2018 update and review
A look back at 2017 and a preview of 2018
2017 was a great year for us here at Home Waters. With much of Montana once again on fire we were blessed with mostly blue skies everyday and although we had little rain our waters stayed cold all summer long. The Elk River was simply on fire. We had just another epic season. As I tell everyone it’s a short season but its an excellent one. The Elk River and its tributaries make up the most consistent fishery I have ever seen.
Our hatches in 2017 came just as predicted. We had great fishing starting in mid June on the Elk River with a very good Golden Stonefly hatch. This hatch generally lasts a couple weeks and honestly can be the best dry fly fishing of the year. Over in Alberta our streams like the Crowsnest River, the Waterton River and the Oldman River all had good spring fishing.
As the summer progressed we filled up quickly. Word got out in mid August and Fernie was the only place around that wasn’t affected by smoke. This is generally the case as the Elk River is located in a fairly tight valley. We also happened to luck out with 30 days of sunshine in August. This really brought out our annual Ant hatch. I have to say that after guiding here in British Columbia for over 20 years that this really has become my favorite hatch. When these small black ants come out to play it drives the fish nuts. Experts will tell you that the ants act like a drug to the trout. I think they just like the taste. Either way is fine by me. The hatch generally lasts a couple weeks but it makes our September great as well since the trout continue to look for small black bugs on the surface. As many of you know you can easily just fish a size 12 black beetle or ant all day long every day in September.
The only downside to 2017 was perhaps the Oldman River. I love the place. Hands down it’s the best fishery I have ever been on consistently over a season. We had a great May and June and July but with the uncharacteristically hot dry summer they had to keep the flows coming out of the dam higher than usual. It was actually the driest summer in Alberta for 50 years. They drew the reservoir down so low that by September the river turned muddy. Normally the Oldman River is my favorite and I expect with the snow levels we have now that 2018 will be a good one.
2018 has some new surprises coming. We have purchased a second outfitting company and this will allow us to grow about 40% this year. This also allows us to take our clients on some new waters such as the Bull River only 40 minutes from Fernie. This river is also a classified stream in BC but we now can do about 30 trips over here each season.
We will also be guiding in Montana and Alberta starting in April of 2018. We will be using both Jet boats and drift boats on the Missouri River and the Clark Fork. We will be offering trips on the Missouri in the Land of the Giants and on the lower river. As a dual citizen and a resident of Montana I will be once again working with Scott Willumsen. He really is one of the best guides I’ve ever worked with. Everyday on the water with Scott is an education which I absolutely love. Our dates here will fill up fast so please let us know.
Our guiding on the Waterton and Crowsnest rivers start about June 20th. As many of you know this is a small window. I recommend to people that the window is honestly about 2-3 weeks. We will book up these streams fast and if you’re interested in doing something very different and seeing some great scenery please let us know.
All of our guides are coming back in 2018. I’m so thankful for these guys for sticking with it. The defenity do it for the love of the sport and not for the paycheck. It’s a passion with all of us and I hope that never fades.
On a closing note many of you have been asking about lodging for 2018. We are still putting people into the Lizard Creek Lodge. It’s a favorite for a lot of people. If you mention Home Waters at your time of booking you will get 20% off lowest summer rate.
We are also having guests stay at Fernie Tightlines Lodge. This is the perfect place for groups of 6 or more. Plus we run right out of the fly shop every morning in Fernie. Fabulous restaurants and great coffee shops are within walking distance. This self-contained 3300 sq. ft. lodge offers 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, dining area, large living room on the main floor and a great TV area downstairs. Everything you need for your Fernie vacation!
So I had to write an update. My goal here was to write an update on 2015 but really we learned to much last year on the Elk River and many streams in Alberta such as the Oldman River and the Waterton River. Maybe the only stream in the region we didn't explore more was the Crowsnest River in the Crowsnest Pass of Alberta. As I'm writing a reflection of 2015 I can't help but get excited about 2016. I want to be clear on this. We love jet boats. As I'm smiling I realize that all of our guides now have bought one. It is a game changer, especially on the rivers in Alberta where access is an issue.
So lets look back briefly at 2015 first. It was an awesome year. I know my guides are now pretty seasoned but really its that they are all looking for new waters to take people. Probably complacity has helped us the most. My guides have now been floating the Elk River for more than ten years and it's only natural that they are craving new adventures. The guides I have on the Wigwam River in British Columbia are doing the same. Fishing some old favorite water but really exploring more of the new stuff.
Let's start by talking about the Elk River in British Columbia. Last year we discovered two new floats on the Elk River. I have to emphasize that the Elk River is still pretty much a young river in terms of guiding. When I was 18 I started guiding on the Elk River and in Alberta on many streams like the Oldman River and and Crowsnest Rivers. At that time there were only a couple other guides in the area and the main floats were empty. I Still remember pulling my drift boat into a gas station and having locals come up trying to figure out what it was used for.
Even today the Elk River is still relatively quiet and I know many guides in the area that guide only a couple stretches of the river in an entire year. They do well and the need to explore other floats isn't really required if your just a guide working for a fly shop.
Boredom is a great motivator. Last year on the Elk River we began exploring new floats on the upper river. Its not like we have not been up there before. I actually floated the stretches on the upper Elk in 2003 and it was good but at that time I guess it just wasn't needed and to be honest it was a pain in the butt. Poor access and no shuttle service, plus you have to drive for 35 minutes from Fernie! Wow. We are spoiled with the amazing fishing in town. However the upper Elk River is unique. It's very wild. We now have four floats up there and last year we realized just how good it is. I still remember one particular day last August. We put on the river at about 11am and by noon we were into an incredible mayfly hatch. The hatch was intense but really it was the trout that got my attention. They were kinda dumb, and I like dumb trout. I was guiding long time clients and friends Dacre Stoker and Bill Haggard. Good fishermen that have been to the Elk Valley almost every year for close to 20 years. After a pile of laughs Dacre turned to me and said “this is just like the Elk River 15 years ago, the fish will take anything. I'm pretty sure Bill turned quiet as he usually does in these situations and just kept catching trout using a caddis right though a mayfly hatch.
In 2016 we will continue to float more of these unique stretches of water. Its exciting for the guides and for many of our long term clients. I can't wait to explore more of the wilderness north of Fernie, British Columbia. Some great walk and wade water opportunities exist up there as well. Plenty of feeder creeks to the Elk River. If you happen find any good spots feel free to drop me a tip as well.
Alberta was also an exciting year in 2015. We brought in Jet boats and began using them as part of our fleet on a couple streams there. The Oldman River is amazing. Last year was the best I have seen it fish in ten years, easily. The rainbows and browns average 18-20 inches and there is plenty of them. One of our guides John Muir landed a rainbow close to ten pounds. These trout eat on top and they fight really well. The rainbows here are probably the hardest fighting rainbows I have ever caught.
We started offering the Oldman River as a day trip from Fernie. Its a little more than an hours drive but really compliments your entire trip to the area. If your coming to the Fernie area as always feel free to give me a call for more current information. I love talking trout.