Ok, so I will be the first to admit I was pretty much entirely against fly fishing in lakes. Not because I don’t like catching fish, but the idea of just sitting in a lake waiting on an indicator going down didn’t exactly appeal to me. And I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing the first few times I went out and tried it. I still basically know nothing about it, but have acquired just enough knowledge to get a fish or two when out on the water. As with a lot of what I write about a trip out with my brother sparked the idea and this was no different. There was a long weekend up in British Columbia in May and we took to the lakes. We packed up our gear, loaded the canoe on the roof of the truck and made sure the dog was in the back seat. We were off to see if we couldn’t find a couple fish on the abyss that are lakes.
We arrived at our lake of choice and proceeded to unload the truck. We immediately noticed fish jumping right at the boat dock and marked off swimming area. Upon further inspection there were rainbows everywhere in that area, like, everywhere. This lake has what I thought was an odd closure of the south end until a marked location on either side of the lake, I can now see why. I didn’t inquire all that much, but I suspect it must of had something to do with spawning. Either way it was pretty crazy to see and of course lead to high hopes for the day.
We quickly finished unloading and hopped in the canoe. We made our way past the markers so we were safe to fish and began surveying the water below. We were in about 12-14 feet of water and it was crystal clear. As long as the wind was not blowing it was no different than looking through a window to the bottom of the lake. It wasn’t more than 20 meters past the marker we started seeing fish swimming near the bottom. We figured it was as good as place as any so down the anchors went. We were actually smart enough to bring an anchor for either end of the canoe to keep it exactly where we wanted it even if the wind came up, which it did, a lot. I am not 100% sure what I started with for a fly, but it might have been a balanced leech from @troutmadness. I was fishing the slightly deeper side of the canoe and my brother the shallower side. Neither of us were hooking up even though we had seen a few fish. My brother made the switch to a olive thread, silver tinsel snow cone chironomid pattern and had his first hit shortly after. He had a few fish on the line almost back to back, but they were very enthusiastic fish and proceed to jump like crazy which was getting them off the hook.
Obviously seeing my brother’s success with his fly choice I proceeded to make the switch. I choose a different snow cone variation. Mine was red tinsel with a black wire rib. I also gave up on the deeper side of the canoe and we both fished the same side of the boat. The water was so clear when the wind was gone I could actually stop watching my indicator and watch my actual fly in the water. This ended up being a curse really as I saw a fish dart towards my fly and completely miss timed the take. If I had been focusing on the indicator I would have done much better I suspect. I gave up watching my fly after that and went on indicator patrol. It wasn’t long before the indicator was down and I was fighting a fish. I hate to say this as a die hard river guy, but these lake fish not only put on a hell of an aerial show, but they tug way above their weight class. I wonder if this has something to do with the lack of current compared to in a river? Some science for another day I suppose. The rest of the day was on and off. I landed a couple more, but nothing of any notable size and my brother ended the day without bringing anything to the net. I suppose it is the tug that is the drug so he didn’t go home empty handed.
The following day we decided to try a more remote lake and much smaller in size than the day before. The road in was not the best, but we are okay with that as it keeps the spin casters away! The East Kootenay region of British Columbia is actually littered with small lakes that all hold fish and many containing some very large rainbows. There are even a number of lakes that are decent bass fishing lakes, but that adventure will have to be left for another time. As we approached the lake we saw three boats all huddled in a small corner, guess that’s where the fish are we thought.
We repeated the routine of unloading the canoe and packing everything into it. I am going to say it right now, fly fishing out of a canoe isn’t the greatest. For one, the seats suck. After one half day our butts were already killing us and we were about to do it all over again. Second, the ergonomics make no sense for fly fishing. The seats face forward and aside from paddling you want to be facing the side of the canoe towards the water. Also, they are not the most stable things in the world. The stable part isn’t a deal breaker for me as we grew up in canoes and are very well adjusted to the wibbles and the wobbles. Going forward if we choose to fully embrace the still water life we will have to look at a new vessel.
We set sail in search of the fish but decided to leave the group of boats alone to begin with. Unlike the day before we were not seeing any fish in the spot we choose even though the lake was just as clear. It was only about 10 minutes of seeing nothing out there that we decided to join the party. We pulled anchors and made our way over to what all the fuss was about. The area we ended up in was a very small area, maybe an 80 meter circle and not very deep. On average I would say it was around the 8 foot mark. We waved at all the guys in the boats and made our way along the outside edge to an open spot in our new area. We ended up scaring about 20 turtles off a log at one point, but started seeing fish swimming around almost right away. Clearly this was were all the cool kids were hanging out. It didn’t take long and my brother was getting bumped, but took us a fair part of the day to figure out how to get the bigger fish to play and not surprising we had to go smaller. I didn’t really have anything tied that would fall under the small category, but my brother had decided to try a #18 olive and silver zebra midge. Needless to say, it worked and my brother ended up landed the biggest fish of our lake fishing adventure.
So in closing, if you were like me and thought lakes weren’t worth your time I suggest you give it a whirl. Canoes, as awesome as they may be, suck as fly fishing vessels. Loons, as majestic as they may be are basically Russian subs scaring fish like we were back in the cold war. And as always catching fish is awesome no matter what type of water you do it in!
Thanks for reading – Dana Harrison