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Anyone Ever Hiked Into Fortress Lake?


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Just out of curiousity, I know the hike up to fortress Lake near jasper is 25 ish km's and it would take at least a full day if not 2 to get up there and camp, but wondering if anyone has ever gave it a go? Might be worth it with 4-5 lb brookie's!

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I haven't done it myself but I have a couple cousins that have done it the past 2 or 3 years. They usually do it right at ice off but before run-off...there is a pretty good sized river to cross that can be pretty tricky if water levels are too high.


They go in one day and camp for 2 or 3 nights. This year they made little carts to push in front of them with all the gear. Seemed to work well. Before they just humped the bellyboats and gear in with backpacks.


Pictures they bring back make it all seem worth it to me. I just haven't been able to time when they go with my time off or I would be up there in a heartbeat.



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The cycle in is few hours. I went on a guided trip with the young guy who works for Dave and Amelia. It took him just over 3 hours to cycle in. According to him, the fish move to different areas in the lake through the season. Fishing at the campsite is not as good as other areas of the lake - I think he said the far end was better. There may be some fishing in the outlet stream but Dave et al concentrate on the lake.

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thanks san juan for the river name and distance. apparently there is no info regarding it as a fishery at all so it looks like it might be one of those get there and find out kind of rivers.......although its a hell of a long walk to feed my curiosity.

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This is a hard lake to get info on - but, I been there and done that...twice. So if you're interested, here is some as much info as I can remember. Some might get upset about this, but I know how frustrated I was when I wanted to do the trip and couldn'f find info.


I've both biked (you can really only bike to just past the half way point) and hiked to this lake. First time we biked to the Athabasca river crossing, then hiked the rest of the way. It was July long week-end in 2006. This year we hiked the whole way and went for a longer trip - July 15-21st.


Biking - Sounded like a good idea. But then, your pack will likley weight between 55-70 pounds. If you do alot of mountain bilking, you might be okay, but with the weight in back packs - it is tough to bike (can't stand up to go up hills, your butt will be really sore, and going down some hills you could go over the handlebars (two of us did)) - you break a bone up there and it will be a big problem because there is very little traffic on the trail. The first 15 km of the trail (to the Athabasca River crossing) is a pretty easy trail to ride; but, although you may save 1-2 hours, I really don't think it is worth it.


Hiking - this year we hiked the whole way and broke the hike into two sections - first 15km to the Athabasca, second 15 km (it is 15 km to the Fortress Creek campground, which is where you want to stay (5 km less to the East Campground, but you are miles away from any good fishing)). On our intial trip we left Calgary at 2:30 a.m., drove to Sunwapta, had breakfast, then biked, then hiked to the east campground - a pretty long day. This year we left work at noon, drove to Sunwapta, hiked the first 15 km and camped at Athabasca, then got up next morning and hiked the rest. This was a much easier way to do it.


Trails - first 15 km - old forestry road - very easy hike. Gradual down hill for first 3-4 km then moderate elevation changes to the Athabasca. From the Athabasca to the Chaba river crossing, tougher trail (guys have biked it, but would be tough with much kit), fairly good climb right after you cross the Athabasca Bridge, then up and down, then down a long hill to the Chaba (you'll notice it more on the climb back out!). After the Chaba, fairly easy trail (read flat) to the East Campsite, then you pretty much follow the lake to the Fortress Creek campsite. You may be tempted just to stop at the East Camp - but don't. You'll spend most of your day in your tube kicking like a bugger to get down the lake, and then back - not worth it. The first year we were there, another group of hikers showed up who had biked further than we did. They had panniers for the bikes, so seemed to work better. They camped down at the Fortress Creek site.


