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Montana to Alaska

Montana To Alaska

Fishing Montana-Canada-Alaska
By Madison Dapcevich

Growing up in Southeast Alaska spoiled me for fishing. My backdoor led to some of the largest native salmon runs in the world, flooding small rivers with shimmering specks of red and silver.

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Sitka, Alaska – I had a Snoopy pole to match my life vest. Here I am in 1992 with my first fish.

As a kid, I spent more time outdoors tying fishing lures for dolly vardens than most folks will spend fishing in a lifetime. To say I’m a snob about fishing is a bit of an understatement.

Fishing along the route of the Alaska-Canada Highway did not disappoint. Built in the 1940s as a way to connect Alaska with the Lower 48 during World War 2, the Al-Can spans two countries, two Canadian provinces and one US state and covers 1422 miles along the Canadian Rockies.

Driving north from Whitefish and into Canada by way of Rooseville. A friend recommended this route to avoid the likely lines at customs in either Coeur d’Alene, Idaho or Great Falls, Montana. After the usual border questions (where are you going, why are you here, etc.) we made our way along the Elk River north to Fernie.

Fernie, British Columbia

 

Fernie, B.C. was founded in 1898 as a hub for mining and forestry, and remains the largest and oldest community in the rural Elk Valley. Just north of the border, Fernie serves as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. In the winter, ski bums from around the world make their way to the mountain. After June 15, the rivers of the winding Elk River Valley is pristine fly-fishing for Cutthroat Trout on dry fly, Bull Trout and Rainbow Trout. Main rivers of the area include the Elk River, Michael Creek, Fording River, The Wigwam River, Bull River Drainage and St. Mary River.

The secret to record-holding Rainbow Trout is found in lakes throughout the region. Anglers have reported fish over 10 pounds. Chat with the folks at the downtown Kootenay Fly Shop to find out where the fish are hitting.

Must See Tip: Downtown Fernie is an idyllic downtown that showcases 100-year-old brick and stone architecture. Pop into the Fernie Visitor Center downtown and chat with the front desk for a self-guided walking tour.

Recommended Outfitter: Fernie Flyfishing, 1-800-970-8407, fishfernie@gmail.com, www.fernieflyfishing.com. Option to walk, wade, drift or float

Where to eat: Fernie Brewing Company started in the Pask Family barn. Today, FBC is located in downtown Fernie and distributes across the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta, Canada

**If you’re fishing within Banff or Jasper, you can get a Parks Canada fishing license for $9.80/day, or $34.30 per year. **

Immediately after making the exit onto the Trans-Canada Highway 1 entrance to Banff we spotted a grizzly bear. This embodies Banff: accessible pristine, untamed and untouched wildlife. The oldest national park in Canada, Banff was established in 1885 to redirect tourism to follow routes created by the railway system, as evidenced by the many trains still making their way through the park. The four main entrances into the park are year-round and each has a tollbooth that you can purchase a park pass for about $20/day.

As with most waterways in the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River offers a variety of activities, from whitewater rafting to wade fishing. The Bow River Parkway offers a scenic alternative to Hwy 1 through the park and a plethora of hotspots to explore.

The Bow River offers world-class wild rainbow and brown trout fishing. Open year-round for fishing, the river is known for getting anglers’ hands some larger than average fish – commonly sixteen to eighteen inches. The best time to fish occurs in the summer months, just as the spring snow runoff in late May or early June. In a normal snowpack year, good fishing will happen by late June or early July, with the best fishing occurring in July, August, September and early October. Summertime caddis hatches will bring fish to the surface making dry fishing out-of-this-world. When fish aren’t hitting the surface, switch to the more consistent nymph or streamer fishing.

Lake fishing in Banff is best in Ghost Lake, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and the Vermillion Lakes (only open during the summer).

After Banff, head north on Highway 93 through the Icefields Parkway to view glimmering glaciers, captivating mountaintops and landscapes teeming with mountain goats, rams and sheep. From the highway you will be able to access the Athabasca River. The Athabasca River is open April 1-October 31 and is catch-and-release only. Expect to encounter Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Arctic Grayling, Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pike and Walleye. For lake fishing, check out Celestine, Princess, Maligne and the Pyramid Lakes.

