Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to fish the Castle River with two of my friends, Terry Maurer, and Bob Costa. My first trip was with Terry, and we spent the day fishing the river downstream of the newly-created Castle Provincial Park. On my second outing, Bob and I fished near the headwaters of the river in the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.
Terry is an antique appraiser from Washington State and has been coming to fish in southwest Alberta for about ten years. We share an interest in antiques and fly-fishing and never run out of things to talk about when we’re together. Bob is from this area, and we’ve known each other for many years. He is a master woodworker, specializing in heirloom quality furniture. I’m the proud owner of several pieces of his work, including a custom-made fly-tying desk and a fly rod display rack. It had been nearly two years since I last fished with these guys and it was great to spend time on the water with them again.
Day One – The Lower River
On the morning Terry and I set off for the Castle, the sky was filled with smoke and haze from forest fires burning in British Columbia. The smell of smoke permeated the air. Views of the mountains rising along the Alberta-BC border were obscured – their rugged shapes having been reduced to faint outlines on the horizon.
We had originally planned on fishing the upper river that day but access there had been closed as a precaution, in the event the Sage Creek wildfire burning in southeast BC crossed into Alberta. After last year’s Kenow fire in nearby Waterton Park, local forestry officials weren’t taking any chances. Instead of fishing in the provincial park, Terry and I decided to try a stretch of the Castle River close to Crowsnest Pass. The fishing was slow this day but we still managed to catch a few trout. That’s how it goes sometimes. There’s a reason why it’s called fishing, not catching.
Day Two – The Upper River
About a week after Terry’s departure for home, the Sage Creek fire was under control and no longer considered a threat to the Castle Parks. Areas that were off limits were reopened. Upon hearing the closures had been lifted, Bob and I made plans to ride our mountain bikes into the Castle Wildland Provincial Park, where we would fish the upper Castle River.
Motorized vehicles are no longer permitted in certain areas within the Castle provincial parks. The only way to get into some of these places now is on foot, horseback, or by peddling a bicycle. Unlike the hot, smoky day I spent with Terry, the skies were clear when Bob and I rode in on our bikes. It was cooler outside, too, and a fresh skiff of snow covered the tops of some of the mountains in the Castle River valley. Autumn was in the air.
It had been quite a while since either of us had ridden our bikes this distance, and it showed. Huffing and puffing, we eventually arrived at our entry point to the river. After stashing our bikes in the woods, we scrambled down to the water. Most of the runs and pools held one or two trout, all cutthroats, and we took turns fishing for them as we worked our way up the river.
In some spots, trout were actively feeding on the surface as we approached. They took a variety of dry flies, including ant imitations, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Green Drakes.
All in all, both of my trips to the Castle were a lot of fun. It’s always nice to be able to share a day’s fishing with a friend.
Article References & Credits
Image #1, 11, 12 – courtesy of Bob Costa