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Backcountry adventure and fishing on the Brazeau Lake Loop

Glacial rivers and waterfalls make for a wonderful combination
Posted in: Fishing Articles

"You have to see this!" Both Leonie and my daughter Angela excitedly motion to us, their eyes shining with anticipation. Chris and I smile and follow them along the edge of a trail to a rocky lookout. We are at Nigel Pass and in that moment, I am exactly where I want to be. The best of the Canadian Rockies are on display. Towering mountain peaks surround us, a glacial born river races down steep chutes, punctuated at the end by an extraordinary set of falls. From there the river’s energy dissipates. It meanders for a spell, then funnels into a large mountain reflecting pond. The pond’s shores beautifully lined with colourful sedges and grass. The four of us sit and stare in silence, drinking in the experience.

Glacial rivers and waterfalls make for a wonderful combination

Glacial rivers and waterfalls make for a wonderful combination

Our hiking trail continues to the north, along the pond. Seeing this, and what lies ahead, I can’t be happier. I think about it for a spell; we are at one spot, in a loop that is 81 km long and winds through the very heart of the Canadian Rockies. We on the Brazeau Lake Loop near the southern border of Jasper National Park and this vista marks the beginning of what will be six days of mountain adventuring. I plant one foot in front of the other, happy, taking in the landscape, and feeling the terrain pass rhythmically underfoot.

Nigel Pass in the Canadian Rockies

Nigel Pass in the Canadian Rockies

We make camp in the early evening, tired, yet satisfied. We eat a large meal before retiring to our tents where sleep comes easy. Morning rains greet us, but immediately the weather gives way to sun leaving the surrounding landscape steaming as it dries. Rather than get on the trail right away, we putter, have a nice breakfast, and take our time breaking camp. The reason for this is to give time for the sun to dry off much of the trail before we get underway. The plan works and the trail is in good shape.

Our trail winds its way through a heavily forested area where we enjoy the comfort of the surrounding trees. We notice moose sign everywhere. There are so many moose tracks it is a wonder that we don’t see a moose. It’s not that the woods are perfect moose habitat, but the nearby meadows are. I’m sure moose frequent the area to drop in and eat its abundant veg.

In this same valley winds the Brazeau River. We follow the Brazeau until we find a beautiful spot for lunch, and take an hour to enjoy mountain-time while we snack. Brazeau Lake is not far now. After a short hike the trail make a turn to the west and towards the lake. Of all the cool experiences on this adventure, this is what I am looking forward to the most.

A wonderful place for lunch

A wonderful place for lunch

Brazeau is a big mountain lake nestled in a high elevation valley, surrounded by mountains, many of which plunge directly into her waters. It is the real life embodiment of the iconic image I think of when I imagine the Canadian Rockies. At 5 km long, with several feeder streams pumping in and the Brazeau River racing out, the lake is home to a self-sustaining population of rainbow trout. These rainbows have held my imagination for years. The chance to fish for these backcountry rainbows rates high on my bucket list.

We reach the lake in good time. Its late afternoon and we have just enough time to set up camp before sunset. After the tents are up, we make time for a walk down to the shore where we sit on a gravel beach and watch the sun settle behind Marble and Pobokton Mountains. There’s enough evening light left to take a few casts and Chris briefly hooks up with a trout before it shakes off. It’s a wonderful start to our lake stay. Our campsites are booked for two nights, so we will have the entire next day to explore her waters.

Evening light on Brazeau Lake

Evening light on Brazeau Lake

I wake the next morning and decide to enjoy the comfort of my sleeping bag just a little longer before stretching and crawling out to greet the new day. The sun is out and there’s already warmth in the mountain air. After breakfast Leonie, Angela, and I pack snacks and our fishing gear and strike out along the north shore. Chris elects to spend time in his hammock and has a book to keep him company. It is a great choice. We have pack rods and a small tackle box. We cast trout-sized spoons and work our way along the shore, stopping often to enjoy the moment. In the bright light of the summer sun, there are no fish rising, and no fish biting. We cover three kilometers of shore, before stopping for a long and relaxing lunch. The writing is on the wall. These fish aren’t interested in showing themselves in the bright summer sun. After lunch we turn it around and make the hike back to camp, exploring as we go.

We meet up with Chris, who is having an equally relaxing day, and together we have an early dinner. Just as we’re wrapping up dinner I see a fish rise way out in the lake. It’s exciting to see, but being several hundred meters from shore, it is not reachable so I watch and smile. "There’s a rise," I say, watching from our vantage point of the picnic table. Then there’s another, and another, and in minutes I can’t keep count of the rising trout. Then, there’s a rise right by shore. "There’s one," my eyes light up. And it’s reachable from shore. I didn’t even completed my sentence and Leonie is gone.

Leonie gets us going with this beautiful trout

Leonie gets us going with this beautiful trout

"I got one!" Leonie yells. "What? That happened fast!" I say. We all excitedly giggle and run down to the lakeshore to see Leonie leading a beautiful rainbow to shore. Its mint silver and 15 inches long. We can’t get our gear fast enough, but quickly there are three of us tossing lines and hooking trout. For a glorious hour it’s one rainbow after another. They resemble chrome steelhead, all copies of each other from 14 to 18 inches long. We keep several and immediately cook them up. They are incredibly delicious, and we share the bounty with our newly made camp friends.

These mountain rainbows remind me of steelhead

These mountain rainbows remind me of steelhead

After the trout feast I sit on shore, reflect, and let time pass easily. It’s a great trip. The fishing was exceptional for all of the experiences it gave. And the cool part, we still have more mountain time ahead. Over the next few days we cross the Jonas Shoulder, hike through Poboktan Pass, Jonas Pass, find shed caribou antlers, and see all kinds of wildlife. It is a peak life experience and one that I am truly thankful that I get to share with my daughter and my close friends Chris and Leo.

Crossing the Jonas Shoulder

Crossing the Jonas Shoulder

Happy smiles

Happy smiles

The Rocky Mountains are iconic, and beautiful, and ever you wanted to find an amazing backcountry adventure that leads to stunning landscapes and high elevation trout, the Brazeau Lake Loop is one trip worth doing.

1 year ago
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