Must See Tip:
• Lake Louise: perhaps the most famous of the Banff sites, Lake Louise is a glacial-fed turquoise lake surrounded by dramatic mountain tops. There are numerous trails that surround the lake. Expect to see mobs of tourists.
• Moraine Lake: Another glacial-fed lake, Moraine tends to be less packed. Wenkchemna Range offers a gothic looking backdrop. The 8-mile road is only open June-October.
• Johnston Canyon: the 6.7-mile moderate hike through Johnston Canyon offers a view of two of the park’s most dramatic waterfalls.
• Banff Upper Hot Springs: for about $7, visit the hot spring pool with an overlooking view of the Rocky Mountains.

Recommended Outfitter: Banff Fishing Unlimited, 1-866-678-2486, info@banff-fishing.com, www.banff-fishing.com

Where to Eat: The Grizzly House started in 1967 as Western Canada’s first disco, where the food was served through a hole in the wall from a neighboring Chinese restaurant. Today, the fondue restaurant’s rustic interior offers 14 varieties of beef, chicken, pork and seafood served raw on a hot stone with a massive pot of fondue for dipping. Be sure to indulge in the Toblerone chocolate fondue dessert.

Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Tucked away in the Muska Kechika wilderness is a lake left virtually unknown to the modern world. With gemlike waters sill as a bathtub, Muncho Lake is an angler’s paradise. Pulling off the side of the road, I was surrounded by complete stillness, other than the occasional eagle soaring overhead.

Head west from Fort Nelson to arrive at the long, winding lake at approximately KM 681 of the Alaska Highway. The lake has confirmed rainbow trout, but as it has been relatively untouched by modern fisher-folks it is only thought that populations of lake trout, lake chub, slimy sculpin and arctic grayling likely exist.

The best fishing occurs late June to early September. For fly fishing, Anglers Atlas recommends a good standard being baitfish flies that resemble northern whitefish or grayling in blue/white, red/white and yellow/white color combinations. Late summer is great for dryflies as it follows the stonefly and mayfly hatch. If you decide to use a spin caster, Northern Rockies Tourism suggests using spoons, shiners, diving plugs or weighted spoons. The daily lake trout quota is two fish per person, and a Canadian fishing livense is required.

Coming from Southeast Alaska I never thought that I would curse a sunny day. However, fishing on Muncho Lake is best on a cloudy day with low light. We got absolutely skunked, but perhaps this was a good thing considering I was using a five-weight and local anglers suggest nine-weights – lake trout in the area are “not small and delicate”.

Recommended Outfitter: Northern Rockies Lodge, 1-800-663-5269, info@nrlodge.com, www.northernrockieslodge.com

Recommended Lodging: Strawberry Flats Campground

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Muncho Lake, British Columbia – Located at Mile 462 on Highway 97, Muncho Lake offers pristine views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Elusive Rainbow Trout are found along the banks of the reflective water.

Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada

Originally known as Fish Lake, the town of Watson Lake began as a fishing camp, which makes sense considering there are more than five stocked lakes in the area. The Yukon’s third largest community, Watson Lake serves as a regional and transportation center today. A boat launch is located on the south side of the lake in the territorial campground, and anglers can expect to find arctic grayling, lake trout and northern pike.

About three miles east of the town of Watson Lake is Lucky Lake. A sandy beach lines the north side of the lake, and a small recreation park is also home to the only water slide north of 60* latitude in North America. Hiking trails, fire pits and warm water make this a favorite spot for visitors looking to get a quick dip. The park also houses the only water slide north of 60* Latitude in North America, 500 feet in length and drops 60 feet.

Lucky Lake is stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee and is easily fished from shore. There are also many places to launch a canoe. Whatever method you use, try casting near shoreline vegetation as trout tend to feed in the shallower areas of the lake.

Other stocked lakes in the area include Hour Lake, Rantin Lake, McKinnon Lake and Steward Lake.

Must See Tip: The Sign Forest was created by Carl Lindley, a homesick soldier working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. More than 2,000 signs are added every year, totaling more than 65,000 license plates, road and traffic shields and other unique home-made signs.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

As legend holds, Whitehorse was so named after the whitewater rapids that resemble the flowing white manes of wild horses. At the turn of the century more than 30,000 pioneers made their way to the Gold Fields in search of riches. From Whitehorse, there are a number of outfitters

Must See Tip: A pit stop on the way to Chinook spawning grounds, the Whitehorse Fish Ladder is the biggest salmon fish ladder in the world. Walk downstream fromFishing Montana-Canada-Alaska
By Madison Dapcevich the ladder for prime fishing.

