Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout
Destination Type
Fishing Style
Drift Boat, Dry Fly, Sightfishing, Wading
July - September
Fishing Days
3 - 10+
Why We Go
  • Fish for eager, native cutthroat trout on the Elk River and its many tributaries
  • Target hard hitting trophy bull trout in Autumn on the Kootenay River
  • Discover the small, artistic ski town of Fernie situated on the Elk River below classic towering Rockies mountains
  • Choose from a selection of lodges or arrange rental accommodations to best fit the needs of the group
  • Enjoy endless activities in town, in the mountains, or on the river

Elk River Guiding Company specializes in drift boat and wade fishing the waters of southeastern British Columbia and Southern Alberta. Here, anglers enjoy exceptional dry fly streams including the Elk, Wigwam, Oldman, Crow, and other local tributaries. We offer custom itineraries with multiple lodging options including simple hotels, in-town condo units, and deluxe, full-service lodges in and around the charming mountain town of Fernie, B.C.

We often receive calls from anglers who are in search of quality dry fly fishing for wild trout on less crowded, scenic North American freestone rivers. A seemingly simple request but in today’s competitive world this quintessential fly fishing experience has become increasingly hard to come by. Elk River Guiding Company offers anglers just that. They specialize in drift and wade fly fishing on the waters of Southeastern British Columbia and Southern Alberta where anglers can enjoy the magic of exceptional dry fly streams.

Elk River Guiding Company offers customized itineraries throughout this region. Some of the primary rivers include the Elk, Wigwam, Oldman, and Crow with many local tributaries. Anglers can choose from a variety of accommodations and fly fishing scenarios targeting browns, rainbows, Westslope cutthroats and bull trout. Elk River’s most popular packages run from three to six days and can cover as much or as little country as desired. This is a great destination for mixed groups and hardcore trout hunters alike. Numerous non-angling activities are available for those who would like to take in the region’s superb scenery.

Fishing Program

The Elk River is the home water of this location. With an estimated 5,000 fish per mile, the Elk River system has a tremendous population of indigenous Westslope Cutthroat Trout. A combination of the number of trout, the aggressive nature of the species and the guiding approach, provides beginners and experts alike with incredibly exciting fly fishing. The Elk river provides seven separate days of drift boat fly fishing and countless walk and wade tributaries to explore.

The Elk River is the home water for Elk River Guiding and offers spectacular fishing throughout the season for cutthroat and bull trout. The river is best accessed by boat and most anglers will fish a different section each day. Walk and wade options are available on the Elk River as well as several creeks including Michel Creek, and the Wigwam, Bull and Fording Rivers. The access varies from easy to very difficult and the available permits on each creek fill up quickly, so be sure to let us know in advance if walk and wade days are desired. The average size of the cutthroat will range from 14- to 18-inches with an occasional fish in the 20-inch class. Anglers will fish two per guide and will start and end each day at Elk River Guiding Company.


Island Lake Lodge: The lodge is located in the Cedar Valley amongst an old growth cedar forest, about 30-minutes away from Fernie. The Red Eagle, Cedar and Tamarack Lodges, sleep up to 48 guests in 26 rooms. Each lodge has cozy double queen- or king-bed rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The lodge features an outdoor hot tub on a large deck off the main level providing great views of the mountains, lake and forest. There are comfortable living rooms on both the upper and main floor. The lodge includes a large dining room, with a 3,000 bottle wine library and short menu to order from. The lodge also features a spa with a variety of services that should be scheduled in advance.

Park Place Lodge: This lodge is a very conveniently located hotel with simple and comfortable rooms located across the street from Elk River Guiding. Rooms come in a variety of layouts, all with ensuite bathrooms and double or quad occupancy. The hotel is complete with a restaurant and bar, pool, hot tub, gym, and a beer and wine shop.

Additional Experiences

Travelers who choose not to fish will have many hiking and mountain biking options, as well as canoeing the Elk River. Those looking for a more laid-back trip can arrange massages and other spa services in town or at one of the lodges.

Rates & Details

2024 Rates: Per day based on 1 or 2 anglers

  • Float Trip: CAD $895-$1,095
  • Walk and Wade: CAD $895-$1,050

Included: Guided fishing, flies, transportation to/from Elk River Guiding, non-alcoholic beverages, lunch

Not Included: Accommodations and meals, GST, Fishing Equipment, Airfare, gratuities, alcohol, British Columbia or Alberta fishing licenses

Species: West slope cutthroat, rainbow trout, brown trout, bull trout

Season: July – September

Fly Water Q&A

What are the top reasons to go?

