On the Fly: The Crooked River

Photo Credit: Brian Smith

On the Fly: The Crooked River

👤Brian Smith 🕔Mar 27, 2015

The Crooked River, flowing north from its origins at Summit Lake 30 km from Prince George, is a secondary tributary of the Parsnip River system, which empties into the south end of Williston Lake Reservoir near Mackenzie Junction on Highway 97 North. Summit Lake and the Crooked River system signal the transition from Pacific to Arctic watersheds north of Prince George.   

On its journey north, the Crooked meanders along the top of the Interior Plateau for about 100 km, quietly flowing in and out of several lakes—Davie, Redrocky and Kerry—before emptying into McLeod Lake. As you travel north on Highway 97 from Prince George with the Crooked on your left, the stream appears to be more swamp than river, but don’t let its looks deceive you—the Crooked system is a first-class fishery full of indigenous trout and coarse fish species. You just have to find the right spots: sections and corners lined with structure, gravel and a little bit of slow-moving current.

There are many access points to the Crooked River system: at its mouth by the Caine Creek Forest Service Road; by the 100 Forest Service Road at the 100 Road Bridge; by the Davie Muskeg (200) Forest Service Road accessed at the community of Bear Lake; at several roadside pullouts along Highway 97 North and, finally, by the lakes it passes through. All of these spots have rough camping areas that are suitable for tenting, truck and camper units, or small RV set-ups. If you prefer better camping accommodations, I recommend Crooked River Provincial Park, situated on Bear Lake two kilometres south of the Bear Lake community, which has one of the best family park facilities in northern BC. From the park, there is access to the Crooked by short walking trails and also to some nice little lakes that have good fishing.


The Crooked is probably the most fertile stream in northern BC. Because of its slow-moving nature, warm springs that keep parts of it open year-round, willow-infested banks and nutrient-rich water, the river supports a huge variety of insects: enough mayflies, stoneflies, midges and caddisflies in numerous genres and families to make any fly-fisher drool with excitement. On warm June evenings, with light in the sky until past 11 p.m., the mayfly and caddis hatches can be so prolific that you fear opening your mouth to breathe because you’ll surely be spitting out the night’s bug display.

My favourite flies for the Crooked are any of the mayfly or midge families, well represented by a small-size number 16 Adams or any of the caddis families, which can be imitated with an elk-hair caddis in sizes 12 to 16. And don’t forget to toss a few size-eight orange stimulators in your vest for good measure, which will mimic the stoneflies. It’s not uncommon for the Crooked to have all species of insects hatching at the same time! 


The Crooked is a catch-and-release fishery for rainbows, and boat motors are restricted to 10 horsepower. Enjoy the fishery—it’s special!