Recommended Outfitters: Headwaters 2 Ocean Troutfitter, 1-867-633-2666, otfsyk@gmail.com, www.htotroutfitter.com

Recommended Lodging: Muktuk Adventure Lodge, 1-867-668-3647, info@muktuk.com, www.muktuk.com.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Located just outside of Whitehorse, Muktuk Adventures is set on 86-acres and home to more than 100 dogs.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – The name Muktuk Adventures came after Frank Turner fed his first group of dogs Muktuk. Muktuk is the layer of fat between the skin and blubber of a whale.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Muktuk Adventures runs alongside the Takhini River, making it a prime location for fishing.

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Watson Lake, Yukon Territory – The signpost forest was started in 1942 when a homesick U.S. Army soldier put a sign with his name and distance to his hometown. Others have been following suit for the last 70 years.

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Watson Lake, Yukon Territory – Chelsae Larson fly-fishes for trout on the stocked Lucky Lake. The park also features a hiking trail and the only waterslide north of 60* latitude in Canada and the United States.

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Yukon Territory – Woods or Mountain Bison are unique to the boreal forests of western Canada and Alaska. During the spring and early summer, herds can be seen in the fields along the Al-Can Highway.

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Yukon Territory – A mountainous and rural territory, the Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of the Canadian Territories and is known for salmon fishing.

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British Columbia – The Alaska Highway was constructed during World War Two to make Alaska more accessible to the “Lower 48”. Due to extreme weather and freezing, roadwork is common in the summer and delays are expected.

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Muncho Lake, British Columbia – Mostly a tourist hub for fishing, the only amenities offered at Muncho Lake are located at the Northern Rockies Lodge.

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Muncho Lake, British Columbia – Tucked away in the Muska Kechika Wilderness, this lake is left virtually undisturbed by the modern world. The best fishing occurs late June to early September.

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Yukon Territory – Four types of salmon enter the Yukon River system in the late summer and early fall, including Chinook (king), Coho (silver), Sockeye (red) and Chum (dog).

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Yukon Territory – Trout will follow schools of spawning salmon to eat their eggs, making late summer and early fall an excellent time to fish.

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Dawson City, British Columbia – The Gateway to the Alaska Highway, Dawson City was a major hub for the Klondike Goldrush at the turn of the 20th century.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Mukluk Adventures was started by Frank Turner, who won the Yukon Quest in 1995. Sled dog racing has cultural significance in the Arctic region.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Chelsae and I were welcomed by the Muktuk Adventure crew with cozy beds, an epic view of the surrounding mountain ranges and an abundance of new furry friends.

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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – Guests at Muktuk Adventures can play with the sled dogs, both active and retired, throughout the course of their stay. I nearly walked away with a newly adopted pooch!

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Watson Lake, Yukon Territory –  Home to more than 77,000 signs from around the world, the sign forest is maintained by the city of Watson Lake. Hundreds of signs are added each year.

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Watson Lake, Yukon Territory – If you wander through the sign forest, you can see machinery used during the construction of the Alaska Highway.

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British Columbia – The Alaska Highway begins at Mile 0 in Dawson City and travels more than 1,300 miles through British Columbia, The Yukon Territory and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.

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Yukon Territory – Sparsely populated and nearly forgotten by the rest of the world, the Alaska Highway is littered with abandoned gas stations, cabins and motels.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Banff National Park was established in 1885 and is Canada’s oldest national park.

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Banff, Alberta – The Grizzly House in Banff was started in the 1970s when disco-goers could pick up Chinese food through a window. Today, it offers Swiss fondu in a cozy, rugged mountain setting.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Pulling over after being caught in a hail storm along the Bow Valley Parkway, we found a herd of bighorn sheep.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – As Chelsae says, “It wouldn’t be a road trip without getting pulled over by the Canadian Mounties!” Don’t forget to convert miles to kilometers.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – A day of sightseeing after 12 hours of driving had us absolutely wiped. Here I am napping at Moraine Lake.

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Banff, Alberta – How do you shower when you’re car-camping through Canada? Buy a pass to the Upper Banff Hot Springs, of course!

