When the rivers are blown hit BC’s Interior Lakes for Rainbow’s
It’s fairly typical for lower mainland rivers to be in freshet(flood) or have temporary closures in May and June to protect out migrating Salmon and Steelhead smolts. So if you’re looking to feel the tug on your fly line then hitting BC’s Interior lakes for Rainbow Trout is a must for the fly fisher. It certainly is for me and that’s why I packed the truck last Saturday and off I went to spend a few days in BC’s nature. After all the Fraser River is in severe flood stage right now and although we still easily get Sturgeon I would rather be on a quiet peacefull lake. Still waters with a float tube and a #4 wt G.Loomis fly rod had been calling me for months! Often overlooked by many these lakes offer a quality fly fishing experience for many reasons:
- Wilderness settings
- Big Rainbow Trout
- Spectacular scenery
A vast area with hundreds of choices
BC’s interior region is vast but we are only going to mention the area that’s within a 2.5 – 4 hr drive from Vancouver. This plateau region spans the area from the Coquihalla toll booth area all the way northward to just south of Kamloops. This is also known as the lower Thompson-Nicola region. Within this region there are hundreds of quality lakes that offer some very fine stillwater fly fishing for Rainbow trout. We highly recommend that you have a 4 x 4 to access many of the lakes.
What makes this area so good?
Geology specifically. Limestone is a key mineral in this region. This allows for higher alkaline levels in the lakes. A higher alkaline level allows and fosters excellent insect and aquatic vertebrate growth. In laymans terms the lakes are teeming with food. Rainbow trout flourish and grow fast with the buffett of food before them. Altitude also plays a role allowing for longer periods of cooler weather and water temps.
Now grab yourself a map and pack your gear!
First stop – Gwen Lake
A beautiful little lake just south of Merritt off the Coquihalla Hwy offers some very good fly fishing for the advanced angler. This lake has a reputation for being challenging. It is also known for having some very big fish. It’s just that they’re hard to get. By big I mean the ones over 8 lbs. I routinely find 20 – 24 inchers here but those are in the 3 to 6 lb range. Which is enough to make me happy but maybe some day I’ll be lucky enough to land one of the real big boys. Or at least it can spool me or snap me off?
The Loons kept a close watch on me
These birds are smart and although very beautiful they are the bane of most fly fishers. They know the game all too well. Find the hot rod on the lake and steal their trout. It’s as if you should just donate a small trout offering to them just to keep them away from you for the day. Fortunately bigger fish are too much for them.
A thing called ‘turnover’
Unfortunately for me Gwen still had a case of lingering turnover. This is like a huge hangover for the fish in the lake as oxygen levels are unstable. So the only ‘Bow I mustered up was a respectable 20 incher. The quality of the fish far surpassed it’s potential fighting ability. A sure side effect of the turn.
Best that I move on to find a better option so I quickly packed up and left Gwen around noon on Monday.
I decided that my efforts were best directed at a handfull of lakes 45 minutes north of Merritt. The elevation being just slightly lower so ice off would have been earlier than Gwen. If true this would bode well for my 4 weight fly rod. Not so well for the fish.
Finding Blue Lake Again
Years ago I discovered the magic of Blue Lake and thus returned there several times each year to partake in the challenging yet rewarding fly fishing. Blue Lake has very big fish but they don’t surrender with ease. Many anglers tell stories of getting spooled or snapping leaders on a monster. I too have experienced this. On Blue a 20 incher is just a nice fish. Most anglers can always be happy with a fish like this, and I certainly am.
I have friends in the woods!
Just 1 km from Blue Lake as I’m slogging along on the rough 4 x 4 road I came across a beautiful Black Bear who darted into the bush upon spotting me. I wondered if he would come for a night visit to the camp. I’m sure he could smell dinner cooking over the camp stove.
It’s Fly Fishing time!
After a very quick camp set up I have only one thing on mind. Jump in the float tube and start fly fishing. I go over what to use and think I will just stick to the ‘ol chironomid under a strike indicator. As I paddled away from the shore and headed toward a nice shoal drop off I set my indicator to suspend mi ‘cronie’ 20 ft deep. It’s now 6 pm and I’m fishing!
That didn’t take long. Within 2 minutes the indicator goes under and I strike back. Darn! Missed it. I quickly reset, cast out and wait. The same again. Indicator goes under and I strike. Not this time, I got a solid hookup! This is promising I think to myself.
The remaining 1 hour of fly fishing did not yield any more solid hookups so I called it a day and paddled to camp so as to prepare a nice dinner. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s fly fishing venture. Could there be a hawg?
I rise early when I’m in nature. So as the sun rises I rise. Everything is quiet in the morning with exception of the wild birds and the tempting sounds of Rainbow Trout splashing for a first light meal. But before I go out I need to take care of some priorities. Cook breakfast and tie up a few #14 chironomids. I choose dark patterns with a bit of flash in them. Kind of like a very dark chromie.
Where to fly fish on the lake?
This can be very daunting for many anglers but if you follow a few basic guidelines you’ll find feeding Rainbow Trout. Trout need to feed and in the early season a big diet item is chironomids. Shoals provide the ideal structure for these tiny but plentiful morsels. I always look for a larger shoal structure with easy access to deeper water. This allows trout to have quick access to cover in the event of danger from the shallower water. Often trout will be feeding on these tiny midges in the darker water on the edge of the shoal. This could be depths of anywhere from 8 to 25 feet. Each lake is different. Blue is very clear so I automatically choose to have my midge submerged down to depths ranging from 12 to 22 feet.
The first take I had Tuesday morning was rather sudden and violent. Some quick thinking prevented my G Loomis #4 from vanishing into the depths of the lake forever. I have had this rod since May 1994 and I care not to lose it anytime soon. Anyways, getting back to that fish hit, withing 10 seconds or perhaps less I was down to half my backing. This was one of those lunkers known for stealing many anglers flys or leaders. I had no intentions of letting that happen but sadly a few seconds later the line went slack and my heart sank a notch or 2. That’s why these ‘Bows are big I guess.
A fine day was had indeed
This was a fine day indeed. Not a slay fest but fairly steady action on that strike indicator. Many hits were unanswered with a hookup but fun nonetheless. I ended landing about 8 fish that day. The biggest was about a 22 inch Rainbow with full spawn colors which was obviously released.
As I have not been to Blue lake for several years I do believe I will be back in the very near future! That hawg is calling. And I know he’s over 15 lbs.