The conversation started last May, during a brief safety meeting on the Green River in UT – “The Elk, Dude. You gotta fish the Elk.” My affinity for cutthroat is well documented and discussed, therefore the recommendation. I like fishing with people who not only can row and take care of their own knots themselves, but also appreciate the kind of experience that others want to have – so that it’s not a one-sided event. I started thinking about Canada immediately.
The last time I was in the Great White North I was attending a show – the ZOO TV tour of U2, with Bjork and Public Enemy as the opener. It was early November in 1991, and the results of the US Presidential election were announced during the show. Now, being a fan small places with a lot of people beer around, it was a good spot to gauge the reaction of a mostly US audience in one of Canada’s shining gems of a city. Oh, and I met a transvestite there too. Overall, it was an interesting night that both ended a relationship, and furthered an interest in our close neighbor to the north. That is, until shit got twisted on a visit to Fernie last week. Note to reader, the transvestite had nothing to do with the end of the relationship.
In my opinion, if I’m headed to Paradise, and there are signs advising me how quickly it just is that I can get there, well maybe that paradise with such rules is a bit of a tease – but after a quick stop to see Brooks and a few new choice OC larvae patterns, I headed for Paradise – first stop, the Thompson River.
Lunch was in order – the town of Plains, MT was preparing for the Labor Day weekend, and something about this place just seemed right. A hot dog cart, a shed, a flag, and huckleberry lemonade. Bingo.
It became clear very quickly, that unlike my last visit to Canada, that what it looked like, it absolutely was. Down home, road-side chow. Buffalo. Good trade.
Traveling with the Green Drake always draws a crowd, and this was no different. The proprietor and another gentleman soon crowded the rigs, asking questions about the boat, my ARB tent, and where I was headed.
Paradise, via Wild Horse Plains, MT and the Thompson River. What could be better.
Here’s the Thompson River – cold, a bit slippery, and very fishy looking. Unfortunately, the road was closed just to the right of the frame in this shot – so, I would travel no further to get a line wet in MT on this trip. The fish were rising in the swirling, dirty foam lines – exactly what I wanted to find. Deep pools, jagged rocks that obviously slipped from the talus slope above into the river, creating a S-shaped labyrinth of possibilities. I lined up with a tasty looking terrestrial, and headed down, loaded for bear – now why would there be bear, here?
Junk. River junk. Bait boxes, shiny, desperate lures and heavily braided wire leader, ugh. Trash on the river. Disappointment on the Thompson. What a start.
I fished for a short time, slipping and sliding around – something didn’t feel right. I was distracted, and left in a huff – a skunking, who gets skunked in MT? I shuffled back to the truck, quickly taking off my boots and wading socks, and heard a unfamiliar “clink” on the road – a gold coin dropped out of my wading sock. A sign? My mind quickly jumped to Canada, and the Toonie. Ok, that’s a positive. Let’s get on the road.
Don’t worry, we’re getting to the good stuff. Patience, my four readers. You know at this point that I caught a lot of big cutties on the Elk, but you’re wondering – how did the RCMP get involved?
Here’s the quick and dirty – a few weeks prior, a group of people rolled into Fernie, BC and trashed their hotel room. According to Cst. Kevin Johnson, of the Elk Valley Detachment, they returned on our first night at the Park Place Lodge, and proceeded to destroy the same room they had previously done the same to – leaving a note to the effect “you charged us too much for the damage last time, so we came back to make it even.” How or why the Green Drake got involved, but to the quick – they entered the boat, vandalized it with my river knife stowed on my Stohlquist vest, tucked deep inside the dry bag. Cutting straps, stealing personal goods with little value (some food, playing cards) but some with much value (new Orvis waders, bear spray, flies). My buddy Eric Brenco awoke me with “Dude, have you been down to the boat already this morning?” Looking out the open window 50 feet and two stories up from the boat, it quickly came to me – fooled again in Canada.
At this stage in the trip, I was only interested in fishing the Elk, and getting into some native, wild-strain Westslope Cutthroats. One of the finest examples of this fish left on the continent. The RCMP came to file the report, and take an inventory of what was missing. I didn’t even realize all what was gone, until less than an hour later, a call comes in to the Fisheries agent floating with us that day – Jim is a guide and long-time resident of the area, and is now in charge of watching the rivers and mountains in the area. In his words, “the fox guarding the hen house.” Jim’s distinct Canadian dialect was like music to my ears – not Bjork, but U2, “but I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for.” But I didn’t know what was gone, only what was possible downriver. And I was getting anxious. “He could bring them right down here” Jim said. Knowing what was lost, then found, and safely in the hands of the RCMP, I deferred. Let’s get on the river. Our belongings would be safely with Kevin, at his home in Fernie. Having an “in” with the Fisheries and the local law enforcement just felt good.
The Elk is an amazing river – gin clear, full of fish, cold, and beautiful.
High clouds, and no-one else on the river. I’ve forgotten all about the events of earlier, and focused on Cutts.
Yeah, these fish have shoulders. Big and strong, taking dries.
Eric’s Helios 8’6 5wt Tip was bent a lot during the trip.
At the end of the day, we drove back up from Elko to Fernie, and to Kevin’s home to retrieve my stolen items. He was out in front, mowing the lawn. A regular guy, keeping rule and taking an active role in helping out complete strangers. I got my waders back, first aid kit, hammock, and flies. The lunch meat and chocolate-covered raisins? “Oh, those were gone, Eh!”
In the end, the hotel comped our room charges for the two-night stay, as the RCMP told us that it was likely an inside job – they had to get in the room somehow, and the hotel had them on video too. All was good, and set the stage for a return trip to Fernie, BC next year to attend the court proceedings. You bet I’ll be back to the Elk, and to Fernie. And I’ve got a few Toonies left.