On June 15, fly fishing season opens for the Elk River and its tributaries.
In many other parts of the province foreign species such as brown and rainbow trout have been introduced into rivers where they outcompete native species but fish like pure strain westslope cutthroat trout can still be found the length of the Elk.
Cutthroat are a member of the salmon family and has disappeared from most of its former habitat. They can be identified by the pink, red or orange markings on their throat. They range in length from eight to 18 inches and eagerly rise to the surface to eat dry flies.
There is also bull trout, another endangered species that have disappeared from a lot of other rivers but are still found in Southeastern B.C. These huge fish can reach up to 30 inches in length.
Paul Samycia, owner of the Elk River Guide Company, said the river’s native fish make the Elk Valley watershed one of the most spectacular dry-fly fisheries in the world.
“Them being wild and native, they’re desired by a lot of fly anglers,” he said. “That and the beauty of the valley, it makes it a desirable destination for people to travel to.”
Samycia said fly fishing takes rhythm and coordination. He called it a science where the angler needs to imitate the fish’s food by mimicking the bugs that they eat. There is a learning curve, but once that’s done, an angler can become obsessed with fly fishing, he said.
“Once you get the hang of it, it gets very addictive because it’s challenging like a game of golf,” he said.
Samycia moved to Fernie from Edmonton in 2000 and slowly grew a business out of the local fly fishery.
“I do it because I love it,” he said. “It’s a passion and anytime you have an opportunity to take a passion and make a career out of it, I think that’s pretty rare nowadays.”
The season runs until March 31 and is open throughout the winter, although there are minor regulation changes in the fall.
Fishing licences can be bought online, at the Fernie Courthouse or at most fly shops. An annual Classified Waters Licence costs $15 for B.C. residents. Out-of-province anglers pay a fee of $21 per day.
It’s important to understand regulations before going out to fish but Samycia said if you’re practicing catch and release and you’re using a single barbless hook, you’re obeying 90 per cent of the rules.