Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Wild

Sunset on the Oldman river

Having a few days off, I decided that it was time that I check out the fishing on some of Alberta's trout streams along the Forestry Trunk Road south of Highwood House. I had all my gear including camping equipment and more importantly, my fishing gear loaded the night before, so I was out of the house by 6:30am, and after picking up a coffee I was on my way south. As I made my way south, I thought about the area that I planned on fly-fishing. I would pick up the Forestry Trunk Road or Highway 940 as a map shows it, after crossing over the Hump on the 532 that branches off of Highway 22, just to the north side of Chain Lakes. As per usual, I was not disappointed with the 532 that takes you past the Indian Graves campground and west towards the Hump. The road, as it nears the Hump is not for those who do not want to subject their vehicles to wash boarded roads with jagged rocks sticking out of the road surface, and lots off grimy dust hanging in the air from other vehicles. What's the Hump you ask? It's the summit of the 532 with a elevation of 6620ft above sea level before you drop down to the forestry road to the west. There are signs posted at either end of this road suggesting that pulling trailers over the Hump is not recommended. You can also pick up the 940 at Highwood House west of Longview, where the 541 joins highway 40 north, or the forestry trunk road south. Take it from me, the Hump is a whole lot more fun with spectacular views in abundance out across the plains to the east. Once on the FTR, I looked forward to my first views of the Livingstone River. Situated between two mountain ranges and surrounded by tall pine trees, the Livingstone River is one of Alberta's premier Cutthroat streams. The river itself is over 40 kilometers long, and good fishing can be had thoughout most of its length. The canyon section is easily accessed and in the past, I have found the fishing in its emerald pools superb. The Livingstone River is a catch and release fishery, with lots of Cutthroat Trout in the 12-16 inch range present. The scenery is stunning,making it necessary that you bring a camera along while fishing. There are Bull trout in the Livingstone as well, but if fishing dry's, you will not catch them. Another fish that you may catch, especially if you use something like a bead-head nymph, is Mountain Whitefish. Mountain whitefish are native to most of the waters of western Alberta, and are found in the Livingstone and the Oldman. It was no time before I had my rod assembled and was making my first cast just below a series of drops with nice pools that I was sure I would find Cutthroat's holding in. I was not disappointed with my second cast producing my first hookup. I felt kind of sheepish, when after playing a nice sized Cutthroat and getting ready to land him without my landing net that was still in my truck, the Cutthroat spit my barbless hook out of his mouth and was gone. I had to laugh at myself for being beat by my first Cutthroat of the day. While standing there, I noticed that the one pool below a series of rapids had a lot of action happening, but I suspected that Mountain Whitefish were in attendance. I quickly tied a beadhead Prince Nymph to my leader and made a cast out. Sure enough, I was fast in to a MWF that took my Prince Nymph as it bounced along the bottom of this pool. After a brief fight, I landed a very nice Mountain Whitefish of about 14 inches in length. I caught several more before I removed the Prince Nymph and went back to fishing dries for Cutthroat. After a time, I moved on down the road, with stops made for both fishing and photo-ops that presented themselves. At one point a Wildland fire-fighting helicopter swept in close to me and having my camera in my hands, I snapped a pic while wondering as to where it was headed with its fire-fighters. Later in the afternoon, found me fishing the lower reaches of the Livingstone where it joins forces with the upper reaches of the Oldman River. The last photo showing the Oldman river is typical of this classic high country Cutthroat stream, and due to special regulations, offers the best Cutthroat fishing in Alberta. Usually Dry Fly fishing is the norm on these waters. Many Tributaries flow into the Oldman River including the Livingstone. For Small stream aficionados such as myself, these streams offer some truly remarkable Cutthroat fishing. After checking out the evening fishing, I decided that I had had enough fishing for the day, and set up camp along side of the Oldman where several other fly-fisherman were also camped for the night. I spent the evening playing Ham-Radio before turning in for the night, where I fell asleep listning to the Oldman that lie just outside my tent. Tommorow would be another great day of fishing in the Big Wild, how could it be not be.

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