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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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, email@example.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, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.northernrockieslodge.com
Recommended Lodging: Strawberry Flats Campground
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, email@example.com, www.htotroutfitter.com
Recommended Lodging: Muktuk Adventure Lodge, 1-867-668-3647, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.muktuk.com.