Read CHAPTER II of Fishing in British Columbia With a Chapter on Tuna Fishing at Santa Catalina , free online book, by Thomas Wilson Lambert, on

Season for Trout Fishing Principal Districts Tackle Necessary “No Drawing-room Work” Advantage of Plenty of Time Poor Fishing in the Rockies The Thompson River The South Thompson Its Course and Character Clear, Swift Water Difficulty of Landing Big Fish A Lost Thirty-pounder The Successful Cherokee Fisherman Fine, Calm Days Best for Fishing Mosquitoes not Troublesome.

Fly-fishing for trout in British Columbia may be said to begin in April or May at the coast, but in the interior it is June or July before much success can be obtained. If time be no object, good sport might be obtained in the coast rivers and lakes during April and May, and a move might be made to the interior waters during June and July, while August is about the best season for the big salmon fishing on Vancouver Island. During September and October good sport may still be obtained, and the fish are then in the best condition; but usually the attractions of shooting prove too much for the local sportsman, and the rivers are more or less deserted. The southern waters may be divided into three principal districts namely, the coast rivers, the Thompson River district, and the waters of the Kootenay country, which all seem to possess special peculiarities, though the rainbow is found in them all. But in the coast rivers the steel-head, or sea-trout, is alone met with.

As regards rods and tackle for trout fishing, large rods are out of place in British Columbia, and quite unnecessary; an 11ft. split cane is the best, and long enough for any river; a 14ft. rod is very unhandy in a rough country or among trees, and all local fishermen use a small rod. Tackle should be of the same kind as one would use for sea-trout fishing, and should be strong. As regards flies, size is the most important consideration, as the usual patterns are the ordinary sea-trout and loch flies. The imitation stone fly is about the only fly that should resemble the natural insect. Rather large flies are used on the rivers, and smaller on the lakes, but this question may be left till individual streams are described. For a general supply large sea-trout flies (Jock Scott, Silver Grey, and Silver Doctor, etc.), with some March Browns and stone flies of the same sizes, and an assortment of smaller Scottish loch trout flies of various patterns these are all that are needed. The artificial minnow of various kinds, the spoon, and the dead bait on a crocodile or Archer spinner are all used, and the prawn has lately been tried with deadly effect on large fish. Bottles of preserved minnows and small prawns would therefore be a useful addition to the equipment. It is also wise to take plenty of strong casts and traces, as local fishing tackle is not to be trusted.

It must be noted well that fishing in these waters is no drawing-room work; great sport can be got, but the best is often only to be obtained by a certain amount of “roughing it.” The rivers are not always in right condition, nor the weather always favourable unfortunate facts peculiar to every river in the world and it is only when all things are favourable that the best sport is obtained. To have plenty of time at his disposal is the great thing for the fisherman, for it is only natural that a man passing through the country and having only a couple of weeks at the outside to spare may easily find nothing but disappointments. No one must expect to get off the Canadian Pacific express and find the rainbow trout eagerly expecting his arrival.

The district best known to me is that through which the Thompson River runs, from the Shuswap Lake to its junction with the Fraser at Lytton. The Canadian Pacific Railway follows the river in its whole length, and thus renders it very accessible. Many other smaller streams and lakes are part of the Thompson water system, and afford good fishing. The river runs through the “dry belt,” which is so called owing to the smallness of the rainfall, which only averages about 8in. in the year. It is from this cause that the banks of the rivers are very open and free from brush, which makes them easy to fish and to travel along; while, for the same reason, the country is generally open rolling hills, covered with grass or scanty pines, affording a great contrast to the moist country at the coast, where the rivers run through thick woods and impenetrable bush, which render them very difficult to approach and fish unless they are shallow enough for wading. The fishing to be obtained along the Canadian Pacific Railway as it passes through the Rocky Mountains is not very good, the guide-books notwithstanding. At Banff there is a little fishing in the Bow River, but it is poor, and the fish do not seem to take the fly. In Devil’s Lake lake trout, a species of char, can be got on the spoon by deep trolling up to a very large size; but it is not a very high form of sport, and cannot be compared to the rainbow trout fishing along the Thompson.

The South Thompson River has its source at the western end of the great Shuswap Lake, near Shuswap station on the Canadian Pacific, and joins the Fraser at Lytton; at Kamloops it is joined by the North Thompson, and the combined stream flows into Kamloops Lake, about seven miles below the town, running out again some twenty miles below at Savona’s Ferry. Its total course being about 140 miles, and almost all of it fishing water, it is a fine river. The water is usually clear, varying in breadth and in swiftness of current according to the nature of the country it flows through. In places it is broad and calm; in the canyons it is a rushing torrent. Its pace below Savona’s is from eight to twelve miles an hour, above Kamloops probably not more than two to four. The South Thompson from Shuswap Lake to Kamloops is always clear, owing to the filtration of the lake, and fine fishing can be had in some of the upper rapids and pools. Near Kamloops the current is too sluggish, and sport is not very good. The river flows along the South Thompson valley, an open country with scattered farms and cattle ranches, bordered by bunch grass range and hills covered by yellow pine, very beautiful in spring and early summer. It is the central plateau of British Columbia, and has an exceedingly dry climate, with hardly any rain, very healthy and bracing, the altitude being about 1200ft. above sea level; it is very hot in summer, and sometimes cold in winter. Fishing begins here early in June, and, though it is little fished, there is no better part of the river. In Kamloops Lake the rainbow is very plentiful, and good fishing may be obtained as early as June at Tranquille, where the river flows into the lake, and causes a slow, wide-sweeping eddy. From Savona’s Ferry, the outflow of the lake, down to Ashcroft is the best-known part of the river, and here the current is very swift and the banks are rocky and steep. Near Lytton the canyon is so deep and the banks so steep and dangerous that fishing is out of the question.

