Fishing on the fly in southwest Saskatchewan
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan offers a unique landscape with plenty of attractions for outdoor activity seekers. For those passionate about fly-fishing, the area is a must-visit destination.
Reaching an elevation of 1,468 metres, the Cypress Hills mark the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador. Steep valleys, rolling hills, towering lodgepole pine forests and sweeping grasslands provide a feast for the senses. The constant and cool streamflow of spring-fed creeks offer ideal habitat for trout all year long. Some streams have been stocked since the 1920s and a few have established populations of what could now be considered wild trout.
Three species of trout – brown, rainbow and brook trout – have been introduced into the winding streams. Battle Creek contains all three, which is why it is a favourite location for avid fly-fishers. Each species has its own merits.
Rainbow trout is an acrobatic fighter, often jumping out of the water in an attempt to throw the hook.
Brook trout is a beautiful looking specimen, especially in autumn when they flaunt their spawning colours.
The astute brown trout is revered for the challenge they present to anglers in coercing them to strike.
Battle Creek flows from Alberta into the West Block of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. It meanders south through open prairie and into Montana where it eventually joins the Milk River. The Creek can be accessed easily at Fort Walsh National Historic Site. Parking at designated angler spots within the park is strongly advised. More remote entry points can only be reached on foot.
Outside of the park, Battle Creek crosses private land through much of its course. Always respect the landowner’s property. Permission to enter is necessary. Obey posted signs, do not litter, stay on trails, close any gates that are opened to access specific areas, and always be aware of any fire hazard that may be present.
Tourism Saskatchewan’s resident fly-fishing expert, Julio Salazar, shared his personal recommendations for an enjoyable trip:
“Whenever I make the long drive to the Cypress Hills, I overnight in the Maple Creek area. There are a several places to stay, but two of my favourites are Ghostown Blues & Breakfast and Spring Valley Guest Ranch.
Ghost Town Blues is a few minutes west of Maple Creek and is about as unique a place as one can hope for. Owner Greg Hisey has spent years acquiring and restoring pioneer lodgings to a comfort level that is sure to please. He also makes a legendary breakfast burrito that is a must-taste.
Spring Valley Guest Ranch is a 1913 homestead that was converted to a bed and breakfast. The property is 55 km southeast of Maple Creek, a bit farther to go but well worth the effort. Jim Saville is a friendly host and always keen to talk about his unique collection of livestock. There is also camping at various locations within and outside the park but I have found that the older I get, the more comfort I prefer after a challenging day of chasing trout.
I have been exploring the area for over 20 years and have come to love the adventures that unfold as I walk the meandering stream in search of my quarry. Fly-fishing here is not easy but can be very rewarding when the trout are on the feed. Regardless of how the fishing goes, I find the southwest landscape awe-inspiring and refreshing for my soul – worth every bead of my sweat.”