Cutthroat Trout on Top of the Rocky Mountains

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ADVENTURE IN PARADISE

It was 6:30 am, and I was loading our float tubes, fishing gear, and camping supplies into the cargo baskets mounted on the side of a helicopter for a two day stay high in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. A month earlier my fishing partner and I booked a fishing trip with Icefield Heli Tours to fly us into Lake of the Falls for fly-fishing bonanza. Lake of the Falls is a glacier lake tucked deep in the bowl of three surrounding mountains, 2,250meters in elevationThe jade clear glacier lake is home to an abundance of cutthroat and the odd bull trout and we anticipated two full days of nonstop fly-fishing 

Our helicopter lifted off at 7:15 amand in no time pine trees passed beneath us as the pilot skillfully weaved his way through the mountain passes touching down 30minutes later at our destinationAfter the helicopter landed and our gear unloaded we watched the chopper disappear over top the mountain peaks. The valley fell silent. There was nothing surrounding us but Alberta’s wilds. We set up our tents cut some firewood and put everything in its place. With camp set up and the chores completed, it was time to go fishing 

After inflating our float tubes, Kyle and I pushed off from shore at the same time. Kyle made the first cast with his fly rod and immediately landed a scrappy cutthroat trout. I was not so lucky. I had to wait for my third cast before I had a hookup. One cutthroat after another eagerly took our imitation mosquito flies until the sun warmed the mountain air and began to cast a bright glare off the surface of the water. The sun’s rays penetrating the water caused the fish to plunge deeper into the depth of the crystal clear lake. 

CHANGE OF TACTICS

We pulled out our spinning gear and went after themI tied on a silver #6 Len Thompson lure and gave it a cast. As the lure dropped through the water column I guessed the depth to be 40feet. When I felt the lure hit bottom, I retrieved it just fast enough to keep the small blade fluttering through the water column. Within 10feet of my retrieve, there was a tug on the end of my line and set the hook. The never-give-up attitude of the trout species was evident as the cutthroat fought to free himself right to the edge of my float tube. We caught and released several cutthroat trout using our fly rod in the mornings and evenings, and spinning rod/reel combo during the heat of the day. The cutthroat rarely pressed the scale past two pounds, but they took our offerings all day long with both setups   

OTHER OPTIONS TO FISH

Landslide Lake is very similar to Lake of the Falls. However, it’s a much longer and narrower lake and is more shoreline friendly and offers some incredible shoreline fishing for eager biting cutthroat troutObstruction Lake is another cutthroat paradise. Although I have never fished it, I’ve heard tales of some incredible cutthroat being caught from its waters. 

The Ram River is another fly fisherman’s paradise for cutthroat, bull trout, and in some areas, rocky mountain whitefishHowever, if you’re looking to catch something different, you can fly into Michelle Lake to fish for the elusive golden trout. Native to California’s southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, very few western Canadian anglers have caught a gold troutGold trout were introduced into a few alpine lakes in Alberta in the early 1960s, and are very rare and unique fish to go afterThe hard to reach gold trout love the high-country lakes ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 meters in elevation and water temperatures between 10 and 17 degrees Celsius. Alberta has a zero keep limit on the gold trout and they are sought after by anglers purely for the bragging rights.  

WHAT TO TAKE

Anglers can go for the day, or stay as many days as they like. Anglers are charged two dollars a pound for their gear so it’s important to take only the necessities to help keep costs down. My float tube, flippers, net, fly rod, spinning rod and reel, an assortment of flies/hooks, waders in the carrying bag weigh in at 38pounds. It’s important to take good quality waders as the water is extremely cold. With your legs submerged the entire time you’re on the water, it won’t be long before you feel the bite of the glacier water. You will need a change of clothes, a lightweight but good quality pup-tent and a good quality sleeping bag. Nights in the high country can get extremely cold, even during the summer monthsalso believe you should never enter Alberta’s wilds without an ax, waterproof matches, water purifier, a portable first aid kit, toilet paper, bear spray, flashlight, headlamp, and of courseyour camera. There’s no cell service so a form of communication is up to you. I also take a map of the area and my GPS, as all the lakes can be hiked in or out of.    

FOOD

Although you can keep a limit of cutthroats for a shore lunch, you’re going to need to take some food and still be mindful of weight. For breakfast, instant oatmeal. A box of 12packets weighs a pound and it’s very filling. Granola bars or trail mix are high in nutrition and are easy to throw in your backpack if you decide to take a break from fishing and go for a hike. For supper, you have the possibility of fish, but a lightweight alternative is Mountain House freeze dried meals. Used by mountaineers and sheep hunters, simply boil water in your camp pot and pour it into the same bag the freeze dried food comes in and let stand for 10minutes. You have a wide variety of meals to choose from, and best of all, before the water is added they only weigh eightounces. I take two bottles of water and use my water purifier to refill my bottles. Not having to pack in water saves a lot of weight. You’re in bear country so remember to keep your campsite clean and pack out everything you take in.  

A GREAT ADVENTURE

Heli-fishing is for those who wants to enjoy an unbelievable and affordable sport fishing adventure from one of the many high glacier lakes that you can fly into. Expect to catch a variety of fish while you’re surrounded by some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery and wildlife within Alberta’s Rocky Mountains 

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About Author

Wes David was born and raised on a cattle ranch in central Albert and has called Airdrie, Alberta home for the last 16-years. Former professional bull rider turned professional walleye tournament angler, outdoor writer, and host & producer of Fishing the Wild West TV, a fishing show dedicated to angling throughout western Canada and the northern U.S. States. Fishing the Wild West TV is in its 4th season and currently airing on 7-different US and Canadian networks. Wes is a big believer in conservation, educating about Canada’s fisheries and wildlife, and getting our youth involved in the outdoors.

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