Quite possibly we should be called the FLY Fishing Highway. We have one of the finest collections of fly fishing lakes in the world. Of course there are other types of fishing available, but I specifically dedicate myself to fly fishing, and have been doing so in this region since 1959.
Fishing Highway 24 connects the village of 100 Mile House on Highway 97 to Little Fort on Highway 5 in BC. For some 115 Kilometers along this route there is access to well over 100 lakes.
Some are easy routes to access and some require 4 wheel drive and experienced back road driving. The lakes exist at almost every elevation and many have Forest Service campsites. Access varies from drive up boat launches to tube carry in only. Ice usually comes off most of the lakes around the 20th of May, depending on weather conditions of course, and reappears in mid to late November. The first insects hatch at ice off and hatch during most months of open water. The Chironomids or midge flies are the first to hatch followed by sedges or caddis flies from mid June. One of four species of caddis will hatch through until early November. Mayflies are prolific from June to October and cover two lakes in the area, Bridge Lake and Lac des Roches. Lac des Roches has a world wide reputation for its Mayfly hatch. Dragon flies and Damsel flies count in the diet of trout feed. August to October see the adults take flight for their mating dance. All of these dates will of course have variations from lake to lake depending on elevation, depth etc. Remember, when we see surface activity, this is only 10% of the trout’s food intake, 90% is sub-surface.
The time to be on the water is a matter of personal choice however, evenings on the shoals is always a good bet as most hatches take place there. However, there are deep water emergers, Chironomids, back swimmers and water boatmen. Anchoring in drop off areas and fishing the shallows can sometimes be effective. The key in any situation is patience and perseverance. Observation of insect and fish activity on any body of water is essential.The opinions on the best rods, reels and lines are as varied as all the makes and models available. Make, model or price does not matter.
Rods between 8.5 and 10 feet and a line weight range of 5-7 usually work. A rod of 9 ft with a 6 wt. Line is close to optimum. Reels to hold the line and 100 yards of backing will suffice. As you try to match the hatch you will need a variety of lines. Weight forward lines in floating type, along with a sinking style, a sink tip, slow sink and one of intermediate sink rate would be good choices. I recommend a reel with interchangeable spools to accommodate the various types of lines needed. Leaders of 9-15 ft. in weights of 4-6 lbs. work.Fly patterns as follows are my choices. Chironomid patterns from size 12-16. Half back in 6-12 on 2 extra long hooks. Dr. Spratley 6-12, Tom Thumb 10-12, Mayfly nymphs of various patterns from size 10-16. Various Shrimp patterns 10-14, Leech patterns 6-12 and any pattern which represents the sedge works. This information is far from complete as fly fishing is a life long study. To further enhance your experience I refer you to one of my favorite books, Morris & Chan on Fishing Trout Lakes by Skip Morris and Brian Chan.
Spin casting for trout and small game fish is usually done with a rod of 5 ½ to 7 ½ feet. A reel of the open face type commonly known as a coffee grinder loaded with a 4 – 8 pound line completes the outfit. It is difficult to troll with spinning gear and is best used from a boat or from the shoreline. Spin casting lovers can find an infinite variety of environments to enjoy their passion. When ice comes off the lakes you should look for the shallow corners of the lake, with a weedy bottom and cast a flashy silver or gold Vibrax Blue fox spinner, size two for smaller catches, or size three to select your captures.
At ice off, spin casting is efficient all day long. When the water warms up in June, we have to go looking for deeper water during the warmer hours and spin cast along the shores and in the shallows early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Spoons (Gibbs, Mc Lure’s) become more efficient than spinners. The recommended colors are white and red. Silver works too, but don’t forget a touch of red.
Small fish and new fry hatch between the end of June and the middle of July: rapala, flat fish and minnows become popular. They require a thin line (0.18 mm, 4 pounds test) in order to allow the minnow its natural action. In the warmer hours you can catch the biggest fish, but you have to be patient and after the cast, wait for the lure to sink down to 30-50 ft sometimes, before reeling in. Good success of spin casting usually doesn’t go along with a good hatch: when trout are excited and concentrated on feeding off a good hatch, they usually are not interested on flashy lures. So it’s always recommendable to carry both the spin casting and the fly fishing equipment along.
