Southern Vancouver Island is one of the province's vacation
hot spots because of its mild weather and beautiful
scenery. It also offers the fly-fisher one of the province's
best trout/steelhead streams that is fishable year 'round
. . . the Cowichan.
The Cowichan River has rainbows, cutthroats, and brown
trout resident year ‘round and all three species
can offer some very large fish, the browns especially.
It is not uncommon to see someone hook into a six to
nine-pound brown trout using a small muddler minnow
fished deep. The river also supports good populations
of mayflies and caddisflies, with their associated spring
hatches, and these hatches are easily matched and fished
successfully. Accommodations and amenities are available
at several places along the river and there are several
guides available for those of you that wish to draw
upon local knowledge for a little help.
The Skagit River near Hope is one of the brightest
gems in BC’s jewel box of rivers and streams.
Its waters are so clear that during late August when
the river is running low and slow you may end up walking
right into the water without realizing it and fly-fishing
can be downright frustrating if you forget to keep a
low profile on your approach.
The Skagit valley is renowned for its beauty,
especially in the fall when the cottonwoods are
turning gold and the maples add their splash of
yellow and red to the landscape. The river supports
many species of sport fish including rainbow trout
and Dolly Varden char. Late August offers a lovely
green drake mayfly hatch and fly-fishing during
the hatch can prove very exciting and fruitful.
There is a small resort/motel at the entrance to
the Skagit Valley just as you enter the town of
Hope and all the normal amenities and supplies can
be obtained in town.
Peter Hope Lake, in the heart of High Country (Kamloops
- Merritt), is a moody lake, but can be absolutely outstanding
if you time it right. Access to the lake is via an easy
two-wheel drive gravel road only half an hour north
of Merritt. This is a big lake compared to most in the
Kamloops area and it lies in a shallow valley, so it
is subject to wind, but it harbours some huge Kamloops
Plateau Lake is just a short drive into the hills above
Peter Hope and is perhaps my favourite lake. It rests
on top of a low ridge just east of Peter Hope, in the
midst of a spruce - pine forest. The road from Peter
Hope is rough and you should take a vehicle with good
clearance, or better yet a four-wheel drive truck, to
get into the lake safely. There is an alternate route
off Highway 5A at the north end of Stump Lake that takes
longer but is easier on the vehicle.
Kamloops trout abound in Plateau Lake and white marl
shoals covered in a green carpet of weeds and reeds
surround its turquoise blue waters. The very active
caddisfly hatches can provide fly-fishers with dry fly
fishing like they've never seen. Plateau supports a
wide array of other aquatic insects and invertebrates
that provide the angler with ample alternatives when
trying to fool these silver torpedoes.
For those of you who like big trout, an assortment
of species, and all the amenities of home (and some
luxuries you won't find at home), Roche Lake and its
surrounding lakes offer everything you could want. The
resort is one of the poshest in BC and from there you
can access more than seven lakes within a half hour's
Roche, Ernest, John-Frank, Frisken, and Bulman contain
Kamloops rainbow trout. Roche harbours trout in excess
of 10 pounds. Other lakes in the area include Black,
Rose, Tulip, and Bog, and these lakes contain both rainbows
and/or brook trout.
Roche Lake is also an easy half-hour drive on good
gravel road off the old Merritt - Kamloops highway (Hwy.
5A), half an hour south of Kamloops.
Still in the Kamloops - Merritt area, but further to
the west off the Coquihalla Highway (Hwy. 5), on the
high ground half way between the two cities lays Tunkwa
Lake and its nearby neighbour Leighton Lake. Both are
shallow potholes only about 10 meters (25 feet) deep
at their deepest point and are strewn with shallows
and weedbeds. These assets combine to make for some
exceptional fly-fishing because no matter what the weather
or their mood, the fish are always within reach of the
Tunkwa supports a good population of very large Kamloops
rainbow trout and is renowned for its fishing worldwide.
