Hunting for big brown trout can be one of the most rewarding types of fishing that exists. It can also be the most maddening. The Red Deer River basin is fed by lovely spring creeks that offer anglers chances at trophy Browns: Dogpound Creek, Stauffer Creek, Fallentimber Creek, the South Raven River, and the Little Red Deer River are some of the timid little streams where these beasts reside.
But Beware. It won’t come easy.
These are Central Alberta’s Spring Creeks
If you are just looking for a fun day on the river with your buddies, chucking dry flies to un-spookable fish while bantering back and forth and making lots of noise, don’t come to these creeks. This fishing demands attention to detail, complete focus, and that you to move like a sloth at all times. Some creeks, like Dogpound Creek, Stauffer Creek, and Fallentimber Creek, it is almost impossible to cast because of the dense brush and willows that line the banks. It is equally as hard to move around on the banks, for the same reasons. Wading is difficult because the bottom is a silty sludge that will sink forever and ruin all the fishing downstream. So if you like to bushwhack, these creeks are for you. Others, like the Little Red Deer River, and James River offer you a bit more space on the banks and are slightly easier to fish. For the big browns, you typically only get one or two casts before they are spooked and the 20 minutes of sloth crawling you did to get into casting position will be for not. Take a breath, and try not to be angry at the fish. It’s not their fault they have obsessive anglers trying to catch them all the time.
Our recommendation is to approach these rivers humbly. Do not go expecting to catch lots of fish; aim to catch 1 or 2 really nice fish. When you arrive at a good pool, do not start casting wildly. Take a seat. Smoke something. Eat a granola bar. Change your fly. Whatever you need to do to resist your urge to cast and ruin your chances. Watch the water and watch the bugs. Sometimes it may take 20 or 30 minutes. But eventually, a big brown trout will show himself, and, if everything goes just right, you will get a chance to catch him.
As for access, we don’t want to have dedicated old timers sending us hate mail because we gave away all the good spots. And believe me, it takes lots of search and exploration to find where those are. What I can tell you though, is that you should expect to have to walk long ways between good pools. You should also expect there to be places where you can’t continue up or downstream because there is barbed-wire and property lines that do not allow fisherman to move through their property via the creek. There are some different land-use rules on these creeks and some very unaccommodating people. Good rule of thumb: If it seems like its allowed (orange rimmed access signs, fences on ground or with easy to cross wires, or gates) you are probably fine. If you are not allowed, they will generally make it very clear with barbed wire across the creek and obvious no trespassing signs. I’ve had run ins with some lunatics in this area; better be safe then sorry.
Highway 22 should be your starting point. It gives you access to many of these spring creeks via Township roads and secondary highways. If you are south of the Red Deer River (you cross it in Sundre) turning left on most of the Highways or Townships Roads off of Hwy 22 will take you to bridges that cross these waters. North of Sundre and the Red Deer, Hwy 54 and its range roads and secondary highways will give you access to the fine water of the North Raven River (Stauffer Creek) and the South Raven River. The North Raven River is perhaps the finest and most well noted of these spring creeks because of the high quantity of truly monster brown trout and crystal clear water. But be warned: this creek guards itself, and can be absolutely maddening to fish. You have a more likely chance of spending your time figuring out the labyrinth of trees and willows, untangling your snags, cursing and sweating at the phantom brown trout and feeling paranoid of stepping on a twig than you do of actually catching anything. You will probably have better luck if you start on some of the other creeks in the area, where fish can be slightly more accommodating. But, as with all the water in this region, the only way to figure it out is by getting out there, and cursing your way through the willow infested hell that is Central Alberta’s brown trout heaven.