For the past number of years we had “heard tell” about this place called Windermere just inside the border with British Columbia . This spot is strategically positioned to provide a perfect base to explore the multitude of legendary rivers in the surrounding mountain valleys. These stories most commonly told by our friend Greg, featured amazing rivers like the Kootenay, Palliser, White River and Skookemchuck. As luck would have it for us, we received a warm invitation to join Greg and his close friends and fishing companions for a fishing weekend at his cottage right in the heart of this fishing mecca. Without hesitation we graciously accepted.
When the end of the work day came on Friday we were well en route to his cottage situated approximately 3 hours drive from Calgary, near the shore of Lake Windermere. Lake Windermere is actually a very large swelling of the Columbia River with the villages of Windermere and Invermere abutting its shores. This area is a prime recreation destination for Alberta (and in particular Calgary) residents. This would be by comparison, the Alberta equivalent to Huntsville and the Muskoka’s for GTA residents. Upon meeting, we were warmly welcomed by our new fishing colleagues. Together we enjoyed a few drinks, a fantastic meal, light hearted moments, shared fishing tales and of course, formulated the fishing plan for the weekend. Having dedicated much of his available time to pursue trout on the fly in these mountain rivers, Greg quickly came up with the plan to fish the White River.
A hearty breakfast started the morning off right and after making lunches to enjoy on the river there was only one remaining task before we could head out. As everybody should know, visitors to any province/state are required to obtain a fishing license. In British Columbia, the provincial government has also legislated that there be an additional daily use fee levied against anglers that wish to fish “Classified Waters” in an attempt to moderate angling on these systems. With our provincial fishing and daily use permits for the White River still warm from the printer we were off into the mountains.
Half way in our journey to the White River , we were joined by a few other local anglers. After making the final “locational” decisions and angler groupings the convoy was once again moving along the Forestry Service Road. This trek into the mountains took us along the shore of another well known fishing destination: Whiteswan Lake. The access road in offered an exceptional view of the White River canyon and surrounding peaks. The road accessing this wilderness area snakes its way along valley bottoms then climbs steeply in elevation along precarious ridges then switchbacks’ its way back down again. An exciting drive.
The fishing plan for the day saw us grouped with Kevin and having gotten to know Kevin the night before , we knew we were going to have an awesome day. Having fished this section of river before, Kevin suggested that we just fish our way downstream and get picked up at the end of the day. Excellent plan! The river was reached after a relatively short hike from the truck through a recovering, controlled burn area. The river had swollen in response to the recent rains but still remained very clear throughout the day. We walked and we fished, enjoying every bit of the company and experience that we could despite the light but persistent rain. We caught Cutthroat along the way, successfully probing the wood jams and pools with a dry fly. We did not catch a lot of them, nor were they particularly large on average. They were however, spectacular.
More than two thirds along in our hike downstream we were joined by two Conservation Officers who frankly, surprised us. We appreciated being stopped and having our paperwork and hooks checked. The officers were professional and pleasant and clearly proud of the work they do. They were gone almost as quickly as they came and left a great impression with us.
As we approached the meeting spot where a cut line connects the road with the river, we received reports via our walkie talkies that there were two Conservation Officers waiting with Greg at our pick up vehicle. When the hike to the truck came to an end it was confirmed that the officers were the same ones that checked us (seemingly) less than an hour earlier! They must have moved faster than a rocket full of monkeys or the sense of time when fishing this place is somehow “altered”. They laughed, waved and went on their way knowing that they had checked everyone in the group.
It seemed like after only a short drive we were back at the cottage, relaxing on the couch with a drink in hand, exchanging stories about the day and discussing the plan for Day 2 ….