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Adventures With B: Hike, SUP and Fishing on Boom Lake

A pristine alpine lake with trophy cutthroat trout and singing loons. A different take on a famous ski/ice climb zone

I’ve been hiking and skiing to the beautiful Boom Lake in Banff National Park for 20 years. The lake is one of the most iconic bodies of water in the Canadian Rockies and is a must visit.

In the winter, I carry big packs full of ice climbing gear, down jackets and warm liquids. In the spring, I strap on trail running shoes and for a quick car-to-car lap. And in the fall, I often take a leisurely walk up the 5.5-kilometre trail for the colour-changing larches.

But this summer, I decided to take an inflatable stand up paddleboard (SUP) to Boom Lake to try some fishing. I’ve been fishing since I was a toddler sitting on the end of my family’s cottage dock in Muskoka. My first writing gig was for Canadian Sport Fishing magazine when I was 13 years old. I’ve been lucky to catch world-class fish in every corner of Canada. In the summer, if I’m not rock climbing then I’m out fishing.

This spring, I purchased a Shark 12.6-foot SUP from my friend Brandon Olsthoorn (co-owner of Bow Valley SUP). It deflates and packs into a hockey-bag-sized backpack with skin-pinching (when filled) shoulder straps. Actually, the straps aren’t that bad for such a non-technical pack.

I bought the SUP so that I could hike into the many Rockies alpine lakes on solo trips to see the mountains from a different angle than I was used too, plus paddling below tumbling glaciers is an experience like no other.

SUP at Boom Lake

I visited Wapiti Sports, Canmore’s fishing store, to renew my fishing license and upgrade my kit for the summer season. The crew there were stoked that I was going to visit remote alpine lakes and hooked me up with what they thought would be the go-to tackle for the end of my spinning rod.

Located on the north side of Highway 93 south, 7.5 kilometres west of Castle Junction just past Storm Mountain Lodge, the parking for Boom Lake is only about a 45 minute drive from Canmore.

I parked and packed my SUP pack with a small Black Diamond bag that had my fishing gear. The SUP pack is big enough for the SUP, fishing rod, food, water and other accessories. You only gain about 150 metres from the parking lot to the lake, so there’s not much vert to worry about.

I passed some weekend-warrior hikers and an elderly man with a fly fishing setup. We stopped for a few minutes to talk about the local fishing and the big cutthroat trout lurking in Boom Lake. He said, “Good for you young man, you remind me of my friends and I back in the 1960s.” He showed me his good luck charm, an old fishing spoon with no hook tied to his vest, and then I continued hiking.

“Leave some for me,” he hollered before I turned a corner and disappeared out of sight.

The trail crosses bridges, winds through dense forest and follows some muddy terrain. But before you know it, you come out of the trees and onto a talus slope next to the dark blue water. I’m used to much heavier packs for alpine backcountry climbing, so the SUP bag didn’t complicate the hike.

I inflated the board, strapped my life jacket to the front, put on my bullet pack, tied on a Blue Fox spinner and paddled out. A family fishing from shore wished me good luck as I stood and paddled toward the west end of the lake, a place I’d only been in winter for ice climbs.

Mandatory mid-paddle try-to-look-cool selfie on Boom Lake

Along the way, I cast my line to fallen logs and open water. On my hike up, someone asked me what it’s like to fish from a paddle board. I told them that it really depends on the board. Fishing from a wide, balanced board is easy. However, fishing from a narrow made-for-speed Shark 12.6 felt tippy.

I often had to drop to my knees or sit on my butt. I found that sitting on the board and paddling it like a canoe gave me a much more stable position for fishing.

I was on the water for over three hours and I caught 15 trophy-sized trout. They hit with great force and pulled the line straight down. Unlike a bass, which leaps from the water trying to spit the hook, cutthroat dive deep. They’re great fighters.

My rod and reel were a $45 Canadian Tire special: an Ugly Stick Hi-Lite Spinning Combo. I never use expensive rods or reels, because, like my grandpa used to say: “It’s not the gear, it’s the fisher.”

Fish after fish, I caught and released more than I ever imagined I would in one afternoon in the high alpine. Views of Mount Quadra, Chimney Peak and Boom Mountain set the backdrop. I watched bald eagles and listened to singing loons while gusts of wind pushed me around.

The lake was named after a large natural log boom that forms at the south end drainage Boom Creek. More than once, I found myself pushed against the boom as I reeled in tough cutties.

“Won’t the hook put a hole in the board,” was a question I asked myself before my first SUP/fish mission. Well, it hasn’t yet, but I wouldn’t say never.

Of the many lakes I’ve visited in Western Canada this summer, I’d have to say that Boom Lake was my favourite. The remoteness and quality of the fishing will have me heading back every summer.

For an adventure up to Hermit Meadows visit here.

One of the many cutthroat trouts from the day

Boom Lake Beta

Distance: 5.5 km / 11 km return
Time: 1 hour to lake
Total Elevation: ~150 m
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Easy
Area: Banff National Park

The Gear

I wore my trusty Black Diamond Session approach shoes, because I’ve been living in them this summer, for the approach. I go bare foot on the board. My fishing rod setup was the Ugly Stick. My SUP is a Shark 12.6 Touring and paddle is an adjustable carbon fibre three-piece. For a life jacket I use a Fluid Evoprene, but it kind of just stays strapped to the board. For tackle I used Mepps and Blue Fox Spinners and a small Five of Diamonds spoon.

Singing Loons

 

About Adventures with B: My late friend Anna Smith, who lost her life Himalayan climbing, once said to me after an epic we had in Chamonix, where we got away unscathed: “Adventures with B are messy and unplanned but always fun.” This column will focus on skiing, hiking, SUPing, paddling, fishing and other adventures. A new alpine climb in 2020was named in Anna’s honour, read about it here.