The days are starting to get long, the nights warmer and evidence of spring is everywhere - in the flowers blooming, birds chirping and bugs flying. Today was another scorcher, after a particularily spectacular April here in the lower mainland.
For us fly fishers, May is really the start to THE most anticipated fishery of the year. This is when many put the finishing touches on their preparations for lake season. We are fortunate to be within hours of some of the most incredible stillwater fisheries once can ever experience. Merritt, Kamloops, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Princeton... the major centres from which a maze of dusty roads lead to literally thousands of bodies of water where all your fishing dreams can come true. Whatever your heart desires in lake fishing is available, whether you're after numbers or size, ease or difficulty, resorts or camping, paved roads or 4x4, big open water or secluded puddles, clear water and marl bottoms or tannin and weeds.
Rainbow trout are abundant in the interior of BC, helped along by an incredibly successful triploid program. I won't pretend I'm up on all the details of triploid stocking, but I do know that different strains of fish like Blackwater, Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Pennask, Tzenzicut and the odd Gerrard have been genetically bred into populations of all female, and all female non spawning fish, and that they grow fat and healthy with the incredible abundance of food available to them in interior lakes. The stocking is very carefully determined, with, for example, some lakes having a "trophy" lake designation and others managed as put and take fisheries. The process is incredibly elaborate, and the results speak for themselves.
The hardcore lake anglers have their boats set up, flies tied and rods ready after the first of April, preparing for ice off. This year has been a late start, but warm weather and good winds are clearing lakes by the day right now. After ice off, most lakes experience what we call turn over, where the different layers of water start to mix, pushing oxygen through the water column after the stagnant winter months. The fishing during this time can be very difficult, and hitting a lake just after this process is done is usually the goal. Most lakes will fish well until mid summer, when warm water temps slow down both the hatches and the fish, although there are certain destinations with great summer fishing. Then the fall fishery starts, with fewer hatches but with fish anxious to fill their bellies before the days cool and ice forms.
Due to the abundance of bug life, an angler's fly box must be extremely well stocked. Leeches, dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, mayfly nymphs and dries, caddis nymphs and dries, chironomid pupae and emergers, bloodworms, scuds, water boatman and backswimmers, ants and multi purpose patterns like Carey Specials and Doc Spratleys are all important patterns. And when there are several thousand different chironomid species alone, the task of choosing patterns can feel impossible. Devoted chironomid fishing addicts usually have a thousand and counting different chironomids in their fly box.
Then there is the tackle. It's a good idea to head out with at least two rods rigged up, if not more. I like to take two floating line setups, a clear intermediate line setup and a medium fast full sink line setup. Tapered leaders, full rolls of tippet, split shot or twistons, indicators, stomach pump, glass vials, nail knot tool, nippers, floatant, pliers, and long handled net all go in the boat. Then there is the boat itself. Everything from belly boats to u-boats to flat bottom prams are used. The most comfortable and useful is the pram, with its stability and ease of getting around. You don't have to wear waders, you can take more gear (more?) and for men, anyway, you can easily pee out of it. But then you need to get your boat set up, with a fish finder, oars, rod holders, anchor system with anchors, carpet on the floor, cushioned boat seat, drink holders and sometimes an electric motor.
It is easy to get carried away.
And really, you don't need to go to such lengths to be successful, but it is fun to be well equipped. But it is about the fish and the fishing, and both can be mind blowing. We have many lakes regularly producing 4-6 lb fish, with the odd bigger one, and some lakes have fish upwards of 15 lbs. A great day on a lake can be 50 fish to the boat, or it could be one stunning 12 lber. You can sight fish to cruisers on marl flats, or lay back in the sun and troll a leech around. You can make it as intense or laid back as you like, and its close enough to spend every weekend up there (if you can afford it or are allowed).
To discuss techniques would take me until the wee hours of next week, so we'll leave it at that for tonight. Lets just say its time to change focus, start tying chironnies, and reorganize gear. Its on!