FERNIE WILDERNESS ADVENTURES
Native west-slope cutthroat trout and bull trout
Rustic/comfort lodge setting
Some of the finest native cutthroat trout rivers in the world flow in and around Fernie, British Columbia, all within quick striking distance of Fernie Wilderness Adventures. If you are into dry-fly fishing and love to see quality trout rising through crystalline currents—all day long—this is the place to be. These native cutthroats are super aggressive and run large—an average fish stretches between 14 16-inches with plenty of chances to sink a Green Drake or some other attractor pattern into a bonafide 20-incher. Bonus, you’ll catch wildly aggressive native bull trout stretching past 30 inches and you’ll do so surrounded by the incredible Canadian Rockies.
Fernie Wilderness Adventures
Guests choose from five incredible area fisheries, including the Elk, Wigwam, Bull and Flathead rivers, and the highly accessible Michel Creek, which lodge owner Kim Sedrovic calls, “The best cutthroat trout fishery in North America.” Guests can choose to float or wade for these cutthroats and bull trout while matching a variety of hatches throughout the four-month long season. Fortunately, you don’t have to make a perfect match—these cutthroats are more aggressive than rainbows and browns and pound high riding attractor dries, including Stimulators, Elk-Hair Caddis and all sorts of foam flies. The bull trout smack streamers and, on occasion, a cutthroat trout or whitefish that’s attached to the end of your line, an event that FWA guide Curtis Hall calls, “Shark attacks.”
After a long day spent casting to cutthroats guests kick back in a relaxed lodge atmosphere, which includes the option of soaking in a classic wood-fired hot tub. Home cooked meals are simple and satisfying. The lodge treasures social interaction and storytelling and doesn’t offer wifi (bonus!), but there is cell service on site. This not five-star dining and accommodation—it is a comfortable, fun-filled lodge that serves very well for the adventurous angler. Itineraries are customized daily depending on where and how guests want to fish and what they prefer to catch—bulls or cutthroats, float or wade, or a mix of each.
This is river fishing for native west-slope cutthroat and bull trout at its finest. Guests choose from five incredible area waters, including the Elk, Wigwam, Bull and Flathead rivers, and the highly accessible Michel Creek.
The fishing season begins June 15 as spring runoff diminishes and the rivers drop into shape. The cutthroats must feed heavily and put on weight during their short four-month long growing season. For that reason, they don’t have time to be picky—they rise for dry flies every day of the season, especially to big, foam-body attractor patterns. Hatches start with golden stoneflies in June and July, along with green drakes. Terrestrials, including moths and winged ants, round out the summer and early fall menu, followed by predictable fall blue-wing olive hatches on a daily basis.
In short, this is easy, world-class dry-fly fishing for aggressive trout in fantastic surroundings. Each of these rivers offer unique opportunities. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:
This is FWA’s showcase stream and a must-hit for every visiting angler. The Elk is glacier-fed, 140-miles long, and offers incredible numbers of aggressive native west-slope cutthroat trout. The river flows through some of British Columbia’s most stunning scenery and is the perfect size to float, meaning anglers can sit or stand comfortably in a boat and cast those bushy dries to the banks. The average cutthroat ranges between 14 and 17 inches and big bull trout are an added bonus. Strong golden stonefly hatches come off when the river opens in June, followed by green drake emergences, which guide Curtis Hall calls, “The Elk’s bread-and-butter hatch.” Hall also describes the Elk as, “Beginner-friendly.”
“The Elk is not as technical as some streams in Montana,” Hall said, “and because the fish are so aggressive we can fish short, stout leaders and big foam flies. The fish just crush them.”
Lodge owner Kim Sedrovic calls the Michel, the best cutthroat trout fishery in North America. And there’s good reason for that accolade—the Michel offers great access, is easily wadeable, it pushes out wild, native cutthroats that average 16 inches long and sometimes climb into the 18-to 20-inch range, and it has plenty of good hatches to match.
During summer the Michel offers a predictable green drake hatch that comes off each morning. When it’s on, anglers easily cover this “smallish” creek and raise those big cutthroats to easily seen dry flies. Simply fun fly fishing with abundant road access.
The Wigwam pushes through a narrow and steep canyon before dumping into the Elk River south of Fernie. Fishing the Wigwam offers a wilderness-type of experience along with large cutthroats and bull trout—during a good year some 4,000 to 7,000 bulls, ranging between a few pounds and 15 pounds, push into the system. Anglers catch these fish on streamers that imitate cutthroat trout and whitefish. Because the Wigwam often flows gin clear, anglers can spot dozens of bulls laid up in the deeper holes, waiting to ambush those cutthroats.
The Bull River is split between two sections—the upper and the lower—and each offers strong attributes. The upper Bull is a high mountain freestone stream offering lots of cutthroat trout that range between 10 and 14 inches. Because the upper river doesn’t produce a lot of bug life these fish feed voraciously, attacking dry flies without hesitation. Most noted, these trout are genetically isolated and have not changed one bit in thousands of years. If you are a connoisseur of pure-stain fish that are perfectly suited to their environment, this is a must-do day trip.
The lower Bull is all about bull trout and some large cutthroats. The bulls are available in July and August as they follow kokanee salmon out of Lake Koocanusa and into the river. While bull trout on their spawning runs can get tight-lipped during summer, these fish behave differently—they are bright, super aggressive, and simply interested in killing as many kokanee as they can. These fish hammer streamers that mimic those salmon and they range to 10 pounds or more.
The Flathead flows through one of the greatest wilderness corridors in North American and fishing this broad river is an experience you’ll remember. While casting streamers on the Flathead anglers keep an eye out for Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and, yes, the grizzly bears. Bear sightings are relatively common, as are hookups with bull trout that measure more than 30 inches long. Cutthroats are available and as elsewhere, they smack high riding dry flies.
BOATS & EQUIPMENT
Whether floating the Bull, Flathead or Elk rivers, anglers cast from McKenzie style driftboats or fully outfitters rafts. Anglers should arrive with multiple fly rods in hand, including a 9-foot 5-weight or 6-weight for dry flies and cutthroats, and a 6-weight or 7-weight “streamer rod” for bull trout. Loaner equipment is available.
Fernie Wilderness Adventures is a backcountry mountain lodge built for serious anglers who want a quiet, warm place to relax while maximizing their time on the water. The lodge offers rustic-style rooms with private or shared bathrooms. The lodge is powered by solar panels and a generator—the rooms do not have phones or television, but a cell phone booster is located in the common lounge.
Two home cooked meals day and a sack lunch. Often, guests can request particular meals and arrive at the lodge after a long day on the water with their choice ready and waiting.
Guests can fly into Calgary, Alberta, Kalispell, Montana, or Spokane, Washington, and drive to the lodge, or they can fly to Fernie.
Feel free to contact us at Gils Fly Fishing International for more information.
Multi-Day packages (prices per person)
3 Nights/2 Days $1,855 + tax
4 Nights/3 Days $2,715 + tax
5 Nights/4 Days $3,575 + tax
Accommodation, all meals, non-alcoholic drinks.
Guided wade or float trips. All flies leader and tippet; one guide per two anglers; drift boat or raft when floating. Fly fishing gear if needed.
Airfare to/from Fernie, British Columbia, fishing licenses, alcohol, guide and staff gratuity.
Bookings are confirmed with a 50 percent deposit. Balance must be received before the start of your trip. Notification of cancellation must be received 60 days prior to your scheduled arrival in order to receive a full credit for an alternate date. All payments are final and nonrefundable, with the exception of a medical or family emergency at GFFI’s discretion.