River Crossings - At the 15 km point you cross the Athabasca. There is a bridge (some have said it washed out - BS -it is there and it is the same bridge that was there two years ago). The bridge is not right at the junction of the Athabasca and the Chaba - it is several hundred metres up the Athabasca. If you continue to hike southwest from the campground you come out near the junction and the bridge is not really visible (might be why some have said it washed out). So from the campground - take the trail that goes to the left (southeast) - it'll save you a few hundred metres plus an uphill/downhill. Tough to say because the trail winds, but it is about 6-7 km of hiking to the Chaba crossing. The Chaba is glacial - that means in the summer the lowest levels are int he am - if it is a hot day, the levels rise fairly steadily during the day. If you try to do the entire hike in one day, it'll be a little tougher to cross. Where you crass the Chaba - look for a yellow crossing sign on a post, right near a bush with a bunch of shoes/other offerings tied to it. The Chaba is broken into numerous channels here and the total distance to cross is probably 300-400 meters. Look upstream on about a 45 degree angle from where you start and you'll see another yellow sign showing where you finish the crossing. Head on a line that is roughly between the two signs. In 2006 July long week-end the river was pretty low at about 2:00 pm (when two of us crossed) - but much higher at about 4:00 pm when the second group of two crossed. On the way out, we decided to fish most of the day and then hike out - by the time we got to the river, it was probably 6:00 pm - and the crossing was pretty exciting - but still manageable. This year we also left around 6:00, and although the river looked alot higher, the crossing was pretty easy. We took water shoes/socks to wear for the crossing and used them when tubing as well. The water is a tad chilly - when you fist step into it you lose feeling in your feet. After a few days of tubing in Fortress however, which is abnout 1/10 of a degree warmer than the river - you don't even notice the cold on the way out. Overall - the River is pretty easy to get accross - especially with 60-70 lbs on your back to keep you grounded. If need be, lock arms and put the tallest guy upstream to break the current and have the others walk beside him downstream (if that makes any sense)


Campsite - As I said, wouldn't waste your time at the East End site. Head for Fortress Creek (there is a site in between but it's also pretty far from the fishing). Interstingly - when you cross the Chaba you are less than 4km 'as the crow flies from Fortress Creek site - but it is about a 7-8 km hike - and reasonably tough. The East End site did have a Bear Pole (as does the Athabasca Crossing site), but Fortress Creek does not. We put a bear pole up (ran a log between two trees) and put all the food up - but that was about it. In addition, the East End site came with a large Maul (Axe) that we used to chop up the plentiful firewood that was at the site. In 2006 the lodge provided the firewood. This year, there was no Maul/Axe and no firewood at the Fortress Creek site (of course the first time we took a saw with us, this year we did not). Not sure if the rules have changed (lodge supplying firewood) or if they just didn't do it - but it was a bit of a pisser. Other than that, the site is pretty good. Because there was no Bear Pole we cooked, ate, and stored the food at the main site (by the fire pit) and then set our tent up about 75m further down the path on the beach. Although it looks like the beach site would be exposed to the wind - it was really protected - and probably the nicest place to sleep. Dave Jensen came by in a boat one day to say hello and indicated that the parks folks were looking to put up a no camping sign at the beach (I guess because of the huge amount of pressure the site receives!) - but it worked great for us. We also kept out float tubes and rods there - but put them up in top of a bush at night (see below under 'Critters').


Weather - we had fantastic weather in 2006, and pretty good weather this year. No rain on either trip. The wind this year was really strong and predominantly blows from West to East down the lake. Mosquitos seemed rough the first day - but 100% DEET fixed that (imported from good old USA). Temperatures were warm, but with the cold cold water and the wind, it got chilly out on the lake when the sun went behind the clouds.


Fishing - Right, that's why we were there. In 2006, as I said, we spent a good portion of our trip going back and forth between the East End of the Lake and Fortress Creek. That year the only decent fishing was out in front of where the creek comes in. We fixed that this year by staying right at Fortress Creek. However, the fishing was not as good at the creek this year. It is a huge lake, and Brookies are likley in large schools wherever the water temp is right. But - there are fish everywhere in that lake. Our luck this year varried from no fish for one poor lad to a several fish landed per day for another. This lake is not Catch and Release, although I think the lodge does practice that. But trust me, you are burning major calories up there (see Food tips below) and are perpetuually hungry. We ate fish everyday - and they were spectacular. Best fish I have ever tasted. As for size, I have a picture of the biggest fish landed and will post later - but most of the fish were about as fat as I've ever seen brookies and almost all were 2-4 lbs +. Tip - Bring a freaking net with you! One guy had a net and when we were all close, we could share it but, of course, you never hook the monster when you're close to someone else. Tip - Make sure the freking net is Big (deep). The largest fish hooked played and lost (within inches of landing it on shore) had to be at least 10 lbs. No exaggeration here - it was huge. My heart is beating faster just remembering it. According to Dave, the fishing varies from a few fish per day to 30+ per day. He indicated the lake was pretty popular with Float Planes from Ice off through all of June (Lake altitude is about 4500 ft I think).