On the whole there is probably no fishing river in British Columbia to beat this one for the size and quality of the fish, though it does not afford the large bags that can be obtained on the Kootenay. It is a very sporting river, owing to the strength of the current, for a big fish is hard to hold if it once gets out into the main current, away from the side eddies. Mainly owing to this is the fact that there seems to be no record of fish over about 4lb., for a larger fish can get into the main stream, where the force of a ten-mile current drags on it and the line to such an extent that there is no chance of holding it. Such large fish are rarely met with, but every fisherman on the Thompson has stories of them, and they are all the same and coincide with my own. It was only once my luck to hook a really large fish. He jumped out of the water twice close to me, and I had a splendid view of him, and judged him to be about 8lb. He headed for the opposite bank, and just as a break was inevitable the fly came back. Other men have told me the same story, but such large fish are hooked so seldom that it is not worth while using a stronger rod and tackle. Though very large fish are undoubtedly plentiful, they seldom take either fly or any other bait, and perhaps deep live baiting would be the only means of successfully fishing for them.

The average fish is from 1/2lb. to 4lb., but much larger fish are in the deep pools. I once was shown at Spence’s Bridge three supposed salmon in the winter which had been speared and sold by the Indians for two shillings apiece. I noticed their perfect condition and bright red side stripe, and, on examining them more carefully, pointed out to an experienced fisherman who was present, and to the proprietor of the hotel and others, that these fish were large rainbow trout. The largest weighed 15lb., the two others 12lb. apiece. This incident happened at Spence’s Bridge, on the Lower Thompson. On another occasion of a visit there, the bar-tender of the hotel, who happened to be a young Englishman, told me that the angling editor of an American sporting paper had stayed off there and proposed to try with spoon and minnow for large rainbow trout, which he had heard could be got. The next day they went to where the Nicola River, a large stream, flows into the Thompson about half a mile from the hotel. The angling editor was provided with strong spinning gear and rod, and much to the bar-tender’s surprise, very soon got into a fish of most surprising strength and dimensions, for they saw him several times, and estimated him at the unbelievable weight of over 30lb. The fish took them rapidly down to some impassable rocks, and went away with everything but the rod. I believed this story at the time, and see no reason to disbelieve now, though of course the size of the fish was probably over-estimated. No other fish was seen or hooked. The only point which I would wish to call attention to is the probable great size of the rainbows in this river, though none have as yet been taken with the rod. Mr. Langley’s fish of 22lb. proves that in the lakes these large fish exist. At this place Mr. Inskip has also caught some large fish by spinning, and some very good bags of smaller fish have been got on the fly.

The Thompson is not very much fished. Near Ashcroft the local sportsmen from that small town fish it, and Savona’s Ferry is visited from Kamloops when the fish are taking; but Kamloops Lake must provide an inexhaustible reserve of fish to take the place of fish caught, so that the river could never be really fished out or much overfished under present conditions. The Indians also fish, and generally with the illegal salmon roe, but do not make great catches; the fly is more successful when the fish are taking it. Nets and dynamite would be useless in this river; therefore, even should a far greater population inhabit the surrounding country, which is not likely for a great number of years, this beautiful and striking river will still afford great sport for many generations. There are long stretches which are never touched except by a stray Indian or Chinaman with a grasshopper or bit of salmon roe on a string tied to a long willow pole. Some years ago a nondescript individual who said he was a Cherokee half-breed turned up at Savona’s Ferry and earned a living by fishing. Every day he caught more fish than he could carry, though he never revealed his secret. Some believed that he used set lines. His success showed that trout were far more numerous than was generally believed, but the fly fishermen caught as many as usual. He was the most successful fisherman I ever saw.

It is a fact very striking to the English fisherman that the best fishing days in British Columbia are the exact opposite of ours. Fine, bright hot days without wind are the best, both on river and lake; cold and rainy days are always bad, a fortunate thing, as such days are very uncommon. Strong wind is, oddly enough, the greatest enemy of the angler, especially on the lakes; it nearly always puts the fish down. The only thing that seems to account for these curious facts is the probability that the stone fly and other flies are not hatched out except on hot days, while the fish are regardless of the gleam of the gut in the water. My own experience has always been that the hottest days are the best. Except for rocks and stones, and clambering up and down very steep banks, the Thompson River is easy to fish, and trees are not troublesome. Mosquitoes are almost absent, except in the south branch, and the Canadian Pacific, as has been said, runs along its whole length, thus giving easy access to the river, while hotels exist at most of the stations. The railway company publishes a pamphlet on shooting and fishing, but the Thompson River is altogether omitted, which is certainly very strange, as the line runs along the banks for its whole distance, and there is no part of British Columbia in which such excellent fishing can be obtained, and no part of Canada which enjoys such a climate or offers such strangely attractive scenery.