Elk River Morphs into Fly-fishing Form

The last time I guided Nolan Block he was 14, scraggly as a beetle-bit elm, and just getting the hang of fly-fishing.

Fast-forward three years … the pubescent hormones have kicked in, he turns teenaged heads like a Hollywood heartthrob, and he eats so much in the boat that I had to hide the cooler. And, man, the kid can fish. With Nolan riding shotgun and his dad Rob picking up leftovers and the tab from the back of the boat, we vacuumed the Elk River like a hotel corridor. Yup, the old man can fish, too. As can Nolan’s brother Spencer, Rob’s perennial pals Dale and Steve, and the rest of the Alberta posse that turned Fernie and the Tightlines Lodge into one big Block Party this week.

Nolan Block, left, and proud dad Rob
All hands on deck! Or maybe not … Block Party kickin’ back on the Elk River

It’s taken damn near all of July, but the Elk River and B.C.’s southeastern trout streams are finally clear and fishing great. Cutthroat trout are eating on top, in the middle, and on the bottom – the same way that Nolan tackles the boat lunches. Admittedly, it’s been a spotty season to this point, particularly in B.C. But that’s changed in a hurry now that the water’s down and things are drying out. I’ve fly-fished the Kootenays for more than 30 years (Dave and I prospected this area together back in the early ’90s), and I can’t recall ever being so excited about August and September.

Land ahoy! The Elk River’s dropping and cutties are rising

From here on in the cutthroat trout will be making up for lost time: for the fly-fisher, that means dry flies, snouts aplenty, and great angling till the leaves turn yellow. The same thing will apply over in the West Koots, where the Columbia River’s dam-controlled taps are slated to ramp down sharply the first week of September. That bodes well for big rainbows eating bankside hoppers and Orange Caddis well into October. With Dash 8 flights serving Castlegar daily from Calgary and Vancouver (and Spokane, WA just three hours’ south), the ‘Mighty C’ is frontier tailwater at its finest and a “must do” on every fly-fisher’s bucket list.

Guide tip: Guys in suspenders can fish. Dick gettin’ it done on the Elk

On their last night in Fernie, Rob Block & Co. invited the guides over to the lodge for an Alberta-sized dinner. Dave piled enough AAA beef on his plate to tilt the table, which in turn spilled some of Derek’s beer, which is tantamount to sloshing water over the side of his driftboat. It was truly a feed of Arthurian proportions, with uber-gal Karen from the Kootenay Fly Shop tossing in a trio of salad bowls.

Thanks again, Rob. On behalf of D.B.O., it’s a pleasure to host and guide you guys each summer. Just remember that when Nolan makes the NHL as a strapping left winger, I get a piece of the action … Chris