Regarding the question about fishing the rivers - Chaba and Athabasca were very silty when we went through. Perhaps later in the fall they would clear up. They are in Jasper, so you'd need a Park fishing license.


Fishing Tips: What worked? Well, we fished long and hard for quite a few days. The first few fish were caught on a Red Doc Spratley. The most successful fly was a green Half Back (not sure that is what is is called, but that is what it looked like - not the kind with peacock herl body). Tough to describe - I'll check to see if i still have one. However, the fly didn't seem to matter as much as the line. I had two sinking lines with me and type 6 super fast sink and a clear intermediate sink (that I had never had much luck with). As the lake is in BC - you can fish with two rods, so I had both going. With exception of 1 fish, every fish I caught was on the clear intermediate sink. My partners didn't have this type of line with them (and my rental rates were not acceptable to them). For most of the trip I just used one rod (after some fun and excitement when I had one on and then hooked another, or bottom, not sure which). Again - landing a big fat Brookie in your tube is very tough without a net (about 35% success rate) - getting him in the tube is not that hard, keeping him there is. As I said, the fishing in front of the Creek was good in 2006 and not as good this year. However, trolling out from shore (get a good ways out) way up the lake produced fish and many hits. Trolling close to shore or casting and stripping produced lots of snags. I would simply go a ways out from shore, troll up the lake slowly, and read a book - every now and then strip in a 20-30 strips (one fish took my Spratley 2 feet from my tube as I was pulling it in to see how the fly looked in the water).


Fishing Kit - Float tubes - Has to be light, but also, the donut kind makes it very hard to go up the lake against the prevailing wind. I had a Caddis Navigator (two pontoons) and was able to move around pretty easy. Don't leave your float tube out at night (see critters below). We had breathable waders - and it was chilly. But neoprenes would be too heavy. My advice is to bring some long johns and waer your rain pants inside your waders - that was pretty good. Feet were okay. For this trip, I purchased some lightweight fins from Cabelas (they were fantastic and incredibly light - but do not ever try to walk forward in them). I used Water socks instead of boots and again no problem. Rods - I brought a dry line, and some fish were rising, but didn't really use it much. Intermediate Sink Clear line worked best. We used a 4X 7lb tippet - (Fluro Plus) - the fish get big, and also when you hook branches on the bottom, you might get your fly back (and if only one fly is really working, you don't want to lose it). And did I mention - Bring a Net? A Big net. Boats - I had sent a note to Dave J before our trip asking about renting a boat off of them, but didn't get a response. That doesn't mean they won't but I don't think it is likely. A boat would definately make the fishing better - but not completely necessary. Don't leave your rod on the ground or leaning against a tree at night (see 'Critters' below). I get the impression the main mission of the Lodge might not be to make money - most of the owners seem to have plenty of that already (see the note about the brand new helicopters below) - so if boat rentals encouraged more people to use the lake, they might not see that as a good thing. Sure doesn't hurt to ask though.


Other Kit -


Backpacks -The first time we went in, we packed everything up the week before - except for a 'couple of minor things' and the packs were 45-50 lbs. The night before we left we loaded up and weighed them - 60-65 lbs each. And we were really hungry. This year we bought a bunch of light weight gear and loaded up on more food (we ended up with more food than we could eat) - packs weighed 60-70 lbs (including lots of water). If you can do this trip with 3-4 guys, all your food, fishing gear, tubes etc and keep it to 45-50 lbs - you are doing well - but I bet you'll find yourself needing for something out there. I wore a Camel back full of water on my front this year and that worked great - highly recommend it. Obvioulsy get a good 60-70 litre pack - and, do some training with the pack on. If you plan on doing the hike in one go - it will be a tough one.


Cooking - A plastic Bodum coffee maker and 2 lbs of Starbucks coffee were well worth it (it would have been even better is someone hadn't left the Coffemate in the car). We tried tons of different dehydrated food and by and large it was all very good. The important thing is if it says serves 4, it'll be about right for three guys. Bring lots of food. Bring lots of Fuel. Bring some spices (we had Mrs Dash garlic and lemon - put it on everything - it was outstanding on the fish).


Water Filter - Likley no issue with drinking the water from Fortress creek, but we filtered everything. This year we had a gravity feed filter (big 10 litre bag that you hang) versus the pump by hand type - no question it was named "New Piece of kit of The Year" (tied with Bodum Coffee Maker) - worked incredibly well.


