; chironomids and balanced leeches are the flies you should be using at this time of year. Come in and check out our selection at the shop and we will help you get the supplies that suit your fishing techniques and destinations.
And don’t forget to review the new freshwater fishing regulations for British Columbia.
See you out on the water soon.
Kelly and Karen
PS Feel free to call us at 1-800-667-2311 to book a trip on any of the rivers we fish.
St.Mary Angler Guide Service: a review of the 2017 fishing season. (PDF)
Overview of the Conditions.
Last winter brought us a snowpack across the mountains of S.E. British Columbia that was way above normal, a significant change from the last couple of years. As of May 15th the snowpack in the East Kootenay region, which includes the St.Mary, Elk, Bull and Skook rivers, was 157% of ‘normal’. Over in the West Kootenays, where we fish the upper Columbia River, it was 156% of the long term average. The high snow levels did make us ponder the possibility of some localized flooding come spring. However, a prolonged cool spring meant a delay in the onset of the snow melt season by about two weeks and the freshet did not come all at once. It also left us with a lot of ground water that came in handy later in the summer.
Temperatures across the southern half of British Columbia were 1 to 3 C° below average from December thru March. While most of the winter was pretty dry in the B.C., the snowpack really built up in March right thru into May. Precipitation levels in March were 150-200% of normal for S.E. British Columbia.
While the snowpack in our region was pretty high we didn’t see any significant flooding during the spring runoff. That could not be said of the Okanagan Basin to our west, as well as other regions of B.C. to the north that saw a lot of high water and flood damage. By June 15th there was still a good amount of snow in the mountains of our region, but the runoff was not creating any problems.
In 2017 we experienced higher than average rainfall during the spring, but much lower than average precipitation during the summer. With the high snow pack and prolonged wet spring we started fishing the St.Mary and Elk rivers a few weeks later than 2016. The below average rainfall persisted from May through September.
In terms of air temperature in the East Kootenays, it was quite a bit warmer from May thru September. It was way hotter than usual in July and August where average daily maximums were 5.8C° and 4C° warmer than normal respectively. Fortunately, all that snow and spring rain really bolstered the groundwater conditions that paid off when things got really hot and dry late in the summer. All our rivers in the East Kootenays possessed good flows throughout the season providing excellent fishing conditions.
Over on the upper Columbia River the air temperature was also above normal from May through October. As the case in the East Kootenays, it was also a lot hotter than usual in July and August where average daily maximums were 5.9C° and 4.8C° warmer than normal respectively. Rainfall was below usual from May thru September. These hot and dry conditions did not create any water temperature problems in the spring and fall when we fish for the big rainbows. In October we saw only an average amount of rainfall this year so fishing conditions remained very good. As this is a tailwater fishery, high water does not create any problems for us. The upper Columbia River is a robust and resilient piece of water and we experienced excellent fishing conditions throughout the 2017 season.
The fishing season on the upper Columbia started on schedule in mid April. We started the summer fishing season for wild Westslope Cutthroat on the St.Mary River in late June and we were on the Elk by mid July. We got to the Skookumchuck and Bull Rivers by late July. The season lasted almost into October on the St.Mary and Elk rivers. We fished the upper Columbia River with our fly and spey rods into late October.
2017 was a record year in B.C. for acres burned by wildfires in a season at over 1.2 million hectares. While most of the fires were located outside of our region in central B.C. from May thru July, it did come our way in August. We had a number of fires in our region that led to the partial closure to fishing of the St.Mary and Elk rivers. Fortunately for us, as a commercial operator we were granted continued access to the rivers and were able to safely take anglers out on the water to fish during the closure.
East Kootenay Temperature and Rainfall (Station ‘Cranbrook A’, B.C.):
|Temperature in 2017||20°C (68°F)||23°C (73.4°F)||32°C (90°F)||30°C (86°F)||22 °C
|Average Daily Max. Temperature (1981-2010)||17.9°C (64°F)||21.6°C (71°F)||26.2°C (79°F)||26.0°C (79°F)||19.9°C
|Rainfall in 2017||29 mm
|26 mm (1 in.)||5 mm
|26 mm (1 in.)|
|Average Monthly Rainfall (1981-2010)||46.1 mm (1.8 in.)||62.2 mm (2.45 in.)||38.3 mm (1.5 in.)||28 mm
|31.3 mm (1.23)||20.8 mm (.82)|
Columbia River Temperature and Rainfall (Station Castlegar, B.C.):
|Temperature in 2017 (Average Daily Max.)||14°C (57°F)||22 °C (72°F)||26°C (79°F)||34 °C (93°F)||33 °C (91°F)||25 °C (77°F)||13 °C (54°F)|
|Average Daily Max. Temperature (1981-2010)||15.3 °C
|23.6 °C (74.5°F)||28.1°C (83°F)||28.2 °C (83°F)||22 °C (72°F)||12.9 °C (55°F)|
|Rainfall in 2017||87 mm (3.4 inches)||57 mm (2.25 in.)||32 mm (1.26 in.)||6 mm (.24 in.)||4 mm (.16 in.)||8 mm
|52 mm (2.1 in.)|
|Average Rainfall (1981-2010)||59.3 mm (2.33)||70.3 mm (2.77)||72.3 mm (2.84)||48.1 mm (1.89)||30.4 mm (1.2)||42.4 mm (1.67)||49.4 mm (1.94)|
The Spring Season on the Upper Columbia River in the West Kootenays.
