It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago that I applied then received a British Columbia Angling Guide License and began to pull oars on The Elk River.It was all done on a whim and a “hot tip” from a Montana Outfitter friend.
In the beginning I would drive down from Calgary,where I worked in a Fly-Shop as Chief Shop Rat and Bow River Guide.My Elk River Clients where either Calgarians looking for something new and/or Anglers up from The U.S. fishing the Bow River and wanting to change it up.The Elk River served as a good plan B if The Bow River was not fishing.Our Clients were excited to fish a river that offered very easy Dry -Fly Fishing and shots at streamer eating Bull Trout ..Wild and Native with classic Rocky Mountain Scenery.
Back then Fernie was semi isolated mining town with a decent little local Ski Hill.The town would roll up it’s side walks at 6PM and there was very little traffic on HWY #3.The towns’ people where the usual mix of post WW2 immigrants that where looking to get out of a decimated Europe and start a new life in a new land.Italians,Slavs,Germans and a few Ukrainians mixed it up with the long established Scots,Irish and English.They made a good living working at the mines and enjoyed the life style that the Elk Valley brought to them.The locals I got to know where sincerely friendly and supportive of my endeavors.It was just me (the guy from Calgary) guiding and when I needed an extra boat I would co-ordinate with Kim Sedrovic the one and only Fernie local guide.
As time marched on my business began to build, mostly due to notoriety that the river was slowly starting to receive.A few years later the Ski Hill changed hands, expanded and Fernie became a hot Ski Resort .A new Elk River era began.
I eventually opened a small Fly-Shop up on the Ski Hill ..running it seasonally.Then retreating back to Calgary when we wrapped up.Guide trips were way up and I was running a serious crew.The popularity that the Ski Hill was receiving resulted in Fernie attracting Ski Bums from elsewhere that would work the Ski Season,when Summer rolled around they needed something to do so a few started to guide fly-fishers.
The Industry grew but this increase in Guide Traffic and river usage by Out of Province Anglers resulted in pissed off Local Anglers and Outfitters that wanted the river to themselves.Collectively they pushed The Provincial Government to have The Elk River and other area waters Classified.Another name for restricted usage.I do agree with the Angling Guide component but disagree with treating D.I.Y. Non-Resident Anglers like 2nd class guests.I had enough of the Fly-Shop business and closed the shop, focusing my endeavors on Outfitting which was a good move.
Despite the uptick in popularity and the sometimes confusing regulations,The Elk River is the place to go to catch Wild,Native and Fat Westslope Cutthroats on top.The river,Valley,the surrounding Mountains and the town are simply put,stunning.Reminiscent of Jackson Hole 30 years ago.A busy day on the river might be 10 boats on a 10 mile float which is nothing when compared to other Rivers in The Rocky Mountain West. Back in the day you could mix your dry fly selection up with Royal Wulffs,Stimulators and for technical fish a #18 Yellow Humpy.Now you might need a few more flies to get it done but you can still get at it while fishing dry flies all day.Fernie has also grown.More and better amenities along with a Starbucks.(I love Starbucks) It’s turned into a great place to spend some time.
As we head into our 25th season I am honored to have and have had some great guides work for or with me.In the beginning the crew was mostly made up of Albertans.Now it’s a mix of seasoned professionals with impressive resumes ..from both Alberta and British Columba.The times, names and the faces may have changed,The constant is our Operation still rolls the same and the river is still fishes like the Champ she is.