Every once in a while you hear of some sort of magical, hard-to-find, might-not-even-exist, fishing spot that remains only as a rumor or fish story until you finally set out on your own to discover this mystical never-Neverland. This happened to me this year when I finally said “What the heck! Let’s find this fairy-tale fishing hole!” And we set foot down the path to this unknown location.
What did I know about this spot? Well, I’ve been to a section of this river twice before that was somewhat accessible to the general public - that is if they dared to enter the picturesque canyon and butt-shuffle down a 90ft-shale, 45-degree-angle cliff. Truthfully, as much as looking down was grossly intimidating, it is climbing back up the canyon that was the true challenge—taking two steps up then sliding three steps down a loose shale wall with a 45 degree rock face a foot from your nose. Don’t look back and all I can say is hopefully you caught fish down there!
This specific stretch of river was only a half-km long and had you cornered from end to end with one being the start of a towering waterfall, and the other locking you in with horizontal limestone walls straight into the pools of the river. Dead ends from end to end but the pools it offered were worth the hike every time I ventured down.
Well, apparently, there was another spot way down the canyon a few kilometres down the unbeaten path that allowed you back down into the canyon again. It was told that the water there was untouched, the canyon was even more breathtaking, and the cutthroat were massive. This is where this adventure began.
My buddy Mike and I loaded the Tacoma with camping and fly fishing gear and drove 4 hours to a piece of crown land on the edge of a small creek, stationing close enough to the canyon for an early start in the morning. The sun was hot in the mid-summer evening. We set up our rods and sling packs with everything we figured we would need, started a fire and kicked up our boots, blabbing about what kind of trouble we would possibly get into tomorrow.
At 6:00 am we were up, ready to go, and made our way to the top of the waterfall. The view caught me off guard again, just as it always does with its magnificent steep walls protecting the little cutthroat trout that reside in the river below. We began walking the top of the canyon, constantly peering down the edge looking for questionable ways down. One path looked like we may have been able to butt shuffle down but there was nothing to grab onto if things went bad so we carried on. An hour went by and so do our hope of getting down as we continue walking past beautiful and fishy holes down below that we could not get to. Finally, we were given a clue. Orange ribbon tape tied to a tree, high enough that only those purposely looking would find it. We peered over the cliffs jagged edge and orange tape zigzagged down the 90 foot cliff, with a few trees and roots to grab onto as you mountaineer down. I decided not to even think about how I was to get back up this time, getting down was going to be the first obstacle.
Long story short we made it down, it wasn’t pretty, with a few uncertain moments, but we made it, and when I finally got the opportunity to look up at the canyon walls I was completely blown away at how small I felt. The towering canyon walls V’d down to this small river that was aqua clear with white water that poured into deep turquoise pools. This was a cuttie paradise.
First thing I did was head straight to the water, not even thinking about what strategic fly I was to use or if there was better pools to fish first. All I could think about was getting that first fly on the untouched pool as fast as I possibly could and when I did a little cuttie struck and swam downstream. Meanwhile, Mike decided to head upstream and disappeared over a 15 foot boulder yelling “I’ll be right back! I’m just going to check out what’s over here”.
“Okay!” I hollered back. Little did he know I had just netted the first fish.
Well, he never did come back, and as soon as I got around the boulder myself Mike yelled back, “Oh there you are! I was just going to come and get you! Check out this big hole!”
Sure Mike, I thought, you weren’t coming back for me! This hole was deep and dark and cutties were swimming up from the depths taking hoppers and caddis flies like little NASA rockets. Every pool was like this and every shallow crystal clear crevice held cutties too. The river was stacked! We released native cutthroat trout from 6 inches to 18 inches one after the other until the sun started to disappear behind the canyon walls. Before it would get too dark, we decided to start thinking about our way out and headed back to our orange taped path. Step by step, root by root, we mountaineered our way up the rock side. By the time we made it up we were soaked inside our waders as a sweaty reward for hiking up in gortex waders, hauling gear, in plus 35 degree Celsius. And that was that, a mission accomplished.
We found this mysterious section of river and there was no lie about the quality of fishing and the beauty of the landscape. It was an experience of a lifetime and now, I too, can tell the fishing-tale of this mystical never-Neverland.
About Amber Serbin - Mcfly Brand Shaman, Alberta Canada
I grew up in the city of Edmonton located in the northern region of Alberta. It’s mostly a prairie province with a ton of lakes and rivers but it’s got all kinds of gems hidden into the foothills and Canadian Rocky Mountains as you begin to head west. This is where my fishing passion began. In my younger years I was recognized as a tomboy and was constantly yearning for adventures whether it was on my bicycle, snowboarding in the mountains, or fishing with my dad. After I graduated High School I was accepted into nursing and have since specialized as a dialysis nurse. Nursing has allowed me to create a flexible lifestyle balance that complements my active outdoors regime.
Fishing for me has always been the highlights of my summer and winters, always asking dad “when can we go again” and every fall dad and I competed in a fishing derby where my competitive side lit up and winning that big tub of Double Bubble gum was the motive behind it all. When dad said “We got to be up for 5:00am to get the early bite” I don’t think he believed I would as I would come bouncing into the camper at 5:00am ready to scrape frost off the canoe and get lost in the lakes thick fog to hunt for the winning pike.
It wasn’t until after high school I got a job at a local fishing store and my whole fishing world was amplified. That’s when I learnt that there was a whole community of anglers out there, anglers like you and I. Shortly after, I got another fishing job in sales at a local Fly Shop. Spooling reels and helping customers set up their new combos, suggesting flies for hatches, and helping customers with their fly tying needs was a passion aside from fishing itself and the more knowledge I gained and shared, the more I wanted to taste different adventures. That’s when I began craving more than what Alberta had to offer and I started taking fishing on my out-of-province travels. Floating rivers for Steelhead and Salmon on the west coasts of British Columbia then heading to eastern Canada to the Niagara and Cattaraugus Rivers for bass, carp, steelhead, sheep head... you name it... and then everything in-between. Then down south to the tropics for bonefish, dorado and barracudas. I love seeking new species and I love challenging myself with the tougher, bigger, meaner fish. Recently I’ve been tying up my own big mega-Bufords and tossing them out in search for a 20lb pike, prepping myself (and my arm) for an upcoming bucket list Muskie adventure to Wisconsin. There is always an adventure to be had, and I plan to live my life fulfilling that. Tight lines everyone!