Our Man In Canada
December 10th, 2001

Small Mountain Streams

From Fly Fishing British Columbia, Published by Heritage House, distributed Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

While the Elk and St. Marys river have definitely been discovered, countless smaller flows in the Rockies are made to measure for those who seek solitude amidst intimate settings. Given the towering mountain backdrops often visible even from the secluded streamsides, angling could easily take a back seat, but there are small mountain gems which hold suprisingly large trout and almost all of them host good numbers of fish in reaches removed from easy road access.

Two Elk River tributaries, Michel Creek and the Wigwam, are superb, crystal-clear streams with well-spaced pools in which trout can be seen delicately rising. The better pools require long hikes to reach, but the rewards are worth the effort. Free-rising westslope cutthroat trout dominate, making floating lines the first choice, but deeper pools hold large, predatory bull trout which also can be tempted to the fly.

The Bull River is a fast-moving stream full of native cutthroats and lesser numbers of bull trout. The lower river is seldom fished, except close the the highway, and walking through open pine forests is both easy and pleasing. The water above the canyon dam is wild and tumbling, and fishing these upper reaches requires climbing down steep, rocky banks. Commercial roads reach far into the Bull's headwaters, and a few of its tributaries are wonderful, trout-filled creeks in their own right. The Galbraith flows into the Bull about 20 miles from its mouth, and Quinn Creek enters about 10 miles further up. Both will delight those who take the trouble to seek them out.

Skookumchuck Creek, a fine little stream flowing into the Kootenay Rover, can be accessed by road that parallel much of its length. Sections with hike-in access hold better fish.

The Goat River comes tumbling out of the hills near the town of Creston. Logging roads follow almost the entire river valley, so access is easy. Cutthroat trout inhabit the whole river.

Anglers can fish any of these streams with nothing more than a #10 Deerhair Caddis and a #12 gold bead-head Hare's Ear Nymph. A light, four-weight rod and a floating line complete the tackle requirements. The secret for success is finding the better pools and approaching them properly. In this typically low, clear water the trout will be wary of a blundering approach. Casts have to be good and line control must be good; small-stream trout often hide close to brush piles or overhanging vegetation. Flies have to float naturally and close to cover. Just about every good-looking pool will hold a few fish, but the trout in pools close to roads will be far warier.

Amber-colored polarized glasses are a definite asset on tiny streams and add to the experience by allowing anglers to clearly see trout rise to their offerings.

A Tip from Todd McPherson:

Trout in small streams tend not to be overly selective or leaders shy. Drag-free drifts are not needed and, in fact, may fish take just as the fly completes its drift and begins to swing. To increase success, allow the fly to drag a moment after the drift is complete, then give it some slack so it drifts another four or five feet. By raising and lowering the rod tip, it is possible to impart action to the fly through the swing. This is an incredible enticement for wild rainbow and cutthroat trout. To imitate the skittering movements of egg-laying caddis or stoneflies, skate the fly by holding the rod tip high and pointed downstream. Stripping in short pulls at the same time usually draws a strike.

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