Elk River Fishing Report

This is no bull – some of the largest bull trout you will ever see swim in the Elk River. Considered a world class, dry fly fishery, this freestone river starts near the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains near Peter Park in Alberta. Its source is the Elk Lakes, waters created from glacial runoff. A relatively long river at 140 miles, it picks up tributaries and increases in volume to the point where it can only be crossed in a very few places. Important to the area, the river drains over 1720 square miles and courses through several communities including Elkford, Sparwood, Hosmer, Elko and of course, Fernie.

As well known as the Elk is for its mammoth bull trout, it is even better known for its sizeable wild, westslope cutthroat trout and large concentrations of mountain whitefish. Restrictions apply along the river but differ from section to section. The upper section is posted as catch-and-release-only until you reach Forsyth Creek. Throughout the entire river, a catch limit of only one trout over 30 centimeters applies.

Major portions of the upper river can be fished from small drift boats although there the river is too narrow to accommodate large crafts. Farther downstream you may be slowed down by an abundance of beaver dams, but by the time you reach Sparwood the river is negotiable in basically any craft you choose. Without an experienced guide, the canyon span below Elko can risky.

For those who prefer to wade, by late summer and into early fall, it’s possible to walk major sections of the river. Because the bottom can be slippery, felt bottom boots and a wading staff are recommended. Overall, given the river’s size, it is best suited to floating with its many boulder-strewn runs, deep pools, riffles and alluring side channels.
Additional Information
Coal Creek, Lizard Creek, Fording River, Wigwam River, Michel Creek
Elk Lakes
Lake Koocanusa
140 miles
1,718 sq miles
Current Forecast
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Fishing Quality
Water quality