Back Country Fly Fishing in Cypress Hills
Nick Tsougrianis along with brother George ventured out in Fall of 2014 to see what fly-fishing experiences they could have here in the Cypress Hills.
Here’s some advice Nick had to offer. Be sure to watch the videos at the end of the blog!:
Battle Creek – A Hidden Gem (by Nick Tsougrianis)
Battle Creek is a hidden gem, but it is a small creek and difficult to fish up in the hills at it’s headwaters because of the willows and spruce trees.
If you are planning a trip, I would fish further downstream near the campgrounds and across from the Ranger Station. I would suggest using dry flies like a Parachute Adams, Humphy, Elk Hair Caddis or nymphs that resemble mayflies like a Gold-Ribbed Hares-Ear nymph or Copper John type nymphs size 14 to 18. Look for deeper pools below riffles especially at corners and or drop-offs.
If you really want a challenge drive south of the park 10 or 15 km (south of Fort Walsh). Stop at the bridge that crosses Battle Creek. This is where the wide deep water is and there are large Brown Trout up to 20 inches in this area but it is a challenge to catch them. Look for fish rising near the banks and try any deep pools especially located below fast broken water.
If you need more information I recommend:
Battle Creek Flies
Maple Creek, Sask.
An excellent map and guide pamphlet – Trout Streams In Southwest Saskatchewan is available at the Park Office or can be downloaded by clicking on the pamphlet title above.
And here’s a quick summary of the day Nick had: (Note to learn more about Nick’s adventures visit: http://flyfishingexplorer.com)
Fishing Battle Creek in Southwest Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills
Southwest Saskatchewan gives rise to the Cypress Hills and boasts some of the best trout streams found in the province. Creeks like Battle, Belanger, Bone, Conglomerate and Rattler hold Brook, Brown and Rainbow Trout. These trout streams are found in a spectacular setting of a forest with lodge pole pines, steep hills, coulees, creeks and an abundance of wildlife. Not the typical prairie topography that you expect to see in southern Saskatchewan.
In my opinion, the best stream for trout fishing in the Cypress Hills is Battle Creek. It is a long creek that flows 200 km east and south from the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, to the Milk River in Montana. My personal favourite area to fish Battle Creek is located in the West block near the Ranger Station and 3 rustic camp sites upstream from the Historic Fort Walsh. This area has easy access to Battle Creek’s cool water, riffles, runs and deep pools which are home to many Trout. You can camp by the stream bank, enjoy the view and catch fish right outside your tent or camper.
For my experience, it was the Saturday in October before Thanksgiving and we decided to try fly fishing Battle Creek in the Cypress Hills West Block area. We arrived at the park late morning and were welcomed by the warm west wind and bright sunlight. We drove into the first campground across from the Ranger Station. It had several campsites and even an equestrian facility. We could see the Creek meandering right through the campground. There were several promising spots to fly fish so I started to prepare my fly rod.
No fish were rising, so we decided to fish the first corner that had several riffles and a deep clear pool below it. I started casting a Pheasant Tail Nymph pattern into the deeper pool, and sure enough I got several strikes from smaller Brook Trout looking for that easy meal. They were challenging to catch because of their fast reckless strikes but eventually I caught a couple of smaller 8 to 10 inch fish. I also tried using dry flies but nymphs were more effective, and therefore were my fly of the day.
After a quick lunch, we walked upstream past the campground to the next fast water with a deep pool below it. The willows were thick so I had to stand upstream and drift my fly downstream into the pool. Wow I had so many strikes, I lost count of how many fish I had caught. It must have been at least 8 or 9 Brook Trout and 1 Rainbow Trout that was longer than 12 inches. It was easy to catch these fish with a downstream drift of my nymph. I would bring the fish in using a hand retrieve of the fly line for better control rather than using my reel.
We returned to the campground and headed West following the road that parallels Battle Creek. We stopped to explore the creek at an old wooden bridge near the second campground. There were definitely favourable spots to fish upstream of the bridge but we decided to head further West to the third campground. Here we walked down to the creek and saw another corner further upstream. Again, this was perfect trout water with faster water emptying into a deep pool. The willows made it hard to cast so I used a roll cast to get my nymph out into the deep pool. On my second cast a large Rainbow struck my hook hard and the battle was on. This led to a pleasant surprise, I ended up catching a 14 inch Rainbow that had been feeding next to the fallen tree in the deep pool.
We wanted to continue exploring Battle Creek so we continued Westward on the road and saw several very appealing spots to stop and fish. We stopped and looked at 2 more spots but it was getting late in the day and we had to start our trek back to Maple Creek. However, we got back on the main road and turned South past Fort Walsh and headed out of the park to a bridge that crosses the Battle Creek. Here we saw a different type of topography consisting of rolling hills, coulees and prairies. In this area the creek had transformed into a deeper slower moving body of water that was best suited for Brown Trout. As we walked upstream from the bridge we saw the most amazing thing. Brown Trout were in their Redds spawning and at times they were defending their eggs from the invading Brook Trout. This was truly an amazing site to see and the beautiful autumn scenery around Battle Creek made it even more spectacular.
By now it was getting dark and we needed to return to Maple Creek. This was going to be a day that I would never forget.You can personally witness our Cypress Hills back country fly fishing adventure by viewing our video on YouTube (see below).
Cypress Hills Information
Cypress Hills has the highest elevation before you reach the Rockies and they have a shared geology, plant and tree life. It includes the historic Fort Walsh Site which is well known for the famous massacre of Assiniboine Indians on the Banks of the Battle Creek. As a result the North-Western Mounted Police were on patrol in the region to stop the American Whiskey Traders.
Battle Creek Information
The best time to fish for trout in Battle Creek is usually late June to early October. An abundant population of mayflies, caddis, stoneflies and small minnows are the primary food for trout in Battle Creek. So if you are spin fishing use a lighter rod and reel with smaller sized Mepps or Panther Martin spinners, Len Thompson or assorted spoons. For the fly fisherman use an 8 to 9 foot fly rod with a size 5 reel and floating line for dry fly, nymph and streamer fishing. Try using a dry fly with dropper rig system which is a deadly combination for small creek trout. Use a bushy (size 12 or 14) dry fly and attach to it a dropper nymph (size 16 or 18) approximately 18 to 24 inches below. Other recommended flies to use are Adams, Stimulator, Elk Hair Caddis, Blue Winged Olive, Bead-Head Prince, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Woolly Bugger, Leech and Clouser Minnow.
Overall Battle Creek is an amazing fishing destination. I hope one day you can visit this beautiful place and create your own fishing experiences. For further information check out the Saskatchewan Environment published brochure called The Trout Streams in Saskatchewan.
And here’s another video by the 2014 Saskatchewanderer!