Four hours north of Spokane, native trout in the Canadian Rockies await, along with a killer mountain town. Which is why Fernie, British Columbia, is an epic fly fishing destination.
As a newbie fly fisherman, there are many wild trout waters I’ve floated or hiked by over the years that I intend to fish in the coming decades. Fernie is a top-of-the-list fly fishing travel destination I hope to check out for the first time this fall.
The Elk River, which flows right through town, offers anglers a shot at monster trout with plenty to do off-water, from mountain biking and hiking, to golf and exploring the pubs and restaurants in the historic downtown.
For me, this article is field research for what will hopefully come to pass as one awesome fall road trip.
The Elk River
The Elk River flows 140 miles from the dramatic peaks of the Continental Divide in the Canadian Rockies (specifically the Pétain Glacier next to Mt. Joffre) to Lake Koocanusa at the U.S. border. The stretches of river up and downstream from Fernie offer clear, clean, and cold water that trout thrive in.
Local guide and shop owner Paul Samycia explains the allure of the Elk River this way: “The Elk River has what all fly anglers are looking for. A beautiful, free stone river with spectacular scenery, wild native fish eager to take a dry fly, miles and miles of wade-able and drift-able water with a great small town to base your adventure out of.”
Locals laud the Elk River’s large population of Westslope Cutthroat Trout and their incredible color and spotting. These wild fish cruise the river’s surface in search of the flying insects that hatch in the warmer valley surrounding the town of Fernie.
While Bull Trout are hard to come by and protected in many waters in the U.S., it’s game on for this aggressive, hard-fighting fish around Fernie. Reportedly, resident Bull Trout on the Elk River above the Elko dam are regularly 20-30 inches or bigger.
Where to Fish Near Fernie, B.C.
Whether you are planning a DIY trip or looking for a guide, Tourism Fernie provides this excellent overview Elk River fishing beta that will help you get started for your trip to the north:
From the town of Sparwood down, the river gains momentum and girth. From Sparwood to Olsen, the river is known for big, greedy Westslope Cutthroat, long boulder sections, countless riffles and deep corner holes.
From Olsen to the hamlet of Hosmer is drift-boat heaven. Hosmer also has a boat launch and is a good place to start or finish a day. Hosmer down to Fernie offers braided sections and some big log jams with magical views of the Lizard Range. Buckets and holes are ripe for the casting on this stretch.
In the heart of Fernie is a boat launch at Dogwood Park with ample parking, a public washroom, and space for multiple boats.
The section from Fernie to Morrissey winds gently through perfect trout water and includes some long deep runs, riffles, and seams. The takeout at Morrissey Bridge has also had some work done recently and there is parking along the road with room for trailers.
Morrissey to Elko is the next haul and should be given a whole day. If you like fishing log jams, this stretch is for you. Some great stretches of wood provide perfect habitat that the cutties stack up under and along.
For more information about fishing the Elk River and Fernie, visit Tourismfernie.com.