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Fly Fishing in Fernie's Trout Town

Updated: March 2024

Historic coal mining towns, grizzly bears and burly Canadian wilderness are the setting through which the classic freestone Elk River flows. At 220km (140 miles) in length, the character of the river changes along its journey to Lake Koocanusa and meets up with several tributaries of equal charm and worth.

The River

Sourced from the Petain Glacier next to Mt Joffre on the British Columbia - Alberta border, the waters of the Elk River are filtered and clarified as they flow through the Elk Lakes north of Elkford, BC, resulting in a crystal clear waterway perfect for Trout.

• 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 has a boat launch o nthe northwest side of the Hosmer bridge – a good place to start or finish a day.

• Hosmer down to Fernie (Dogwood) 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 (Dogwood) 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. The easy access float options end at Elko at the Hydro dam. Below this is the Elk Canyon; the domain of river rafts and experienced boatmen, due to class 3 rapids and imposing canyons.

The Catch

• Pure Strain Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The Elk holds the largest population of perhaps the one true mountain trout species of western North America. Cutties thrive in some of the most scenic and wild places on the continent and the colour and spotting of these fish is truly spectacular. Their voracious appetite keeps them close to the surface looking up for flying insects, the cold mountain water from the snowpack of the continental divide combined with the warmth of the valley provides the perfect habitat for healthy populations of their prey.

• Hybrids. The lower portion of the river below the Elko dam has hybrid Cut bows – a cross between a Rainbow Trout and Cutthroat. Rainbows, which inhabit the Kootenay River, have interbred with the Lower Elk Cutties creating an interesting subspecies that seems to have the appreciated traits of both. They will easily take a dry fly and also leap out of the water like a rainbow. Average days on the Elk above Elko dam will yield many 14-16”, several 17-18” and the odd 20”.

• Monster Bull Trout. The mighty Bull Trout can be found throughout the Elk River. These river sharks have a tendency to dart out of the shadowy depths at unexpected moments startling an angler and providing moments of adrenaline. Although they will take the odd Stonefly off the surface in early summer, big weighted streamers are usually best. Above the Elko dam, resident Bulls are regularly 20-30,” bigger is not unheard of. The portion below the canyons and rapids at the mouth Lake Koocanusa may yield stock over 30.”

The Essentials

When: Rivers are open year-round except between April 1 – June 14th. Lakes are open all year and are perfect for spring & fall fishing.

What: Best as a float fishery, a variety of public access points are available for walk-and-wade.

Gear: 4, 5 and 6-wt. rods, floating-tip lines.

Useful fly patterns: Spring/early summer: Large Golden Stone flies, Western Green Drakes and Yellow Sallys. Mid summer: Deer hair caddis, Pale Morning Duns and Hoppers. Late summer: Black Ants, Hoppers and Beetles. Fall: Oct Caddis and Blue Winged Olives

Accessories: Polarized sunglasses, waders, wading boots, life jacket, sunscreen, dry-fly dressing.

License: Day Rates: $11-$22, 8-Day License: $22-$55, Additional Day Rate for Classified II Waters - required on the Elk River: $22. Prices subject to change, tax not included.

Books/maps: Get the new Elk River Map! View online:

Fly Fishing Guides

Kootenay Fly Shop & Guiding Company

Kootenay Fly Shop & Guides have over 25+ years of guiding

• Offering float, walk & wade and lake fishing trips, along with learn to fly fish programs

• Full-service fly shop: Douglas Outdoors, Simms, Orvis, Fishpond and a large selection of fly tying materials

• Guided Fish & Stay packages at Tightlines Lodge | 250-723-4483

Elk River Guiding Company

• Experienced, local guiding services for float, walk n’ wade & stillwater lake trips

Elk River Guide Co.'s fully stocked fly shop includ ethe brands: Simms, Sitka, Patagonia, YETI, Sage, Nautilis Reels, SCOTT Rods & more

• Rentals including boats, waders, fly rods & equipment | 877-423-7239

FWA Fly Fishing

FWA Fly Fishing have over 30 years of guiding on local & backcountry lakes and rivers

• Offering single day fishing, helicopter fly-ins & stillwater trips

• Backcountry wilderness lodge available for groups • Also offering nature viewing tours & winter ice fishing | 877-423-6704

Andres Fly Fishing

Andres Gonzales has over 26 years of experience in the guiding industry and a decade of experience fishing in the Kootenay area.

• Day trips, multi-day and accommodation packages available I 250-430-2870

While in Fernie on your fly fishing adventure, explore and enjoy all that we have to offer:

Historic Downtown Fernie with attractions, patio dining, boutique shopping and outdoor gear stores

• Award winning Fernie Golf Club

• Dozens of hiking trails from easy strolls and lift accessed ridge walks to full day epic hikes

• Hundreds of mountain bike trails, dirt jump park, & lift-accessed downhill mountain bike park

• A choice of beautiful day spas including the 6,600sq ft Spa 901

Scenic chairlift rides, hiking and Aerial Park at Fernie Alpine Resort

• Spectacular accommodations, gourmet dining & alpine hiking at Island Lake Lodge

• Thrilling whitewater rafting & kayaking on the lower Elk River Canyon, SUP & scenic float trips

• Full calendar of summer & fall events at

View Fernie packages and lodging specials online at