• Fish for eager, native cutthroat trout on the Elk River and its many tributaries

• Target hard hitting trophy bull trout in Autumn on the Kootenay River

• Discover the small, artistic ski town of Fernie situated on the Elk River below classic towering Rockies mountains

• Choose from a selection of lodges or arrange rental accommodations to best fit the needs of the group

• Enjoy endless activities in town, in the mountains, or on the river

Who is best suited to this destination? For anglers who are excited about fishing for wild, eager cutthroat trout, Elk River is a mecca. The river caters to those who like drift boat fishing or wade fishing, and who like to fish a new beat each day. The location offers access that ranges from a 20-minute drive to the put-in to hiking up tight canyons with tricky river crossings. This is also an excellent destination for those looking for bull trout, and anglers of a hardy nature will appreciate the late season trophy bull trout pursuit. There are many activities in and around Fernie, and this location works well for groups looking for activities other than angling.

Where is the lodge? This trip is unique among Fly Water Travel’s offerings in that guests have the option to book their own accommodations if they like. Lodging can either be in the heart of Fernie, right across the street from the Elk River Guiding Company fly shop, in any one of the rentals around town, or a number of different lodge options around the valley or in the mountains.

How do I get there? The most direct route is to fly to Kalispell, Montana, rent a car and drive two and a half hours north to Fernie, B.C. Guests will cross the Canadian border about two hours into the drive, this is a very relaxed, single lane border crossing. Guests may bring alcohol with them and are encouraged not to bring any food and should not bring firearms. Guests can also fly directly into Calgary, Alberta and rent a car. The drive is about three and a half hours to Fernie and guests will likely spend more time getting through customs at the airport than if driving across the border.

When should I go? The season opens around the first or second week of July for guests who are planning far ahead. Guests who can leave with little advanced notice should consider going in late June or early July to catch the golden stonefly hatch. If the river is not blown out from runoff, this is the best time to experience this hatch. Elk River Guiding will not book these weeks until they have a good idea of what the runoff will look like (about two weeks in advance). Guests looking for cutthroat trout will have a great trip any time from mid-July to September. Those who are interested in targeting larger bull trout should plan on fishing in October, after the spawn, but this is not for the faint of heart as the weather can be cold, rainy and even snowy. Those interested in bull trout during warmer months should plan on fishing the Wigwam or Michel Creek in July or August and need to plan far ahead as these rivers are permitted.

How will I fish? The upper section of the Elk River is fished as a hike and wade section, while the lower sections are accessed via drift boat. These sections vary in length so some offer opportunities for anglers to get out of the boat to wade, while other require a full day of drifting. The smaller creeks like the Michel, Wigwam, Bow River, Fording River and often the St. Mary’s River are walk and wade or hike and wade streams. The Crowsnest, St. Mary’s when full, and Bull River will be drifted in pontoons or drift boats, and the Kootenay is navigated by 16’ aluminum boats with motors.

Guests will fish any method they desire on a single hand rod. This location offers excellent dry fly fishing, and guests looking to net larger numbers of fish each day will employ nymphs. Streamers and soft hackle flies will work well too, especially for those interested in bull trout. It is encouraged to discuss the groups desired method of fishing with Fly Water Travel in advance so that each day is catered to the group’s needs.

Is there wade fishing? Folks interested in fishing the Wigwam River need to be in good physical shape, as the hiking usually involves walking up and down a canyon. Getting down to the river is steep so anglers will have a hill to climb on the way out. The river itself is slippery when wading and multiple river crossings will be necessary. The other creeks are easy to walk or drift.

Where will I fish? There is enough water around this valley that an angler could fish something different every day for a month, this is an excellent option for anglers who like diversity.

Michele Creek and the Bow River are walk and wade rivers with drive in access points, and guests will likely move to a number of locations throughout the day. The upper section of the Elk River is accessed with some hiking, and the lower six sections are drifted.

The Wigwam is primarily fished for bull trout, anglers will arrive early in the morning to target holding waters and be back to the lodge by 2 or 3 PM. There will be one or two changes of location throughout the day.

How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds?
Most of the fishing spots will take 30 minutes to reach with some taking up to an hour and a half.

What type(s) of fish will I catch? Cutthroat trout and bull trout.

How many fish will I catch? Experienced anglers can expect 10-15 fish a day, and this will change dramatically given the conditions, method and fly.