There is a resort at the northwest end of the lake and
it offers all the amenities necessary for a memorable
Both lakes are surrounded by open grassland with only
limited amounts of forest nearby, and this exposes them
to some fairly stiff winds during the day that the fly-fishers
must contend with. However, dusk often offers calm waters
and caddis hatches in the spring to make the fishing
both exciting and rewarding.
About an hour’s drive north of Kamloops along
the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy. 5) is Knouff (Sullivan)
Lake. This lake is relatively large so a boat is usually
needed to get about, but I have belly-boated its length
more than once (quite a workout), so it's possible.
This lake is another visual beauty having unscathed
spruce and pine forests surrounding its entirety. Bring
your camera for this one, you'll regret it if you don't.
Knouff has four islands in it and they all provide
shoals that offer good dry caddisfly fishing in the
spring. The lake supports some exceptionally large Kamloops
rainbow trout, some over 20 pounds! I talked with a
couple of fellows from the Ministry of Environment during
the spawn a few years ago and they confirmed that they
had seen several fish in the channel over 20 pounds,
although two to five pounds is more the average.
There is a lodge with cabins at the north end of the
lake and it offers basic amenities for a reasonable
rate. It has undergone some much needed upgrading recently
and is a very nice place to stay now.
If you visit Knouff you should drive up the road a
short distance and fish Badger and Spooney lakes as
well. Badger used to be a trophy lake and it still holds
some monstrous rainbows. The lake was accidentally overstocked
a few years ago and the trophy designation was removed
to try and get the anglers to reduce the population
of small fish again. I have had very good success in
Badger and return there almost every year to tussle
with the monster of the lake.
Spooney is attached to Badger by a narrow straight
of water that is both lovely to behold and quite fishable.
At its end is Spooney and this lake also supports large
rainbows. Spooney is small and oval in shape (hence
its name) and is surrounded by marl shoal and weedbed.
Be sure to visit it, it's usually worth the row.
Marmot Lake in the Cariboo region of the province sits
in the heart of the Nazko Valley amid rolling hills
covered with pine and spruce forests. Its clear waters
harbour some very large, healthy rainbow trout that
can run 100 yards of line off your reel like it was
an easy Sunday swim around the block. Access is easy
by car or truck and although there is no real resort
at the lake the community maintained campground offers
all the amenities anyone could wish for.
Sunburst Lake, in Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park in
the heart of the East Kootenay Rockies, holds some of
the largest cutthroat trout I have ever seen. These
monoliths live in frigid waters, feed voraciously during
the short ice-off season of this high mountain area
and can break a 2x tippet like it was thread. If you
want scenic beauty this is definitely THE place to go.
Other lakes in the area include Gog, Magog, and Cerulean,
and these lakes also contain these large cutthroats.
Mount Assiniboine is a remote wilderness area and you
must go prepared and completely self-sufficient, but
you have not truly experienced a sunset until you’ve
stood on top of Sunburst Mountain looking west over
the peaks of the Rocky Mountains aflame with the sun's
last dying embers.
British Columbia offers a plethora of fly-fishing opportunities.
There are lakes and streams too numerous to even count
never mind trying to name or fish them all. Fly, drive,
backpack, or horseback your way into these areas as
you like. All hold fish, some big and some small. For
my money I like the best of all worlds . . . big fish
in a beautiful setting. The lakes and stream I have
mentioned in this article offer it all and if you're
like me you just "gotta go" to these special
Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for
most of his 42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20
years. He instructs flyfishing, and has done so for
the past 12 years. He also instructs the federal FSET
firearms course and the BC CORE hunter training course.
He is an award-winning outdoor writer and has been writing
freelance since 1987. He has been published in BC Sport
Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western
Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.
Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner
(Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and
pheasants. He presently resides in North Cowichan on
southern Vancouver Island where he has lived and worked
full time as a professional forester since 1982.
He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service
and continue to write the fly-fishing column for BC
Sport Fishing Magazine as well as contributing articles
freelance to various outdoor magazines in western Canada.
Bill Luscombe is also a BC Director of the Northwest
Outdoor Writers Association.
"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to
understand what makes them tick. If you think like a
fish, you will catch fish. It’s as simple as that."-
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