Cross-Canada: Again!

Finally getting around to writing this while I isolate in my dark dorm room, hoping for a negative covid test so I can fly back home from work.

My girlfriend (Alex) and I took another trip out west this past summer, staying north of the border to avoid all of the covid restrictions. It's our third time driving across Canada, so we'd be visiting some less popular spots and generally staying off the beaten path. The drive across was beautiful, with highlights along the north shore of Lake Superior and seeing tons of wildlife out in the prairies. Alex even got these cool shots of some Pronghorn:

We also saw bison, prairie dogs, prairie chickens, coyotes, mule deer, whitetail, and even a Swift Fox in the evening.

Of course, I also squeezed in some fishing and managed two more lifers before we hit the mountains. The first was a pretty non-descript minnow; the Bigmouth Shiner, but the second was far more interesting. A fish I had hooked and lost twice on our previous trip, but this time I had better luck. I was sight fishing with free-lined bread for Grass Carp, when this big one grabbed the bait and took off like a freight train! After fighting it halfway across the lake, I landed it for a quick photo :)

It took me almost two hours to catch that fish, so we had to leave just as soon as I released it. We had mountains to see and Sculpin to catch.

I know you folks on this site aren't so interested in micro-fishing, but I just have to share some of these cool little Cottus... maybe the "roughest" micro?? By sightfishing crystal clear (and freezing) mountain streams at night, I managed to find three more new species: Torrent Sculpin (left), Coastrange Sculpin, and Spoonhead Sculpin (right).

I think Alex killed me when we spent almost three full nights mucking our way through streams, but that Spoonhead was worth it. It's a species only found deep at the bottom of glacial lakes in the east, so this was the only place I figured I had a shot at catching one.

Don't worry, we didn't wast all of our time in the mountains trying to catch micros. We also went on some pretty spectacular hikes, saw more wildlife, and, of course, did some rough fishing. Some hiking highlights were the Panorama Ridge, which is the cover photo for this expedition report, and the Tent Ridge Horseshoe/Smutwood Peak combo I attempted two days later. I won't go into detail here, but it was the most epic hike I've ever been on. Send me a message if you'd like to attempt it!

Next, the wildlife. Despite my best attempts, I still had no luck seeing my first Mountain Goat, but the Bighorn Sheep were everywhere. As a consolation prize, I did see my first Marmot way up in the alpine when it caught me by surprise with its shrill whistle.

Ground Squirrels and Pikas were also common up in the scree.

Now, the fishing! I spent some of the best days fishing the Similkameen system down in southern BC, one of the most diverse rivers in western Canada. The Largescale Suckers were a real thrill in the fast current and clear water, and would often peel drag off my ultralight setup. I never did find the Bridgelip Sucker or Chiselmouth I so desired, but you can never complain much on the beautiful rivers I was fishing.

Eventually, we ran out of "mountain time" and it was time to head to the coast. I've pretty much decided to exclusively target freshwater species now, so there weren't many left for me to catch. That said, the one fish I wanted most would be a real challenge: the giant White Sturgeon.

After a restless sleep at the nearest Walmart, we woke up bleary-eyed and made our way to the banks of the mighty Fraser River, to a spot kindly shared with me by Eli. The current was intense, and the first order of the day was to catch bait. Armed with slip bobbers and a small chunk of worm, we oulled up the usual suspects and kept a couple for cut bait. No new species, but it was fun to get some of the western endemics like Northern Pikeminnow, Peamouth (left), Redside Shiner (right), and Leopard Dace.

I honestly didn't know Redisde Shiner could get so big!

Anyway, it was time to set up the big rigs and wait. And wait we did. Alex settled into her work on her laptop, and I watched the lines. At one point, Alex was on a business call when the closer rod start bouncing! I scrambled over and set the hook into something big. I held on and slowly pulled the monster closer to shore, my hands and legs shaking with anxiety; I knew landing a big fish from shore in heavy current would be a challenge. Somehow, I was able to maneuver the fish closer to shore, but as soon as it felt shallow water it took off into the raging current. At this point, I could do nothing to stop the fish and it just kept peeling line, even with the drag tightened almost all the way down on my 8000 size reel. Unfortunately, it just kept going and going until it frayed the line over some unseen snag and then all I felt was emptiness.

I didn't have much motivation left in me at that point, but I kept our lines in the water and hoped for the best. We eventually made the call to switch spots and moved to a more urban location near downtown Vancouver. Here, over the sounds of construction and the nearby highway, I met up with a friend from Instagram and just kept fishing. My buddy actually caught a sturgeon soon into the session, but I was not so lucky. Here's the picture of his trophy, and something to keep me dreaming of the next trip :)

It was miserable fishign in the rain, and when it got dark and unpleasant folks started coming out, I knew it was time to give up and leave. Sturgeonless.

Nothing better to hike up morale than some hiking and more fishing though! We drove up towards Whistler, met some new hiking friends on the trail to Garibaldi Lake, and had drinks later that night. Between hiking and drinking, I also squeezed in some fishing (as usual).

I knew my friends back home would bug me if I didn't at least try for some salmonids out west, so with some extra time I found a last minute spots where the Pink Salmon run might have just started. As it turns out, the river was pretty much full of them! I lost a few, then finally caught this gnarly male just by drifting a small pink crappie jig in the current.

With that salmon came the end of our fishing efforts for most of the trip. We also spent one day tyring to find some Golden Trout, but the arudous hike proved too difficult for Alex and we made the call to turn around for safety.

It's hard to tell in the photos, but it was pretty much just a 10km scramble up a raging torrent. We never made it past the treeline.

At this point, our bodies were sore, bruised, and blistered, and we knew we didn't have any more hikes left in us. It also helped that I had pretty well exhausted all my fishing stops. It was time to head home. We jetted most of the way back across the prairies but stopped once to visit a friend's farm and another time for a last bit of roughfishing in Manitoba.

I've probably said it before, but Manitoba has to have some of the best roughfishing in Canada. I've never been disppointed and today was no different. As soon as I set my bottom rig into the river, it was pretty well non-stop fish until we had to leave. I caught tons of Shorthead Redhorse, Channel Catfish, Goldeye, and even a lifer Silver Chub!

That's pretty much it! We camped out on the shores of Lake Superior for the last night of the trip and then spent the next day driving home to Montreal. In no particular order, here's some other random photos that didn't quite fit into the report:

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, AB

Black-tailed Prairie Dog, SK

Plains Bison, SK

Tulameen River, BC

Red Rock Coulee, AB

Mt Robson, BC

Manyberries, AB

Species List:


andy's picture

Looks like you guys had a fantastic trip, the photos are incredible.  Great variety of fishes too!

Hope you get the negative test you're hoping for.

BradleyR's picture

Thanks Andy! It was a lot of fun to get out west again, just so much area to roam. I ended up getting the negative in time to celebrate holidays with family so that was great :)

Eli's picture

Tight! That's the first Grass Carp I see from Canadian water




BradleyR's picture

Thanks man!

Eric Kol's picture

That looks like a perfect trip; mountains and plains, small water and big water. 

Carpy Diem!