Will I see other anglers? Anglers see more people at the launch than on the river (a busy day at the launch is 10 boats). Most people will be on the walk and wade rivers where the access is easiest but there are limited license sales and guiding opportunities to limit the pressure.

What are the guides like? The guides are all passionate anglers who have made guiding a lifestyle, not a living. Elk River Guiding will do their best to match anglers with guides who will best accommodations their preferences and personality style.

What are the physical demands? There can be some hiking if guests choose, but most rivers can be accessed by drive up points or in a drift boat.

Are there any special skills required? There are no special skills required and your guides will work with you. Being able to mend the line for a long drift will be very beneficial but beginners are welcome and will be instructed on the river.

Does the lodge provide equipment? Anglers are encouraged to bring their own gear and Elk River Guiding has waders, boots, rods and reels if guests need them (please let us know in advance). If it will be a hot week, anglers can leave the waders and wet wade. Elk River Guiding will provide terminal tackle and flies.

What is your favorite setup for the trip? A 9-foot 4-weight rod works very well in most situations. For bull trout, a 7-weight rod is ideal.

What are the top flies? Flies will change throughout each month and day, please call to ask what flies to bring based on your trip dates. Some standard patterns for this area include: golden stone fly imitation, chubby Chernobyl, ants, beetles, hoppers, baetis fly, October caddis for September. Streamers: double bunnies, anything articulated with a single barbless hook.

What are the options if water conditions become challenging? Many rivers are available if weather is unfavorable. Anglers will fish in all river conditions and should be prepared with the appropriate gear.

What is a typical day like? Depending on the river, anglers will meet the guides at Elk River Guiding fly shop at 8:00 AM and will plan on returning by 6:00 PM. Guests are on their own for meals so once they have returned from fishing the rest of the evening is free.

Please note that some rivers will be fished very early in the morning, particularly if guests are going after bull trout. Other rivers take some time to warm up for the hatch and anglers may not depart until 9:00 AM. Guides will contact guests the evening prior to their first day to discuss meeting time and location.

What is the general vibe, atmosphere and style of the lodge? Each of the lodges are different. This is outdoorsy, small ski town and the lodges are run by friendly staff who also love the outdoors. The lodges are generally large with a number of anglers and non anglers as visitors. AirBnBs and VRBOs are an option in this area as well.

Is there an on-site owner, manager or other point-person at the lodge? The lodges all have an onsite manager between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM.

Where do we eat, and what are the meals like? Island Lake Lodge has one restaurant and one café on site where guests may purchase meals. There are also a number of restaurants in town that guests may explore.

What is the alcohol policy? None of the lodges include alcohol in their stay and guests may either purchase alcohol in town, in Kalispell on their way to Fernie, or at the lodge restaurant (if there is one).

Where do we stay, and what are the accommodations like?

Park Place Lodge: The Park Place Lodge is right across the street from Elk River Guiding Co.’s fly shop and is the most convenient when it comes to meeting guides before and after fishing. The lodge is a simple hotel with a pub that is open for lunch and dinner. There is also a continental breakfast for guests. Rooms come in a variety of configurations with either a king bed and pullout couch or two queen beds.

Island Lake Lodge: Island Lake Lodge is a 30-minute drive from downtown Fernie and sits on the banks of a lake high in the mountains above Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. The lodge is a log cabin style ski lodge with either single king or double queen accommodations. There is a restaurant on site where guests may dine, or they can purchase food in town. The lodge also has a complimentary breakfast and spa for guests. Please note this lodge fills up far in advance for the summer season, early reservations are recommended.

Anglers may also choose to find their own accommodations either at other hotels or through vacation rentals.

Is there internet and/or cell service? There is cell service in Fernie, given your carrier works in British Columbia. The hotels have Wifi in their rooms, service outside of Fernie is bad.

Are there other activities? There is hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and many opportunities for nature and wildlife photography in the area.

Are there any other expenses? Anglers should plan on extra expenses for car rental, meals and alcohol, gratuities, rod fees and accommodations in Kalispell, MT if pairing this with another trip.

Do I need a visa? A passport is all that is needed to get into Canada for short term stays.

Are there any health concerns, dangers or annoyances? Weather is probably the biggest annoyance, temperatures can change dramatically in the Rockies and guests should be prepared for rain, cold weather and warm weather during their stay. Mosquitos aren’t a huge issue and there are bears; anglers who want to fish alone should ask about bear safety.

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