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Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish


I came to this glide, perhaps a couple to a few feet deep and the water was as clear as the crisp fall air. There, on the bottom I could see whitefish, Rocky Mountain Whitefish by the hundreds. It was a fall school of whites, and the bottom was literally covered by the gentle swaying of fins and scales and fish, hovering inches off the stream polished rocks. Every fish, every detail, vividly sharp. This was fall and this was exactly what I had hoped to find.

Fall Whitefish in Alberta Fall Whitefish in Alberta

Our mountain and foothill streams run crystal clear come fall and quite often you can actually see the schools of whitefish before you cast to them

Fall whitefish were the fish of my formative years. They were the fish I most often chased when I walked down to the Smoky River, a short hike from Grande Cache, a scenic mountain town just waiting to be discovered by fellow outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen alike. Rocky Mountain Whitefish not only lived in the Smoky River, I found them in the Kakwa, the lower Muskeg, the Berland, the Wildhay and other area streams. They were plentiful and made for some of my greatest high school fishing experiences.

I love chasing whitefish, and here on this run and on this day, I had found them. A school of them, ready for the catching. I paused for a minute or even more, taking the time to just watch. Watch the fish, swimming in the current, doing what it is that fish do. I pieced together my spinning rod. On the one end was a small bead head prince nymph and a couple feet above it I pinched a split shot.

Alberta Whitefish

Whitefish often school in big numbers and provide outstanding fishing

Looking at the fish and the current I tossed the rig just slightly upstream of the closest fish. The rig lands a little short of the edge of the school and as it sinks to the bottom I watch a couple whites shift and move in my general direction. I don’t see anything out of the ordinary, but quickly there is sharp and rapid taps telegraphing off my rod tip. I lift the rod and the closest whitefish tips on its side and shakes, its silvery flank glimmering through the gin clear water. I keep steady pressure and let the white tire himself out. In a minute I slide the fish to my hand where I take a moment to admire its beauty. It’s a good 12 inches long, torpedo like, and in perfect health. I gently remove the fly and place him back in the water where it swims off, but not really in a hurry to get anywhere. I watch the fish and track its movement for a minute, then refocus on the school, which seems to be undisturbed by the latest events.

I pick the same spot to toss my fly and by the time it gets to the bottom another white is there to greet it. The sequence of events unfolds pretty much the same way as the last and I am immensely satisfied. This is the start of a wonderful afternoon. Between fish I take breaks, just to drink in all of what is before me, the fall colours, the clearness of the water, the school of whitefish, and for a while my mind is free. I am living completely and fully in the moment, and for that I am happy. Nature has consumed me with all its grandeur.

A deep clear pool is always worth investigating

A deep clear pool is always worth investigating

I can’t say how long I stayed, or how long the breaks were, or really how big the fish were. This fishing trip was solely about the experience. Somewhere, at some point I decided to move downstream and I saw something that was truly different. I know there are no rules when it comes to fish and fishing, but as I walked downstream I looked to the shallows and there, in a place where no fish had any right being was a single, very large whitefish. It stopped me in my tracks.

I watched for a while, wondering what was up but I guess it just figured that hanging out in about 10 inches of water on a shallow flat was just fine with him. Why, who knows, but I decided I wanted to try to catch it and I snuck in as close as I dared. I took off that split shot and flicked the fly a few feet upstream of the fish. What happened next surprised me. This near stationary fish that appeared like it was in a trance, burst from its position straight to my fly and inhaled it. It was about as hard a bite as I had ever experienced from a white. I lift the rod tip and was firmly attached. It took a couple minutes to bring the fish in as this was definitely bigger than most. When I got it in I placed my hand around the thick body and noticed it had a dark red gill plate and a bulbous nose, signs that this was an old, mature fish.

Rocky Mountain Whitefish Alberta nymph feeding

A prime Rocky Mountain Whitefish, designed for feeding on nymphs right on the bottom

After landing it, I did something unusual, I didn’t dig out my camera, but rather admired my catch for a second or two before sliding the hook out and sending him back. With that unique encounter it seemed the perfect moment to end the day, so I did. The fishing was everything I expected it to be, plus something I didn’t expect it to be. I had caught my fill, I had done it in solitude and I had a quality outdoor experience. The fall is here. Got a day and looking for some quality fishing? Go find a stream and go hunting for your own schools of Rocky Mountain Whitefish. They are there, and they are just waiting to give you an amazing fishing experience.

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(2) The Browns of Autumn

(3) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(4) Walleye Town

(5) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(6) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(7) Going With The Flow

(8) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(9) Swinging The Fences

(10) A View From The Aerie

(11) Dixieland Delight

(12) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(13) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(14) Montana's Cool Missouri

(15) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(16) Toothy Critters

(17) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(18) Top Ten Flies

(19) Northern Exposure

(20) Home Water Lessons

(21) Chicken Of The Sea

(22) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(23) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(24) Keep It Up!

(25) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(26) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(27) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(28) Hawg Holes

(29) Saltwater Salmon

(30) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(31) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(32) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(35) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(36) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(37) Fall Walleye

(38) Wet Flies

(39) Versatility the Key to Success

(40) Grayling of the Boreal

(41) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(42) Size Matters

(43) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(44) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(45) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(46) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(47) The Point Of It All

(48) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(49) Fall Fly Fishing

(50) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(51) Big River, Big Fish

(52) Bottom Bonanza

(53) Fishing Small Flies

(54) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(55) Four Seasons of the Bow

(56) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(58) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(59) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(60) Edge Walleye


(62) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(63) Four Corners – Four Waters

(64) Chasing Pothole Trout

(65) Springtime Stoneflies

(66) The Torrents of Spring

(67) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(68) Bust Them With Bait

(69) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(70) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(71) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(72) Terrestrials

(73) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(74) Rocky Mountain High

(75) Reading the clues

(76) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(77) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(78) Fly Fishing 101

(79) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(80) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(81) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(82) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(83) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(84) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(85) Trust Your Electronics

(86) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(87) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(88) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(89) Walleye can be Humbling

(90) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(91) Winter Flyfishing

(92) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(93) Hot Fall Pike Action

(94) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(95) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(96) Frequently Asked Questions

(97) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(98) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(99) Deep Water Perch

(100) Post Spawn Brookies

(101) A Fisher's Life

(102) The River's Last Stand

(103) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(104) Coho on the Coast

(105) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(106) Summer in the Mountains

(107) Peak Walleye Season

(108) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(109) Last Ice Rainbows

(110) The Burbot Event

(111) Tackle Matching

(112) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(113) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(114) The Lure of Brook Trout

(115) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(116) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(117) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(118) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(119) The Vesatile Plug

(120) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(121) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(122) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(123) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(124) Daily Fish Migrations

(125) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(126) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(127) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(128) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(129) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(130) The Fun in Ultra Light

(131) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(132) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(133) Never Stop Learning

(134) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(135) Jigging through the Ice

(136) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(137) Rainbows on Ice

(138) The Season of Ice Begins

(139) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(140) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(141) Facts On Cats

(142) West Coast Adventure

(143) June Walleye Frenzy

(144) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(145) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(146) "Northern Exposure"

(147) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(148) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(149) Man Overboard