Critters -


We saw no Bears on either trip. We did see lots of Skat this year - some very fresh. Never been too concerned about bears, but we all did have bear spray. We made lots of noise (mostly our old bones creaking and incesant complaining about hills), so not only didn't see any bears but saw no deer or elk on the trail either. However - at the campsites, there will be porcupines. Guaranteed. They will eat anything. On our first trip we had an Abel rod eaten, and one guy's tube was chewed right at the valve - he got to fish a total of a few hours. So put everything up. For some reason, they would not look under a tarp we had out. Not sure if that will always work, but we put a tarp over the cooking stuff etc, and the porcs never bothered. This year they got toothpaste, two leather gloves, and probably some other stuff we just never missed. You will grow to despise the porcs if you go - so make sure you put your tubes, waders, rods etc up on top of a bush (not in a tree - they can climb like crazy).


Two legged critters - It is an amazing lake. The scenery if awesome. There was more activity on the lake this year than last time with Lodge traffic and one private plane that came in. As I said, Dave J came by once to check on us, other than that we didn't see any of the boats form the lodge (think they head to the far west end). The Float plane for the lodge came in twice, as well as two private helicopters that flew into the lodge (after ripping down the lake at high speed and dangerous levels over the water). If whoever was flying that helicopter is reading - juts like to say that as a former Flight Safety Officer I was not impressed with you screaming directly over my head at full speed and only 50 feet off the deck - that was just irresponsible and dumb. My buddies who were down at the other end of the lake were also not impressed when you buzzed them. The private float plane that came in, moored at the beach where we were camped. We had a good visit with the pilot while his two sons fished for a couple of hours - what a great set-up (Hey Brad - what happened to the case of beer you were going to bring us?).


Summary -


This was well worth it. After the first trip, we swore it was a one time thing, but wanted to go back and catch a huge Brookie. No question a boat would make the fishing better/easier - but this trip is as much about 'Can i do this?' as it is about fishing. Not many places in the world you can do it, and likley won't be able to do it at this lake, in this way for much longer (Just a Guess on my part). I'll post some pictures from this year's trip when I get a chance.

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Thanks for that. Hope you weren't planning on being there alone next time you go.

That lake has had the sh!t publicized out of it.

How many fly fishing shows, tons of websites... if somebody wants to walk there... they will, although most internet fishers won't get of their butts to make the trip. Others will pay the money and we'll see more dumb air traffic in the mountains... better at Fortress than other nice hike into fishing lakes in Alberta.



Good quality info on hiking is more about safety than show and tell (you do need a boat to get the phenomenal fishing). The posts here are good and may prevent beginner hikers from getting into trouble.


Excellent post rehsifylF.

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It's the ability to walk to a lake like this that keeps fly-fishing from being an elitist hobby (or from becoming more of one)...


If these don't smack of elitism... nothing does!


Fortress Lake Wilderness Retreat: 403-346-1698; fortresslake.com. Skip the 26-kilometre slog up to pristine Fortress Lake near Jasper National Park and fly in via helicopter to the Fortress Lake Wilderness Retreat. With a maximum of 16 guests, it's like having your own private alpine lake to fish, kayak and canoe. There are six rustic lakeside cabins (with comfortable beds, but no running water), and you can slip into a hot bath or shower in the wash cabin. Three-, four- and seven-day trips cost $695 a person per day, or groups of eight or more can book the entire camp, starting at $16,680 for the minimum three-day trip.




Dave's website: http://www.fortresslake.com/

Co-Named "World's Best Trophy Brook Trout Destination" ~ Fly Fisherman Magazine, Feb, 2008

Fortress Lake - Trophy brook trout fly fishing in a stunning valley dominated by glaciers and towering jagged peaks. Highly accredited, the brook trout fly fishing in Fortress Lake, BC provides large, trophy brook trout. We invite you to join us in Hamber Provincial Park, BC, beside Jasper National Park, near Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper, and within a United Nations World Heritage Site for remote, private, trophy catch & release brook trout fly fishing in the stunning Canadian Rockies. The Fortress Lake experience includes solitude, excellent fly fishing, and a wonderful retreat experience.


