Recently I was fortunate enough to talk some friends into making the 4.5 hour drive to a lake I fished quite often when I lived not far from the beautiful wilderness that is Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Being late October when we made the trip I wasnt sure what to expect for weather. As anyone knows that time of year in the mountains can be cold at best. In previous years fishing at this lake I knew it could be quite good if all the pieces stayed in place and even if the fishing wasnt any good, just getting out into this area is reward enough.
Holding off until almost the last possible moment to make any commitment to the trip we booked our hotel at the Lobstick Hotel in the town of Jasper. This is an old hotel with some charm, a well fuelled furnace for those cool nights and a decent buffet breakfast to satisfy anyone’s appetite. To make the most of our trip we headed for Jasper on Friday evening taking the scenic highway 93 from Banff to Jasper. I had only travelled that highway on a whim during the middle of winter and was quite excited to see all it offers when everything is not frozen and covered in snow. If you have ever been here I am sure you can remember the beauty of th majestic mountain peaks and the most vivid teal colour of the lakes surrounded by pine and spruce forrests. To those who have never been, make a point of travelling this highway, it is well worth the time and the $20 toll. My only regret to this part of the trip was not stopping to take some photos, however with the amount of wildlife known to be in the area and our short daylight hours in the fall, I wanted to get as many miles as possible in therear view mirror before night fall.
A federal fishing license is required to fish in any of the national parks and unfortunately they do not offer this online. So after a quick breakfast at the hotel we grabbed a cup of coffee and waited on the door step of the local sports store to grab our license. A few moments later we were on our way to the lake, with hopes of being first to the best water. Medicine Lake is a very unique lake as it has a constant supply if water from the Maligne River and several creeks, but there is no river exiting the lake. However there are several drain holes at the north end which do drain water underground. During the spring run off the lake fills up and looks like many other high altitude lakes in the area. But by late September, the Maligne River does not supply enough water to keep it full and its waterlevel begins to drop until it really takes on the appearance of a river. To the fly fisherman this is great as it allows the chance to fish for some of the hardest fighting rainbows in Alberta the same way we fish any of the well known rivers in Alberta. Access to the lake is not easy and for those who prefer to park and fish are best to strike this one of their list or start hitting the treadmill much in advance. There is two ways to get to the fishable water and both require a considerable expenditure of energy. One is to hike the west shore from the parking lot at the north end and walk/crawl over and around the boulder field to a walkable path along the shore about midway up the lake. The other is to park at one of the pull outs on the east side and scramble down the steep bank and the trudge across the mud bottom about 600m to the river channel. This is not ordinary mud, it is slippery and sticky, you begin to sink in it the second you place your foot on it causing virtualy every step to be a strugle to lift your foot for the next step. But once your there the rewards can be nothing short of memorable.
Fish range in size from 2 – 5 lbs and since I began fishing it several years ago the size class has increased significantly. Brook trout can also be caught but luckily are out numbered by the rainbow’s. It is completely possible to catch several fish over 20″ from the same stretch of “river” in the course of a days fishing. Small nymphs and blood worms seem to be the most effective and if the sun warms things up dry fly hatches can be productive to the middle of October. As the water is extremely clear, wind is an important factor to help conceal your presence on the banks. In calm conditions the fish will spook quite easily and will be suspicious of your fly immediately and can be seen sliding left or right to avoid temptation. On this trip I was not as successful as I have experienced previously and managed to sting a few fish but had trouble keeping the hook in their mouths. Two others in our group had successful days catching close to a dozen healthy sized rainbows that I am sure will keep them coming back for more.
A couple important things to note about fishing here. As I mentioned earlier you require a National Park fishing license, it is fly fishing only and no lead can be used on your line or fly. A well executed google search will yield a complete list of regulations for the area and it is highly recommended. We are already planning a return trip for next year, after all I am looking to reinstate my good record on this lake and make some mkre memories with this beautiful piece of water.