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Banff, Alberta – The Upper Hot Springs are located on an outdoor terrace overlooking Mount Rundle. Many minerals are found in the hot springs, including sulphate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium and sodium.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Johnston Creek is a tributary of the Bow River in Banff.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – The Johnston Canyon Trail was formed by erosion over thousands of years. Today, tourists can hike the leisurely trail to two waterfalls and ink pots. Pictured here are the Lower Falls.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – A popular hiking destination in the summer, the Johnston Creek waterfalls are esteemed ice climbing destinations in the winter.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – The Johnston Canyon Trail features boardwalks extending out over the creek for a bird’s eye view of the pristine glacier runoff waters.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Moraine Lake sits at an elevation of over 6,00o feet. The Valley of Ten Peaks (behind) was origanly named by an early explorer of the area who referred to them numerically in the Stoney First Nations Language.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Thank you to Montucky Cold Snacks for keeping our heads warm! The rock pile at Moraine Lake is an ideal spot for taking selfies. Nobody is quite sure how this giant pile of rocks get here, but scientists have hypothesized they could be the result of receding glaciers.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – The Valley of Ten Peaks (behind) was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 Canadian dollar bill.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – The Valley of Ten Peaks at Moraine Lake features Mount Fay, Mount Little, Mount Bowlen, Mount Tonsa, Mount Perren, Mount Allen, Mount Tuzo, Deltaform Mountain, Neptuak Mountain and Wenkchemna Mountain. The last mountain is the only one still referred to in the Stoney First Nations People Language.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Lake Louise gets its famous color from the glacial-melt running from the mountains surrounding it. Named after Princess Louise Alberta, the lake was originally called “Lake of the Little People” by the Stoney Nakota First Nations People.

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Banff National Park, Alberta – A super duper shoutout to our sponsor, Montucky Cold Snacks, for keeping our bellies and gas tanks full. Here we are at Lake Louise, loving on our Montucky!

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Kootenay National Park, British Columbia – One of four contiguous national parks in Canada, the Kootenay National Forest is west of Banff and south of Yoho and Jasper National Parks. The road is surrounded by views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

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Kootenay National Park, British Columbia – Photographing the photographer, Chelsae caught me standing on the hood of my car scoping out the herd of mountain goats in front of our car.

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Kootenay National Park, British Columbia – The parks is named after the Kootenay River, that flows south into the Columbia River.

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Fort Steele, British Columbia – The Kootenay Trout Hatchery rears 3 million baby trout each year, including Brook Char and Cuttthroat and Rainbow Trout to supplement natural stocks and enhance recreational fisheries.

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Fernie, British Columbia – The Bull River is a 72-mile tributary of the Kootenay River and home to world-class fly fishing.

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Fort Steele, British Columbia – The Kootenay Trout Hatchery also rears the red-listed White Sturgeon. Visitors can enjoy a donation-based tour May through August.

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Fernie, British Columbia – Stopping at the Fernie Brewing Company, Chelsae and I planned our route north to Banff and Jasper National Parks.

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Elk River, British Columbia – Renowned for its Cutthroat and Bull Trout populations, Elk River is considered by many as some of the best fly fishing in North America.

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Fernie, British Columbia – A special shoutout to our sponsor, WardKo LLC for their swagalicious fishing gear and gas money contribution. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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Elk Valley, British Columbia – Once an important player in the coal mining industry, today the Elk Valley area is an ideal location for outdoor recreation throughout the year.

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Elk Valley, British Columbia – The Valley is snug in the middle of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, making its snow-melt rivers perfect for spot-fishing.

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Elk Valley, British Columbia – Prime dry-fly fishing for native Westslope Trout, the Elk River also offers a chance of catching Bull Trout.

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Fernie, British Columbia – Home to winter skibums and summer fisherfolk, Fernie is an artsy town nestled in the Elk River Valley.

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Roosville, Montana – Entering through the Canadian Border in Rossville tends to have less traffic and quicker lines. Plus, this route offers views of Flathead Lake and a detour through Whitefish, Mont.

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Polson, Montana – Our first day of the Alaska-Canada Roadtrip, Chelsae and I stopped for a bit of sunbathing on the shores of Flathead Lake. The Mission Mountains can be seen in the background.

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Polson, Montana – The largest lake west of the Mississippi, Flathead Lake is home to Lake Trout, Bull Trout and Mountain Whitefish.

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Roosville, Montana – On our first day, Chelsae (left) and I made the 12-hour drive through British Columbia, starting in Missoula and ending Banff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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