The native Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) has been determined to be a separate species from the coastal Dolly Varden. Bull Trout are found in the Clark Fork and Flathead drainages of western Montana, and their slowly declining trend has led to their designation as a threatened species. Bull Trout are a sensitive species that do not tolerate high sediment levels in their spawning streams. Sediment can suffocate the developing embryos before they hatch. In Flathead Lake, where they achieve trophy sizes of up to 25 pounds, the Bull Trout life cycle has been studied extensively. Adult Bull Trout ascend the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River to spawn in small tributary streams; in some cases traveling well over 100 miles in a few months. They spawn in the fall and the adults return to the lake. Young fish may spend up to three years in the tributaries before returning to mature in Flathead Lake. In other river systems, Bull Trout may be a resident stream fish.
Often, native Bull Trout have been displaced through competitive interaction with introduced Brook Trout. Bull Trout and Brook Trout will interbreed, resulting in sterile hybrids, which leads to a further decrease in Bull Trout populations. The Bull Trout may be considered the Grizzly Bear of the fish world in relationship to its need for unaltered habitat. Young Bull Trout feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates but adults eat mostly other fish (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks). Resident adults are 15 to 30 centimeters in length whereas migratory adults commonly exceed 60 centimeters (Rieman and McIntyre 1993).
Famous for its rainbow trout, the Crowsnest River begins at Crowsnest Lake in the Canadian Rockies near the border with British Columbia. It weaves past Crowsnest Mountain and through ... moreseveral towns before cascading over Lundbreck Falls and flowing into the Oldman Reservoir. The upper river above Blairmore meanders through beautiful alpine meadows with solid, grassy banks and predictable flows.
Below Blairmore there is a short stint of Stillwater created by what was to be a “temporary” blockage built in 1903. Anglers here will spot highly educated, big fish that tease you with a glance and disappear between Turtle Mountain boulders the size of trucks.
The most prized water on this blue ribbon, spring fed, freestone river, is between the towns of Bellvue and Lundbreck Falls. Here the river lies in a valley walled off by tall stands of evergreen, aspen and willow trees. From Lundbreck Falls to the Oldman Reservoir the landscape opens, the river widens and strong winds from the Crowsnest Pass register their mark on misshapen trees. In addition to rainbows, large numbers of cutthroat and bull trout appear on this stretch.
Observers and guides account for the river’s productivity by its proliferous hatches. Especially worth noting is the Salmon fly hatch in the last week of May. Named for their orange colored throats, these salmon flies migrate to the river before entering dry land, creating a wonderful opportunity for anglers.
Makhabn is a Peigan tribal name meaning “river where the bow reeds grow.” When settlers began to arrive in the area the river became known as the Bow, although Big Fish River may have ... morebeen a more appropriate name since this is the reason why the Bow is so famous. Anglers in pursuit of 20+ inch trout need to put this on their bucket list, for the wild rainbows and browns in this river have one of the fastest growing rates to be found on any river system in today’s world.
The Bow rises in the Canadian Rockies inside Banff National Park near the foot of Mount Gordon and flows from glacial Bow Lake southeastward through lush mountain terrain. After passing past the towns of Lake Louise and Banff, the river exits the park and heads eastward and flows through Calgary. Its journey continues for a total of 365 miles before joining the Oldman River and forming the South Saskatchewan River.
While the river is open year-round for fishing, the optimal time to fish is after the spring runoff from mountain snowmelt. Runoff usually occurs in late May or early June, and in a typical year the river is ready to fish by late June. Most guides agree that the months of July, August, September and October are prime for catching trophy trout.
Downstream from Calgary are 40, highly coveted river miles of great trout fishing. This blue ribbon water is where the really big trout are concentrated and where snagging a trophy is most probable. Most parts of the river are not easily waded, so most guides suggest floating or drifting. If you hanker for a wilderness experience and decide to wade or fish from the banks, tread softly. Wildlife is abundant and active; bear spray is highly recommended.
Like other rivers running through southeast British Columbia and southwest Alberta, it’s possible to find knowledgeable guides in either Calgary or Fernie. Named after Na’pi, a great ... morespirit in Peigan tribal legends, the river begins high in
the Rocky Mountains, flows east, gathers tributaries and after a journey of over 225 miles, eventually merges into the Bow. The two rivers form the South Saskatchewan that finally empties into Hudson Bay.
Most interesting to fly fishers is the upper 70 miles of the river, from its headwaters to the Peigan Indian Reserve. Located within the Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve, this section of river is narrow and gin clear. Both native cutthroat and fairly large bull trout can be found here. As the river continues southward, it picks up the Livingstone River and other smaller tributaries. At Racehorse Creek it suddenly turns east and flows through an aptly named passage known as the Gap.
Open ranch land dotted with cottonwoods, aspen and pines characterize the river’s middle section. Here it’s not unusual to spot deer, black bears, grizzlies, elk, and of course, cattle. Fish here vary due to the introduction of rainbows throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The result is pure cutthroats, pure rainbows and scores of hybrids. In early July, hatches of Western Green Drakes and Flavilinea give rise to great dry fishing. It’s possible to wade the middle section although its depth can be hard to gauge accurately and rock ledges can make walking difficult.
Below the Oldman Dam near Pincher Creek, it’s possible to fish tailwater for about 7 miles. Fishing quality varies greatly from season to season so it’s best to check the status before deciding to go.