We fish the 35 mile stretch of the upper Columbia River from the confluence with the Kootenay River down to the Canada-U.S. Border. In 2017 this tailwater fishery provided our anglers with great fishing from mid April into late June. We fish the Columbia in a couple of ways. The first is from our custom built jet boat using dry flies, nymphs or streamers. The boat has plenty of unobstructed fishing space with a wide beam making it both comfortable and stable. We power up to where we want to fish, turn off the motor and row around the big eddies, or through the big runs. The second approach is to get out of the boat and wade in from the wide cobblestone shorelines and big gravel bars. From here we either cast dry flies using standard fly rods, or double handed spey rods.
The rainbow fishing on the Columbia is very productive from April through June. This spring the weather was a mixed bag ranging from snow and rain to sun. In general things were wetter than usual. We took our standard approach to spring fishing using streamers with a sinking line, as well as fly rods set up for nymphing. We carried dry fly rod setups in the event that a hatch popped off during the day. After powering to our destination of choice on the river we would cut the motor and do a controlled drift downstream; fishing along the bank edges and then sliding into the big back eddies of revolving water where we would fish the seams and feed lines. Later in the spring we did more fishing from shore with the spey rods.
Most of the fish landed this spring were in the 17 to 22 inch slot, with the average size increasing as the spring progressed. We also landed a nice assortment rainbows over 23 inches, including one over 26. Catch rates were also good this spring ranging from 10-20 per day depending on the anglers experience level. On April 1 the water flow on the Columbia was low to start with at around 64,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), exposing a good amount of shoreline, rock and cobble piers and big in-river gravel bars. By May 1 the flows were around 80,000 CFS. From May 1 to the end of June flows rose more steadily to around 115,000 CFS on May 15th to 150,000 CFS by June 1st. The higher flows result in a fuller channel with less exposed gravel bars and cobble shoreline, but bigger eddies. As flows increase through the spring the fish tend to move from along the banks and runs into the big back eddies.
The Columbia remained clear throughout the spring providing excellent fishing conditions. We also experienced the typical robust hatches of caddis, callibaetis and mayflies. When you throw your line into the Columbia you don’t have any idea what size rainbow will take your fly, but you can be assured once it hits it will run and pull hard!
Summer Cutthroat Fishing on the St.Mary, Elk, Bull and Skookumchuck Rivers in the East Kootenays.
The St.Mary River was rounding into form by early July, weeks later than 2016 but more in line with what we usually see. On July 5th it was 35C° (95F°), the Stone Fly hatch was working it way up river and we were landing lots of cuts in the 13 to 15 inch slot. By mid July the River had shaped up very nicely and were catching the odd Bull Trout and Cut-bow in addition to loads of Westslope Cutthroats.
The Elk River was shaping up nicely by mid July, again more in line with what we usually see. On our first trip out in mid July it was in the high 20’s C° (mid 80’s F°), the water was clear and the flows were dropping nicely as we landed about 20 cutthroat in the 14 to 17 inch class. We also pursued a nice sized Bull Trout we spotted trailing a cutthroat. It hit the fly hard, fought well, but popped off at the net! It was a great float to start to the 2017 season on the Elk.
By late July the weather was hot with clear skies as the St.Mary, Elk and Bull rivers were coming into their summer groove. The rivers were crystal clear, had good flows and were loaded with cutthroats. We were now fishing all sections of the St.Mary and Elk. We were also seeing the first signs of the wildfires from central B.C. as the smoke was starting to move into our region. On a trip to the St.Mary on August 2nd we could see the grasshoppers were now everywhere and the Stone fly hatch was pretty well done. The anglers were experiencing good catch rates of cutthroat trout from the morning right through into the afternoon. The fishing over on the Elk was equally productive.
In August we started to see the effects of the dry summer as we had received very little rain since the beginning of June. On top of that it was turning out to be abnormally hot in August as well as July. The lack of rain and elevated temperatures meant we started seeing wild fires in our region of the Province. By early August we were fishing the Bull and making trips back into the Skookumchuck Canyon, as well as our daily floats on the St.Mary and Elk. On our August 21st float to the Elk we hit the water early to avoid the heat. We were rewarded with a good catch of cutties in the 14 to 16 slot as well as one that was around 18 inches in length. By now grasshoppers were everywhere along the banks, with the odd hatch of caddis and midges popping off. All that early season precipitation meant the flows in our rivers stayed up giving the fish lots of cool water even though it was very hot and dry.
By early September the wildfires were creating problems for anglers in our region. The Government decided to close access to the backcountry for 30 days, or until a change in the weather brought sustained moisture. Fortunately for us, they made exemptions on some of the rivers we fish. On the Elk River anglers were allowed to access the river to fish, or float from boat launches and private properties. On the St. Mary River guided anglers could access the river only through private properties. As we use drift boats and have secured private launching points for years now, our anglers could still get out on the water to fish.
