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Up Tit Creek

I think exploration is an important aspect of fly fishing.  I’m one of the lucky ones.  My family never tried to tie me down and make me only see the easy or familiar destinations.  Not to say that all exploration is in the great wilderness, but a good portion of it is.  Also, it is imperative that you understand that not all exploration is about the fishing you find.  Sometimes it is about the hilarious, gut-splitting things you find.  Other times, it is about the purity of it all.  Sometimes it’s just about taking a wild goose chase with a good friend or two.

Campfire ticket anyone?Some of my findings include the distance you have to be from a Provincial Recreation Area to avoid an illegal fire ticket, “flying” rubber ducks, how good a hamburger tastes when it’s cooked on the side of the road and how much a brown cow looks like a grizzly bear when you aren’t paying attention.  I also know how a surprised cow reacts to bear spray.

To explain what I consider exploration I will have to retell old stories that I’m sure my friends are bored to tears over already.  One of my fondest quests is one my brother, Trevor, and I embarked on a number of years ago on a little known Alberta stream. 

He had all the time in the world, being a student; and, I had taken a couple of extra days off of work so that we could spend a half week or so taking in some of the best cutthroat trout fishing Alberta has to offer.  As is the norm in such a place, the weekend traffic was a little more than either of us liked so we opted to do a little driving.  We ended up driving over a non-descript little gem of a creek running through a tight valley; the road on one side for a short distance and the cliff face on the other side. 

While waiting for him to finish rigging up, or eating, or both, I took a couple of casts in the run just up from the bridge.  In short order I had a nice little cutthroat to net, then I quickly added another.  I stopped casting and let him finish up his morning ritual. 

We fished together that day and I still believe to this day that we landed 50+ fish each.  A pretty good first Trevor on some new water day on a new stream I’d say.  We were done pretty early in the day, maybe 1 or 2pm so we headed down the road again. 

We came up to another creek down a steep hill from the road.  Judging by the sign, not a lot of people bother to navigate the shale down to the water, but we thought we might as well.  Good choice.  Not only were the fish a couple inches bigger than earlier in the day, but they were the most beautifully coloured cutthroats I’ve seen.  A feat which stands to this day. 

The best surprise from this piece of water was the nice little waterfall we finished at.  A pretty little two-stepped falls with stunning lighting and even more stunning cutthroats below it. 

We awoke the next day with no real plan.  We decided to hit stream #1 from the day before, but we’d try and find a section not so easily accessed.  We thought that driving to the bridge, then walking downstream on the road for an hour or so before cutting to the creek would be sufficient.  So we started the trek, which was arduous, as it was entirely uphill.  An hour later, and totally exhausted, we stumbled to the left and began the decent.  After another 15 minutes or so we could see the valley.  So we walked to the edge of the cliff, and just jumped the last 8 feet to the creek bed.  I didn’t want to walk anymore anyways.

Nick exploring some new waterThe afternoon was very enjoyable, alternating pools and harassing each other to hurry up so we could keep going.  The numbers and sizes were comparable to the upper stretch so we had no reason to get out of there particularly fast, but we (well, I) always want to see the next corner.  I can’t remember now, I think it was Trevor’s turn up to bat, but we started to see some odd signs at a deep green plunge pool with a sandy beach on the right hand side.  We saw clusters of footprints.  Not feet in boot footprints, but bare feet.  Next was tanning oil in the sand.  “Great”, we thought, “We’ve stumbled into a campground”.  As we rounded the next bend we both stopped dead in our tracks. 

Have you ever seen two women walking around topless near a creek?  I hadn’t either.  Neither Trev or I said anything.  What could you say to something like that?  We couldn’t yell, “Cover up hussy”, or “Wooooowoooooo”.   Mind you, the second option may have been more appropriate.

There was no campground, but these women were apparently drawn to the creek valley for some reason. This was one of the rare cases when seeing a trailer on the creek shore didn’t get me a little upset.

I’m not sure what it is, but including a couple of trips to Calgary when some “self assured” young ladies exposed themselves in our direction, I’ve seen 4 nude women while out fishing.  I’m not going to get into percentages or ratios or anything, but those numbers shouldn’t be ignored.  Regardless, I think the handle “Tit Creek” would be appropriate in my fishing circle just because you can only have so many Frenchman’s before it gets confusing.

On another explorative trip Tim Tchir, Steven Tchir and myself headed to another cutthroat stream somewhere west of Calgary.  Our first mistake of the day was the road we took west.  Apparently those light brown roads on maps can be really shitty one day after a rain.  None the less, there were some nice streams to look at on the drive west and I will try to make time to fish them this coming season or next.  None of us had even spoken to anyone who fished at this particular creek, but we were told the upper section would be a zoo with ATV types, so we instinctively headed down stream.  Because I was the driver and head ring leader, I pulled off the road next to a large clearing.  Steven asked, “what are we doing here?”  In truth, I think Tim has accepted the fact that I have a reason for most things I do, so he didn’t bother to ask.

