For the Elk River and tribs plus our Alberta waters
Well I've had a few requests over the last couple weeks to talk a little more about patterns we use on the Elk River and in many of the small creeks we fish such as the Wigwam River, the Bull River and even Michel Creek. I personally tie a couple thousand flies a year, partly because I enjoy it and partly because I can save a few bucks. I also find that sometimes I just can't buy the fly I'm looking for and if a local fly shop is out in the middle of summer as I guide you better be able to sit down at night and crank out a dozen for the next day.
As a guide I find the larger rivers such as the Elk River and the Wigwam River in British Columbia to be much more demanding than the smaller tributaries that feed them. I would say the same about the Oldman River and the Waterton River both found in Alberta just a short drive from our operations in Fernie, BC.
These larger streams seem to have a greater variety of bugs than the small creeks. They also get more pressure from anglers and on a typical guide day I will generally carry well over a thousand different patterns. Sometimes I will switch flies 30-40 times in a single day while other days the guys can go ramp to ramp with out even changing the fly!
On the smaller streams both in Alberta and BC I usually guide out of a couple small boxes. Mostly dries and maybe throw in a couple nymphs and a couple streamers. The smaller creeks rarely demand much out of a fly box. When I'm out fishing these small creeks on my own I usually spend the day prospecting the water with only one or two flies. Maybe an ant or a larger attractor such as a Chernobyl Ant. Rarely will I ever nymph on the smaller waters. You generally just don't need to. Occasionally I'll throw a streamer into a deep hole or run a nymph just to change things up. Its pretty common to pick up one of the larger trout doing this. However I still firmly believe that a good dry fly angler will out fish a good angler fishing nymphs or streamers. It's the charm of this part of the world.
We fish the upper Oldman River in Alberta on foot and we float the lower Oldman River regularly. As with most of the streams in Alberta that we guide on we focus on the dry fly. Its quite different from our streams in south eastern British Columbia. The hatches are more predictable and since we are mainly fishing for browns and rainbows the trout can be a little harder to entice at times. When I think of Alberta I think of mayflies and caddis. PMD's and small caddis seem to be the main staple of the trout on the Alberta side. Of course there are stones, midges and just about everything else.
What I enjoy most about fishing over in Alberta is the challenge of matching the hatch. For me there is nothing quite like floating the lower Oldman River and working pods of rising rainbows. Some days you can do really well just by fishing an Adams or a sparkle dun. Sometimes the picky fish will refuse numerous perfectly places mayflies and then come up and smash a Chernobyl Ant or even a beetle. Many of these fish seem to have different personalities. It makes it a lot of fun. Of course we do spend some time nymphing and fishing streamers in Alberta too. I've thrown in a couple pictures just to give you an idea. We also are allowed to fish two flies in Alberta. You could easily spend an entire day in August or September just fishing a hopper and a dropper allowing you to cover more zones in the water.
Most of our fishing on the Elk centers around fishing specific hatches. I gave up a long time ago at trying to predict the hatch. For instance I have seen Golden Stones which generally hatch in late June and early July pretty much every single day of the season. I've had days on the Elk River where its almost snowing on a cold October morning and the Golden Stones will pour off the river in the afternoon. Green Drakes which we usually find in mid July can be seen on the Elk River any given day until the late fall. We also have caddis, BWO's and PMD's that hatch most days. The Elk River and its tributaries truly do offer anglers some of the best fry fly fishing opportunities in the world. I hope the flies I selected help you out and please don't hesitate to contact me with more questions.