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Marmot Lake Rainbows

By Bill Luscombe , 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


Planning the annual fishing trip is a simple task for me. I start asking friends and editors a few months in advance about where I could go that isn't too far away and has good fishing.

1992 was no exception except that we were to meet my brother Ted half way between Victoria and Prince Rupert so that neither of us had to travel excessively. A quick survey of a mileage map put the midpoint around Quesnel.

With the area located, I asked a few people in the know about the lakes and streams in the Quesnel area. I got more than ample response, and was in a bit of a quandary over which place might be best when my friend Ian pointed out that Marmot Lake was about an hour west of Quesnel. That in itself didn't matter too much to me, but when he told me it had large trout that were notoriously difficult to catch, he quickly got my undivided attention. Nothing will get me onto a new body of water faster than telling me it has big fish that are hard to catch and I immediately accepted the challenge and began making plans to attack Marmot Lake the first week of July.

The drive to Quesnel from Vancouver took a full eight hours non-stop via the Fraser Canyon, and we met Ted on schedule. After purchasing groceries and other assorted necessities (beer), we drove west another hour and a half along good paved highway and arrived at Marmot Lake. We stopped in at the new general store that sits across from the entrance to the Marmot Lake campground and asked Angelique Thomas and Roy Warwyk (the proprietors) about the lake. Roy informed us that, sure enough, the fish were big but no one was having any luck at all. He also told us there was an old abandoned Forest Service campsite just around the corner on the north end of the lake, as well as the more developed community campsite across the road. We thanked him, checked out both campsites, and, discovering the old one empty, set up camp there (I prefer solitude when I camp). By this time it was getting on in the evening and the Cariboo's notorious mosquitoes forced us to stay in the trailer and get a good night's rest.

The next morning we covered ourselves with bug dope, ate breakfast, and headed out onto the lake. A few trout were rising to some small olive caddis, so I tried a caddis pupa while Ted went with a dry imitation. We both hooked into a fish within half an hour, but although they fought as best they could, the fish didn't have the strength to jump or run very far, and thus we knew they were spawners. When Ted got his in, he measured it at 22 inches long. It was very dark, but he managed to nurse it back to health and release it. At 18 inches, mine was smaller but was nearly cleaned up. She put up a better fight than Ted's, but nothing like she could have for her size, and I released her as well. We fished the rest of the morning with only one smaller rainbow to show for our efforts and then went in for lunch.

During lunch I did a bit of cogitating and rationalized that, since the water's surface temperature was almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the fish were well into or finished the spawn, any trout that were seriously feeding should be bottoming on leeches or scuds. I walked down to the shore and turned over some rocks and pulled up some weeds but found no scuds, so I decided it was time to use my trusty old black Woolly Bugger leech imitation.

Later that afternoon I switched flies and my success rate went up significantly. Ted and my son Ryan did likewise once they saw me catching fish and they fared well also. Over the rest of the day the three of us caught half a dozen good trout, all in the two to three pound class. Half were dark, but the others were silver and fought as they should, showing off their aerobatic skills as well as their great ability to speed through open water. It was great fun.

During our stay we stopped in at the Nazko store many times and talked with Roy and Angelique about the fishing in the area, particularly in Marmot Lake. Roy kept us informed that no one was having consistent luck of any sort except us, and after asking a few more questions we found out that most of the other anglers were gang-trolling. I was surprised to hear that fly-fishing wasn't the first choice of the locals, not because I'm biased toward fly-fishing, but because it was proving to be much more productive than trolling. Our success convinced Roy that fly-fishing was the way to go, in Marmot anyway.

Over the six days we spent at Marmot Lake the four of us caught more than 30 trout, none of which were smaller than two pounds, and the two largest fish weighed well in excess of five pounds each (that's a conservative estimate). Between the four of us we kept eight fish to eat (thus ensuring we stayed well below the four fish per day limit) and released the rest. Our trip ended too soon for our liking, but we all had to get back to work, and we left Marmot Lake with more than a few fond memories.

Marmot Lake is not a very large lake (86 acres) and, combined with its easy access and good boat launch at the community campsite, lends itself nicely to the car-top boat crowd. One fellow brought a speedboat onto the lake and, although there was enough room to water-ski, the constant noise and waves got more than a few of the anglers perturbed. It's a fisherman's lake and I suggest you leave your powerboats at home.

Being high up on the interior plateau (2635 ft. elevation), the lake is best fished late spring through early summer and then again in early fall when the water cools down. The most productive fishing comes with the insect hatches in the spring, but be forewarned that the mosquitoes will eat you alive if you don't go prepared.

As I mentioned earlier, we stayed in the old abandoned Forest Service campsite at the north end of the lake. That spot, however, is not much more than a clearing by the shore that will hold no more than five tents or campers. It lacks even the basic amenities and has only a rotting old picnic table and an old, hand-built outhouse that someone in their infinite wisdom tried to cut in half with a chain saw. It's alright for the "boys'" trip, but most campers will prefer to stay at the Marmot Lake Community Campsite across the road from the store.

The community campsite offers 34 cleared campsites suitable for a small RV, truck camper, or tent, each with fire pits and picnic tables. The campground supplies firewood to overnight campers as well. Outhouses are well distributed throughout the campground, as are the garbage cans. There is a baseball park and play area for the kids as well as a sheltered beach and swimming area. Day use of the facilities was free in 1992 and overnight camping was $7 per night, $5 per night for pensioners. Details about when and whom to pay can be got from Angelique and Roy at the Nazko store. When I visited the campground, it was clean and well maintained.

Marmot Lake was a great surprise. Being told that the lake held big, difficult fish and then actually going there and doing well was a fantastic experience for all of us. Finding a beautiful lake in such a gorgeous setting was a bonus. I don't always have such good luck, but I usually follow up any lead that boasts of big, tough fish. Marmot Lake was such a lead, and it paid off big time. If you're up Quesnel way looking for a challenge, give this lake a try; fished right it should produce for you too.

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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