Bushwacking down to the creekI told him I knew the creek was east of the road, and we just had to walk until we hit it.  Now, 45 minutes, 1L of water, 3 stumbles each and a few grouse later we came to a little creek.  The general consensus was that this creek would have to hit the target destination, so we followed it for a while.  Sure enough, about 15 minutes later we were looking down at a beautiful creek… running through a deep canyon. By now I was mighty tired and more than a little annoyed at my life at this point, so instead of following the rim of the canyon, I found a way down.  After a quick photo shoot the guys followed and we had a pleasant day catching native cutts mixed with the odd brookie in crystal clear water while in the bottom of a deep canyon.  The highlight was Steven’s 17” cutt taken in one of the most enticing pools I’ve seen on a stream that size.

This wasn’t quite the isolated destination we thought it would be.  Apparently a lot of quads are driven up and down the creek bottom, as was evident by the tire tracks located for miles and miles.  I think my favorite part of the afternoon was the license plate we found in one riffle.  It read, “Don’t make me run over you.”  This coming season I’m going to practice casting at moving targets so if I’m in the way I might be able to get to return a little vigilante justice.

Trip three includes perhaps the three best fishing buddies I could imagine: My brother Trevor, Tim Tchir and ATV license plate found in the creek stating "Don't Make Me Run Over You" Andy Tchir.  I’ve know these guys my whole life and I’ve spent enough time at the Tchir house that I’m sure some people in the neighborhood question what family I actually belong to.

We’ve always talked about where we’re going to try and get to the next year, pouring over highway, topo and “The Fishin’” maps, but somehow we always end up hitting the old reliable spots, save for a few days each year.  About 3 years ago we uncovered perhaps our most amazing discovery.

Now, I had missed out on the skinny dipping women who stayed in the campground by a year or two, so we had to come up with something else to do.  I did notice that the girl working at the gas station was wearing a G-Loomis shirt, but I think the other guys were thinking of something a little more group oriented. 

While driving on a pretty little highway an hour or two out of Kamloops we decided to stop for a few quick casts on a gushing stream none of us had ever cast in before.  Not only had we not fished there, but no one we knew fished there either.  We’d fished similar streams in the general area, but for some reason this one had stayed under the radar. 

I think I cast first (as usual), or Andy did.  I do know that the first couple fish were nothing special, maybe 3-4”es long and just rainbow-y.  Fish 4 or 5, however, was Rainbow with goldenish colorssomething else entirely.  This fish looked like a golden, or at least a redband trout from somewhere in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.  What followed didn’t disappoint either.  We probably caught almost 100 fish apiece, many of them displaying brilliant colours and all of them unique.  They are the prettiest rainbows I have ever seen, and we’ve fished it every year since.  We even have the 411 on some of the residents, including our favorite, The Veteran.  Last time we checked he was just under 10”es, but this is in a creek with less than 6”es as the average. 

Tim, Andy (there we go again) and myself made a unique find in the same area the next year. As luck would have it the year before was the hottest and driest on record, and this year was the wettest.  I’m a little superstitious, so I haven’t been back at that time of year again. 

We fished a creek that has a section of maybe half a km to a km of water that runs underground and drains into the larger river.  The upper reaches of the same creek has many little fish, but it had been impossible to fish this stretch in low water years.  With the increased water levels the creek had a good flow so we thought we’d give the creek a try.  We took our 2 weight fly rods out for a go and started up the creek.  The numbers and size weren’t as good as on the upper river, but there were a few fish in each pool we tried.  We had an amazing time, and Andy spent a day or two each week for the next few weeks tracking one fish we dubbed the Cannibal after witnessing it chowing down on a 2 inch rainbow Andy was playing.  Keep in mind this fish was 7”es long.

This creek holds a special place in me, as even if I desire a chance to fish it, I must wait until a higher power Nick up creek decides I am able to.  Too often is fishing ruled by our own schedules.  I think that it’s only fair to have some places kept in our back pockets that we only have an opportunity to fish when something else dictates we should be blessed enough to.  I haven’t had conditions suitable to fish this section of creek since, and I don’t expect it often, but one of my favorite sayings is “all things equal out in the end.”  For this stream I think God will invite me back when I have something new I need to learn.

I’m not sure what it meant, but I did find a blue rubber duck about 8 feet above the water on a cliff that first night, but I took it and had it in my vest while walking and wading for the rest of the summer, and nothing ill fortuned happened.  I still haven’t gone back to the Vanishing Creek in August, however.

Exploring is something that I do on a regular basis.  Too often have I taken for granted the fact that there is always something more to see.  No matter how little time I have I try to delegate a couple of days a year just to explore something I didn’t know existed.  Whether it’s naked women on a creek, a blue duck, golden coloured trout or a hidden waterfall I feel that I should see as much as I can.  I have to see as much as I can.  It’s in my blood.

Nick Sliwkanich, WesternSportfishing.ca

Written by: Nick Sliwkanich