My Dream Waters By Bill Luscombe
Fishing in BC

British Columbia is inundated with lakes and rivers, most of which can be effectively fished with a fly. Some locations offer excellent fishing for small fish, others hold large fish but lack beauty, and still others are a marvel too beautiful for words, but fail to provide exceptional angling. A few spots though have provided me with exceptional fishing for large trout amid a scenic backdrop of breathtaking splendour and I return to these places regularly.

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.

Fishing Rivers in BC

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 rainbows.

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 drive.

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 angler.

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 stay.

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.

Lake fishing in BC

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 places.

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."- Bill Luscombe

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