The East coast Girl fishing the West coast

The East coast Girl fishing the West coast by Sylvie Malo-Clark

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The Elk river in Fernie, BC, Canada

Back in  January when IWFF member Vicki Green invited me to fish the Elk River, a river she knows very well, I was ecstatic. It didn’t take me long to give her a positive answer. The East coast girl would fish the West coast, a river on her bucket list. I waited eagerly eight long months before my departure to British Columbia, Canada, destination Fernie home of the Elk river in August. Once in a while I would go to YouTube and have a peak. I soon realized that the best way to navigate the river was with a drift boat or pontoon boat. A later email came from Vicki confirming the use of a single pontoon boat for two days, something I have never done before and a drift boat for a day. Being an adventurous person in nature she wrote that fishing from a pontoon was easy. I took her word for it until I got there avoiding looking at the YouTube videos in the meantime. Upon arrival I was delighted to find out that I would be fishing in a double pontoon boat navigated by her husband Richard and Vicki would be going down in a single pontoon. This proved to be a wise decision! I knew that fishing for cutthroat and bull trout would be different from fishing for brook trout in my area. We wade or fish from a canoe and we fish casting our line most of the time upriver when dry fly fishing, a dead drift dry. It didn’t take me long on our first day out to realize that “mending” was a necessary technique while drifting.  “Setting” the hook as soon as an interested fish was in sight was also something I would have to work on although we do pretty much the same back home. I would have to re-familiarize myself  with these drifting techniques learned somewhat while fishing in Montana a few years ago. Let the dry fly ride the water while keeping an eye on it and most importantly good timing!

Watching Vicki landing quite a few cutthroat the first day made me decide to look on the internet for articles and video’s about the topic before going to bed that evening. I found an excellent one in the online www.MidCurrent.com  magazine library “Mending Primer” by Philip Monahan. In this article he mentioned that in the fishing industry much emphases is put on learning on how to cast instead of “how to fish”. Knowing how to cast is one thing but knowing “how” to fish is the essential. A few videos later on mending I was ready for our drift boat day with The Elk River Guiding Company, with guide Darcy Richardson.

elk river bestHe was excellent navigating his drift boat to  the potential holding spots. such as eddies, log jams,  transitions between fast and slow water, oxygenated riffles, where the change of color meets, near shore, while giving me some mending instruction. We stopped on the way  at one potential holding place and I raised a big one! Darcy did everything to make sure I would land this beauty. I put a smaller dry fly on and cast in the same spot. The same fish surfaced, and I had it…until it came off near shore. Oh well I told myself there was still hope for me since it was early in the day. Later on I watched Vicki land a nice 17 inch cutthroat. Another difference with back East we don’t measure the fish we weigh them.  All the same! We were happy for her and the fish was also, as he was released.

CutthroatThe cutthroat likes warm sunny weather which means a later morning start fishing compared to the East coast brookies. The brookies tend to disappear to the bottom on sunny days liking cool cloudy days meaning for anglers an earlier start fishing. I teased my hosts letting them know that by the time we put in we in the East Coast (my husband and I) are usually done fishing, which would be somewhere around 10:00 AM.  On the hot days we take the afternoon off and make our way back in the evening.  However, one good thing about ending the day in late afternoon with a shore lunch; it enables you to have an early evening dinner. And that we did, a celebration of a great day of fishing in one of the finest restaurant of Fernie. When the heat of summer comes into play on the Elk River many anglers fish using dry fly patterns. The teaser dry flies were the Grey Drakes, Double Wing Olive, Purple Haze and many foam flies looking like grass hoppers. I tend to use them on my brookies and Atlantic salmon. Could be a gourmet snack for the fish, who’s to know unless you try! When I reflect on my Fernie experience I think what made it interesting is the different techniques and ways used to lure the magnificent cutthroat and bull throat. But best of all Vicki and Richard were perfect hosts showing me all the best Fernie and the Elk river have to offer. The mountains surround Fernie and the freestone Elk River flows through it offering renowned fly fishing from June to October. I can now understand why people keep coming back for more and develop a love affair with Fernie!

About the Author – Sylvie is an artist and fly tier and spends much time fishing the rivers of Eastern Canada especially the Miramichi and Restigouche. She has been a member of IWFF since 2005 and is serving her second term as a member of the Board of Directors.

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