lessons from the lake
by Andrew Kolasinski
Late August on Vancouver Island lakes brings an end to
the summer crowds. The kids are back in school, the jet-skis, and the speed
boats are gone, and the lakes are quiet again. On the days when the sun
comes out it can be just as warm, right into October. The trout come back to
life, waking and livening after the summer heat. They begin to fatten up for
winter and take a greater range of flies, lures and presentations than they
do in the heat.
Throughout the hot months the high elevation lakes are your best chance to
find trout action; with a few exceptions that usually means smaller lakes
and smaller fish. But when it cools down again the lower lakes come back on.
The lower lakes also include the big lakes and that can often mean bigger
Iím referring to lakes that are big enough to launch a reasonable size boat
in and troll deep without snagging constantly or going in circles all day.
Cowichan, Hornby, Comox, Campbell and Buttle Lakes are just a few of the
central Islandís larger ones. Over the "hump" on the west side thereís Great
Central, Sproat, Nahmint and Kennedy Lakes. In the north Island Victoria and
Alice Lakes are in this category.
Most anglers will approach these big lakes just as they would the Strait.
They will troll deep using big lead sinkers, gang trolls, or with
downriggers. You canít argue with that approach. Cover a lot of water and
keep your bait down deep and youíll surely find some fish.]
My preferred methods are to locate the most likely holds for the trout and
fish specifically to them. Sections of water that offer a good hiding place
and where food is also available are prime spots. Drop-offs, deep pockets,
ledges, stream and river mouths. I also have success near submerged
structures like tree stumps and logs. The best success always seems to be
along the edges of these features at places where different temperatures and
light conditions mix and mingle providing the most oxygen. Where my lure or
fly passes through dark and light areas is usually where I connect with
On one camping weekend to the lake country I wanted to apply these
techniques and catch some trout. Heading out from our base-camp in a canoe
with my friend Bruce and his Jack Russel terrier, Mac, we steered for some
interesting shoreline features. We paddled the canoe towards a picturesque
waterfall on the opposite shore. The water under the falls was turbulent
with the exchange of cold stream water and warmer lake water. Paddling
across the edge of this area we noticed the water temperature dropped so
dramatically that it felt like the canoe was sitting on a block of ice.
We could see big trout swimming in the clear depths of the pool below the
falls, and we wasted no time landing the canoe on a rocky ledge and setting
up our rods. Bruce started out casting spoons and spinners while I put on my
sinking line and cast a flashabou Muddler Minnow. I was fishing with a
Perrine "automatic" fly reel on my light-weight telescopic rod. If youíre
never experienced an automatic fly reel youíre missing a unique piece of
tackle. The reel has no handle, instead it has a trigger that retrieves the
line, powered by a wind-up spring. The amount of effort required to keep the
spring wound is far greater than the effort you normally expend winding your
line on a conventional reel but the whole esthetic of using such a rig is
worth it; reminiscent of 1950s Popular Mechanicsí magazineís World of
Both our presentations got their share of attention from the trout but no
takers. It was a bright sunny day and we could see that our lures were just
too obvious; they were attracting attention but the trout seemed more
curious than convinced. I switched to a black Wooly Bugger and hooked into a
trout right away. After a brief but energetic tussle I landed a
picture-perfect cutthroat of about 18 inches. At this point Mac the dog
began to show some enthusiasm for our fishing efforts. Bruce asked if I had
any more of those flies and he quickly tied one on. He soon hooked into a
couple of smaller but perfectly edible-sized trout.
Satisfied with our efforts at that location we abandoned our rocky perch
below the falls and began the paddle back. We wanted to drop some lures into
a deep trench we had spotted on the way out but by the time we were on top
of it the wind started to rise making it a challenge just to keep the canoe
on course. That spot could wait for the next trip.
Part of every outing on a lake involves scouting for possible hot spots.
Thereís always more lake to be discovered and new spots to try. The great
thing about finding a lake feature with good potential and not fishing it is
the anticipation. It will probably be months or even years before I am
drifting in a canoe in that same lake above that same deep trench but Iím
sure thereís trout down there.