East Slope, West Slope

I’m a fortunate angler to live along the Continental Divide. If I don’t like the river and weather conditions on one side of the Rockies, I can drive fast and cross over in one hour or less and check out the situation on the other side. The east slope and the west slope are like night and day. They are completely different environments and sometimes have contrasting weather patterns. The Alberta east slope is dry, more wide open and breezy, and the British Columbia (BC) west slope is wetter, therefore has more vegetation (trees) and is usually less windy.


east slope river



west slope, elk river


west slope, elk river side channel

big elk

elk river

I crossed into BC this weekend as there were 100km an hour wind warnings in my region of Alberta. I fished the Elk river. With the predicted relative calm and overcast sky I was hoping for a Blue Winged Olive hatch. There was a very brief one late afternoon and I eventually found some rising cutthroat trout. An early trout was caught on a cricket pattern and afternoon rising fish on a size 20 Olive pattern: natural color deer hair wing tied forward, a turn or two of medium dun hackle clipped on the bottom, grey thorax dubbed and grey body, amber trailing shuck on a Klinkhammer style hook that allows the body to dangle. Sounds kind of complicated but I’m sure any fly tied the right size would have worked. Here are a few weekend pictures of the east slope, the west slope and some BC cutthroat.

The skin of a cutthroat feels just like a brook trout…silky smooth.


big cutt2

west slope cutthroat


west slope cutthroat


west slope cutthroat

Baetis and Otters



crowsnest river rainbow on dry, baetis, size 18

Hey Ken! Time to come in for supper. Hey Ken! Hey, why are you not answering me?

-I’m not Ken!


-I’m not your friend Ken!

Oh, sorry. From a distance I thought you were.

Have you seen him. He was fishing alone?

-No, I saw a couple fishing upstream but no fellow fishing alone.

He’s been out since ten this morning and we haven’t seen him. You sure you didn’t see a fellow upstream?

-No, as I’ve said I just saw a couple. Go through the bushes there and check the back eddy. Guys plant themselves there all the time and try catch a sipper. Hours slip away there.

Ya, Ya, I know the spot, I’ve fished here for 35 years. I know this river. So does my friend.

-I bet you he’s there.

Ya, probably. By the way my name is Sammy. Sorry for disturbing your angling.

– That’s ok. You stay at the B&B and fish here every year?

Ya, here and other places. All the rivers in Montana and elsewhere. I’ve been fly fishing for 60 years.

– Ever fish the “Mo” ?

Ya, as I said I’ve fished them all. Sixty years. I’ve been everywhere.

-You sound like you’re from the north-east?

I am.

-When I lived in Montreal I’d fish the Delaware. Nice river.

Ya, I fished all of those rivers. So what happened to the fishing on the Crow? What happened to all the big fish? There are still some around but not the numbers as before. People say it’s the Otters?

-You’re the third person I’ve met this summer who has mentioned Otters! I can’t say I’ve ever seen an Otter on the Crow…so that doesn’t make any sense to me that they’re eating all the fish because I haven’t seen any.

I saw one the other day. You don’t need a lot of them to kill fish populations in a small stream like this. I’m a biologist.

-Well I’ve never seen one. I see mergansers and weasels and they kill fish but they’ve been around forever and we’ve had good fish populations in the past.

So why less big fish…what happened?

-The only thing that makes sense to me is the wicked run-off we’ve had the past two seasons, especially last year. It was vicious. It pummeled the river, and I think there was a fish kill. The fishing nose-dived right after that.

Thank-you, thank-you for saying that! You are the only guy I’ve talked to that says that. That’s what I think has happened to the river. The last two years haven’t been the same. In the spot you are fishing now I’d see 10 or 15 fish lined up along here and now I’m lucky to see 3. From what I’ve heard the run off was real harsh two years ago.

-Yes it was. There is a guy I met the other day who lives upstream and says the fish are still here. He’s an entomologist. He says they have simply been redistributed in the river due to the severe runoff. I told him that in every spot I use to see big fish I now see few, or none. I told him that on a small river like the Crow there are only so many big fish spots, and if they aren’t there then it suggests they simply aren’t around. He says they are still here. Re-distribution makes no sense to me. I hike the river a lot and watch the back eddies from up high. You can sit there, take your time and count fish. And there are less.

Hey, are you spotting Olives on the water?

