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Black Lake BrookiesBy Bill Luscombe ,
The weather had been extra warm over the past few weeks and the word around the lakes of Kamloops was "You should have been here two weeks ago."
Fishing was poor, to say the least. Ice off had been early and the end of June might as well have been mid-August. Some of the lakes were showing a surface temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) and the fish were deep and lethargic. Our annual interior fly fishing excursion was about to turn into a week at the waterslides.
We had reserved a cabin at Roche Lake Lodge during the last week of June hoping to hit the caddisfly hatch. When we arrived, we were informed by a number of fishermen both fly-fishers and gang-trollers that the fishing was off. Even the gang-trollers trolling deep were only picking up the odd trout.
Needless to say, we were not impressed. We tried not to be discouraged and fished Roche Lake all that evening and all the next morning, but between the five of us we managed only two fish, although Bob's was a beauty of at least three pounds. He had caught it on a leech, fished slow and deep.
"This is not the best fishing I've ever experienced." I said sarcastically. I was getting the poor fishing blues. "Maybe we should go to a different lake."
That sounds like a good idea," replied my brother-in-law Doug. "Let's have a look at our maps."
We scanned our maps and looked for comments on nearby lakes in Steve Raymond's book "Kamloops". The lakes around Roche are numerous. John Frank Rose, Tulip, Black and Bleeker Lakes were all within 15 minutes of us.
Earlier the same year, at the Sportsman's Show in Vancouver, we had met a fellow from Roche Lake Lodge who had shown us some photographs of five to six pound brook trout taken on a leech pattern in Black Lake.
"How about trying Black Lake?" Doug asked.
I was not enthusiastic about the idea. I had come up here to catch some Kamloops rainbows, not char.
"No, let's try Rose. It's small, so maybe it won't be too deep and we can at least get our flies down to the fish." Friends of ours had told us that Rose Lake was the only place they had had any success at all.
"OK. Let's go!" was the reply. You can only keep a good fly-fisher down for so long.
We fished Rose for the rest of the day, but it was slow as well, giving up just three small trout.
That night we sat down and discussed our situation. The consensus was that we should try to gain some elevation and find some cooler water. Doug kept remembering the photos of the brook trout and talked us into giving Black Lake a try in the morning before moving to higher ground.
The next day dawned clear and sunny with little wind. We threw the boats on the truck, we made our way to Black Lake at about 11 am. Not expecting much, we hopped out to have a look and were greeted by a sparkling gem of a lake about a mile or so long, nestled in a small depression and surrounded by immature pines. The water was turquoise green and crystal clear and we could clearly see the marl bottom that jutted out to drop off 40 feet from shore. . It was a beautiful first impression.
I scanned the water's surface . . . no rises. Fisherman's panic (that feeling where every second that you don´t have your line in the water is another fish missed and gone forever) soon overtook us and boats, gear, rods, vests, wives, and kids all started flying in the ensuing rush. We were on the water in minutes.
I rowed along the drop-off´s edge, following the near shoreline, taking mental notes of the bottom vegetation, debris and sunken logs. A downed pine tree had fallen into the lake and extended about 30 feet out from shore just in front of us. As I maneuvered around it, there came the all too familiar splash of a jumping trout. I saw the ringlets where it had risen and I searched the water's surface for insect activity . . . nothing.
I loaded the rods with fast sinking lines, tied a Werner's Shrimp on my wife's rod and a D.D.D. (damselfly nymph) on mine, and continued to row along the drop-off, trolling the flies behind. We rounded a small shallow bay and had just brought the flies past it when I saw a tug at the rod tip, not the usual quick bend of a strike, but more like the slow pull of bottom. I picked up the rod but nothing was there. I stripped in the line but found no traces of bottom. Interesting. I stopped a moment to ponder the situation. Warm water, slow troll, slow fish, all the clues were there. I figured that the fish had the opportunity to leisurely pick off their chosen food and probably were too slow to be interested in the quicker insect forms. Next time I'd be ready.
It's a good point to note that brook trout have hard mouths and you must have a good sharp hook to be sure of setting it properly. I remembered that too.
I turned the boat around, cast the lines back out, and started to row back towards the little bay. We rounded it and didn't get a touch. I swung around for another pass. This time the same slow pull occurred on one of the rods but I was ready and quickly picked up the rod and gave it a good tug. The hook set and there he was!
Instantly the fish reacted, running, with my line in tow, nearly to my backing . . . so much for the fish being lethargic. I played it to the boat, but by the time I got it in, my arm was tired. The fish wasn't all that big (15 inches ), but it was just plain heavy.
Brook trout, which are actually char, are different from rainbows; they are much deeper and wider. They also fight differently, more like a brown, preferring to stay under the water and slug it out rather than break the surface and try to throw the hook. There is less chance of the fish shaking free, but it makes for a longer fight and believe me, these fish are strong for their size. They also tolerate higher water temperatures and continue to feed when the Kamloops trout have stopped, making them a definite alternative to rainbows when the waters warm up.
We picked up two more brook trout that day, all before 1 PM, and enjoyed ourselves so much that we stayed and had moderate success over the next three days. We were never skunked and the brook trout were still lively even though the rainbows had gone off their feed. Black Lake had saved what could have been a disastrous holiday.
Several of us returned the first week in September and fished the lake again. The appearance of the fish and their slow fight soon reminded me that brook trout spawn in the fall, which is another good point to remember. We packed up and fished little Rose Lake, which gave up some beautiful shiny rainbows that fought for their lives. We kept four between the four of us and released the rest to fight another day.
Black Lake is located south of Kamloops near the Roche Lake Lodge. The turnoff to the lake is about half a mile before the lodge, on the left as you drive in and now has a nice sign marking the turnoff. It's only about a mile into the lake, but the road is a bit rough and a vehicle with some center clearance is needed in order to traverse the deep potholes. It can get slick in a rain as well so go prepared. The road leads right to the lakeshore where you can launch a small boat.
There are three vehicle campsites, two tent pads, and a toilet. If you stay overnight, ensure you pack out your garbage and make sure that the campfire is out. It would be a great shame to see this little lake ruined through negligence on someone's part.
Black Lake contains all the standard insect species that normally occur in the area. Scuds, dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, and the big traveler sedges are all there. Dragonfly and scud patterns were the most productive for us.
If you run into warm water fishing and the bite is off, remember there is always a viable alternative in fishing for brook trout and, if you're close enough, head for Black Lake. It's a lovely place to spend a warm spring day just the loons, the fish and you.
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