The St. Mary River is only an hour away from Fernie which makes it a great alternative to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Elk River. A quaint river that eventually finds its way in the the Kootenay River; the St. Mary also hosts some pretty healthy Wild Westslop cutthroat trout in the 16 – 18 inch ranges. Sitting for most of it’s journey away from the highway; access to this river can be tricky, making a guided day a worthwhile venture as the chances of seeing another boat is slim.
The St. Mary, a short distance above Mark Creek, is narrower and faster than the rest of the river. The fishable pools are obvious but vehicle access is limited. However, the country is relatively open and easy for hiking. Below Marysville the river loses some velocity and becomes a series of runs and pools. There are only a few rock gardens and gentle rapids that require tricky maneuvering, and none are dangerous. Downstream from the St Eugene’s Mission Bridge, the St. Mary River becomes more braided, with many gravel bars.
The St. Mary River begins high in the Purcell Mountains and flows eastward until it empties into the Kootenay River. West of St. Mary’s Lake the stream is very small and intimate. An incredibly scenic float with mountain ranges on all sides; the bottom of this river is as golden as the trout it hosts. As numerous tributaries join into the main river flow the size of the St. Mary River increases; many of these tributaries are used as spawning grounds.
Considering in the 1970′s, the St. Mary was severely polluted below the mining town of Kimberly; the river has made a huge comeback. From 1976 onward the mine tailings were diverted and the city of Kimberly worked hard to improve water quality. Today there are only natural pollutants which helped insect productivity and if you have ever fished the St. Mary’s you will know that the hatches are quite prolific. The abundance of insect life has made this river a sustainable resource with healthy populations of wild trout. The river boasts massive stoneflies, lots of caddis and fishable mayfly hatches. All the check marks of what an angler looks in a great watershed is encompassed on this river.