This is no bull – some of the largest bull trout you will ever see swim in the Elk River. Considered a world class, dry fly fishery, this freestone river starts near the Continental ... moreDivide in the Rocky Mountains near Peter Park in Alberta. Its source is the Elk Lakes, waters created from glacial runoff. A relatively long river at 140 miles, it picks up tributaries and increases in volume to the point where it can only be crossed in a very few places. Important to the area, the river drains over 1720 square miles and courses through several communities including Elkford, Sparwood, Hosmer, Elko and of course, Fernie.
As well known as the Elk is for its mammoth bull trout, it is even better known for its sizeable wild, westslope cutthroat trout and large concentrations of mountain whitefish. Restrictions apply along the river but differ from section to section. The upper section is posted as catch-and-release-only until you reach Forsyth Creek. Throughout the entire river, a catch limit of only one trout over 30 centimeters applies.
Major portions of the upper river can be fished from small drift boats although there the river is too narrow to accommodate large crafts. Farther downstream you may be slowed down by an abundance of beaver dams, but by the time you reach Sparwood the river is negotiable in basically any craft you choose. Without an experienced guide, the canyon span below Elko can risky.
For those who prefer to wade, by late summer and into early fall, it’s possible to walk major sections of the river. Because the bottom can be slippery, felt bottom boots and a wading staff are recommended. Overall, given the river’s size, it is best suited to floating with its many boulder-strewn runs, deep pools, riffles and alluring side channels.
Many anglers have a love it or hate it attitude toward the tiny, 7-mile long, Rocky Ford Creek. Located about an hour’s drive from Ellensburg, it flows through mostly arid, flat lowland. ... moreThose inclined to hate the creek will be the first to tell you it’s slow, unexciting and the least scenic of the area’s waters. Nevertheless, there are three really good reasons to love it. First it’s open 365 days a year. Second, the climate is mild and year round hatches make winter fishing possible. Finally, its top, public section is a miracle mile of rainbow trout.
Unlike most Washington State rivers that emanate from mountain runoff, Rocky Creek literally percolates underground and seeps up through the rich, Columbia Basin soil. Maintaining a nearly constant temperature, it moves south and eventually flows into Moses Lake. Also unusual, the creek originates near Trout Lodge, Inc., a hatchery that produces triploids and sells them to the state. Because the hatchery is partly located on state land, the state accepts fish for rent, and a portion of this “rent” gets placed right into Rocky Creek.
Wading is prohibited on the creek but given its narrow width and reedy banks, it’s easy to cast from shore. The constant clarity of the water enables you to actually see the fish and fish from sight. In addition to a full range of insects, the Rocky Ford has thousands of scuds that live alongside leeches on the muddy, weedy creek bottom. Rainbows are amply fed from these sources and tend to quickly grow quite large. Trout in excess of 5 pounds are unexceptional while rainbows ranging from 16-20 inches are commonplace.
Before booking your trip remember that this is a “fly fishing only” river that cannot be waded, prohibits use of bait, enforces a single, barbless hook requirement and is catch and release only.
This 75-mile river, the largest tributary of the Yakima, starts off in Naches Pass and is known as the Little Naches until its confluence with the Bumping River. At that point, it ... moreofficially becomes the Naches. Draining into the eastern Cascades, the upper river runs through rugged mountains and scenic wilderness, offering anglers an opportunity to enjoy pristine environs at less than an hour’s drive from Ellensburg.
Further down, the lower Naches and its main tributary, the Tieton River, run through open valleys filled with orchards, flowered meadows and fertile farmland before emptying into the Yakima. Best described as a wild, freestone tailwater, it is less frequented than neighboring rivers, making it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a quiet, outdoor adventure.
Summer season begins June 1st, just in advance of the winter runoff, and continues through late October. The runoff can cause a bit of stain to the water’s clarity, but that is typically short lived. During the summer months the Naches can be waded or floated, although the water current can be strong and its rapids can be challenging.
Known for its abundant trout, the river is home to wild rainbow, native cutthroat, hybrid cut-bows and bull trout species. Average size is approximately 10 inches although larger fish are not uncommon.
Before booking your trip ask about possible fall spawning closures and be prepared to catch and release.
Nestled in the Methow River Valley and known as the Jewel of the Cascades, this 80-mile Columbia tributary is known for its great beauty and abundant trout. By car, it can be reached ... morewithin two hours from Ellensburg or about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. Five towns dot the valley landscape - Mazama, Winthrop Twisp, Carlton and Methow – each with a charm of their own.
The Methow and its tributaries, the Twisp River, Cedar Creek and Early Winters Creek begin in the high, Methow Pass area of the Cascades and continue to join with additional tributaries until their confluence with the Columbia River at Pateros. The Pacific Rim Trail follows the River’s upper reaches while other landmarks such as Star Peak and Mt. Bigelow, two of the state’s highest peaks, add to the river’s splendor.
The river can be waded or floated. Anglers tend to divide the river into three sections: Winthrop to Twisp; Twisp to Carlton; and, Carlton to Gold Creek. Each has differing flows although the lower section has rapids and tends to be turbulent.
Steelhead season changes annually but the trout season typically opens June 1st and closes September 30th. The section below Winthrop is considered by many to be the most desirable. Dry fishing throughout the summer is excellent but fall/winter is the best time, especially for those interested in steelhead. Still something of an insider’s river, the clear watered Methow is often overlooked by anglers and is rarely congested.
Species include wild rainbow trout, wild cutthroat, native bull trout, steelhead (indigenous and hatched) and chinook salmon. While fish tend to average about 12 inches, there are recent reports of 18-25 inch trout being found southeast of Carlton.
Before booking a trip, check to see if the river is closed for spawning and if all fish need to be released. Depending on conditions, anglers may be permitted to keep hatchery steelhead.