Since 2000, Paul Samycia, owner, operator and outfitter at Elk River Guiding Company Ltd. has been guiding fly fishing enthusiasts from the Elk Valley and beyond on some of the world’s best known fly fishing waters. The outfitter became a retailer four years later and has since been offering products along with their guiding services. When Samycia looks back over the 16 years of operation, he notices a few things.
“Since then the regulations have changed a bit but the biggest difference is the popularity of the sport. The sport has changed, it has grown, the interest in the sport and going on a guided trip has grown,” he told The Free Press. “The fishery has been developed and regulations have kept things so that the fishery is still as good as it used to be.”
He adds the local scene has grown especially with younger generations and become more popular as Elk Valley residents find the fly-fishing is in line with their lifestyles.
“More and more locals are starting to fly fish, which is good for us being a retailer. It is becoming a cool thing to do. Catch and release fly fishing is, for a lot of the younger people that are in the 16 to 25 range, a good fit for their lifestyle. It’s just another thing that makes living in the valley so great,” he said.
Paul Samycia guiding a client on the Kootenay River.
As the demand for fly fishing guides has grown, so has Samycia’s workforce.
“I have about 14 guides that work as contractors. Most locals would know who they are. I have ski patrol working here in the summer who are pro patrol on the mountain in the winter. A lot of people who work at the hill or in the tourism industry, teachers who teach all winter long then work here in the summer. There are six shop staff throughout the summer who are also locals,” he said.
When asked what a typical guiding day would look like, Samycia responded with, “Our guide days are full days. A guide day typically has everyone meet at the shop at nine o’clock, you’re introduced to your guide, they provide the lunch, drinks and all the flies,” he said. “They introduce you to the river, in the sense that they show you where the fish are hanging out, they suggest where to cast the fly, they help you hook up and land the fish and just repeat it over and over again throughout the day. By the end of an eight hour day you’ve usually hooked up and landed a bunch of fish and released them all and most people come back and do it again.”
Elk River Guiding Company Ltd. also offers lessons and beginner fly fish sessions. Recently, the company has started to get into teaching young kids the sport.
“If we can do a morning of a beginnger fly fish with kids who are just getting into the sport then that is pretty important. Those are à la carte. We don’t do camps or groups like that but we like to do one-on-one or two-on-one scenarios just because the kids learn so much more so much faster,” he said.
Samycia is excited about the season so far.
“This season has been an early start, if we look back at the last 16 years very rarely are we fishing good water conditions on opening day. Usually we have a lot of run-off and dirty or high water that keeps us off to the end of June or early July. This year’s opening day was really good. The fish wintered well and looked really healthy,” he said.
Above all, Samycia promotes safe, sustainable and responsible fishing practices.
“We like to promote a catch and release fishery even though there are some keep sections. We view the river as a pretty special place in comparison to what you might find in other places around the world,” he said. “We are pretty lucky and we kind of like to promote it that way. Let everybody catch a bunch of fish and get the opportunity to come back and do it again.”