At the same time the Elk and St.Mary rivers continued to fish very well. With less angler pressure as the result of Government closure we were seeing good catch rates of cuts in the 14 to 15 inch range. By mid month the restricted access was dropped as temperatures were cooling and we were seeing a little rain. We even had quite a bit if snow fall on the tops of the Rockies. We were also seeing more hatches of October Caddis, Blue Winged Olives and Green Drakes on the St.Mary and Elk rivers. The water levels in the rivers were getting into their September lows and we were landing a good number of cut-bows to go with the cutthroats. We were now starting to think about moving back over to the upper Columbia River to fish for the big rainbows.
All our East Kootenays rivers fished very well thru September as the water flows stood up and the fish continued to feed. As is always the case, there was much less angling pressure in September which left the rivers pretty well exclusively to us.
Fall Fishing for Big Rainbows on the Upper Columbia River.
In late September we headed back over to the Columbia River in search of the big rainbows. We packed up our customized jet boat that was designed specifically for the Columbia and hit the road for the month of October. The jet gets us around quickly on the water while the drift boat design elements allows us to row it so we can hover in the choice water.
The weather this year on the Columbia was its normal warm and dry. On our September 30th float the river was running clear at about 70,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). The weather was warm and clear, peaking at a comfortable 70°F (20°C). Within the first 15 minutes on the water we hooked into a nice, chunky rainbow; around 20 inches in length. This fish took off and ran us into the backing before we pulled over along the shore and landed this big guy. The rainbows fed well over the summer and were in very good shape and beautifully colored.
During this trip the guys landed 15 rainbow trout each. All were really good sized, between 18 to 23 inches. The fish were mainly taken on streamers, with only a few midges. October Caddis and Blue Winged Olives were hatching on the day.
We spent most of the day floating along the bank edges. On occasion we would bank the boat and the anglers would get out to cast their spey rods. Certain runs on the Columbia are very conducive to spey fishing.
On our subsequent October trips we continued to fish mostly streamers, casting dry flies during the October Caddis and Blue Winged Olive hatches. We used the Spey rods for fishing on the wide exposed cobble shorelines. After early October the water flows in Columbia where turned down to about 35,000 CFS from the upstream dams. This opened up a lot more gravel bars and cobble shoreline and the river took on a more intimate feel. We continued to catch 15 to 20 rainbows per trip in the 18-24 inch range. The odd bigger fish at 25 plus was also hocked up. The fall colours on the wide expansive valley of the Columbia were beautiful. It was a great month of October fishing to close off the 2017 season.
Annual Hosted Trip to Christmas Island
In February of 2017 we hosted our annual fishing trip to the Republic of Kiribati, also known as Christmas Island. Christmas is a giant coral atoll located 1,300 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands, 100 miles north of the Equator. As the host, we made all the arrangements booking our group of 16 into the “Villages”, a local lodge. The Villages features 8 air-condition double twin bed bungalows with private baths, comfortably accommodating our group. All our meals were prepared by local chefs and served onsite in the dining room.
Each day the head guide scheduled our daily fishing venue according to the tide and sun position. In the morning each group would leave the beach in their assigned skiff with their personal guide and boatman. Each angler had their own guide, so it is one on one, which is great for all fishers regardless of their level of skill.
On Christmas Island we fish for Bonefish and Giant Trevally (G.T.s). The guide carries your 12 weight rod while you fish for bonefish just in case a GT is sighted in your area. We use 8 weight rods for the bones. For those fishers who needed it, we put together a gear package with custom tied flies.
Our group caught between 10-30 bonefish a day with chances to catch GT's. We also caught different reef fish occasionally when we would go further out. Bonefish average 2-6 pounds, but several fish over 8 pounds were caught during the week. Many GT's were caught as well with the average size in the 5 to 8 pound range. That said, some of the guys were targeting the big GT's. The largest bonefish landed was 9 pounds while the biggest GT came in at around a whopping 50 pounds!
We are taking a group to Christmas Island again this February 21 to 28th, 2018. We still have 3 spots open so give us a call if you are interested in coming along. You will have a great time.
So there you have it, another year of great fishing with the St.Mary Angler is history. Thanks again to all those anglers we accompanied out on the water this year.
As always, we greatly appreciated the patronage of our guide service and the fly shop in Cranbrook, B.C. We wish everyone a healthy and enjoyable Holiday Season. We hope to see you in the shop, or out on the river again next year.
We will be attending tradeshows in Washington, Oregon and Colorado in the New Year. We are now booking people into the 2018 and 2019 seasons. If you have an interest in coming along with us to Christmas Island, or wish to book a trip to any of the rivers we float in B.C., feel free to give us a call to discuss details.
Feel free to contact us anytime via our email or at 1-800-667-2311. We are always eager to talk about the fishing and be sure to follow us at the Facebook link below.
Kelly and Karen Laatsch,
St.Mary Angler Fly Shop
PS To find out which tradeshows we will be attending in early 2018, go to our webpage for dates, locations and to contact us for will call tickets if you will be attending.