More readily available info:

New Fly fisher: http://www.wpbstv.org/TheNewFlyfisher-SeriesTwo.htm

210 Fortress Lake Brookies Located north of Golden, B.C., this deep-water lake is home of some of the largest Brook Trout in North America. We learn more about this area and how to fly fish in it from local guides and author Phil Rowley.


***Don't get me wrong, everybody has a right to make money :huh: , I just think resources belong to the commons. If its hard to get there, fine, money pays the way... but if somebody is willing to put in the effort to fish an excellent lake (that is far from a secret), so be it.


Oh and Dave's had some trouble with float planes at Fortress too, according to his blog...


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I was a little worried this could get some feathers ruffled - it was not my intent - but, whatever. I find it a little interesting that orvis joined today, but everyone is entitled to an opinion.


Harps - I did read Dave's Blog. I should have read it before we went, because although Dave came to see us (as opposed to us going to see him), and we told him where we were from, we didn't say who we were (then again, he didn't introduce himself either) - we were not trying to be coy, but the conversation was pretty friendly - just three fishermen talking to one fisherman - and we asked about fishing in general but really let him tell us what he wanted. I'd sent Dave a note before we went saying who I was and that we'd be interested in renting a boat for a day or two (in truth thought that's why he was coming over to see us), but in hindsight, he likely didn't get the note. Anyway - I agree, I knew who he was and probably should have done a proper intro.


I do find it interesting that Dave commented in his blog on the plane buzzing them at 80 feet as being a big 'no no' - because the helicopters that buzzed us in our float tubes were lower than that, and one went directly over my head on the second pass (I waved when they went by the first time a few hundred feet to the side of me, and I waved again the second time but didn't have time to get ALL of my fingers extended). They then proceeded to land at the lodge and stay overnight. The woman in the co-pilots seat of the helicopter looked familiar also - (and I got a pretty close, albeit brief, look - although with a headset, hat, and sunglasses can't be sure).


While I agree that the lodge probably does cater to the well off (okay - it definately does) - the cost of the lodge is not why we chose to hike in, and likely not why anyone that hikes in would choose that over staying at the lodge. (Believe me , one of the guys on our first trip could likley buy the lodge outright). As you point out, this isn't a 5 km hike into Watridge for a day - its a major outing that likley only 1/10 of 1% of the population would ever attempt (of course 90% of the remainder wouldn't have any desire to ever do something like it, and would think anyone that does is freakin' nuts - my wife included). As I said in my post, I was pretty frustrated when I tried to find any reliable info on what we we're in for when we went in 2006. There seemed to be lots of mis-information out there ("Bridge is out", "Bridge is there", "it's and easy hike", "it's a killer hike", "there are bears ever 8 feet", "no fish except at the far end"...etc.). My post was an effort to put some recent info out there.

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Great post. I think your info was all bang on and useful to anyone considering a walk in the woods to go fishing. Having been there a couple times myself on foot rest assured everything in the post is accurate. As for the critters not enough said...Those suckers would chew you out of house and home if you give them a chance. What they will eat is amazing and their boldness goes beyond reason. Stake armed guards at camp to watch everything because things disappear?


Firewood....plan on spending X minutes a day scavenging!


As for being alone there anyone wanting to make that hike is welcome to it. Plenty of fish to go around if you can figure out how to get em. It's a long way to go to have a picnic, or just catch logs!


If you like bugs you will be happy because you will meet plenty on the trip.


It's a beutiful spot and the lake is spectacular. I suspect it won't be long and someone will figure out how to make it impossible to walk in there and fish it so enjoy it while you can.

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Hey rehsifylf, I have no problem with you posting as much info as you want. It won’t bother me because I don’t ever plan on hiking in. I know guys who have and ran into bears on the way in and the way out. They also almost died crossing the Chaba – and when they got to the lake, the fishing was not good. No thanks.

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Hey rehsifylf, I have no problem with you posting as much info as you want. It won’t bother me because I don’t ever plan on hiking in. I know guys who have and ran into bears on the way in and the way out. They also almost died crossing the Chaba – and when they got to the lake, the fishing was not good. No thanks.



What a load of malarky. There is nothing difficult about the Chaba other than the fact it's cold. Bears ha ha....see any aliens on the way in or out?

Almost sounds like fear mongering...you haven't worked on any political campaigns in the U.S. have you?


Fishing is like anywhere else...you need to have a clue what your doing. It ain't shooting ducks in a barrel but if you have a big enough net you can just scoop em up...(Kidding!).

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