Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Wild and Native!)
The Elk River is renowned for its abundant supply of Westslope Cutthroat (Onchorynchus Clarki Lewsi). Arguably, cutthroat are one of the most beautiful of all the trout species and their willingness to rise freely to a well presented dry fly makes them even more enjoyable to catch.
Recent conservation minded regulations, including bait bans, single barbless hooks, spawning closures, fly fishing only and catch and release, have given these native cutts a chance to grow and flourish. Catch rates and average fish size have increased markedly in the last ten years.
It is not uncommon to land a cutthroat over twenty inches! Average size varies from fourteen to sixteen with a good number of nice fish in the eighteen inch range. Most Cutthroat are caught using dry flies or attractor patterns and our guides knowledge of the Elk River and its entomology will ensure you are using the right flies and fishing the most productive waters.
Bull Trout (Aggressive Predator)
The other primary species is the Bull Trout (Salvelinus Confluentus). Bull trout are not actually a trout at all but a member of the char family. Often mistakenly identified as Dolly Varden, Bull Trout go for nymphs or streamers and occasionally dry flies. They are very aggressive and often will dart out of the darkness of a deep pool and attack a cutthroat that you have hooked up. This flurry of heart pounding excitement usually results in the bully getting your cutthroat, but it leaves the fisherman with a great fish story! This explains how they are able to obtain such large sizes. 26” to 30” bullies are not uncommon and some areas host pigs up to 40”.
The Strategy – To Drift or to Wade
On most of our waters we will be primarily drift fishing. Working presentations along under cut banks and runs into pools prove to be very productive from a drift boat. We will also utilize our drift boats to access parts of the river that cannot be reached wading. This does not mean you can’t get out of the boat. There are plenty of runs, log jams, and structure that warrants getting out and working selected sections of water. The tributaries feeding our primary rivers are fished by wading. Access to many of these smaller waters is difficult and good wading boots and a fair level of fitness is required. However, you will surely be rewarded with some exceptional fishing opportunities in some spectacular scenery. All fish caught are released even on keep zones! We feel very strongly about protecting this native fishery and the only thing taken is pictures. We also use fish friendly nets and keep the handling of the fish to a minimum. “a wild trout is too precious to be enjoyed only once”. The opportunities in the area are endless and there is no better way to maximise your success on the water than with a guide from Elk River Guiding Company. Check out each of the waters we have featured in the Rivers section. For really big Bulltrout, call and ask about the Bull Trout Safari in October!
If you plan to fish on your own don’t hesitate to stop by the Fly Shop as we are happy to assist with information, flies, and gear. One thing every do-it-yourselfer should have is the Back Roads Map Book of SE BC. We sell them at the shop and we will mail them out if you wanted it to help plan your trip!
Elk River Map
** Note that some launch sites are primative and require a higher level of experience to navigate in and out of them. Please be courteous when parking so that you do not block access or turn-around points. Also be aware that the Elk River has many natural features and hazards that can challenge the most experienced river practioner. Be prepared with appropriate safety gear in your water craft. Shuttles can be arranged at the Elk River Guiding Co. Fly Shop.
Elk River Hatch Chart