-Ya, lots of them. And the fish are up. I’ve seen mostly little guys and mid-sized fish but I got a good one a couple of pools up. I also saw some real nice risers just up from here but left them alone as I wanted to fish this section until it gets dark.

Where did you see those nice risers?

-I’m not telling.

When I first got here I saw you cast from high up on the bank to a fish below. That was a desperation cast!


head away

rainbow trout, crowsnest river, caught on small dry




crowsnest river rainbow caught on dry, size 20, baetis


clear2 (1)

crowsnest river rainbow, caught on small dry

train (1)

railway along river


crowsnest river rainbow, caught on small dry, size 18 baetis


baetis weather










Midges, Baetis and Burritos June 14,15,16,17-2014

“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me”.

– Ray Bradbury

34 bwn

brown trout

flat water side

side channel: slow and low

I’m on a side channel of the Missouri river and I hear this fellow talking to someone. It sounds like he’s giving advice and directives, possibly to a kid. I can’t see them due to the willows but it is clear they are heading my way. Then they appear. It’s an angler in his early 40’s and a very young Golden Retriever. Now I get it. He is teaching his dog stream etiquette. I say hello and squat. The golden approaches me and I pet him. I followed it up with a big hug. He’s a real beauty, almost Irish Setter red, and only several months old. Welcoming the attention he leans against me. I press my face next to his and receive a lick on the cheek. Tears come to my eyes. The angler doesn’t notice as I’m wearing sun glasses and a long-billed cap. My retriever passed away in late February at age 16+.

rising fish

rising trout

big bow angle

rainbow trout

The angler is from Helena, Montana. We talk and realise we fish many of the same intimate locations on the big river. Eventually he asks me my favorite dry fly location. I hesitate, look at him and then tell the truth. He says the spot I identified is also his most revered. He then tells me he wrote the name of his last golden retriever, who lived to age 13, on the side of the bridge there. We talk for about ten minutes. We are like “kindred spirits”. The next day I walk to the bridge and find a very faded name: Kinnickinn. I hope I have spelled it right.

my tent

my tent next to 45ft RV


papa’s burgers and burritos

It’s early. I’m at the angler parking area in the town of Craig, Montana. I’ve been camping for three days and last night it was cold and poured for several hours straight. It’s finally cleared and I’m absorbing the morning sun while eating a tasty breakfast burrito from Papa’s Burgers and Burritos, and enjoying a strong coffee. I’m also gearing up for the day ahead: pulling on my waders; sorting flies; tying up a new leader; etc. Trailered drift boats are passing every thirty seconds. It’s like a parade. The place is buzzing with activity. There is this guy sitting on a rock nearby eating a snack and drinking from a pop can. He eventually says to me with a smile, “I guess you are going fishing like everyone else”. I reply, “No, I’m getting ready to go shopping in downtown Helena”. We both laugh. I find out he’s on a canoe trip. Get this, he’s paddling from Twin Bridges Montana to Dallas. Yes, Texas! He’s taking the Missouri to the Mississippi, then eventually to the Red River where he’ll paddle the last leg upstream to Dallas where he lives. It’s a long way and multiply it by seven as all three rivers meander immensely. He’s originally from Boston. I tell him I spent most of my life in Montreal. We talk about the hockey rivalry between the two towns and about Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur. His vessel is Canadian made: Clipper Canoes from British Columbia. I’m going to follow his incredible river journey. Here’s his web site: canoevoyage.com.

midge dog

local wanting a taste of my breakfast burrito

subsurf bwn

brown trout

sun bwn

brown trout

I just spent three and one half days on the Missouri river. I fished midges and tiny olives (baetis), size 20. Only a couple of fish required a dropper. The last morning there I managed some nice trout in full sun on a small terrestrial pattern. On this trip I tried to focus on brown trout. On the Missouri they are significantly out-numbered by rainbows. It is surprising how challenging it is to differentiate between the two species even in shallow water, especially on those days when light conditions are less than ideal. I did manage more browns than usual as I committed to searching for them, often passing by some large rainbows along the way. Sight fishing with dries in shallow water is always exciting, challenging and intense. It’s all about watching the water and being sneaky. A lot of time was spent staying low, hunched or angling on my knees. And I missed more than I caught. Seeing trout up close react to an imitation is just simply the best. It’s what gets me up at 6 am, no alarm clock required.

thumb bwn (2)

brown trout

cows (1)

Missouri river valley

arc bow


busy shop2

busy fly shop