In the fall, starting from the beginning/middle of September on the upper lakes, both spoons and spinners work well. Minnows, rapala, flat fish work good too, but usually not in the warmer hours. When the water cools off we recommend mepps spinner, like the aglia long #2 and the black fury both red and yellow dots on a black background. In the lakes populated by kokanee, a salmon roe on the spinner always help as trout follow the kokanees’ spawning and naturally feed on fish roe. Just before the lakes freeze again, the best catches are on bright red and/or yellow spinners/spoons. Bright orange and yellow minnows and rapala work too. Trout slow down their activity and they have to be stimulated by bright colors. The size of the spoons can increase towards the end of the season, just before the ice comes back: bigger fish are out feeding to put on fat for the winter and they attack #4 spinners and #3/4 spoons, as well as minnows/rapala up to 7-8 cm.
A trolling outfit consists of a short rod 5 ½ to 6 ½ feet. A level wind reel mounted on top of the rod handle or a free spool or center pin reel on the bottom position. Line weights from 6 – 12 pounds are sufficient. Trolling lovers have to follow the same rules of the spin casters. When you troll in the shallow areas it is recommendable to use small hardware (the so called “wedding bands”) with a short leader up to a maximum of 18 inches, and natural baits like worms, mill worms, maggots or a fly; leeches and wooly buggers are the most popular.
Shiny streamers work too behind a wedding band. Flat fish F3-F4 orange with black spots or frog pattern with yellow spots. The color of the wedding band is not really important, as it has just the function of distracting the fish from its natural feeding and attracts it towards the bait. If you are trolling deeper areas , 20 to 40 feet down, it is recommendable to use bigger hardware (the so called “gangtrolls”) with shiny colors (silver is the best) and a longer leader , up to 6-7 feet. Worms are as usual the best bait, but mill worms, maggots and flies work too. Trollers should consider using flatfish (apex, hot shots) without hardware: a simple weight before the swivel, and a long leader, up to 10 feet to allow the minnows its natural action. Spinners and spoons work well with or without hardware. Putting bait on the spoon or the spinner is most of the time useless or counterproductive: it inhibits the action of the lure, which is designed to work as “bait”. Always remember to troll very slowly: just enough for the bait to move and the gang troll to spin; occasional fast trolling might work, but in general slow trolling pays back the most.
There is a special style of rod and reel for this sport. The rod is usually short, 2 feet is about normal. A small reel is attached with a line of 6 – 8 pounds will work. The rod is supported over the hole in the ice so it will cause the fish to self hook. Our area offers a long period of good ice fishing. Usually from the middle of December until the end of March, most of our lakes are frozen solid and offer a good variety of fish: rainbows, brook trout, kokanee, lake trout, burbot. Ice fishing requires a simple tackle, and a hut is not always needed.
A rod with reel, flasher, short leader up to 18 inches, a hook and baits. Usually dew worms and meal worms are the best for rainbow and brookies, but maggots work too, especially for kokanee. It is very important to add a little ball of paste, like the” magic bait” on top of the hook: the fish get attracted by the smell of it and oriented towards the bait faster in the pitch black dark waters under the ice. For salmonids choose a spot 10-15 feet deep, with sandy or rocky bottom if possible, drop the bait all the way to the bottom and then reel up so that the bait sits a foot above the bottom. Gig it every 30 seconds and wait for the bite. Burbot or fresh water ling cod are very popular in some of our lakes. They are bottom feeders and mainly night feeders, but in the winter they bite all day long. Choose a spot 20-30 feet deep and drop the bait to the bottom. Sit and wait. You can use flashers, but they are not really required with burbot. Use bigger hooks and big bait like a bunch of dew worms, 3-4 slices of bacon or a chunk of raw meat. Don’t be afraid of using big baits, because even a small 2 pound burbot has a big mouth and can swallow big bites. Gigging a lure works good too, but you always have to keep the action: the lure cannot sit still like the bait, and ice fishing is also enjoying the view and walk around on the pack, checking the shore for the moose to pop up and keep you company for a while. Gigging a lure requires constant movement and presence by the hole.