Fly-Fishing in the East Kootenays

June 21, 2023
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What do you look for when selecting a new fly-fishing destination? Great scenery? Accessibility? Productive water? Sometimes we have to sacrifice one for the other, but there are places where that trifecta truly exists … and they don’t all require a plane ticket or long days of bushwhacking to get there.
Tucked between impressive, jagged mountain peaks, pristine alpine lakes trickle into tea-stained creeks and gin-clear freestone rivers boiling with aggressive, surface-feeding trout. No more than a day’s drive east of the Lower Mainland, the East Kootenays often enchant anglers fortunate enough to experience these exceptional fisheries. 

Target Fish Species for Fly-Fishers in the East Kootenays

 The East Kootenays is home to a variety of species that fly anglers covet, including rainbow trout, bull trout, eastern brook char, kokanee, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and bass. Perhaps most notably, it’s home to the westslope cutthroat trout. Every summer, fly-fishers from around the globe travel to the town of Fernie to drift the renowned Elk River stalking these big topwater “cutties.”

Dry-fly Fishing

Targeting rising trout with dry flies categorizes the epitome of mindfulness and, like all fisheries, poses some challenges. Many factors can influence a good day of dry fly-fishing: time of year, temperature, weather, location, and insect hatches. As spring turns to summer, and summer to fall, all of these variables are constantly changing. However, with time, experience, and consideration of all the factors, anglers can look into their fly box with almost mathematical precision, and select the correct flies to meet the conditions.

Lake Fishing in the East Kootenays

The southeastern corner of B.C. is also a major destination for lake fishing. The Rocky Mountain landscape creates a diversity of stillwater fishing that ranges from long, deep lakes (like Whiteswan and Alces) to small pocket lakes (like Norbury, or Campbell Meyer), each with unique species and strains of fish. These lakes are notoriously productive, offering many fun opportunities for dragging leeches or setting chironomids on trout, or even stripping poppers across warm, shallow ponds for aggressive bass.
The Freshwater Fisheries Society’s stocking program creates great fishing throughout B.C. In the Kootenays alone, the Society stocks approximately 110 lakes with rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, eastern brook char, and kokanee.

Whether you like to spend your afternoons bobbing in a float tube, cruising in a tinny, or straining to watch your tiny Callibaetis imitation as it drifts along a frothy seam in the current, chances are there is a lake or stream that will meet your needs (and it probably has a boat launch, too). And let’s face it; we’re not always out there for the fish. Catching them is a much-welcomed bonus. The allure of fishing often comes from the environment, the scenery, the challenge, and the charm of a life-long journey of infinite learning. Every day on the water with a fly rod in hand is another chance to learn something new, and connect with your surroundings. The East Kootenays is where all of those dynamics work together to create incredible fishing experiences for every angler.

Author: Jen Dunphy, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
Photo Credit: Jen Dunphy & Cliff Razzo